All posts filed under: Soups and Stews

Ingredients for a Happy Holiday Feast

Right now I have a story running at Zester Daily and MSN about what it takes to throw a fantastic holiday party. After writing that piece, I started thinking about the ingredients that I keep on hand to ensure that, no matter who or when someone drops by, there will be something warm and tasty on the table to eat. Bread, eggs, milk and butter are givens. With these I can fry up French toast, egg-in-a-hole and egg sandwiches or make scrambled eggs and toast. I also like to keep the following items around, things that I dub the ingredients for a happy holiday feast. With them I can pull together a nice meal, one that looks as though I’ve spent hours hovering over a hot stove when, in fact, I’ve thrown the dish together in 30 minutes or less. PUFF PASTRY: Defrost a sheet or two of puff pastry and in 30 minutes I have everything from breakfast to dessert. I’ve used puff pastry to make a simple pizza— partially bake the pastry, remove …

The Always Delightful Dal Tadka

Thanks to a Sunday evening spent eating platefuls of homemade Indian curries and watching Ritash Batra’s charming The Lunchbox, I’m shifting gears this week to share one of my favorite meals, dal tadka. In India dal is both an ingredient—legumes such as split peas, beans or lentils—and a savory dish. Regarding the dish, at least 60 types of dal exist. What differentiates each are the combination of legumes and spices, the cooking times and the final consistency. Some dals are soupy while others are thick and stew-like. In the case of dal tadka I’ve made and eaten both types. Although turmeric injects its rich color into dal tadka, legumes likewise imbue it with a golden hue. Wondering which legume to use? In northern India I was instructed to buy yellow lentils. However, the staff at New York’s Kalustyan’s swear by chana dal or split black chickpeas. Following their advice, I use chana but, when I don’t have that on hand, I substitute the smaller toor dal or split pigeon pea. With the latter you get …

The Scoop on Mushroom Barley Soup

Another week of blustery weather can mean only one thing — more soup simmering on my stovetop. This time it’s my take on an old family recipe for Scotch broth. One of Scotland’s most famous offerings, Scotch broth begins by boiling together chunks of mutton or beef and barley. Eventually, diced root vegetables and parsley are added to the pot. A sprinkling of fresh parsley then finishes it off. Unlike classic Scotch broth, my version replaces the meat with mushrooms, making it less stew-like. In essence, this is a hearty mushroom barley soup. With its vegetable stock base and abundance of barley, root vegetables and mushrooms this soup could be considered a vegetarian-friendly dish. For a bona fide vegan meal, substitute olive oil for the butter. MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP To get the requisite 2 cups cooked barley, you will need to bring 2 cups water, 1/2 cup pearl barley and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low and allow the barley to simmer for 40 minutes. …

Warming up Again with Black Bean Soup

After weeks of slipping and sliding across icy sidewalks, trudging through knee-high snowbanks and shivering in spite of four layers of clothes the only positive thing that I can say about winter is that it gives me an excuse to make soup. Why soup? It’s one of the easiest, most versatile dishes around. Put water or stock, vegetables and seasonings in a pot. Add heat and – voila! – in a short time you’ve got a filling, wholesome meal. One of my many favorites is peppery black bean soup. Featuring just enough spices to chase away the cold, this soup will warm you from head to toe. You can quickly turn this into a vegan offering by substituting vegetable for chicken stock. PEPPERY BLACK BEAN SOUP Serves 6 to 8 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 large white onion, diced 4 cloves, minced 4 (15-oz) cans black beans 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock 1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes and …

In This Chowder It’s All about Corn

Wondering what to serve vegan friends this holiday season when everyone else at the table loathes tofu and seitan? Contemplating what to make for unexpected dinner guests? Craving a warm, hearty, one-pot meal? Overwhelmed by all those bags of frozen corn tumbling out of your freezer every time that you open the door? Have I got recipe for you! As its name suggests, Chocked-Full-of-Corn-Chowder brims with plump, yellow kernels of corn as well as chunks of potato and a smidgen of onion, celery and dried parsley. With pureed corn as its thickener and vegetable stock for its base, this wholesome soup will please everyone at your dinner table. Plus, as you might expect, it’s quick and easy to make. CHOCKED-FULL-OF-CORN CHOWDER Serves 6 1/2 tablespoon olive oil 1 small yellow onion, diced 1 stalk celery, diced 1 teaspoon sea salt 3 cups vegetable stock 1 Russet potato, diced 2 (15-ounce) cans whole kernel corn 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels 1/3 teaspoon ground white pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley Baguette, optional, for serving …

Hometown Favorite — Stracciatella

This Saturday I’ll be back on my home turf, speaking at the Pittsburgh Public Market about writing, cooking and writing a seafood cookbook. While I’m in town, I won’t just be talking about food. I’ll also be eating my way through the city. Primanti’s fry-filled sandwiches, Pamela’s massive pancakes and Pierogies Plus’s handmade namesakes all appear on the weekend menu. Somewhere along the way I hope to encounter a bowl of steaming stracciatella, too. To me, stracciatella is what plain, old chicken noodle soup is to most—a restorative dish for when you’re cold, sick, blue or just craving a taste of home. A specialty of Rome but popular throughout Central Italy and, of course, my hometown, stracciatella may remind the uninitiated of egg drop soup. Granted, it does feature two of the same major ingredients, eggs and chicken stock. Yet the resulting dish seems far more velvety and savory than the Chinese soup. I suspect that the ever-present Parmesan cheese and occasional addition of herbs such as basil and parsley are what make the Italian …

A Generous Dose of Minestrone Soup

I, along with pretty much everyone whom I know, have been plodding through this season with a runny nose and sore throat. While friends reach for Neti pots, echinacea or Benadryl to beat the sniffles, I turn to the cold remedies of my childhood — fitful naps, bad B-movies, good books and warming soups. As a kid, I invariably received a course of Jewish penicillin as well as doses of minestrone and stracciatella. Sound unusual? Keep in mind that I grew up in an Italian-American community where my parents’ favorite restaurant, Egidio’s, doled out tasty, Italian soups. Minestrone remains one of my preferred cold cures. Chocked full of wholesome vegetables and soothing broth, it goes down easy and warms me to the core. The minestrone that I make is based upon what chef-owner and cookbook author Laura Pensiero serves at her Rhinebeck, NY restaurant, Gigi Trattoria. Light, wholesome and flavorful, her vegetarian-friendly, Northern Italian soup features diced potatoes, beans, carrots, celery and fresh herbs. Mine does, too. VEGETARIAN MINESTRONE While I prefer using homemade vegetable …

Stewing over Winter

It’s another cold morning on the East Coast, one that leaves me with little desire to step outside and into the latest snowstorm. On days like this I start rooting through my freezer, searching for ingredients for a warm, hearty stew. A one-pot wonder, stew consists of slow-cooked vegetables and fish or meat and the thick, savory liquid in which these ingredients simmer. Although I’ve consumed this nourishing dish since early childhood, it still remains my favorite way to add some heat to wintry afternoons. Most stews were born out of necessity, using whatever items cooks had on hand. In the case of Irish stew, these staples included old, economically unviable sheep, or mutton, along with potatoes and onions. Beginning with mutton, Irish cooks of yore would place equal parts of meat, potato and onion in separate layers in a large casserole or kettle. They added a pinch of salt and pepper, poured in enough water to cover the layers, and clamped a lid on the kettle. They then set the concoction over an open …

More Hot Days, More Cold Soups

Last week I moaned about the prospect of cooking in the oppressive heat. This week it’s the humidity that keeps me from hanging out in the kitchen. Thanks to a sultry summer, I’m still fixated on soothing, cold soups. For lunch today I enjoyed a bowl of the crimson, Andalusian version of gazpacho. Originating in southern Spain, this red soup resulted from the 16th century introduction of tomatoes from the New World. Unlike Spain’s other chilled soup, ajo blanco, gazpacho features a puree of tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, garlic, vinegar and olive oil. Some cooks add diced onions, celery, lemon juice, fresh herbs, tomato juice or hot sauce. Others slip in breadcrumbs to thicken the soup. When serving this dish at home, I occasionally strain the pureed vegetables and ladle out a velvety smooth soup. Other nights I leave in the veggies and dish out a chunky, hearty meal. That’s the beauty of Andalusian gazpacho – one recipe, two different results. Serve it the first night as a thick, vegetable-studded stew. Strain and present …

Beat the Heat with Soup

As East Coast temperatures top 100 degrees and I’m convinced that I really could fry an egg on the sidewalk, I’ve started to reconsider my dinner options. While tired of take-out, I’m far from thrilled by the prospect of standing over a hot stove in my simmering kitchen. As refreshing as that half-gallon of rocky road ice cream in my freezer seems, I doubt that it will tide me over until morning. Around the time that I reach for a box of breakfast cereal, I remember two magical words – cold soup. Sometimes referred to as “liquid salads,” chilled vegetable soups provide the perfect way to cool off on sultry summer nights. From Spain comes icy gazpacho. Introduced by Arab occupiers sometime between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, this familiar crimson soup began as a cream colored, garlic- and bread-based peasant food. To make the original gazpacho, cooks would pound stale bread, garlic, olive oil, and salt together in a mortar. They then added water to reach the desired consistency and splashed in vinegar for …