Posts Tagged "soup"

Chicken Pastina Soup

Pastina soup has a long history with my family. It’s baby food, it’s sick day food, it’s I-need-extra-comfort-today-food. My great-grandmother used it, my mom uses it and now I use it. And the absolute key, must-have ingredient for this soup is homemade chicken broth. It is just not the same with the boxed stuff.

There are an endless number of vegetables you can use for this soup, but I like it simple. The broth is so rich and flavorful that I don’t like to overwhelm it with too many ingredients. So below is the most basic recipe I use for this soup.

pastina-1

Begin by heating olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add:

1/2 a large yellow onion, sliced
2 large carrots, sliced
a touch of salt

Cook until the carrots and onions are soft and tender (but not brown), at least ten minutes. If your broth is already plenty salty then be very careful how much salt you put on the onion and carrots. Just enough to bring out the flavor. Next add:

6-8 cups of homemade chicken broth

I say 6-8 cups because it really depends how much soup you want to make and how much broth you want. Sometimes when I’m sick, I want more broth than veggies/pasta or sometimes I want a more even broth to pasta/veggie ratio. Also keep in mind that the broth will cook down a little bit while the pastina boils. And speaking of pastina, next add:

1/4-1/2 cup of pastina (aka Acini di Pepe)

pastina-2

Half a cup doesn’t look like much, but it always cooks up more than I expect it to. Once again, use less pastina if you want mostly broth.

Turn up the heat and bring the pastina to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and let the pastina cook until tender. Then add:

cooked chicken, pulled off the bone and torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup of frozen peas

I use the same chicken that I used to make the broth, so it’s usually dark meat. I vary the amount of chicken I use every time, so add however much you want. (You may have noticed by now that the measurements for this soup really don’t matter. That’s the beauty of this soup. Maybe one day you’re in the mood for more peas than chicken. Or maybe lots of pastina. Switch it up and figure out which proportions are right for your mood.)

Cook for a few more minutes until the chicken and peas are heated through. Taste for seasoning. Serve the soup with crackers, crusty bread, or even a sprinkle of Parmesan or Romano cheese on top. Enjoy!

Read More

Homemade Chicken Broth

I managed to make it from last autumn all the way to late August without a single sign of sickness and then boom! Days after realizing how much unused sick time I had at work, I came down with one nasty little cold. Though I count myself lucky that I made it almost an entire year without any sort of ailments, I still couldn’t help but be annoyed by the sudden appearance of a minor virus. But as luck would have it, I had just made a large pot of chicken broth when this cold appeared, and thank goodness, because no matter how good western medicine is, there’s nothing more comforting than a big bowl of soup.

And while I was enjoying my soup, it came to me that I’m constantly saying on this blog to use homemade broth, yet I have yet to post a single recipe on how to make any sort of broth. So here’s my first: homemade chicken broth. It really is a miracle concoction and so simple to put together. There are so many ways to make it, so I will show many variations as I go.

First, a quick word on the difference between broth and stock. It is my understanding that stock is primarily made with bones, vegetables, and aromatics. It is generally used as a base for a recipe. Broth, on the other hand, is made with meat, as well as bones. It makes a richer product and can stand alone. For this reason, I prefer using meat, as well as bones.

You must start with the right kind of chicken. I only use local chicken, when possible, to make broth. Sometimes I use a whole chicken, if I want a bunch of leftover chicken to add to soups, stews, salads, etc. Or, if I don’t want a lot of chicken leftover, I just use chicken thighs. Chicken wings are another good choice or anything with dark meat. That’s where the rich flavor comes from. Just make sure to select cuts that still have the bones.

Along with the chicken, I also always add the following ingredients:

  • 2-4 carrots
  • 2 celery ribs (plus leaves)
  • 1 whole onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • kosher salt (this is not a time to skimp on salt!) and pepper (either whole peppercorns or freshly ground)
  • various fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves (I use whatever I have on hand.)

That will give you a basic broth. You can also add any of the following. Each item will change the flavor.

  • mushrooms (dried or fresh)
  • leeks

I love adding leeks to broth but seldom have them on hand.

broth-12

Now you simply have to fill the pot with water. I place all the ingredients in first and then add the water. I fill it until it almost reaches the top, but leave room for the water to boil without boiling over. Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down so that it continues to simmer. You don’t want it to be at a rapid boil, but you also don’t want it to fall flat. Just a simmer is perfect. I partially cover the pot, so that steam can still escape. (If using a slow cooker, completely cover the pot.) It it starts to cook down too much, you can always add more water. And the longer it cooks, the better it’ll taste. How do you know when it’s done? If you can snap the chicken bones in half, it’s done. I cook mine until the vegetables are mush and the chicken is quite literally falling off the bone.

But of course, usually I’m in and out of my apartment all day, so unless I’m enjoying a lazy day at home, I don’t want to leave a pot on the stove all day. That’s where a slow cooker comes in handy. My slow cooker is small, so it doesn’t make as much broth as my large stock pot, but there’s really nothing better than coming home from work to the smell of chicken broth that’s been simmering all day.

broth done-12

When the broth is done, I pour it through a strainer to remove all of the chicken pieces and vegetables. Often I use the broth as a base to soup, add it to sauces and stews or drink it straight out of a mug. My favorite way to enjoy chicken broth is by making my great-grandmother’s pastina soup, which will be my next post.

Made more broth than you can use in one recipe? It’ll last in the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze it. Just be sure to leave extra space in the jar/bowl for it to expand in the freezer. And try freezing it in different size containers (even ice cube trays), that way if you ever need just a small amount of broth for a recipe, you don’t have to defrost an entire jar.

Be creative. Don’t think of this as a bread recipe, in which forgetting a single ingredient will ruin the entire thing. Try different vegetables, cuts of meat, and aromatics until you get the broth you want. Or, if you’re like me, just use what you have on hand, and you’ll get a slightly different broth every time.

 

 

Read More

Roasted Tomatoes Part Two: Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

I love making tomato soup. It is one of the most nourishing comfort foods that I can think of. I grew up eating tomato soup out of a can, so when I changed my eating habits, I had to find a new way to enjoy my favorite soup. I’ve discovered some good recipes that I use throughout the year, but none of them can compare to this recipe. Unlike my fall/winter recipes that use either canned tomatoes or frozen tomatoes, this one is all about fresh heirloom tomatoes. I roast them first to give them even more flavor, and I also include peppers, which you could easily leave out if you wish.

Start by selecting 4-5 heirloom tomatoes. Any variety is fine. I prefer using different colors. The yellow heirlooms are usually sweeter, and I have found that they add a wonderful flavor to the soup.

tomatoes for soup

 

tomatoes for soup 2

Preheat the oven to 400.

Core the tomatoes and cut them into thick slices and place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Also add:

4 small or two large bell peppers, seeded and cut in half (as with the tomatoes, use different colors)
1 jalapeno, seeded and cut in half lengthwise 
2 cloves of garlic, peel on

Drizzle all of the ingredients with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add:

4 leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped and rinsed well or 1 large onion, sliced

Season lightly with salt and cook those for at least ten minutes.

Once the tomatoes and peppers have roasted, add them to the pot. Be sure to get all of the juices into the pot and don’t forget to remove the garlic peels! Also add:

4 cups of vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons of arborio rice 

The rice helps thicken the soup. I like using arborio because I think it gives the soup a creamy texture, but any white rice is fine.

Bring to a boil and let simmer for about twenty minutes. Puree the mixture until smooth and taste for seasoning. If the soup is too thick, add broth or water.

tomato soup

Optional: If you want a creamier soup, stir in a large tablespoon of mascarpone cheese or a touch of cream.

Serve with crusty bread or croutons.

 

Read More

Spicy Summer Squash Soup

You may have noticed by now that I love making soups. There’s just so much you can do with broth, a few vegetables and some spices. This particular soup I tried for the first time this week, and I’m in love with it.

squash soup

The recipe below is adapted from Alice Waters’ cookbook The Art of Simple Food. I, as usual, took the liberty of making some adjustments. One major change: she uses mint in her version, and I’ve never been a huge fan of mint. If you’re a fan, give it a try.

Begin by heating olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or stock pot. Add:

1 large yellow onion, sliced

Let it cook for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if they start to brown. Then add:

Salt
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon paprika
about 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
about 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
about 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

(The above spice measurements are approximate. You know me; I often don’t measure spices. Go by taste.) Cook for another few minutes. Stir often so the spices don’t burn. Add:

3 green or yellow summer squash, sliced about 3/4 inch thick

Cook for a couple minutes, then add:

6 cups of homemade vegetable broth

squash soup2

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for at least 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. Once tender, puree the soup.

Serve with freshly ground pepper and Greek yogurt, squeeze lime juice on top, and serve, as always, with crusty bread.

 

 

Read More

Leek and Potato Soup

The key to any soup is simplicity. Just a few ingredients and homemade broth can make an amazing bowl of comfort. This soup is a perfect example.

Potato soup has always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Leeks are more of a winter/fall vegetable, but I found some late spring ones at the market, so why not use them?

**Please note that this particular recipe doesn’t make a lot of soup, just enough for about 2 servings. Double it if you are cooking for more than two people.

leek soup

The recipe:

Start by heating olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Then add:
2-3 leeks, sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced
A splash of vegetable broth
Salt

Let cook for about 15 minutes, until onions are nice and tender. Then add:
4-5 small gold potatoes or 2 large white potatoes, quartered.
(I love the texture of the gold potatoes. They make the soup silky, but use whatever you have.)

Let cook for a minute or two, then add:
4 cups of homemade vegetable broth

Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add:
a few sprigs of fresh dill (optional, but you should do it. It’s wonderful!)
a splash or two of cream or half and half (also optional)

Puree the soup and serve with chives, fresh ground pepper and croutons or crusty bread on top.

leek soup2

**Another note: My soup has a slight orange tinge this time because I used a homemade broth that had tomato in it. Depending on the type of broth you use, it may appear white-ish, so don’t panic if your soup doesn’t look like mine!

Read More