Monday, November 10, 2008

Soup Day! (part 3)

I had two meatless soup recipes that were new to us that I wanted to try.
Both looked good for the freezer as all ingredients freeze well, but since they were new recipes, I only made a single batch of each. Good thing.
The first is a pumpkin soup from Emeril. Greg was channel-surfing one night last week (don't you hate that?! Just pick and show and watch it, for Pete's sake!) and found Emeril making a fairly healthy Thanksgiving meal on the "green" channel. He humored me and left the TV alone while I watched the program. After seeing him make this pumpkin soup, I asked Greg if he would try it if I made some. He said he'd "try" it. That meant he was pretty sure he wouldn't like it, but again, he'd humor me.
So last night for supper I thawed some turkey mignons and warmed up some green bean casserole, along with a crunchy focaccia bread. While Greg grilled the turkey, I whipped up the pumpkin soup.
Emeril's Wegmeyer Farms Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 6 servings
1 (2 pound) pumpkin, halved and seeds removed and saved
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 plus a pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
31/2 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
15 to 20 small sage leaves, fried
Method:Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the pumpkin cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Invert to the cut side down, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until the skin is golden brown and the pumpkin is tender, 50 to 60 minutes.
Spread the pumpkin seeds on a foil lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven with the pumpkins for the last 15 minutes of baking time, stirring once to prevent sticking.
Remove pumpkins and seeds from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh from its skin and set pumpkin aside until ready to use. Discard the skin. Set seeds aside for garnish.
Set a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and, when hot, add the cinnamon and allspice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the onions, carrots, celery and ginger, to the pan. Saute, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, reserved pumpkin and vegetable stock to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook the soup for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
Remove the soup from the heat and process with an immersion blender (*or in batches in a blender) until smooth. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper.

I could tell immediately it had too much allspice, but I like to follow a recipe the way it's written the first time I make it, then I know what modifications to make next time. I did try to "doctor" soup with a few drops of white truffle oil in each bowl, but that didn't really help.
If you click on the link above the recipe, you'll be able to view a video of Emeril making this soup and see what he does differently from what's printed in the recipe. I should have watched it last night. The show this recipe was featured on will be aired again tomorrow night on the Planet Green channel.

Now for a much more successful recipe, Creamy Asparagus Soup. To get this recipe I simply Googled for it and looked at three or four before settling on this one.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
2 lbs asparagus
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 cups chicken broth
Leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp dry vermouth
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 Cut tips from 12 asparagus 1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.
2 Cook onion in butter in a 4 or 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth, thyme, and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
3 While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain.
4 Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth. If you want a very creamy texture, you can put the purée through a food mill or press it through a sieve. Transfer to a bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids), and return to pan. (The hand blender meant I didn't have to transfer hot soup from pan to bowl to pan. I didn't strain or use the food mill at first, but after a few bites of strings from the asparagus, I changed my mind.)
Stir in cream. Stir in vermouth and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I did add the vermouth and lemon juice, but it's really good without it, so I'm going to say those ingredients are optional.)
Garnish with asparagus tips. Serves 4-6.
Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine.

Folks, this is good! I garnished my lunchtime bowl with a dollop of sour cream. Yum! If you click on the link above the recipe, there are photos, too.

That's it for "Soup Day" for now. The freezer is well-stocked against these chilly and wet days we're having every week. As I sat and sipped my hot soup for lunch, I laughed at the rain!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Soup Day (part 2)

The other two soups I made ysterday are tomato/beef-based, but very different in flavors from each other.
The first one I put together was Meatball Minestrone. I got this recipe from Taste of Home or Country Woman (I don't remember which) many years ago. I finally made it for the first time last April. If you click on the name of the soup, you'll go to the post with the recipe. It is really good! This time I more than doubled the spices and that seemed right for us.

The other recipe is Fagioli Soup. This one came from a forum on a website, but I printed it 3 years ago, so I don't know if it's even available online anymore. I'm sorry I can't credit the person who posted it...
This soup is the one that Greg took to work for his lunch, and the other guys asked him to get the recipe from me for their wives. It smells awesome! At first I was reluctant to mix the Mexican spices with the Italian spices, but it really works.
Fagioli Soup
2 lb lean ground beef (or ground chicken or turkey)
2 lg onions
3 bell peppers (any color works fine - this time I used all green)
3 stalks celery
2 Tbs. minced garlic
1 banana pepper (optional)
3 small cans tomato sauce
2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes (I used mild)
2 Tbs. olive oil
8 beef bouillion cubes (I use a Tbs. or so of Beef Base)
4 C water
salt, pepper to taste
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 Tbs. Italian seasoning (I was out of this, so instead used some dried thyme, basil from the freezer, and a little extra oregano)
1/2 Tbs. dried oregano
3 cans undrained red kidney beans or 2 cans red beans and 1 can white (I used 3 cans of black beans)
Saute onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in olive oil. Add ground meat and brown (I brown the meat separately,drain, rinse, then add to the veggies.)
Add Ro-tel, tomato sauce, spices, water, and bouillion cubes. Heat to simmer. Add beans and cook 30 minutes. Serve.

There are a couple more recipes I didn't get to, but plan to make this weekend. Tune in next week for "part 3". :o)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Soup Day! (part 1)

The weather is chilly, blustery, and sometimes a little rainy today. It's perfect Fall weather. For making soup. So I did. Make soup.
I made a few old favorites and some new recipes, all of them destined for the freezer. Today I'll share the chicken recipes.
First up was Tuscan Chicken and White Bean. I got this one from an internet friend who posted it on a Yahoo group. I think it came from the Feb/Mar 2005 issue of Fast and Easy magazine.
This is a quick one to throw together, but it's really important to use fresh sage. I happened to still have quite a bit of sage out in the garden that I cut this morning.
(I know! Fresh herbs still in the garden in NOVEMBER! A little happy dance went on! Hope none of the neighbors were looking...)
If you don't have a fresh sage plant available, try to find it in the grocery. It's expensive, but makes all the difference in this soup.
There are leeks in this recipe, too. Leeks are usually gritty and sandy - make sure you pop those slices into a bowl of cold water for a little while so the icky stuff falls to the bottom.
Here's the recipe:

Tuscan Chicken and White Bean Soup
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into 1/4" rounds (2 cups)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage (I use 2 Tbs.), or 1/4 tsp. dried sage
2-14 oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used my homemade stock)
2 C water
1-15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 lb. roasted chicken, skin discarded, meat removed from bones and shredded

Heat the oil in a soup pot or large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in sage and continue cooking until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and water, increase heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Add beans and chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve hot.
6 Servings, 1 1/2 cups each
Per serving: 208 calories; 6 g fat; 15 g carbs; 3 g fiber

The next recipe was easy, but not nearly as quick to put together. This is the first time I've made it, but it's pretty tasty, and I'm sure will freeze great. This is a Paula Deen recipe - that explains the butter...

White Bean Chili
1 pound dried navy beans
5 C chicken stock (again, I used my homemade, but canned is fine)
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter
1 Tbs. minced garlic
3/4 C diced onion
1 1/2 C chopped green chiles (fresh or canned) (I only used 2 small cans since Greg's not a huge fan of green chiles in large quantities.)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped (I used pre-cooked chicken.)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 to 2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper (I omitted - just don't have any)
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped (I'll add when I reheat)
Rinse beans well, cover w/ cool water and soak for 2 hours. Drain. Place beans in a large pot w/ chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and chiles and saute for 5 minutes. Add chile mixture to pot w/ beans. Add chicken, cumin, oregano, peppers, pepper flakes, and cilantro. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Serve w/ cornbread, if desired.

The reason I saved the cilantro to add later when I serve this soup is because I've never frozen fresh cilantro in a recipe. My instinct tells me this is best added fresh.
This soup has great flavor even without the cilantro, and I suspect will get better after sitting in the frig for a day.

Okay, so while I typed this, it started snowing outside. I picked fresh herbs from my garden this morning, and now it's snowing. Only in Nebraska...