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Archive for the ‘Soups & Stews’ Category

 

Have you ever given your personality a color? If you were a color, which one would you be? Blue, purple, yellow, orange, aqua, cream?

My family had a lot of fun with this color concept when I was growing up. After some thinking and lots of around-the-dinner-table discussions, we determined that my dad was silver—because he might be a little dull at first, but when you polish him up he really shines. My mom, a creative type with a keen eye for innovative design, cannot be pegged with just one color. Instead, the jewel tone palette better portrays her many depths and variations.

Me? I’m green, because I have many different shades. (This was my sister’s reasoning, by the way, which I think fits me perfectly.) Just think of all the greens out there:  the color of fresh spring grass contrasted with deep evergreen pine boughs; the murky water of a lake washing up gnarly masses of black-green seaweed; the pale hue of leeks and pistachios; the eery green light streaming across the water onto Gatsby’s lawn.

The color of this soup.

I like to think of green as the color of life, the universal shade of vibrancy and vitality. I felt like I was eating a big bowl of liquid life when I slurped down this soup for the first time. It tastes like you’re doing something good for yourself as you swallow spoonful after spoonful. And no matter what time of year or time of day, we could all use a little more liveliness in our lives, couldn’t we?

What’s your color? Give it some thought—maybe at the dinner table with your family as you eat this soup. Come on back and let me know what you find.  

Photo courtesy of Brianna Tittel

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Garlicky Green Soup – Serves 4

2 tbs. olive oil

2 leeks, white and light greens parts halved lengthwise, then chopped crosswise

4 cups broccoli florets

6-8 cloves garlic, chopped

2 small red potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/3-inch dice

6 cups water or no-salt vegetable broth

4 cups spinach leaves, washed and chopped

1/2 cup parsley

1 cup frozen peas (no need to thaw)

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbs. lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add leek and saute until tender but not browning, about 4 minutes. Add broccoli and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add potatoes and water. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife, about 10-12 minutes.

Stir in the spinach, parsley, and peas. Remove pot from heat. Puree using a handheld immersion blender. (If you must use a regular blender, puree the soup very carefully in batches so that it does not splatter and burn you. Return the pureed soup to the hot pot.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice and serve.

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This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

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On my way to Whole Foods earlier this week, I found myself glancing around at other drivers while I waited for stoplights to turn from red to green. I’d say about half of the people I saw in their cars were gulping down water, blowing their noses, or coughing into their elbows. It was certainly a sign of the season and an indicator that even though spring is on it’s way, winter colds are still on the prowl for weak immune systems!

I stocked up on immune boosting vegetables and spices at the grocery store with the intention of making a big pot of hearty stew for supper that night. Soups and stews are an excellent way to cram a lot of nutrition into a one-pot meal. They’re easy to make, freeze well, and keep the late winter chill at bay.

This particular minestrone calls for lots of garlic and turmeric, both of which fight harmful bacteria and lend flavor and color to the soup. Dark leafy greens pack a big nutritional punch with their high levels of vitamin C, beta carotene, and life-giving chlorophyll. I used kale in this minestrone but you could certainly use chard or collards as well. I would stay away from spinach, as it tends to become slimy if overcooked—which happens way too easily. Top bowlfuls of the soup with generous handfuls of chopped parsley, another storehouse of vitamin C.

One note about the parmesan rind: when you’re not using stock or broth as the liquid in a soup, adding a rind of parmesan cheese helps to deepen the flavor of the water immensely. It adds a slightly nutty, salty note in the background that is quite unique and delicious. Whenever I finish using a block of parmesan, I just throw the rind in the freezer in an airtight container to save for adding to soups and stews. If you’d like to keep this recipe strictly vegan, you can leave out the rind. In this case, however, you may want to use a good quality homemade vegetable broth instead of the water to deepen the broth’s flavor.

Looking for more soup recipes? Check these out:

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Super Immunity Minestrone Serves 4

2 tbs. olive oil

2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 small-medium yellow onion, chopped

5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. turmeric

2 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juices

3 cups water

1 parmesan rind, 3-4 inches long, optional

6 cups kale leaves (thick stems discarded), roughly chopped

1 (14 oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper, to taste

Chopped parsley, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium. Add celery, carrots, and onion; cook 4-5 minutes until vegetables begin to get tender. Add garlic, turmeric, and thyme. Stir and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, water, and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a rapid simmer and cover pot with lid. Simmer 8-10 minutes.

Add kale to simmering soup. Stir a few minutes until leaves are wilted down. Add beans. If the soup is too thick and needs more liquid to just cover the vegetables, add up to 1 cup additional water. Return soup to a rapid simmer and cook 4-5 minutes to heat the beans through and allow the flavors to combine.

Remove the parmesan rind from the soup and discard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top bowlfuls of the minestrone with generous sprinklings of the chopped parsley.

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This post is linked to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays.

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Warming Weeknight Stew

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been cold here lately. Very cold.

Soups and stews are simply a must for the dinner menu. You’ve got have something to warm you up when the weather turns bitter, right? A big bowl of steamy goodness is just the ticket.

I love all things veggie (as you can see here…and here…and here). This soup is no exception to my infatuation with cooking vegetables. It’s packed to the brim with carrots, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, greens, garlic, and herbs. The wonderful thing about vegetables is that they all seem to go together so well. You don’t have to worry about cauliflower not going with the flavor of tomatoes, or carrots ruining the taste of garlic, or kale overpowering onions. Vegetables can be combined in limitless ways, which sometimes overwhelms me. I throw open the refrigerator door and see blotches of bright colors and shapes and am often hit with a million different ideas of what I could do with all of those veggies. I spend many a wide-eyed night dreaming up veggie-ful recipes in my head and scribbling down any really good ideas on a sheet of paper. I have a notebook by my bedside reserved specifically for this purpose. (I kid you not.)

Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t come up with more creative things than vegetable soups. Out of all the things in the world to make—exotic curries, scrumptious oven-roasted dishes, slow-braised delacacies—I come up with a lowly weeknight stew. But, as I’ve said before, sometimes the simplest things are the tastiest and most satisfying.

Simple as it is, nothing beats a bowl of this warming stew on a 5-degree winter’s night. Serve it up with a loaf of crusty bread, if you like. Or top with a bit of shaved parmesan.  I enjoy it plain, just as it is. No frills, no garnishes. Just a bowl of warm vegetables and mineral-rich broth. 

Recipes like this—easy to make and easy to eat—remind me of why I love vegetables so much. They’re good and good for you. Plain and simple.

Warming Weeknight Stew

2 tbs. olive oil

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbs. tomato paste

1 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. dried herb blend (I use ‘Mural of Flavor’ from Penzey’s)

3 small red potatoes, peeled and diced

1 can diced tomatoes with juices

1/2 (12-ounce) bag mixed frozen vegetables*

1 tbs. rosemary, minced

3 large kales leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook a few minutes, or until onions begin to look translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste, curry, cumin, herb blend, potatoes, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Cover the vegetables with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer—covered—until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.

Add frozen vegetables and rosemary. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are heated through, about 5 minutes. Add kale and stir into soup until wilted down, another 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Note: the vegetables I used (Whole Foods 365 brand) contained green beans, carrots, corn, peas, and lima beans. Any type of frozen vegetable mix will work, though.

 This post is linked to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays.

Update 12/29 – This post is also linked up to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

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Labor Day.  The holiday that signals the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  A few days ago on a cool 54-degree morning, I watched kids trudge up to school with backpacks bigger then themselves strapped to their backs.  A sure sign that a new season has begun.  Halloween decorations have already started popping up in shops around town (can you believe it??).   All of my food magazines are featuring columns about apples and pumpkins and pies.  The tippy-top of the maple tree in my backyard is tinged with the slightest hue of red.  Before I know it, reds and golds will cascade down the branches of trees all around my block and the scenery will be awash with the colors of autumn.  Ah…sweet, sweet autumn.  My very favorite time of year.  Not just because of the pretty trees and the weather.  Mostly because of the food.

The other night I made a tasty Sweet Potato Soup, pictured below.  Boy, did it ever taste like fall.  A lovely shade of burnt orange, it was thick and velvetty smooth, rich and luxurious on the tongue.  Okay, I might be exaggerating just a tad, but I’m trying to make a point here: this soup was really good and you should make it sometime this fall.  (Preferably on a chilly, windy night when you seriously feel like your bones are chunks of ice.)

A friend of mine gave me a huge bunch of fragrant sage the day I made this soup, so I used it both in the soup and as a garnish.  But any robust, fresh herb would work here (such as thyme or rosemary).  The soup starts with caramelized onions cooked until meltingly tender and sweet.  Once blended with the sweet potatoes, they offer a lovely layer of flavor in the background without making the soup taste too “French-onion-dippy.” 

IMG_0126As a side dish, I served some crusty whole grain bread purchased at a local bakery.  You could start the meal with a simple tossed salad if you’d like.  But as the soup simmers and bubbles, the house will smell so tantalizingly good that I’m sure you will–like me–just want to skip the salad altogether and spoon up bowlfuls of creamy orange goodness instead.  However you choose to enjoy it, savoring this Sweet Potato Soup is the perfect way to usher in a new season and celebrate autumn’s abundance.  Happy fall!

 

Sweet Potato Soup IMG_0122

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tbs. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, halved lenthwise and sliced into half-moons

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbs. fresh herbs, minced (such as sage, rosemary, or thyme)

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

3 1/2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth, or enough to cover the potatoes

Salt, to taste

Sage leaves (or other herb), for garnish

Fill a large pot with a few inches of water and fit with a steamer basket.  Add the sweet potatoes and steam for 15-20 minutes until very tender.  Set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook for 15-18 minutes until deeply golden and tender, stirring often.  Then add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.   Add the steamed sweet potato chunks, herbs, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  Cover the sweet potatoes with water or broth.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.

Remove from heat.  Puree the soup with an immersion (hand) blender or in a regular standing blender.  Return to the pot and season with salt to taste.  Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sage leaves.

Note: like most soups, this one tastes terrific as a leftover.

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