Archive for the ‘Soup’ Category

Passover is one of Adam and my favorite Jewish holidays.  It is a happy holiday with a lot of celebrating, eating, and drinking wine.  Any holiday that invites eating and merriment, is a holiday for me!

Over the years, Adam and I have enjoyed sharing in each other’s family’s traditions and holidays.  The look on Adam’s face, our first Christmas morning, was priceless!  He couldn’t believe the abundance of gifts.  It made my mother so happy that he enjoyed himself!  My journey in learning Adam’s family’s traditions around the holidays, has been one that I have embraced whole-heartedly!  I love tradition.  I love the ritual of the holidays.  I love knowing what I can expect of the day.  This is why I love Passover so much.  There is a book – the Haggadah – a manual of sorts, describing what the holiday should be about – remembering and retelling.  This book, the Haggadah, tells the story of the Israelites exodus from Egypt.  It also tells how the Passover Seder should be conducted, special prayers and songs, and even some fun games for the children (hiding a piece of matzo for the children to search for).  The Passover Seder (ritual dinner) can take several hours to complete before the feasting begins.  Oh, and do we feast!

I began planning our Passover Seder a week before.  It is a challenge to plan a dinner party with a small oven that has only one oven rack (only one dish at a time in our oven!).  Since matzo, unleavened bread, is the focus and star of the Passover meal, I decided to make matzo ball soup.  I thought I had Adam’s grandmother’s recipe for matzo balls, until we were sitting down to dinner and realized that it was not his grandmother’s recipe, but one I had used 6 years ago, which I meant to throw out.  Oy vey!  They were still okay, but a bit too dense.  I won’t share the recipe, as not to perpetuate the cycle of a bad matzo ball.  I used my recipe for chicken soup but omitted the egg noodles.

For the main course, I made brisket.  Brisket and I have a long history.  Not a good one.  For Adam and my first Passover together, I decided to try to make brisket – something I had never done before.  I got a recipe from his family and bought a regular brisket from the grocery store.  It was amazing!  I mean, it was blow-your-mind amazing!  I felt pretty confident about my brisket, so the next year, I decided to go all out.  I went to Whole Foods and bought a $45 brisket – surely a grass-fed, pampered cow!  Okay, so expensive meat, great recipe, experience form last year should have yielded an out-of-this-world brisket, right?!   WRONG!!!  It was tough, almost inedible, and sitting in watery soup, not a tasty sauce.  Disaster!  Feeling completely deflated and a bit gun-shy, I didn’t make another brisket until a Hanukkah gathering a few years later.  Completely nervous, I forged ahead.  Hoping that a different recipe would produce better results.  The brisket was okay.  Not like the first time I made it, but okay.  This year, I decided to put my trust in The America’s Test Kitchen.  They haven’t failed me yet.  We did all of our Passover shopping at Fairway, and bought a fairly small brisket 2 1/2 pounds.  I cut the recipe in half hoping this would work!  I thought that by halving the recipe, I should also halve the cooking time – not so.  I have now learned the secret to cooking brisket, and I am going to share it with you.  Guess what it is?  Cook the crap out of it & keep the lid on!  Yep, low and slow forever!  On the internet, people suggest 1 hour for every pound & I now completely get it.  I checked my brisket at 1 hour, and it was rock hard, I checked it at 2 hours and it was getting softer!  2 1/2 it was even better, and at 3 it was almost falling apart, tender and succulent!  I even threw in some carrots and celery to add flavor.

For a side dish, I decided to use my trusty recipe from the New York Times for kugel.  Now, there is potato kugel and noodle kugel – there are savory and sweet kugels.  The one I make is a sweet noodle kugel with a cornflake topping.  It is perfection!

Braised Brisket
adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen

1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
salt and pepper
2 TBS vegetable oil
6 onions, halved and sliced thin
2 TBS brown sugar
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp tomato paste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or 1/8 tsp corn starch and water)
1 cup beef broth
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1 TBS cider vinegar
5 to 6 ribs of celery cut in 1 inch pieces
4 to 5 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Pat the brisket dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until simmering. Brown the brisket on both sides, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Add the onions, brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt to the fat left in the pot and return to medium heat.  Cook until the onions are well browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the broths, wine, bay leaves and thyme scraping up any browned bits.  Add the brisket, and spread the carrots and celery around the meat.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook in oven until fork slides easily in and out of the center of the brisket, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Transfer brisket to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.  Let the liquid in the pot settle for 5 minutes, then skim any fat from the surface using a spoon.  Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, stir in the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the brisket thin across the grain.  If you are making the brisket the day before, return the meat to the pot, cover, and refrigerate over night.  Remove brisket from the refrigerator 30 minutes before reheating.  Reheat on stove top or in oven.  Remove and arrange the brisket on a platter, pour some of the sauce over the meat and arrange the vegetable around it.  Serve and enjoy!

Noodle Kugel
New York Times

Butter (for the dish)
salt, to taste
16 oz medium egg noodles
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup honey
5 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Cornflake Topping for Kugel

1 cup Cornflakes
1/2 stick butter, melted
3 TBS sugar
1/2 TBS cinnamon

Set the oven at 350. Generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles according to package instructions until they are tender. Drain them and rinse with cold water. Spread them evenly in the baking dish.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the honey, followed by the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the sour cream. The mixture should be thick and creamy. Pour it over the noodles.

Bake kugel for 25 to 30 minutes.  Mix all ingredients for the cornflake topping.  Sprinkle cornflake topping evenly on kugel and continue baking for 25 minutes more, or until it is set and golden brown. Let the kugel sit for 10 minutes. Cut into squares.


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Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is a cure-all, right?  It is commonly known for its cold-curing capabilities, and it’s ability to heal the soul.  We needed some soul-healing a few weeks ago.

At the end of January, Adam’s and my world was rocked when we found out our good friend, Karen, died after being struck by a car in Manhattan.

She had stopped to buy groceries on her way home from work.  1/2 a block from her apartment, she was crossing the street, when a getaway car speeding from a robbery at a CVS struck and killed her.   They had been driving the wrong way on a one-way street, with their lights off to elude the police who were chasing them.  The thieves stole non-prescription medications, and now the driver, a 25 year-old young man is being charged with second-degree murder, and our brilliant, kind, amazing friend has been taken from us.  It leaves me with this question:  How could this happen?

Karen was an award-winning film editor, a sister, a daughter, a co-worker, a friend.  She had so much left to do on this earth.  On her 40th birthday, instead of going on the trip her closest friends had planned as a surprise, we were honoring her life with a memorial service in Boston, this past weekend.

After we were delivered the terrible news, we had to deal with the fact that our lives go on even when someone dies.  It is unfair.  The lease to our new apartment had just been signed and we were moving.  Adam and I ate take-out for several days until I could unpack some of my kitchen things.  Chicken soup, is what I made first in our new place.

Chicken soup is comforting, easy to make, and only requires a few ingredients.  Perfect for having just moved & suffering a loss of a dear friend.  I knew it could not cure our feelings of grief, but there is something to eating a familiar dinner that “wraps its arms” around you while your hands hug the bowl.

Chicken Soup
by Anne with a little help from The Eclectic Cook
Printable Recipe

1 Whole Chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 medium onion, halved
2 cloves garlic, smashed
salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1 bag of baby carrots (separated)
6-8 celery stalks (separated)
2 sprigs parsley
1/2 bag egg noodles (8 oz or so)

Place chicken, garlic cloves, parsley, bay leaf, 1/2 bag of baby carrots, 3-4 stalks of celery cut into 1 inch sections in a Dutch oven or other heavy stock pot.  Add water to completely cover the chicken and veggies.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and remove chicken from pot, and place in a baking dish.  Leave the vegetables in the stock.  Remove the chicken meat from the carcass and set it aside.  Return the carcass to the pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 ½ hours.  Allow stock to cool slightly, then set a strainer over a bowl, and strain out the veggies while collecting the stock.  Return stock to the pot and add diced chicken, the rest of the bag of baby carrots and 3-4 stalks of celery cut into small pieces.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes, then add the egg noodles to the pot.  Cook until noodles are tender (according to package directions). Remove from heat adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper, and add additional fresh parsley, if desired.

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Sometimes, trying to figure out what to make for dinner is harder than actually making it.  There are endless possibilities!  I usually surf the web, or peruse my cookbooks.  I always try to make something that I’m “in the mood for”, but sometimes, I just don’t know what that is.  Then, there are times, when I find a recipe & just know I have to try it!  That is what happened when I found this recipe for Tex-Mex Chili Topped Sweet Potatoes.  I knew I had to make it.  Adam and I love chili and sweet potatoes, so how this not be love?  It was hearty, spicy, colorful, and tasty.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  Trouble is, we had leftovers…

It was so hearty and flavorful, we each only had one serving.  The problem being, I had two already cooked sweet potatoes on my hands, and a good amount of chili leftover. The next day I had sudden realization of what I was going to do!   Soup!  I cut up the leftover sweet potatoes, threw in the chili, added water, adjusted the spices, and the result was a delicious, comforting soup!

I, again, have succeeded in using up leftovers!  I am feeling pretty proud of myself.

Chili-Topped Sweet Potatoes
adapted from A Year in the Kitchen
Printable Recipe

4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, diced
Salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes (with green chilis, lime, cilantro, etc. if preferred)
1 heaping tsp. chili powder
1 heaping tsp. cumin
1/2 heaping tsp. coriander
1/2 heaping tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 – 1/4 chipotle powder (or 1 chipotle pepper diced)
Sprinkle of cayenne powder
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used pepper jack)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Pierce potatoes with a fork all over and place directly on oven rack.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size.

Heat a pot over medium heat, add 1 TBS olive oil.  Add onion and red pepper, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic, and saute for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add tomatoes, spices, cilantro, and kidney beans.  Bring to a simmer, stir and cook for about 20 minutes.  Taste, adjust seasonings.  Cut potatoes in half, plate, and top with chili, a sprinkle of cilantro, and cheese.  Enjoy!

Spicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup
by Anne
2 cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 recipe for chili (from Chili-Topped Sweet Potatoes)
1-2 cups water
Cut sweet potatoes into cubes.  Place sweet potatoes, chili, and water in a pot.  Cook until some of the liquid has cooked off.  Taste, adjust spices, and enjoy with cheese or a sprinkle of cilantro.

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Comforting Lentil Soup

Adam and I are, again, living the life of nomads.  We have moved out of our sublet, and are temporarily staying with one of Adam’s co-workers, who has graciously allowed us to take-over an entire floor of his new apartment.  Sadie and Amos were not very happy about the move at first, however, they have adjusted quickly and made this their new home.  Little do they know, we will be making another move next week to our new permanent apartment.  Though I am so thankful for Adam’s friend’s generosity, it will be nice to have our own apartment and start making it our home.

After eating take-out for the first few days, I finally found the local grocery store, and decided it was time to cook.  Adam and I needed a little comfort food, and I wanted to cook for Adam’s friend.  It is a challenge to cook for someone new.  I never know what to make, so I went with an old standby, lentil soup.  Lentil soup is hearty, flavorful, and only requires one pot to make!

In the past, I have made lentil soup using a recipe we got from a friend.  Of course, that recipe is nestled into one of the million boxes that we have in storage.  I remember most of the recipe, but added a few twists.  I added chicken broth instead of water, used canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and added some pasta.  It was incredibly delicious, and filling.  We enjoy ours with a splash of red wine vinegar – it just brightens up the soup!

Lentil Soup
by Anne
Printable Recipe

2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut into half-moons
2 celery stalks, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 cups dried elbow pasta
11 cups chicken broth
Red wine vinegar or Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper and sauté until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the tomatoes with their juices.  Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.  Add the lentils and mix to coat.  Add the broth and stir.  Add the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the pasta.  Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes.  Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves and discard.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Add a splash of red wine vinegar or sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

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Beef Stew

Whether you have a particularly difficult work week, or just need an escape from the daily grind, beef stew might be what you need!  Adam, apparently, loves beef stew.  He became incredibly excited when I mentioned that I was making beef stew for dinner.  I hadn’t realized how much he loved it.

An interesting coincidence, our friends, here in Brooklyn, made a similar stew from Cooks Illustrated magazine (America’s Test Kitchen) this past weekend.  According to our friends, their recipe called for anchovies for flavor and gelatin to thicken up the broth.

Though this hearty concoction of beefy goodness takes about 3 hours to make, it is well worth it!  The beef was tender, the broth was flavorful, and the vegetables were cooked to perfection.  We used nice pieces of bread to soak up the sauce!  Enjoy!

Beef Stew
America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Printable Recipe

1 (3-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
3 TBS vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
1 TBS tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 TBS all-purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 TBS minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs red potatoes (5 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup frozen peas

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Dry the beef with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 TBS of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown half of the meat, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a plate.  Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with 1 more TBS of the oil and remaining beef.  Transfer the beef to a plate.

Add the remaining TBS of oil to the empty pot and return to medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Slowly stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits.  Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaves, and browned beef along with any accumulated juices.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer the pot to the oven.  Cook for 1 hour.

Stir in the potatoes and carrots.  Cover and continue to cook in the oven until the beef is tender, about 1 hour.

Remove pot from the oven and discard the bay leaves.  Stir in the peas and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.  Enjoy!

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“Oh the weather outside is frightful…”  The first snow storm of the season hit New York this past weekend, and Adam and I hunkered-down in our apartment with hot chocolate and movies on TV.  The cold, snowy weather is prime soup-making time.  A creamy, hearty potato and leek soup with bread seemed to be the perfect thing to make.

I wanted to make Adam go, “Hmm” by adding bacon.  Yes, bacon!  Bacon and potatoes just go together, and I thought it would add a nice layer of flavor to a chicken broth based soup.  Many potato and leek soup recipes call for the soup to be puréed, however, for this soup, I wanted to be able to bite down into the pieces of potato and leek.  Next time I make this soup, I think I’ll purée half of soup to thicken it up a little bit, but still leave chunks of potato.

As I predicted, Adam exclaimed “Ooh!  There’s bacon in here!”  The potato and leek soup warmed us up as we watched the snow fall on New York.

Potato and Leek Soup
by Anne
Printable Recipe

2 leeks, white and light green part only
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 – 1/4 pound russet potatoes, peeled, diced
2 TBS butter
1 TBS oil
2 strips bacon, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 – 6 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Using a sharp knife, halve the white part of the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to rid the leek of any sand. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil, and add the bacon. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is very soft and has rendered most of its fat. Add the chopped leeks and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and the soup is very flavorful.  Add the cream and heat through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with bread.

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We saw the first signs of snow yesterday.  It was actually raining with large snowflake globs mixed in.  Very cold, very wet.  I decided it was time for a warm bowl of chili.

Usually, I make a very simple chili with chicken, veggies, and chili powder, but this weekend I wanted to try something a little different – a spicy, smoky chili with beef and beer.  I always get a little nervous venturing away from how I normally do things.  I figure, why mess with a good thing.  How could I go wrong with a recipe that calls for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and beer!

We live in a very Polish neighborhood, hence the reason I chose a Polish beer.  We discovered Zywiec beer at a restaurant nearby where you can get an appetizer, Polish plate entrée, dessert and a beer all for around $12.  This price for the amount and quality of the food is highly unusual in New York.

The best thing about chili is that it is low maintenance and versatile.  You can pop all of the ingredients in a pot and in a couple of hours, it’s done.  Chili can be enjoyed on its own, on french fries, on hot dogs, on a baked potato, etc.  We like our chili with Jiffy cornbread, cheddar cheese, and a cold beer.

Football and a pot of chili on the stove.  What could be better?

Chili (adapted from The Eclectic Cook)
Printable Recipe

1 TBS olive oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 onions, diced
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS chili powder
2 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS cumin
2 TBS chopped chipotle chiles in adobo, plus a few TBS sauce
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 lbs ground chuck
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 bottle beer
2 cups beef broth or stock
2 (19 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste

Sauté the onions, pepper, jalapeno, and garlic over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, chipotle peppers, oregano, coriander and cayenne pepper.  Cook for another few minutes, until the spices are fragrant.  Add the beef and cook over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, beer, beef broth or stock, brown sugar and the kidney beans.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer partly uncovered until chili has thickened, 1½ to 2 hours.  Taste for salt and adjust other spices as needed.  You may want to add a few TBS of adobo sauce.  Serve with grated cheese and cornbread, if desired.

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