Green Garlic Soup

IMG_1.JPG

At the farmer’s market last week, I spotted green garlic and I recalled a whole section about green garlic in my favorite cookbook: Chez Panisse Cooking. On page 105, Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters write: “Garlic is commonly used as a mature plant when the bulb containing many cloves has formed. Green garlic is the same plant pulled from the ground at a much earlier stage, before the bulb forms and when the plant resembles a leek, with a stalk about 1/2 inch in diameter. Until recently, green garlic never appeared in the market and was largely unrecognized by cooks. The quality of green garlic is unique and of great use in the kitchen. When cooked it has none of the hot, pungent qualities of fresh garlic cloves. Its flavor, although unmistakably associated with the mature form, is much milder.”

When I got home I took their advice: “The flavor of green garlic is most clearly captured in a pureed soup made with new potatoes and finished with cream.” Here’s how you make it.

Continue Reading

Fall Out Of Fall With A Matzah Ball

Every year, around this time, it happens. The weather turns cold and I get a cold. And when I get a cold I make chicken soup. But this year, instead of the usual egg noodles I add from the bag, I decided to make my first matzah balls using the recipe from Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking In America.”

IMG_1.JPG

Doesn’t that soup look great? Let me let you in on a secret.

Continue Reading

Make Room For Mushroom Soup

There are certain recipes that, when you begin them, you instantly know that this is something you will want to do again and again: that these steps, these mini-procedures, have an intrinsic logic to them that will contribute to a glorious whole, even before the glorious whole is achieved. That’s how I felt tonight making the mushroom soup from the Balthazar cookbook. (Note: Someone recently gave me the Balthazar cookbook. That’s why I have the Balthazar cookbook.) The end result, in my mind, is the Platonic ideal of mushroom soup. As you can see, I served it with a salad that had a sliced Bosc pear and goat cheese crumbled up, and some bread.

IMG_1.JPG

The rosemary garnish in the soup is there to indicate–and I learnt this trick from (who else!?) Ina Garten–that there’s rosemary in the soup itself. In fact, rosemary is where this recipe begins. [Well, sort of, after all the prep work.] Click ahead and see why this soup recipe may be one of the most sensible and worthwhile recipes I’ve yet encountered.

Continue Reading

Hallelujah! Chicken Soup From Scratch

Sisters and brothers! Brothers and sisters! Who among you is coughing? Who among you is sneezing? Whose throat is so sore it’s like you gargled sand paper? I’m Reverend Pastor Amateur Gourmet and I’m here to heal you with the yellow waters of homemade chicken soup. You may think to yourself: “Heck no! I ain’t go time for no homemade chicken soup! I’m opening a can!” But you’d be wrong, my friends, you’d be dead wrong. For one whiff of this Godly creation and you’ll be better restored than the Sisteen Chapel. Behold the vision:

IMG_1.JPG

A bowl of this is within your reach. Click here to read the recipe in great detail, or let me walk you through it. I’ll show you how easy it can be.

What you need, more than anything else, is a big ‘ole pot. My biggest pot is the Le Crueset Dutch Oven I purchased a while back. But even this holds little more than two quarts of water. How could I proceed when the recipe calls for four quarts?

Reach to the heavens and you shall find your answer. Or turn to the Steve Martin section at your video store and look for the title “Leap Of Faith.” That’s all it takes.

I layered a raw cut-up chicken on the bottom of my dutch oven. I didn’t use all the pieces, just as many as I could get in without overloading it. Then I poured in about 8 cups of water (that’s 2 quarts). I brought it to a boil:

IMG_2.JPG

I skimmed the fat off and then added all my vegetables:

IMG_3.JPG

That’s: 1 onion unpeeled (nice! you don’t have to peel it! (though, I did, ultimately, cut it in half to help it fit); 2 parsnips peeled; 1/4 cup chopped celery leaves, 2 stalks celery and their leaves; 1/2 a rutabaga peeled and cut in half again; half a turnip, peeled and quartered; 2 carrots peeled and left whole; 3 Tbs chopped parslsey; 3 Tbs snipped dill; 1/2 Tbs salt, 1/8th tsp pepper.

Once in, the very crowded pot looks like this:

IMG_4.JPG

You lower it to a simmer, you cover it, and you let it go like that for two and a half hours. Start this at 4 and it’ll be ready at 6. And look at the transformation that takes place. You start out with raw chicken, raw vegetables, and cold water and you end up with:

IMG_5.JPG

Hallelujah! You’ve got soup!

So then you fish out all the vegetables and dump them: they’re no good–they’ve lost their flavor to the water. (That’s what makes the soup taste so good.) Then you take out the chicken and you let it cool. When it’s cool, get rid of the skin and cut up the chicken into little pieces. You’ll only use about half, use the other half for chicken salad the next day (which I did and it was tasty).

Then with the remaining liquid, strain it into another pot.

Here’s where you’re supposed to refrigerate it and let the fat collect for you to skim off. I was too impatient to complete this step. So I put the stock back on the heat, I chopped up a carrot, some celery, some leftover rutabaga and added it to the simmering broth. Then I added some egg noodles (acutally, I added WAY too many egg noodles: the next day, when I went to reheat the soup, the noodles had absorbed all the liquid! So be careful!) and waited about 6 minutes for them to cook. When they did, I ladeled myself a bowl, garnished with dill and look how beautiful:

IMG_10.JPG

There’s nothing like making your own chicken soup. If you haven’t done it, I highly suggest you try it—you’ll never wanna eat canned soup again. And my cold? It’s getting better. True, I started an antibiotic yesterday (my throat was infected) but I only credit the antibiotic with 20% of my healing. The rest is in the soup. Can I get an amen?

Call Me Corny But I Love Corn Soup with Salsa

The nicest thing about Alice Waters’ Vegetable book (which I’ve been raving about for a few posts now; and which, as I’ve mentioned before, was a gift from one of my readers) is that it helps you become a seasonal cook without having to make too many changes to your life. To really understand seasonal cooking, you’d really have to know a bit about the land, the climate, your part of the country. With this book, you really just need to know what looks fresh in the supermarket and the farmer’s market. Corn’s still in season and so I put two and two together, flipped to Alice’s corn section (that sounded dirty) and made this wonderful corn soup with salsa.

IMG_1.JPG

To start out, you should make the salsa. The salsa here isn’t really the kind of salsa you associate with “salsa.” It’s basically roasted tomatoes with sage, olive oil and corn. You’ll need:

1 large ripe tomato

1 sprig thyme

2 sage leaves

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbs fresh corn kernels

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Peel and seed the tomato…

Here I got to use my brand new paring knife that came with the knife set I bought through Elise’s site a few weeks ago!

IMG_2.JPG

It’s my new favorite knife, mostly because it’s really sharp. Where were we?

and cut into 1/2 inch dice. In a small baking dish, toss the tomato with the thyme and sage and 1 Tbs of the olive oil. (I couldn’t find any thyme at Whole Foods which made me sad because thyme’s my favorite herb.)

IMG_3.JPG

Put the dish in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the oven, allow to cool

IMG_4.JPG

and remove the thyme sprig and the sage leaves. Toss together with the remaining Tbs of olive oil and the corn, and season to taste.

IMG_5.JPG

As you can see, I added cilantro because I’m a big cilantro fan. I should also say here that this salsa is optional. Alice writes: “Other garnishes to consider [for the soup] are roasted red peppers, pureed or chopped; or chopped hot chiles and cilantro, with or without creme fraiche.”

Now then: the soup. I halved the recipe for myself but I’ll give you the full recipe here in case you want to make this for your family. You will need:

1 medium onion

1/4 small carrot

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

1 small piece prosciutto or smoked bacon (I used bacon)

3 cups fresh corn kernels**

4 cups chicken stock

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs half-and-half

1 cup corn and roasted tomato salsa (which you’ve already made)

**To get the kernels off the corn without having the corn fly all over the place, I tried a technique I saw on Alton Brown. I may have totally misremembered this, but as it occurred to me you take a small bowl and put it in a pie pan and the walls of the pie pan catch the bits of corn as you cut down.

IMG_6.JPG

As you can see, I made a mess, but not as big a mess as I did the last time I cut corn.

Now then, the recipe.

Peel and finely dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and stew slowly in the butter with a little water, covered, until the onion is translucent. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and prosciutto or bacon, and stew for 3 or 4 minutes more. Add the corn and cook for another minute or so.

Pour in the stock, add the salt, bring the soup to a boil and shut off the heat. Cover and let stand for 3 minutes.

I should point out here that I used the Sarah Moulton technique of putting the cobs* in with the corn to add flavor. Since you’ll be pureeing everything in a moment, it’s very easy to take the cobs out afterwards. And even if it doesn’t do much, it feels like it does. [*NOTE: originally I wrote “husks.” That was wrong! Don’t put husks in your soup!]

IMG_8.JPG

Remove the thyme, bay leaf, pork (and the cobs!) and puree the soup in a blender for 3 minutes.

I used my food processor:

IMG_9.JPG

And encountered some trouble when liquid came pouring out of every hole:

IMG_10.JPG

But for the most part, the soup got blended the way it needed to be blended. Here it is, post-puree:

IMG_11.JPG

After that, it’s easy.

Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, add the half-and-half, reheat the soup to just below a boil, and serve, garnishing each bowl with a spoonful of the corn and roasted tomato salsa.

It’s cool because the salsa really acts as the soup’s–umm–“stuff.” You know like the stuff that’s in clam chowder? It’s the stuff you fish for when you eat. And it really makes the dish more colorful and vibrant. I served it with a simple salad and extra salsa on the side.

IMG_15.JPG

It’s a great recipe to make with the last of the summer corn. And if you’re not a seasonal shopper, what a great way to start. You can wear your seasonal shopper t-shirt.

Charitable Chicken Soup for My Roommate’s Soul

Poor Lauren. She has a cold. When Lauren gets colds they last for two weeks, minimum. And since I have been basking in my good health all weekend (excluding explicit epilogues), last night I called her cell phone on her way back from the airport and said: “Would you like me to make you chicken soup?”

She said: “Would you? That would be awesome.”

So I whipped out my Epicurious chicken soup recipe which, since it’s on the internet, I can reproduce for you here. It is not the most authentic chicken soup recipe: that would involve making your own chicken stock (a process that takes over four hours). But this recipe is incredibly delicious, incredibly nutrtious and–to quote the recipe itself: “perfect for a cold winter’s night.”

IMG_2.JPG

OLD-FASHIONED CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

16 cups canned low-salt chicken broth (<--I just bought two quarts worth and that was plenty) 1 3.5 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces 1/2 cup chopped onion 2 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced 2 celery stalks, sliced 8 oz dried wide egg noodles 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (<--I subbed dill for the parsley because I love dill in chicken soup) 1. Combine chicken broth and chicken in heavy large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large bowl. Cool chicken and broth slightly. Discard skin and bones from chicken. Cut chicken meat into bite size pieces and reserve. Spoon fat off top of chicken broth. 2. Return broth to simmer. Add onions, carrots and celery. Simmer until vegetables soften, about 8 minutes. 3. Stir in noodles, parsley (or dill) and reserved chicken. Simmer until noodles are tender, about 5 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. It was really the last step that made this particular soup taste better than any I've made before. I don't think I ever use enough salt, so this time I was really generous and, according to Lauren, "this is the best one you've made by far."