Category: Soups


Soup!

A new soup recipe to start your February off right!  It’s a good day for soup today–as I write this it is a whopping -5 degrees outside with a windchill of -24 F.  Yeah, that’s right: -24.  But this hearty and spicy soup will warm you right up, and as an added bonus, it’s healthy too!

I actually didn’t originally intend for this soup to be a blog recipe–I came across Smitten Kitchen’s soup with lentils, sausage, chard and garlic while making my grocery list for the week, and had every intention of making it exactly according to the recipe.  Since our household’s resident vegetarian was going to be out for the night, I was excited at the prospect of trying my hand at a recipe using meat.  I figured I’d just make two pots, one with Italian sausage and one without so that my husband could share in the leftovers.

When I got to the grocery store, I discovered that sweet potatoes were on sale.  I like sweet potatoes, and I figured they’d go well with the Italian sausage, so I picked some up.  Then I went looking for the sausage itself.  The recipe called for sweet Italian sausage, which I found, but in my opinion Italian sausage should always be spicy.  Alas, spicy Italian sausage was nowhere to be seen.  Of course, I could just add my own spices after the fact, but I decided that if I was going to spice it myself anyways, I should buy something healthier.  That was when I saw the package of ground chuck.  It was three quarters of a pound–just the right amount given that I’d be the only one eating it.  Perfect.

At this point I was still intending to follow the recipe (just with the meat substitution and the addition of sweet potatoes), but I kept thinking about how big of a nuisance it would be to make two separate pots of soup (and how I didn’t really have two appropriately sized/shaped pots to do this), when finally the idea of doing meatballs popped into my brain.  I could make spicy meatballs to put in the bottom of my bowl with the soup, leaving the leftover soup untainted by meat so that my husband could share in it later!

So then I had to figure out how to make meatballs.  Because I’d never done it before.  (Yeah, yeah, I know–I write a cooking blog and I’ve never even made meatballs.  I’ve never made a steak either.)  But how hard could it be?  I figured I needed meat, breadcrumbs, and egg plus some spices, but I decided to consult Google just to be sure I wasn’t missing anything.

As it turns out, most meatball recipes call for fresh breadcrumbs.  From white bread.  With the crusts cut off.  Well, I didn’t actually have any white bread, crusts or no.  I had a jar of panko breadcrumbs.  And since it was freezing cold out, my car was covered in snow, and its door likely frozen shut, I decided to just go with it.

Panko!

In the end, panko worked just fine and the meatballs turned out to be juicy and flavorful.

Balls

Simmering meatballs

Since I decided to make meatballs, the soup was no longer going to have any contact with the meat, and thus was not going to get any of the flavors of it.  So I needed to up the spice content.  I decided to use the same spices I used in the meatballs (fennel seeds, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt, and pepper) along with a star anise.  I also put this same combination of spices into the sauce for the meatballs.

cooking the veg

In the end, this turned out to be a ridiculous amount of soup.  Unless I freeze some, I’m not going to have to grocery shop or cook for a week.  Which may be a good thing as I look at the weather forecast…

Sweet Potato Lentil Soup (with meatballs)
(serves 6)

Soup:

  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seed
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced or diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced or diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium or 3 small sweet potatoes, chopped into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • scant 1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • a few grinds of pepper
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry black lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 can (14oz) crushed tomatoes (fire roasted if you can find them)
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 1 large bunch of kale, roughly chopped

Meatballs:

  • 1lb ground chuck (I used a bit less, but I thought the meatballs could have been a bit meatier)
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • a small pinch of salt
  • grapeseed oil for frying

Sauce:

  • 1 can (14oz) crushed tomatoes (again, fire roasted if possible)
  • a small pinch of salt
  • a small pinch of smoked paprika
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • a small pinch of red pepper flakes
  • a small pinch of garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 whole star anise
  • a splash of water–just enough to thin it out

Heat the 3 tbsp of grapeseed oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the fennel seeds and star anise for the soup, and stir them around for a minute or two until they start to get fragrant.  Add the celery, onion, carrots, sweet potato, and all of the spices except for the bay leaf.  Cook the vegetables for a few minutes until the onions start to get translucent.  Then add the water, tomatoes, lentils, and bay leaf.  Stir, and then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes have passed, check on your soup, give it a stir, and then cover it and set a timer for another 20 minutes.  Combine the sauce ingredients in a pyrex measuring cup or other dish that pours easily.  Set aside.  Meanwhile in a large metal bowl, mix together your breadcrumbs, spices, and the Parmesan cheese for the meatballs.  Then add the ground chuck and beaten egg, and mix it with your hands until it’s just uniformly combined.  Yes, you should really use your hands, and be careful not to overmix (you don’t want the meatballs to be tough!)  Form the mixture into balls, about an inch and a quarter in diameter.  I ended up with 18 of them.

Add just enough grapeseed oil to just coat the bottom of a saute pan over medium high heat.  When the pan is hot (you can test this by gently setting one of your meatballs in it–if it sizzles, it’s hot enough), add all of your meatballs in a single layer, and use a pair of tongs to turn them occasionally until they’re browned on all sides.  How do you know when it’s time to turn them?  When they stop sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Seriously, don’t worry if they stick at first–they’ll come unstuck.  Once they’re browned on all sides, you can take the pan off the heat and skim out a bit of the excess oil if it seems like there’s a lot (do this quickly–you don’t want the pan to cool!), and then deglaze the pan with your tomato sauce mixture.  Be careful–it splashes.  Reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan.  Simmer for 10 minutes to cook the meatballs through.

Meanwhile, your soup timer has probably gone off.  Give the soup a taste, and check if the lentils are done.  If they’re not, keep the soup simmering.  Adjust seasonings as necessary, and then when the lentils are done, turn the soup down to low to keep it warm until the meatballs are ready.

Check the internal temperature of the meatballs–you want to see at least 165 degrees.  Make sure you check meatballs both in the middle of the pan and on the edges–mine cooked much faster on the edges of the pan than in the middle, so I ended up moving them around partway through.

Once the meatballs are done, put three of them in the bottom of a bowl, cover it with soup, and enjoy!

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Hi, everyone!  I am FINALLY back on my blog after several months of radio silence.  I’ve been away on campus teaching for the semester, and while I had originally intended to continue posting, there’s not much to say when your primary instrument of cooking is a microwave.  (If you were wondering, it is possible to successfully make pasta, beets, potatoes, and a variety of other things in the microwave.  But after a while you get lazy and just buy a lot of boxes of soup.)  I am super excited to get back to blogging, and I have some awesome recipes coming up including a butternut squash dish, a cake, a salad, at least one type of cookie, and, the subject of today’s post: mushroom barley soup!

I’m a big fan of barley.  It is both absurdly healthy and absurdly versatile–you can make it into a breakfast cereal, put it in soups, make it into a risotto, use it as the base of a dish like you would rice or couscous…

Except.

It takes forever to cook.

Oh, the pearled kind cooks up in a perfectly reasonable amount of time, it’s true.  But pearled barley doesn’t have nearly the nutritional punch that hulled has, plus it doesn’t have quite the same pleasing, chewy texture.

Solution:  slow cooker. With a minimal amount of planning ahead, I pre-cooked the barley overnight in the slow cooker, so that when it came time to make the soup, all I had to do was throw it in.  And it’s so easy to make barley in the slow cooker, you can do it while you’re sleeping.  Literally.  If you cook it on low, it’s ready in 6-8 hours max, which means that this is also an excellent way to replace your breakfast oatmeal with breakfast barley.  And in fact, I ended up with more cooked barley than I needed for the soup, so I had ready-made breakfast for the rest of the week!

The soup itself was something I came up with while falling asleep one night–it just popped into my head like a dream and practically wrote itself–when I made the soup a few days later, I felt like I was following a recipe, even though I was making it up.  It’s a good soup for a cold winter day–the hearty barley and beans along with the rich mushroom flavor and just a touch of sour cream warms you through without being heavy, and the topping of freshly grated Parmesan adds the perfect amount of umami.  (It would be a good thing to enjoy with a nice thick slab of oat soda bread from 101 Cookbooks.)

So here it is, just in time for Christmas:

Mushroom Barley Soup
(Serves 9)

For the barley

  • 1 cup dry hulled barley
  • 4.5 cups water

For the soup

  • 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup hot (not quite boiling) water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cups sliced raw mushrooms (I used a mixture of crimini and white button)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups mushroom broth
  • 1 can of navy beans, drained
  • half to all of the cooked barley
  • 1 large bunch of kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (for topping)

The night before you plan on making the soup, get out your slow cooker and put in one cup of dried, hulled barley and 4.5 cups of water.  Give it a stir (and pick out any bits of chaff that may have been in with your barley), cover it, and set it to low for 8 hours.  In the morning, scoop it out, put it in a container, and pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to make the soup.

When you’re ready to make your soup, take your dried porcini mushrooms, put them in a small bowl, and cover them with hot water.  Let them steep while you get everything else going.  The water should turn a rich shade of reddish-brown, and the mushrooms will re-hydrate.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pot or dutch oven, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  When the butter is melted and the pan is hot, add in the diced onion and garlic, and saute until the onion starts to get transparent.  Then add the sliced mushrooms, and continue to stir occasionally until the mushrooms start to darken.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and let it simmer until most of the wine has cooked off.

Chop up the re-hydrated porcini mushrooms and add them to the pan, and strain in the liquid they were soaking in.  Add the mushroom broth, beans, and as much of the barley as you would like in your soup (more if you want your soup thicker like a stew, less if you want it more soup-like), and the kale.  Cover, and simmer until the kale has completely wilted.

Stir in the sour cream, and then add salt and pepper to taste.  It will probably take more salt than you think you need; just add it a little at a time.

Ladle it into bowls, top with Parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Mushroom Barley Soup!

I made this recipe back at the beginning of January, but only now have I finally found the time to post it.  It’s a good, hearty bean soup, spicy but not overwhelming, and good for warming up on a cold winter’s day.  Y’know, if it’s still winter where you are.  It’s certainly not here!

Bean Soup!

For the beans, I used Trader Joe’s 17 bean and barley mix–a colorful collection of beans, split peas, and lentils including everything from baby lima beans to blackeye peas to pearl barley.  But if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, feel free to improvise and use whatever combination of beans, lentils, and split peas you like!  Do stick to dried beans rather than canned though, as dried will hold up better to the long cooking process.  (Plus they’re cheap to buy in bulk!)

For vegetables, I used onion, carrots and parsnips, which were what I had laying around in the bottom of the fridge.  You could certainly use other vegetables as well, such as celery or fennel…sweet potatoes would also go well with the spices in the soup–just dice them up into 1-inch chunks and add them at the same time as the beans.

Vegetables!

The strongly flavored spices in this soup contrast well with the relatively neutral flavors of the beans and lentils, as well as the sweetness brought by the carrots and parsnips.  But if you’re missing one or two of the spices, don’t worry–just use what you have.  And you can always adjust the flavors at the end.  But just to warn you, the cayenne pepper does give the soup a bit of a kick, so if you don’t like spicy food, just leave it out.

Spices!

 

Spicy Bean Soup
(serves 6-8) 

  • 1lb mixed dried beans, split peas and lentils (or 1 package of Trader Joe’s 17 bean and barley mix)
  • 3-5 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 medium parsnips
  • olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3c white wine
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • dash of dried cilantro
  • dash of crushed red pepper
  • water or vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

Soak your bean mix in cold water for several hours before you intend to start cooking (or overnight).  Drain and rinse.

Put a large stock pot on the stove over medium heat.  Peel and dice the parsnips, carrots, and onion, and when the pot is hot, pour in a good glug of olive oil and add the vegetables.  Let them cook for a bit, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to go translucent.  Then add the wine and bay leaf, and continue to cook until most of the wine has cooked off.

Now add your spice mix.  After stirring it in, add your drained and rinsed bean mix, and enough water or stock to cover everything by an inch or so.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the beans are cooked through and tender.  This will take about an hour, depending on how soft you want the beans.  Check the soup periodically while it’s simmering, and if it seems like a lot of the liquid has boiled off, add a bit more water.

When the beans are cooked through, taste the soup and add salt as necessary.  If you want it spicier, feel free to add another dash of cayenne pepper.  Serve as is, or topped with a dollop of sour cream.  Enjoy!

*Okay, so technically it came out as more of a puree.  But you can make it soup-like if you want.  More on that in a bit.

On this chilly (and if you’re in the Northeast, snowy) day after Halloween, you might, like me, find yourself craving soup.  I actually made this soup a few weeks ago, but with its lovely orange coloring, it’s really quite appropriate for Halloween.  Plus it’s warm and filling and delicious!  Just what I want when the weather turns cold!

Originally when I bought the butternut squash, I had intended to make a more typical, savory butternut squash soup.  But when I realized I didn’t have half the ingredients for the recipe I wanted to use, I decided to go in a completely different direction and make something with coconut milk and curry paste.  This turned out to be an excellent idea, with the sweetness of the coconut milk and the mild spice of the curry paste perfectly complementing the sweetness of the squash.  And best of all, it was really easy!

Roasting Squash

Soup!

Coconut Butternut Squash Soup
(serves 4)

  • 1 medium butternut squash 
  • unsalted butter
  • 1 heaped tsp brown sugar
  • scant 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • scant 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 can regular coconut milk
  • 1 heaped tablespoon red curry paste (more or less to taste)
  • salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • pinch of ground ginger

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Then slice your squash down the middle lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  (You can toast them later if you like!)  Set the squash halves face up on a cookie sheet (aluminum foil underneath would not be a bad idea–sometimes the squash drips!).  Put a few small pats of unsalted butter on each half, and then sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin and cloves.  Bake the squash until it’s tender and a fork goes easily through the thickest part.  (Probably between half an hour and 45 minutes but it depends on both your squash and your oven.)  When your squash is done, take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool for a bit.

Meanwhile shake up your can of coconut milk and pour it into a medium saucepan along with the curry paste.  Put it on low-medium heat, and stir it until the curry paste isn’t lumpy anymore.  While it’s heating up, scoop out the flesh of your squash.  Once the coconut milk and curry paste are hot but not quite boiling, take it off the heat, add in the squash, salt (to taste), cayenne, and ginger.  Mix it up a bit with your spoon, and then use an immersion blender to smooth it all out.  If you don’t have one, a regular blender would work fine too–you just might lose a bit of soup in the bottom of it.  Once it’s all blended, put it back on the heat for a bit if it’s cooled off and then serve!

If you want to make your soup more…soupy, there are a couple of options.  You could try adding another can of coconut milk (add more curry paste and possibly more cayenne and ginger if you do.)  You could also try thinning it out with stock, milk, or cream–just taste as you go and adjust the seasonings, but with these you’ll probably lose some of the coconutty flavor.  Just a disclaimer–I haven’t tried any of these variations because I decided I liked the soup thick.  If you try one, let me know how it goes!