From the category archives:

Soups

This week, it’s a menu for winter doldrums. I’m nursing a light cold with some chicken soup–and adding chipotle chiles and garlic for extra health-giving kick. On the side: a baked sweet potato, packed with vitamin C.

 

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Shopping list

    2 chicken thighs, bone-in
    2 cups chicken stock
    Pasta (or pearl couscous or rice)
    Flour or corn tortillas
    Cashews
    Sweet potatoes
    2 carrots
    Celery (optional)
    Grape tomatoes
    Small bunch cilantro
    1 lime
    1 onion
    5 cloves garlic
    Butter
    Olive oil

Chicken Noodle Soup with Chipotle Pesto

chixsoup 027This is basically a very generic chicken noodle soup, but with a handful of details that make it super-flavorful: with the fresh chicken and the toasted pasta (you could also use pearl couscous, orzo or even rice), it’s a lot richer than a soup made from just canned broth. All the trimmings (cilantro, the chipotle pesto on top, a squeeze of lime) make it semi-Mexican, but you can adapt the basic soup any way you like–take out the tomatoes, add different herbs and spices, mix up a different sort of pesto to dab on top…

serves 2
2 chicken thighs, bone-in
Drizzle olive oil
1 onion
Salt
5 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken stock
2 carrots
2 ribs celery (optional)
Large handful grape tomatoes
1/2 avocado
Large handful noodles of your choice (elbows, etc.)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo
Small handful cashews
1 lime
Small bunch cilantro
Flour or corn tortillas

Chop one chicken thigh up roughly into 4 or 5 pieces, cutting through the bone if possible. Set a heavy soup pot on medium heat; add a small drizzle of oil, just to coat the bottom. Add both chicken thighs (the cut-up one and the whole one, skin-side down) and let brown.

Chop the onion into rough slices and add to pot with chicken, alongside. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the onions and the chicken. Peel and chop the garlic coarsely.

When the chicken is somewhat browned and no longer shows any pink, remove the whole chicken thigh and set it aside; leave the remaining pieces of chicken in the pot. Add the garlic to the onions and stir and fry briefly. Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to low and let the chicken, onions and garlic steam for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

chixsoup 032Peel your carrots and slice them into half-inch chunks. (If using celery, cut into quarter-inch rings.) Slice the grape tomatoes in half (using this genius method). Cut the avocado into cubes (as at left) and set in your serving bowls.

Check on your chicken in the pot–when the onions are soft, and the chicken has given off a little liquid, add the chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan as you stir the mixture together. Turn the heat up to medium-low and toss in the carrots. Also remove the skin from the whole chicken thigh and return the meat to the pot.

Set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add a tiny drizzle of oil. Add the dry pasta, stirring well to coat each piece with oil. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is toasted and brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Immediately remove the pasta to a small bowl, to keep it from browning further in the pan.

chixsoup 033Make the chipotle pesto: Chop the chiles fine (scrape seeds out if you want less heat), along with the garlic and cashews. Add a generous squeeze of lime and extra adobo from the chipotle can to make a loose paste. Also rinse the cilantro and pick the leaves off the stems.

After the carrots have been in the soup for about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and the pasta. Let simmer until the pasta is al dente and the carrots are soft. Remove the thigh bone and the whole chicken thigh from the soup and let cool briefly; remove the meat and return it to the soup.

Just before serving, heat up your tortillas: fry them briefly in a dry skillet (or the one you did the pasta in, with the extra oil wiped out), until they have a few brown spots and puff up (flour ones do this more).

To serve the soup, ladle it over the avocado pieces. Top with a small dollop of the chipotle pesto, and a small handful of cilantro. Add another spritz of lime and enjoy with hot tortillas on the side. (They’re also good with honey for dessert…)

Whole Baked Sweet Potatoes

chixsoup 024This is a cinch. The only trick is remembering to put the sweet potatoes in the oven very first thing when you start cooking, so they have time to finish while you do the rest of the meal. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse your sweet potato(es), scraping off any obvious chunks of dirt, but don’t sweat it too much. Poke each sweet potato 5 or 6 times with a fork. Stick ’em in the oven, and let bake for 35-40 minutes, until they’re nice and soft. Slice open and eat like a regular baked potato, with a dab of butter, and maybe some salt and pepper.

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This week, I make a hearty soup that mixes kale, sweet potatoes and sausage–interesting spices give it a semi-Caribbean flavor. On the side, celery root and apple–both in season now–make an easy, refreshing slaw.

 

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Shopping list

    Andouille sausage (12 oz.)
    Brown lentils (1/2 cup)
    Chicken stock (at least 3 cups)
    1 small celery root
    1 medium apple
    1 orange
    Bunch fresh parsley
    1 medium sweet potato
    1 small bunch collard greens, kale or mustard greens
    1 medium onion
    4 or 5 cloves garlic
    Ground allspice
    Ground cumin
    Apple cider vinegar

Allegedly Cuban Sweet-Potato Soup

soup 108The original recipe for this soup, which my mom got from a friend, who got it from some Mayo Clinic cookbook (not promising–but proof you can find good recipes almost anywhere), says this is a Cuban concoction. The allspice definitely has a Caribbean vibe, and the orange peel at the end brightens everything up in a surprising way. I’ve strayed from the original recipe–less meat, for one thing, and I leave out the tomato puree, which is, ironically, the one ingredient my expert source says is intrinsic to Cuban cooking.

The lesson, of course, is that this soup is very flexible–actually a nice characteristic of most soups, especially chunkier ones where each bite will be a little different. You can use almost any kind of greens, as well as whatever sausage you like, and the proportions can vary according to your cravings. These proportions, for instance, are heavy on the greens and sausage, but light on lentils and sweet potatoes.

Makes 4-6 servings
Olive oil
1 medium onion
Salt
4 or 5 medium cloves garlic
1/2 cup brown lentils
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 medium sweet potato
Half a bunch collard greens (see note)
12 oz. andouille sausage (see note)
Heaping 1/4 tsp ground allspice
Heaping 1/2 tsp ground cumin
Black pepper
Zest from one orange

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and set to warm over medium heat. (As I describe in the podcast, alternatively at this point, if you’re not in a hurry, you can slice up the sausage, as below, and fry it while you slice up the onions; leave the sausage in the pan as you proceed with the rest of the recipe.)

Roughly chop the onion into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the pot. Stir and add a pinch of salt. While onions are softening, peel, crush and roughly chop the garlic; add to the onions and stir and fry until fragrant.

soup 095Rinse the lentils and add them to the pot, along with the chicken stock. Place the lid on the pot and let simmer. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into 3/4-inch pieces (roughly), and add this to the pot. Trim and clean the collard greens, then cut them crosswise into large pieces–roughly 3 inches across, or two or three cuts across the leaf, depending on its size. Add these to the pot and stir well to cover all with the stock–it will seem like quite a lot of greens to start with (as at left), but they will soon wilt. Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat to low.

Preheat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat while you cut the sausage into 1/2-inch slices. Fry these in the hot skillet until nicely browned, then add them to the soup. Add a couple of tablespoons of liquid to the hot pan to deglaze it: scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet into the soup pot.

Add the pepper, allspice and cumin, stir well and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or so. Just before serving, grate in the orange zest and stir well.

This soup freezes well.

Notes:
Greens: Mustard greens are also tasty (a little spicy), and they take a bit less time to cook than collards. You can also use frozen collards or mustard greens–one of the 10 oz. boxes is about the same amount as a small bunch. Just add them directly to the soup pot, still frozen.

Sausage: Andouille sausage is great because it’s a little spicy as well as smoky. The smokiness adds instant depth to the soup, and the other spices (and the heat) go well with the other flavors in the soup. You could use any kind of sausage (fresh or cured), though spices/herbs like fennel (found in a lot of Italian sausages) and sage don’t go quite so well with the allspice and cumin.

Celery Root and Apple Slaw

soup 102This incredibly simple winter salad doesn’t even use oil. It’s crunchy, clean-tasting and refreshing, making it a nice counterpoint to the rich, spicy-hot soup, or any other long-stewed dish with strong meaty flavors. If you want to tinker with it, you could add a small amount of crumbled blue cheese and/or a drizzle of walnut oil. Tarragon is another fresh herb that goes well with celery root.

As I say in the podcast, grating celery root on a box grater can be folly–it is very dense and hard to grate. Either run it through a food processor or slice it by hand.

For 2 generous servings
1 small celery root (see note)
1 medium apple
Apple cider vinegar
Salt
Small handful fresh parsley

soup 098Peel the celery root and cut off the knotty root ends. Cut into matchstick slices (as at left) or run through the grater of a food processor. Slice or grate the apple (no need to peel)–roughly the same amount as the celery root. Combine in a bowl and sprinkle both with apple cider vinegar and a large pinch of salt; toss well to combine. Rinse the parsley and chop it coarsely, then toss it with the celery root and apple. Serve within an hour or so, as it can lose its crispness.

celeriacNote: If you’re making the salad for only a couple of people but can find only a larger celery root (they’re usually about the size of medium grapefruit), cut off only as much as you need and slice only that. Wrap the remaining intact root in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. It should stay crisp for at least a week.

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