Lentil Epiphany Soup

January 6, 2009

A creamy and comforting celebration in a bowl … Try to find Puy lentils or at least use small, gray or green French lentils. They are much superior to the larger, softer gray variety. Don’t use red lentils. They’re more Biblical—Esau sold his birthright for porridge made of red lentils—but red lentils dissolve entirely and lack the comforting heft of green lentils.

1 cup dried Puy lentils
3 cups cold water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds onions (2 large), thinly sliced and divided
3/4 pound new potatoes (3 medium)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water, divided
1 bay leaf tied with 4 (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup instant polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and place in a stockpot with 3 cups cold water and 1 slice onion. The onion helps the lentils hold their shape. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic.

Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the remaining onions in 1 tablespoon oil, covered, until translucent, not brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucier, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and chop roughly. Peel the potatoes if you like, but it’s not necessary.

In the chef’s pan over medium heat, combine the lentil mixture, onions, potatoes, 1 cup stock, 1 tablespoon oil, bay leaf, thyme, and sherry and bring to a simmer, uncovered.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken stock. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to very low heat and cook until creamy, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir into the soup

Simmer the soup, uncovered, until creamy and reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. It tends to stick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf and thyme. Serve with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche, or cream.
Makes about 2 quarts.

Cream of Corn Soup

March 12, 2008

This hearty soup is a buttery combination of browned roux and cream. The corn at the end is almost an afterthought. Come to think of it, with this basic formula, you could make any number of soups. Just add your favorite veggie at the end. SAM

1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups half-and-half
1 (17-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained and coarsely chopped
Chopped fresh chives

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onion until lightly browned. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until browned and bubbly. Add the salt and pepper. Gradually add the half-and-half, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly. Add the corn and heat thoroughly. Garnish with chives.
Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from Emily’s cookbook All-American Comfort Food.

Turkish Wedding Soup with Spiced Sauce

February 23, 2008

Image: Kadir’s Treehouses in Olympos, Turkey

I hope you were lucky enough to have a treehouse when you were little. If Sam and Harry were looking for an unusual place to spend their honeymoon, they may have discovered a number of treehouse hotels scattered around the world in interesting places. There’s also a wonderful (and enormous!) treehouse restaurant in England’s Alnwick Garden, but we need a place where Sam and Harry can also spend the night. We’ve already imagined them on a safari so I ruled out this treehouse in a Costa Rican Jungle; and while I enjoyed the very punny website for these treehouses in Oregon , I thought these treehouses in Turkey sounded like the most fun!  There are such good things to eat in Turkey, too, including this variation of the traditional “Turkish Wedding Soup.”  Appropriate, or what?? -Almostgotit

Turkish Wedding Soup with Spiced Sauce

Serves 8

2 onions
7 carrots
4 pounds lamb neck bones
10 cups beef broth
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks, divided)
1 cup flour
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 1/2 teaspoons paprika

Peel the onions and carrots, cut into quarters, and put into a soup pot with the lamb bones, broth, and salt. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour, or until the meat is soft. Strain the broth into a bowl. Remove the meat from the bones and cut into thin strips or dice.  Return meat and broth to soup pot.

Melt 12 tablespoons butter and work in the flour. Slowly add 1 cup of the warm broth while mixing well. Gradually stir this butter-flour mixture into the rest of the soup, then bring soup to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Keep the soup warm.

Beat the egg yolks with a fork and mix in the lemon juice. Add 4 tablespoons of hot soup. Stir this mixture briskly into the rest of the soup: egg yolks will “cook” immediately. Reheat over a very low flame, or you may even turn off flame and cover pot to keep it hot. Do not boil or soup will “break” and become watery.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter, remove from heat and add cayenne pepper and paprika. Pour the soup into serving bowl or individual soup bowls. Swirl spoonfuls of spiced butter over the top of each.  

Adapted from New York Times Bread & Soup Cookbook by Yvonne Young

Cabbage Bean Soup for a Crowd

February 20, 2008

Creative Commons photo by jamelah

While a monastery might seem an ironic place for honeymooners to lodge, many monasteries support themselves by offering guest quarters, a few of them even allowing romantic cohabitation.  Some require guests to observe rules of silence, or to participate in the work and worship of the monks; others merely offer quiet, clean accommodations and good, simple food for body and soul.  This recipe would probably serve an entire monastery full of people. – Almostgotit

Serves 50-60

8 pounds ground chuck
8 onions, chopped
8  14-ounce cans chicken broth
8 14-ounce cans beef broth
8  30-ounce cans diced tomatoes
16 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained
2 cabbages, sliced
4 pounds carrots, sliced (or baby carrots, cut in half)
3 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
6 cups water

Brown beef with onion.  Drain well.  Add all other ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, approximately one hour.  May add more Worchestershire sauce, garlic, or beef bouillion to taste.  No extra salt is needed.

Spinach Soup

January 18, 2008

You can make more elaborate spinach soups, like the rich, creamy Spinach Bisque we made in August. This beauty, though, is so incredibly easy you can stir it together at the last minute and serve it hot or cold in demitasse cups or big soup bowls. A versatile recipe you’ll want to keep handy for emergencies or just a quick lunch for a friend. SAM

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
Salt to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper

Cook the spinach according to the directions on the package. Drain, cool, and wring out liquid by hand. Place the spinach in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the rosemary, milk, and chicken broth and process until smooth. Pour the spinach mixture into a medium bowl and stir in by hand the cream, salt, and cayenne pepper. Chill thoroughly.
Makes 6 servings.

Avocado Bisque

November 21, 2007


Elegant, refined, rich … and so creamy and delicious you’ll want to lick your soup bowl clean! Isn’t it fabulous to serve good food to the ones you love? SAM & HARRY

2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and roughly diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
Sea salt to taste
4 tablespoons fresh, chopped dill weed, divided

In a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the avocados, lemon juice, broth, cream, salt, and 3 tablespoons dill until smooth. Chill. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill and paprika.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Four-Bean Soup

November 18, 2007


Making a big pot of soup on a cold Sunday warms your toes and your heart and makes your home smell great. This recipe calls for canned and frozen beans, but you can use dried beans if you like: 3/4 cup each, soaked overnight, drained, and cooked in unsalted water until tender. Dried beans are more trouble than canned or frozen, but they’re sweeter and fresher. However you make this soup, you’ll be awfully glad you did. SAM

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3 center ribs celery with tops, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces frozen baby lima beans
3/4 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
4 cups chicken stock or water
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan and cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until hazy. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, molasses, cumin, paprika, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, parsley, garbanzo beans, black beans, lima beans and stock or water and bring to a boil. Stir in the lentils. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer for 30 minutes more until slightly thickened. Remove the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with Parmesan and a dollop of cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Lentil Market Soup

November 8, 2007


This hearty cold-weather market soup is especially tasty with cream! SAM & HARRY

1 cup small gray-green lentils
6 cups water, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium onions, thinly sliced, divided
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons toasted, ground cumin
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 medium turnips, diced
3 new potatoes, diced
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white peppercorns to taste
Crème fraîche or heavy cream

Pick through the lentils and rinse. Place in a stockpot with 3 cups of cold water and 1 thin slice of onion, cover, bring to a low boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until soft.

In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and add the cumin, stirring until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, turnips, potatoes, and sherry and cover until hot, about 3 minutes. Uncover, add the bay leaves and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked lentils and any pot liquor. Reduce the heat to low.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring 1 cup of lightly salted water to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return to low heat and whisk until thick, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir into the lentil mixture. Add 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until reduced by 2 cups, stirring frequently. Serve with a tablespoon of crème fraîche or heavy cream stirred into each bowl.
Makes 2 quarts.

Lentil-Butternut Soup

October 29, 2007


With farm markets full of winter squash, this is the perfect soup to make on a cold morning! The seeds and pulp from the butternut cooked in the steamer water add a burst of flavor. The polenta makes everything creamy and rich. Make it on Monday and you can enjoy it all week. SAM

1/2 cup dried Puy lentils or gray-green French lentils
5 1/2 cups cold water, divided
1 1/2 pounds onions (2 large), thinly sliced, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 medium butternut squash
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup marsala wine
1 tablespoon butter
Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
1/3 cup instant polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan and chopped parsley

Pick through the lentils and rinse. Place in a stockpot with 1 1/2 cups of cold water and 1 thin slice of onion, cover, bring to a low boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, in a large, covered chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the remaining onions in 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic after 15 minutes and continue cooking another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of a 2-quart steamer pan over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the shallot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Cut the squash in half and scrape the seeds and pulp into the steamer bottom with the shallot. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring, until fragrant and colorful, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Place the squash, cut-side down, in the steamer basket, cover, and steam until tender, about 20 minutes. Strain the steamer water, discarding seeds, fiber, and shallot, and reserve. Scrape the squash flesh into the onion mixture, along with the bay leaf. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté until reduced by 1/4, about 15 minutes. Add the marsala and reduce, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and lentils along with any pot liquor.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil 1 cup of lightly salted water. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return the pan to medium-low heat and whisk until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and stir into the squash-lentils mixture, along with the remaining 1 cup of water. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. Garnish with grated parmesan and chopped parsley.
Makes 2 quarts.