This recipe comes to us from the extraordinary Devaki Das, a fellow food blogger and lover of global cuisine. You can read more about her in this interview, and visit her site for myriad drool-worthy recipes at Weave a Thousand Flavors. Just promise me that if you cook any of her food, invite me over for dinner. She is a master of her craft! Continue reading Dev’s Roasted Apple, Brie & Thyme Soup
Tortilla soup has become a standard of tex-mex menus here in the states, becoming another pillar of the glorious international chicken soup pantheon. While its origin is shrouded in mystery, food historians can pinpoint its arrival to America somewhere around the 1890s. The combination of slow simmered chicken, tomatoes, and fried tortillas is a simple blend of flavors that seem as if they were always meant to be together. Crazily, the myriad chicken tortilla soup fails come in the way of people bastardizing this formula, inundating the soup with unnecessary toppings (or worse, using cheese to cover up a watery broth or lack of chicken and vegetables). Continue reading Mexican Chicken Vegetable Soup (Caldo Tlalpeño)
Hot and sour soup gets the bum rush – most places that craft it poorly do so by phoning it in. It’s so simple to the point that it’s ludicrous that it could be butchered, and yet I’ve been affronted with some shady knockoffs standing in for the real thing. Rather than flirt with disappointment, I just whip a pot up myself and call it a day. No more fishing out rubbery tofu and incredulously huge pieces of celery (what the eff?) Just hot and sour action at its best. Brilliant!
The soup is comprised of savory vegetable stock studded with slivers of bamboo shoots, scallions and tofu. An essential for me, and what separates the real deal from the imposters, is the use of wood ear mushrooms. Sometimes referred to with the not-so-pleasant monniker of fungus, these pleasantly chewy mushrooms can be purchased dry in many upscale markets. If you can score some, get on it, because their texture and color lend an air of the exotic to the soup. Continue reading Hot and Sour Soup
In that I am an avid dumpling maker (so that I can afford to be a voracious dumpling eater), I tend to go through quite a bit of filling for the little buggers. Much like the hot dog/hot dog bun conundrum (12 hot dogs vs. 8 buns), I often find myself with more filling than I have wrappers for. What to do?!?
Given that the filling does not tend to keep very well (overnight at best, and never defrosted from frozen), I have found a quick and easy solution with wontons. The wrappers are easy to come by in the produce section of the market (usually with the tofu) and can be transformed into the loveliest of soups. In Chinese, wonton means “swallowing a cloud” – easily the perfect descriptor for a soup that is both complex and delicate at the same time.
So what’s the game plan, you may ask? Very simple. Bolster your leftover filling with some fresh shrimp, sesame oil and cornstarch. Fill the wonton wrappers and twist into little satchels until you are out of filling. Freeze the wrappers (as these guys do keep well) and make a pot of wonton soup. If you have leftover wontons beyond the soup, either pan fry and serve with soy dipping sauce or deep fry and serve with duck sauce. Last but not least, relish in your delicious frugality and trenchant wit. Probably the most important step of all.
Thrifty Shrimp Wontons
1 lb. of shrimp, peeled and chopped
about 1 c. of leftover dumpling filling
1 tbs. of corn starch
2 tbs. of sesame oil
1 package of wonton skins
1 quart of chicken stock
1 tbs. of soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 inch of ginger, peeled
In a standing mixer or with a spoon, mix the leftover dumpling filling with the shrimp, corn starch and sesame oil. Fill the wonton wrappers with a teaspoon each of filling. Wet the edges with a bit of water and twist the corners together to form a little “money bag”. Dip the bottom of the money bag into a small amount of flour and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat until you have used up all of your filling. Set aside
Pour the chicken stock, soy and ginger into a pot and bring to a boil. Add as many wontons as you’d like to eat (no more than 10 per quart of stock) and cook for 4-5 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a handful of scallions. Dig in.
Variations on the Soup
As a means of extending the majesty, feel free to use any of these add-ins:
- handful of baby spinach
- handful of bean sprouts
- thinly sliced Chinese BBQ pork
- crispy fried onions or shallots
- thinly sliced chicken breast
- lo mein, mai fun or udon noodles
- peeled shrimp
Of the dishes that I crave in an almost manic way, pawing the walls like a crackhead needing a fix, wonton noodle soup is always on the top of the list. In college, it was brimming bowls of Cantonese Wonton Soup from Ollie’s Noodle Shop in NYC. The broth studded with crisp shallots and baby spinach featured the most lovely shrimp and pork wontons – I willingly braved the lines and the brusque service just to get my weekly fix. It was hard for me to imagine a wonton soup better than it, but once I tried the Roast Pork Wonton Noodle Soup at China Fun (also in NYC), I fell head over heels in love. Blubbery udon noodles, tender slices of barbecued pork and spinach and scallions swimming around in a steaming bowl of broth. And those wontons. God, I have dreams about them – I felt a Robert Rodriguez-style need to march right into the kitchen and shoot the cook as the rest of the world didn’t deserve to eat anything so damn good.
The lovely leek is a tricky little bugger. While its cousin, the onion, smells fragrant and marvelous immediately upon entering the pan filled with butter or olive oil, the leek can be downright funky. But the patient are always rewarded for their efforts, and the leeks become luscious and silken if you let them hang out and do their thing. Crown this glory with white truffle oil and breadcrumbs toasted with a little butter and you are in for a real treat. Continue reading Potato Leek Soup
If I told you that this soup takes a mere 10 minutes to simmer for the taste of a soup labored over for a day (or two), would you brand me an infomercial? Because it’s true – every word of it. And it doesn’t come at the hands of any crazy Ron Popeil device, although you do pretty much “set it and forget it.” This baby is simmered to perfection in a pressure cooker, and for that great savings of time and effort and the steaming up of the household, I am eternally grateful. Continue reading Italian Sausage and Rice Soup
*in my best Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls voice* Picture this, Tuscany 1952, you’re in need of a dish to feed your family and all you’ve got is the minestrone from last night, some stale bread and an old prosciutto bone lying around. What do you do? Make only the most delicious soup imaginable, quite possibly better than that minestrone from the night before.
But seriously, kids, how lovely is it when a great plan comes together. A few pantry ingredients, maybe even some leftovers and a bit of time putzing around the kitchen and voila! Gorgeousness on a plate, or in this case, a bowl. The name itself gives it away with this one – ribollita is Italian for reboiled. Any glamour and cache that this soup might garner from its placement on modern Italian menus is only a recent distinction – the dish has the humble origins of true peasant food. Just as in Brazil, a pot of black beans can be extended for additional eaters with some water and a little more rice, this soup is extended by day-old bread soaking up the rich vegetable broth. A smidge of good quality cheese (which you regular readers know that, for me, is a smattering of locatelli) and you are in like flynn.
There are much fancier versions than this one, but I love this recipe because it’s a weekday charmer. No prosciutto bone here, and a parmesan rind only if you have one around. Black kale (cavolo nero or dinosaur kale) is the star of the show, but can be replaced by any kale or bitter greens you can find. Canned beans and pantry chicken stock speed along the process, and by dicing everything in the food processor saves a hell of a lot of time. In addition, if you leave out the bacon and chicken stock, you’ve got a comforting vegetarian supper on your hands. No cheese and it’s vegan. A warm bowl of love for all sorts of eaters? It doesn’t get any better than that.
2 qts. of stock
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of black kale, ribbed and roughly chopped
1 can of canellini beans
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
sprig of rosemary
sprig of thyme
parmesan rind (optional)
2 tbs. of olive oil
3 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
slices of old, stale bread or toasted ciabatta
Heat a large soup pot or dutch oven on high and add your olive oil. Once it begins to shimmer, toss in your bacon and allow it to crisp up a bit. Add your onions and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook until fragrant. Add your tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and stir to warm through. Lastly, add the stock, parmesan rind and cannelini beans. Allow stock to come to a boil and fold in the black kale. Cook until kale is tender over medium-high heat, about 15-20 minutes.
To serve, place a few slices of ciabatta (or hunks of old bread) on the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle hot soup over the bread and top with grated parmesan.
I don’t remember cans of Chickarina soup in my house as a child, but they were certainly a big hit during my college years. When we went the route of a splurge, my best friend and I would throw a few cans of Chickarina into the cart for random lunches and dinners. But because we went through them so quickly and couldn’t afford to get them all the time, Chickarina became a bit of a delicacy. With my proclivity for making soups and stocks even back then, I’m surprised I didn’t attempt a homemade version back then. No matter – I came around to it eventually
Upon researching this recipe, I tried to find out more of the history of Chickarina. Like some deep, dark government secret, there is no true history available online. What the hell? There were a few mentions of a “chickarina” jingle from way back in the day, including this one from a site dating it back to the 60s. And a whole lot of people labeling it as Italian Wedding Soup, which it’s not. Though both dishes have mini meatballs and acini di pepe (mini pasta pearls – the name means “peppercorns” in Italian), the spinach or escarole is replaced with carrots and celery for a chicken soup + meatball experience. It’s excellent through and through, and a lovely riff on home cooked goodness. Continue reading Chickarina Soup
Like Italian Wedding Soup, Caldo Verde is a celebration of meat, greens and broth, with the star carb as tender, simmered potatoes. This soup is as hearty as it is easy to make, and a great use of winter kale when in season, cheap and plentiful. The soup, Portuguese in origin, traditionally uses linguica for the sausage, but I’ve made this in a pinch with kielbasa, andouille, chorizo and even Bruce Aidell’s chicken sausage. Regardless of what ingredients you employ, you can expect a warm, nourishing bowl of comfort that is both simple to prepare and good for you.
Quick Caldo Verde
3 qts. of chicken stock
6 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 lb. of mild sausage, removed from casings
1 bunch of fresh kale, ribs removed and chopped
1 tsp. of black pepper
Bring quarts of chicken stock to a boil. Toss the potatoes, garlic and kale into the pot. In a sauté pan, brown the sausage until crumbly and no longer pink. Drain the grease from the sausage and add the meat to the soup. Simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes right in the stock pot until the potatoes are loosely mashed. Serve.