Monday, January 10, 2011

Soup for a Cold Winter's Day~

Lately I've been thinking of soup--bean, vegetable, beef--or any number of delicious concoctions. And last night I got out a cookbook by Barbara Kafka titled Soup: A Way of Life. After reading through many of her recipes, I decided to give you two of with white beans and one with vegetables. 

And with my Southern heritage, I can emphatically state that there's nothing better with most soups than cornbread. Or to be more specific, cornmeal muffins, which I've been making for many years. So  I'll give you some cornmeal muffin recipes, and I'll have some dessert recipes for you too.

Barbara Kafka says: "While these recipes are self-contained, soups such as these are great users of leftovers--not only the stray carrot or piece of onion left from a prior recipe, but if desired, actual leftovers. A little ratatouille, some tomatoes Provencale, a spoonful of Southern greens, last night's carrots or peas, even soggy salad can all go in bean soups along with or instead of the opening saute." And unless the taste and texture of the soup depends on the savory liquid created by the cooked beans, you can replace the dried beans with canned ones.

To cook the beans: Either start with unsoaked beans or drain soaked beans. Rinse the beans and place in an appropriately sized pot. Add fresh water to cover by 2 inches, or the amount called for in the specific recipe. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 3 hours, depending on the type and age of the bean, until the beans are soft but not bursting. If you're in a hurry and want a good result, here is a terrific soup for such an occasion. So here goes!

Simple White Bean and Pesto Soup
Makes 4 cups                                                                                                                        

2 cups basic chicken stock--homemade or commercial chicken broth
4 cups cooked small white beans or two 19-ounce cans small white beans, drained and rinsed
2 T pesto sauce--homemade or store-bought
2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
 Black pepper to taste, freshly ground

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock and beans to a boil. Lower the heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 minute.

Now here's a recipe for a vegetable soup that can be a complete meal. Of course, I would add the cornmeal muffins, but you can choose for yourself. There are other kinds of delicious breads to go with soup. Barbara says that this soup is not unrelated to minestrone, but it has no pasta or basil and is somewhat chunkier and fresher-tasting.

Six-Vegetable Soup                                                               

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 very small clove garlic, smashed, peeled, and very finely chopped
2 cups chunky tomato base, drained and lightly crushed tomatoes (not plum)
8 cups basic chicken stock--homemade or commercial chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 pound firm potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1/4 pound peas in the pod, shelled (about 2/3 cup), or 4 ounces frozen peas (2/3 cup), defrosted in a sieve under warm running water drained
3 medium scallions, trimmed, and thinly sliced across on the diagonal
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, or less if using canned broth
Black pepper, freshly ground if possible
Hot red pepper sauce

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in the tomatoes, stock, and marjoram. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in the potatoes and carrot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh peas, if using. Simmer for 10 minutes.
If using frozen peas, stir them in now. Add the scallions, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and hot red pepper sauce and heat through.

Look these recipes over and see if they're appealing enough for you to feed to your family. Since I live alone, I make soup and freeze part of it. It's always nice to have a meal in the freezer. Tomorrow I'll give you a few bread recipes to serve with your soup.



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