Tag Archive for soup

Mushroom and Spinach Soup


This recipe was originally published in the Seasonal Table Column that I write for Flavor Magazine (Oct-Nov 2011 issue).

As the weather cools off, spinach is happily growing for us again, a versatile green delicious raw or cooked. I love the earthy combination of spinach and mushrooms, in salads, stews or soups. And since cultivated mushrooms are available year long in the Mid-Atlantic, some foraged, some grown outdoors like shiitake on logs and others in mushroom houses, local mushrooms are fairly easy to find. You can use any mushroom for this soup, including white mushrooms or a combination of mushrooms. And for a splurge, go for shiitakes or oyster mushrooms or any other that strike your fancy.


Mushroom and Spinach Soup Read more

Snow Day


What is it about a snowy day that makes me reach for comfort food?  It’s rather funny actually. We’ve had horrendous days this winter, cold and blustery, wind blowing at 50 miles an hour in 20 degree weather and no snow cover – terribly hard on animals and plants, and humans too. And no special yearning for comfort food. And then comes the much awaited much hoped for snow, finally. Finally, since the previous snow storms went either North, South or West of us, leaving us desperately parched, and feeling cursed. All in all, it was not that much, maybe 5 or 6 inches of wet snow. But I am grateful. And let’s face it: I like snow in winter.

And so maybe it’s a little celebration of sorts this need for comfort food? A sign that, after all, things are OK; Read more

Oxtail Soup

A dish of oxtail soup is a thing to share with those you love. Or not. (depends how much you love them)

What’s not to like about oxtail?

It’s traditional farm fare, a simple country dish with robust complex favors – many parts of the world have perfectly succulent ways to use oxtail as a matter of fact. It’s a slow simmered dish, perfect for cold days. It’s a dish that can be made in advance and in quantity. Reheating it makes it even better.


Never had oxtail? If you like osso bocco, you are simply going to love oxtail. It might take a little looking to find them, although they are becoming more popular. It used to be a throwaway part of the animal – and used to be very inexpensive. But chefs in search of robust flavors obtained from slow traditional methods and the new-again emphasis on eating from nose-to-tail, is making oxtail almost trendy. So more expensive. It is one of the few cuts that I buy retail: there is after all only one tail in cattle, so when I buy a split beef half, I get – at most , if I am lucky – one tail. Hardly enough. The farmer I buy it from sells it for less than burger meat, typically the cheapest cut. So, still a pretty good deal.

Maybe oxtail is intimidating because people think of it as offal and are grossed out. Technically it is offal, but it is not an organ. Not that that would stop me from eating it if it were. Or maybe people are intimidated because they do not know how to cook it. It’s simple really, it should be cook slow. Very slow. A day in advance if possible so it has a chance to sit and mellow even more. Read more

Snow, What Snow?

2 feet of snow last week-end, temperatures in the lower teens (F/ about -12 C). I have not been in the hoophouse for about a week, and frankly I was not sure how it was going to be in there. Would I have mush? It after all, got cold quite suddenly after a long mild fall, and I was not sure the plants had a chance to harden off.

But it all looks good when I went in today to harvest a big bouquet of cilantro and leaf celery for a Vietnamese-inspired rice and goose. In winter, I often do a version of my basic “Chicken Soup with a Twist” varying the vegetable and the meat.

Since we had a roasted goose for Christmas (I needed after all to replenish my store of goose-fat), I simmered the carcass and the bones with some aromatics for a dark rich fragrant broth. Sautéed some carrots, shallots, lots of ginger. Added a handful of already cooked rice, some chopped goose meat, a little fish sauce, and some braised cabbage to the pot. Covered with goose broth, simmered for 15 minutes, added handful of chopped cilantro and leaf celery, some hot sauce, and voila, a very tasty and warming lunch!

The Soups Of Summer

Hot. Muggy. Summer in Virginia. Finally. Sigh…

I can’t really complain, July having been relatively cool, but now it’s hot. It’s time for cold lemonade, lots of ice teas, dishes that do not heat up the kitchen (it’s being heated enough with canning)… like cold soups. You know, either the ones to which you never have to apply heat (think Gazpacho) or the ones that you can throw together from precooked ingredients, especially from left over, and a few garden fresh things – like my Sorrel Vichyssoise.


Many people are not familiar with sorrel in the United States. A shame really, because it is one of the few perennial vegetables for temperate climates, very easy to grow, and pretty much care free. Yes, it can look a little raggedy in the summer, but it’ll perk up in the fall providing nice tender leaves for salads again. In summer, the leaves get a little tougher faster than in cool weather, but are still eminently usable, especially when pureed for sauces or soup. I often use it in my cooking workshops, introducing a new taste to students, and every body opens big eyes at the taste, loving it. Read more

Lovely Lemony Sorrel

There are indubitable signs of springs out there (besides the 2 minutes of additional daily daytime we are getting now).

For once, the snowdrops are nodding their tiny white bells in the still blustery gusts of wind and then, then!, yellow IS swelling the buds of the early daffodils. But for the ever hopeful kitchen gardener, a much surer sign that spring is coming is what’s budding, swelling, germinating, pushing up or otherwise showing signs of life in the vegetable garden.

Is there something fresh I can sink my teeth in – or at least wake up my taste buds (pun intended) with? Something green? With a little bite? Something… live? I have talked about reliable mache growing outside in winter, but a few other denizens that grow happily enough in a cold frame provide fresh taste at this time of the year: spinach, cutting celery, parsley, arugula, and sorrel are among them. They do not need a cold frame per se, but the protection provided by a cold frame allows them to send forth new leaves much earlier than their unprotected brethren, left totally outside in what is otherwise a generally bleak landscape at this time of the year.


Sorrel might be less well known on the list, so let’s talk about it, a little, shall we? Read more

Chicken Soup With A Twist


It’s been really cold here. We have seen the minuses (Fahrenheit, that is!). Oh, I know, there are areas of the country where winter is routinely at -20 F… but not here in the Northern Piedmont… and without snow cover at that! I don’t dare checking my poor greens in the gardens, huddled under layers of agricultural fabrics and straw…

Cold? Soup!

And an easy one too please. Using staples. And one that’s fast. And tasty! And not boring.

OK! Here is a recipe that fits all the requirements. And if you protest that ginger, fish sauce and chilies are not part of your pantry, you protest too much. They should. Ginger keeps for weeks when stored at room temperature; do not put this tropical root in the fridge: it will get chilly, sulk and start growing mold. Alternatively, if you insist on chilling ginger, then go ahead, and chill it all the way: peel, chop and process the roots in your food processor (or grate) until you have a rough puree, and then freeze it in small quantities (that’s what ice-cube trays are for!); when you need some, just take a cube out. If you really left ginger out so long that it sprouts new shoots, eat them, they are a delicacy. As far as fish sauce, it will often save the day, transforming a boring dish: a tablespoon or two will bring that elusive definition-escaping yet recognizable taste present in so many of the South-East Asia cuisines. Finally, fresh chilies can be frozen or turned very easily into fiery sauces ready to enliven a soup and warm you up from the inside on a frigid day. Got it? There, three more things for your pantry. And do yourself a favor: buy the fish sauce by the quart. It’ll cost just as much as those fancy little bottles in gourmet markets and it’ll keep forever.

The rest of the ingredients are quite plebeians, wouldn’t you say? Rice, chicken, carrots, celery… So here is one of the numerous versions of my Vietnamese-Inspired Rice & Chicken Soup. We made a version at the Simply Soups! cookery workshop this past week-end, and this is yet another. As with many soup recipes, exact ingredients and quantities vary based on what is actually in the pantry, the garden and your mood. Read more

Simple Pleasures from the Quasi-Winter Garden

Winter lettuce under Reemay

The lettuce beds are looking lush and fluff – if you lift the agricultural fabric swaddled over them, that is – providing huge bowls of greens, but, with the temperature regularly dropping below freezing (at night only for now, thankfully), I am hungering for soup.

(Alas, since no picture of tonight’s soup was taken, you must look at pictures of the winterized kitchen garden beds, and the still lovely lettuce – of which I am quite proud.)

Winter Growing Beds In The Kitchen Garden

A quick walk through the garden yielded enough to make a nutritious hearty soup, what I call my garden soup. What goes into the pot depends on what I have – the secret being to use a super rich broth*. Today’s picking was symptomatic on a late fall day – quasi-winter really. Read more

Of Apples and Apple Soup

Gala, Crispin (or Mutsu), Fuji, Honeycrisp, Rhode Island Greening, York, McIntosh, Jonathan & Jonagold, Stayman Winesap, even Golden Delicious (one of MY favorites), Red Delicious & Granny Smith: those are just a few of the cultivars of apples available for pick up at our local orchards. As the season continues, the late apples will come in, such as the Black Arkansas and the Lady apple, a small perfumed apple that will keep well into February.

Trio of applesThe names dance in a litany of languages – there are more than 7,500 cultivars of orchard apple, Malus domestica. Some were bred purposefully, such as Jonagold, a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious developed in 1943 in New York. Others were chance seedlings judged good enough to be propagated, such as Golden Delicious discovered on the farm of Anderson Mullins in Clay County, West Virginia in 1912, and the official apple of the State of West Virginia since 1955. The Rhode Island Greening is an old, historic American apple variety that originated in 1650 in Newport, Rhodes Island: it’s – surprise! – the official apple of Rhode Island. The Spitzenberg that originated in Esopus, New York, in the mid 18th century was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson: it’s still grown at Monticello, and is sometime available at farmstands in Virginia.

But while we think of apples as “American”, the fruit was brought to the new world by settling Europeans whose ancestors had received it hundreds or thousands of years before. Apples originated in the central mountainous provinces of Eurasia (where they still grow wild in an incredible array of shapes, forms, colors and tastes) and were spread over 10,000 years ago, by nomadic population of hunters/gatherers who “settled down” as they started to cultivate crops. The apple made its way to China, India, the Middle-East and Europe thousands of years ago. Remains of apples were found in excavation of Jericho and dated to about 6,500 BC. Dried apples sliced were placed in royal tombs of modern Southern Iraq around 2500 BC to be found by modern archeologists. Homer mentions apples in the Odyssey. The Romans cultivated apples extensively (the Lady apple is thought to come straight from that ancient time when it was known as Api apple – it’s still called Api in French today, the “pomme d’Api”). The Romans disseminated the apples to the far corners of their empire including the British isles where only crab apples (different species altogether) where known until then. And the British brought it to their American colonies.

When one picks up an apple, one picks up more than just a fruit: one picks up a piece of our human story that dates back to before records were written and a piece of our common heritage.

Now you want a recipe? Oh… Ok, but there is no picture – yet.

How about apple & carrot soup, linking two important fresh produce of fall? It’s one of the recipes I taught on my recent “Cooking with Apples” workshop. Read more

Roast Chicken on Sunday = Tex-Mex Chowder on Day 4

Continuing our series of Roast Chicken on Sunday means easy tasty meals for the week… This is day 4 and we are using the remaining Day 2’s Chicken Tomatillo Soup of which we made a big batch. With the help of onions, potatoes and corn, we are going to transform it into a robust, flavorful, unusual and mostly meatless chowder that’s perfect for a cool fall night. Yes folks, there is still some late corn out there – if you can’t find it, just use frozen corn.

A bowl of tomatillo corn chowder

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