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Feature Fri Feb 27 2009

Soups du Jour

When we heard about the Soup and Bread project going on at the Hideout, we all jumped to the task to contribute our time and cooking skills to feed some folks and to get donations to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (so that in turn, more folks could eat).

But what to cook? I've been experimenting with some new soup recipes in my kitchen, but nothing that was mind-blowing enough to share it with the class. Another factor was that past weeks of Soup and Bread were full of chefs who brought their A Game, with Mulefoot Pozole, Kimchi Chigae, and White bean, kale, kielbasa and tortellini soup among the hall of famers. I take potlucks seriously, so we engaged in an email huddle and emerged with three soups: a vegan tomato, a black bean and pumpkin, and chicken soup.

Tomato Soup
The recipe came from the wonderful One Good Meal column written by the endlessly talented Cinnamon Cooper. The recipe includes cream that we omitted in order to make the dish vegan.

10 plum tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise (you can scoop out the seeds if you like)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
Salt and pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large leek, sliced in thin rounds and cleaned
3 cups of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil or thyme
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 325°. Place the tomatoes in a large baking dish, cut side up. Nestle the garlic cloves between the tomatoes and drizzle half the olive oil over top. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast uncovered for 25-30 minutes.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and leeks and cook until the onions are extra-soft and turning golden, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and juices from the roasting pan to the pot. Stir in the vegetable stock and the fresh herbs. Cook for 20 minutes and stir occasionally.

In a small saucepan, cook the heavy cream over low heat until the cream reduces. This should take 15-20 minutes. Use a hand-held blender to puree the tomato mixture in the pot. Or you could let the soup cool slightly and place inside a regular blender. To keep from decorating your kitchen red, you will want to do this in at least two batches. If you want a very smooth soup, strain the tomato mixture using cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. Add the tomato mixture back to the pot, add the reduce cream and cook for five minutes. Ladle into bowls, serve with the grilled cheese, and enjoy while watching Sesame Street. (More cooking notes can be found at the original One Good Meal column.)

Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Smitten Kitchen is an admirable website--Deb the chef runs the gamut of food, from simple sandwiches and smoothies to more elaborate recipes that require candy thermometers and self-milled wheat. Sometimes the site is too much for me, particularly the photography (I don't need another thoughtful, intimate shot of artfully arranged cupcakes) but if the recipe appears on Smitten Kitchen, you can guarantee it tastes good. Even though the holiday season has passed, pumpkin still needs our attention and respect (until the daffodils bloom). The soup had a deep, smoky flavor that was undercut by the lovely sherry. Hmm. We omitted the ham in the recipe in order to have a vegetarian option.

Chicken Noodle

I wanted to cook my favorite all-time soup: my mother's chicken soup, which has an Italian flair; however, I seriously deviated from the written recipe, adding new ingredients and changing up the amounts. The final product was a bit different (but still VERY delish). So I scoured the internet for a similar recipe from Rachel Ray and will give you pointers for Mommyfying it...

-Parsley is required, not optional; cut it with kitchen scissors into the pot along with the onions, celery, carrots, etc.

-Add a chopped up baking potato or two during the simmering stage. Also take an egg, lightly beat it, and add it to the soup as well during this stage.

-Stock is better than simple tap water; the success of our soup this past Wednesday was due to a chicken stock that Cinnamon previously made that resulted in a soup that seemed to be kissed by butter. You'll find a major, favorable difference exists when using stock.

-Any type of spaghetti works; I used a smaller salad-type macaroni for my soup, which I think is far more manageable to eat with the other ingredients.


Joe Germuska / March 2, 2009 11:28 AM

That chicken noodle soup rocked!

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