Category Archives: Soups

Empty Nesters and Corn Chowder

The youngest Prince has left the nest… I thought I was ready yet tears flowed freely and frequently over the last few weeks. As long as the “child” (he is turning 21 in May) was under my roof, I could pretend he was still a child. As tall as he is, broad shoulder, bushy beard and all, it is not that picture I see when I look at him. I still see my little bright eyed baby; “mon petit rayon de soleil” as I have been calling him since forever. My little ray of sunshine… Once the most difficult and sloppiest eater ever, he is now my partner in crime when it is time to dig into sushi, pho, biryani and anything smothered in black bean sauce. He is my noodle maniac and chocolate thief; he has found every single secret hiding spot for my private chocolate stash and can deplete my jar of chocolate chips rather quickly which drives me insane because he never leaves enough for me to make a batch of cookies! He is my baby… Always will be! He is now ready to fly solo… I should be happy! I will no longer rip his head off for leaving his dirty dishes on the counter instead of dropping them in the dishwasher. I will not have to nag until the cows come home that he should eat some piece of fruit, any fruit as long as it is a fruit not a fruit flavoured gummy! I will no longer trip over his back pack he insists on leaving in the front entrance. There will be room for boots and shoes in the front hall too and empty drawers in the main bathroom.  Although it is time for him too to be who he needs to be, I can’t help my heart from being twisted all around.

My friends tease me a lot about my «sad mommy» reaction since he only moved next door. Literally! He moved in with his brother in the apartment right next to ours! Yes, drama queen mother here… Whatever hahaha! I still think that it doesn’t matter how far they move away: once they leave the parental home to fly on their own, it means my role as a mom is completely changing; it is taking a brand new direction and throwing me in a brand new category of parenting… Eeeeek, not sure if I am even ready for that stage in life since I am still trying to figure what I will do when I grow up!!!

Hard to believe he is almost 21
Hard to believe he is almost 21
Messy Eater
Messy Eater

And so the last few weeks have been a bit of a blur and flurry of activities getting our young man settled into his new space. It has also been a month of exploration of Ottawa’s foodie scene for the King and I: Ottawa sure has a lot to offer and although there are many exquisite restaurants. I really, really should take the time to talk about some of the amazing local restaurants we have had the pleasure of visiting recently. Crazy few weeks it has been! Between going out a lot on weekends, getting things sorted out at the house with our young lad and also going through competition for a new position at work, I have not taken the time to play much with new recipes. Instead, I opted to focus on some of the Prince’s favourite dishes. And even at that, I had to restrain myself from spoiling him with too much of “mom’s cooking” as he has diligently been following a weight loss program. For the most part, and when I was cooking,  I stuck to familiar foods like roasted chicken, homemade soups, favourite pastas and muffins. Although I am not afraid of trying  new and intricate recipes, my culinary strengths revolve around comforting «slow» foods such as braised meats and soups. I love those recipes that have survived the test of time, that have been lovingly passed on from one generation to another and that evoke, in one sniff or one mouthful, the joy and memories of sitting at a family table, surrounded by loved ones. This corn chowder fits the bill for comfort food; it has that «stick to your rib» quality that makes everyone reach for a second ladle full. And since I am a tad sad (to say the least) at closing this chapter of my adventures in motherhood, I feel the need to cook up some “wrap me in a blanket” kind of food. The stuff that sooths the soul and brings everyone back home in their heart!

Corn Choder

Corn Chowder

Although it is not easy to find fresh corn on the cob at this time of year in the North Hemisphere, I have seen some recently grace the produce aisles from those countries on the other side of the equator. If you can’t find any fresh corn, frozen is solid option: you may simply have to skip steeping the naked cobs in the milk as suggested in the recipe.

What you need:

  • 4 cobs of fresh corn
  • 3 medium to large potatoes peeled and diced to yield 4 cups
  • 5 slices of thick cut bacon, cut in small cubes. Double smoked bacon is even better
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red pepper, chopped in small dice
  • 3 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper

How to make it:

  1. With a sharp knife, slice kernels. Set the kernels aside
  2. Placed naked cobs in a saucepan with milk and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit with cobs until ready to use.
  3. Chop the onions and bacon; dice the potatoes and red peppers, setting each aside separately
  4. Make a «beurre manié» by mixing butter and flour until well combined. Set aside
  5. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until they start to brown slightly without becoming crisp. Add onions and cook to soften. Then add the corn, potatoes and thyme. Cook 5 minutes while stirring frequently.
  6. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Skim the foam that forms on top of the broth: this may have to be done a few times.
  7. Add red peppers
  8. Pour 1-2 cups of the hot broth over the beurre manié and whisk until smooth. Pour this mixture back to the pot whisking until well combined.
  9. Remove and discard cob ears from milk then add the liquid to the soup. Bring back to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer a bit more
  10. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: you can make this soup even if corn on the cob is not in season. You can use canned or frozen corn instead. Simply skip the step which infuses the naked cobs in milk and water.

Use fresh or frozen corn
Use fresh or frozen corn
Cobs taking a milk bath
Cobs taking a milk bath

Red potatoes

All that is left is to thicken it up and add the warm milk
Before the milk is added

 

A Royal Soup – AKA Italian Wedding Soup

I owe a lot to the Queen Mother, my mother-in-law, in more ways than one. At the forefront of my gratitude is her willingness to share her only child with me: my King (her Prince) has been my very best friend, my partner and my soul mate for nearly 28 years now as well as a very loving & dedicated father to our two sons. My mom-in-law loved me like a daughter and treated me even better. She took the weight off my “mother of young children” shoulders when I needed it the most. She spoiled my kids rotten. She delivered many homemade meals in my fridge, mended a lot of our clothes, made dents in my ironing on more occasions than I can count and even helped make those really tight ends meet when we were young and struggling. Maria was my second mom and I cherished my time with her. These days, she carries on in a wheelchair in a retirement home, living with the sequels of a pretty intense stroke she suffered several years ago. And although she can no longer take an active part in our lives, she still showers us with unconditional love. When her memory fails, we can usually spark it back by talking about the good old days, and those moments are pretty special.

The Queen Mother is a survivor, in every sense of the word. She, alongside her family, survived WWII during adolescence. Originally from Germany, their ancestors had settled in Romania a few hundred years back and through many generations, had managed to keep their German roots and culture alive. World War II changed everything in this peaceful farmers’ bucolic setting in Romania: during the Russian invasion, the entire village had to flee on a moment’s notice. It was supposed to be a temporary affair, a few days at most… They never came back as the Russians moved in further and further as they did in most Eastern European countries. They were pushed back all the way to Austria. The Austrian government took them in as refugees and although they were grateful for the “hospitality”, life in the work camps was less than stellar. They were not recognized as Austrian citizens even after several years working and supporting Austrian economy. Abundance in anything was not a current way of life. Eventually, the entire family immigrated to Canada, to hopefully get a fresh start in a peaceful, welcoming country. My in-laws arrived in Canada as newlyweds, with a couple suitcases, a few dollars and huge dreams! And although the future seemed extremely optimistic, the reality of day-to-day life was far from easy. The lessons of living sparingly served them well as they struggled to make ends meet in those first few years as new Canadians. Like many immigrants that flooded the welcoming countries of the post-war era, they worked very hard and eventually, they “made it”. Most, like my in-laws, built extremely comfortable lives and accumulated pretty impressive nest eggs. Even when the purses grew slightly thicker, they kept with their frugal lifestyle always worrying of another possible apocalypse… Frugality as a way of life also continued to permeate the immigrants’ kitchens, even if they could afford finer dining. It is not to say that food was not abundant; dear lord, that would be such a lie! Food was certainly abundant: because they now had the money for food after having been deprived for so long during the war and in the refugee camps of Austria. Their wealth was often displayed at the dinner table; not in the clothes they wore, not in the furniture they had but in the food they ate. Yes: abundance, but never, ever wastefulness. Yes: amazing food, but created from inexpensive ingredients and cuts of meat. You have no idea how many dishes can be made with cabbage!!! And unless you have rubbed shoulders with «those» people and broke bread at their table, you have no idea either how exquisitely delicious these cabbage dishes can taste! The secret to abundance on the table while keeping a tight budget was not so mysterious. Everything was homemade: from jams to pickles, from bread to cakes… Families gathered together and would purchase an entire beef or pork. The animals were eaten from snout to tail, including the tougher pieces and all organs. Very few “conveniences” foods made it in the pantry of immigrant families. Yes, it was a lot of work to cook from scratch all the time and to boot, my mother-in-law also worked outside the home to help contribute to the family’s income.

My mother-in-law passed on to me her cooking skills as she would have had, had she’d been blessed with a daughter of her own. It elevated my own cooking: coming from a classical French background, I was now incorporating rustic East-European techniques and broadening my culinary portfolio! I shadowed my mom-in-law in the kitchen at every opportunity. Since nothing went to waste, I learned many, many money-saving tricks. Making broth for soups and sauces was one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned from her. I even learned that you could (and should) use the braising broth liquid collected while cooking ANY tougher pieces of meat including pork and ham! Over the years, I have really perfected the art of making soups and I am A-Okay bragging about this fact because it truly is a compliment to my teachers, including the Queen Mother.

So what does Italian Wedding Soup have to do with German-Romanian immigrants? Well nothing much really other than it starts with a very good homemade broth… And of course, I like often like to start my recipes with a good tale. This meatball and spinach soup is fairly new in my repertoire but it instantly landed a spot at the top of my family’s favourite soups hit list! I have always loved Italian Wedding Soup and, ahem, will admit that there was a time not so long ago where I would find myself digging into a bowl of the canned version… that is until I started making my own. Why I was ever intimidated to make this soup is beyond me but I think the thought of shaping all those tiny little meatballs was the real put-off. Well, this soup is so good that in the end, the tedious task of rolling miniature meatballs is completely worth the time it takes. And in the grand scheme of things, taking 20 minutes to roll a ton of soft, tender, tasty meatballs really is no big deal at all. In this case, the soup’s base is chicken broth although I do promise in the near future to share a few rustic German influenced «Romanish» soups made with less coveted pork broths.

Italian Wedding Crasher Soup: my adaptation of the original Italian Wedding Soup

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What you need:

For the soup:

10 cups of homemade chicken stock
1 ½ cups each diced celery and carrots
8 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach (you can substitute with one bag frozen chopped spinach)
1 cup celery leaves, coarsely chopped – optional
⅔ cup acini di pepe or any other small pasta
Grated parmesan – for garnish

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For the meatballs:

1 lb (450-500g) ground veal*
1 cup torn white bread
½ cup milk
2 small shallots, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp crushed fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
¾ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
1 egg
½ cup shredded parmesan

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* I use organic as much as possible. Organic and/or local have become the standard in our home for numerous reasons.  For this soup, I buy organic milk-fed veal from my local butcher. A bit pricier but well worth it.

  • In a large pot, bring broth to a full boil, add diced celery and carrots and reduce heat to keep a gentle boil.
  • Meanwhile, proceed with making the meatballs:
  • Add the bread and the milk together in a small bowl. Press down to soak well. Set aside
  • In food processor using the pulse motion, chop together: shallots, garlic, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and parsley.
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  • Scrapping down the side of the bowl a few times, chop until all ingredients are finely chopped, roughly the same size. Add the milk soaked bread and process a few seconds until the mixture resembles a paste.image
  • In a large bowl, add the veal, the bread mixture, the egg and the parmesan. Using your hands, mix well until all the ingredients are well blended.
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  • Make small meatballs, about the size of the tip of your finger and drop them in the soft boiling broth. For exact measurements, use about ¾ tsp of meat mixture per meatballs. Proceed until all the meat has been used.
  • Let simmer the meatballs for about 15 minutes then taste the broth to adjust the seasoning. The meat will infuse the soup with extra flavour which is why the broth’s seasoning should only be adjust after the meatballs have simmered a bit. Add the acini di pepe and cook through, 8 to 10 minutes.
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  • Turn off heat and add the chopped spinach and celery leaves (if using). Stir for a minute or so. Serve into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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The hardest part in making this soup is having to wait for the broth to cool a bit before diving right in. Continue reading A Royal Soup – AKA Italian Wedding Soup

“Everything but the Kitchen Sink” Lentil Mulligatawny



I owe the discovery of my inner Indian to my beautiful, crazy, Brit friend and cooking soul mate Laura S-C. I met Laura when she applied for the inglorious job of right hand woman in my little tiny café I use to own years ago. This place was so small you could barely turn around without hitting yourself on a wall or a counter. We made everything from scratch, serving breakfast and lunch in a medical building. For the most part, it was just the two of us. I never laughed as hard in my life than when I was working with Laura. The customers adored Laura: she became the star of the shop thanks to her extremely addictive laugh and her amazing personality! She was also an unparalleled kitchen aficionado: not only could she cook, but boy oh boy could this chick ever bake! Some of the recipes she graciously let me keep are now family favourites… Beyond turning out amazing scones, Laura brought her passion for many Indian inspired dishes to the café.

One of the café’s claim to fame was a daily offering of “made from scratch” soup. We had a huge repertoire: a soup seldom made it twice on the menu in the same month. Every morning, the soup of the day was posted for evryone to see on a big blackboard just outside our front entrance. Some of our customers would even ask the day before what soup was on the menu for the next day! The café’s ultimate all time favourite was Laura’s very own rendition of Chicken Mulligatawny soup. This soup was to the café what the flute was to the Pied Piper of Hamelin: magical and cast spelling!!!  The spices’ pungent fragrances would tantalize everyone that walked in or around the restaurant and by the time is was ready to be served, at 11:30  sharp, a line-up had already formed at the door. 

Thanks to this soup, I was introduced to wonderful world of spices: I dig Marco Polo’s travels to the middle and far east!!! Indian cuisine is extemely broad and can be quite intricate, so I will not claim to be a pro nor claim to use the proper techniques: I simply dabble with it… However, I now include in my everyday cuisine many spices that used to be foreign to me and sometimes even a bit intimidating. As much as I enjoyed eating Indian cuisine, it wasn’t until Laura started to marry many of these spices together under my nose that I actually started to use them on a regular basis. This lentil mulligatawny soup is an offspring of Laura’s original chicken mulligatwany: the spice blend is quite similar and the results are equally as good. I am confident that if you were to swap the lentils for chicken and add a little bit of basmati, the results would be pretty close to the one we used to serve at the café.

My lentil mulligatawny includes many different root vegetables but don’t fret over having the exact ones on hand: I simply used the vegetables I had in my fridge. Onions are a must though :). If the ingredient list seems intimidating, keep in mind that the spices account for a good chunk of the list.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbps each coriander seeds, cumin seeds and black mustard seeds, coarsly crushed with a mortar and pestle.
  • 3 tbsp oil, use your favourite neutral oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 celery branches, chopped
  • 2 cups dry brown or green lentil, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 10 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or diced stewed tomatoes
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced in cubes
  • 1 small to medium rutabaga, peeled and diced in cubes
  • 1 each parsnip and sweet potato, peeled and diced in cubes
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp tandoori paste
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamom
  • 8 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions

  1. In a large stock pot, heat oil on med-high heat. Add the coriander, cumin and mustard seeds and toast for about 2 minutes to release the flavours, stirring constantly
  2. Add the onion and celery and cook until they start to soften
  3. Add the lentils and cook another few minutes
  4. Add the broth & tomato sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle boil. Cover and cook for 30 minutes
  5. While the lentils are cooking, dice all the remaining root vegetables. After 30 minutes, add to pot, bring back ot a gentle boil, cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until the lentils and vegetables are tender.
  6. Stir in the remaining spices and coconut milk. Cook for a few minutes, taste and adjust seasoning. Add salt if needed.
  7. Add the cilantro and spinach and cook until just wilted
  8. Serve! 

This soup keeps well for a few days in the fridge and freezes beautifully

Chicken Soup Does Not Cure Everything…

I am in mourning… My blog has been put to simmer on the back burner these past several weeks (excuse the pun)… Actually, cooking at home has become more mechanical than joyful since early January; I was not feeling one iota of interest in playing in my kitchen. I have resorted to cooking the necessary daily meals using good old faithful recipes that require little preparation and zero flashes of genius. Even more so: I have cooked big batch meals ensuring I had enough leftovers from one meal to keep me away from the stove for a few days in a row… Even as I am trying to write this, I find myself struggling for words… So I will say it as it is: on January 24th, a friend’s child passed away. She was only 15 and she was rudely taken away by osteosarcoma. She was such a beautiful girl: so smart, so loving, so full of joy, so full of promise. An only child… It took 9 months for the evil disease to invade her body. And even though we rallied around her, that big community lovefest was not strong enough to beat the beast. They say it takes a village to raise a child. But is also takes a village to support a family that is going through such an ordeal. Everyone rallied together: messages of hope & love were sent, meals were made & delivered, crafts were created, fundraisers were organized, love was freely distributed… I myself, made a lot of chicken soup. I am not sure what it is about really good home-made chicken soup but to me, it is like getting a huge comforting hug from my own mother. It soothes many ailments from colds to tummy aches and it also soothes the soul and the heart. Sadly enough, in this case, chicken soup did not win the latest round. No matter how much love was served with every ladle, no matter how much care was taken selecting ethical and organic ingredients, when cancer decides it is boss well, it simply is…Maybe it is why so much joy has left my kitchen lately. That is until this past weekend, where I felt a faint urge to dabble in my favorite quartz and stainless steel laboratory again. I suspect my need to write about my culinary experiences on a more regular basis will resurface soon. But for now, I think I need to mend my broken heart. Making chicken noodle soup for Flavie on demand was not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things but hopefully brought a bit of comfort to her and her parents’ tummies and souls…

So needless to say, I make a wickedly good chicken soup and I have perfected broth making over the years. If you are in need of really yummy comfy chicken noodle soup in your life, this recipe may just be the ticket home. I never thought I would feel the need or see the benefits of writing an entire post on making chicken broth/soup. However, in discussions about food with friends, many have shared that they do not get the expected results when making chicken broth. I am often asked what is the secret to my soups. I say it all begins with a good broth! I have scoured numerous recipe books looking for decent step-by-step instructions on making chicken broth, but few actually offer enough details. I also often read about using left over carcasses of roasted chicken (and turkey) to make a broth. From personal experience, I find these broths always come out flat. My unscientific deductions on the subject of using cooked carcasses for broth:  the bones have already released most of their flavour during the roasting of the fowl. The following recipe may not be of interest to those of you who are masters in the kitchen but it may help the rest of the gang who would love nothing more than to serve an awesome chicken soup!

To make a really flavourful chicken broth, you need fresh uncooked chicken, of course, and a bit of patience too. I normally buy whole organic chickens from my butcher. I find  the cost of a whole chicken, even organic and ethically raised, is by far more economic than buying traditional grocery chicken pieces. I recommend buying 2 chickens at a time. I spatchcock one chicken, which is the activity of cutting a chicken’s back side so it will lay flat when roasting. Spatchcocking a chicken reduces the roasting time in the oven and increases the surface of skin that will get crispy and golden: BONUS (see picture at the end of this post)! Spatchcocking chicken allows to remove excess pieces such as neck, ribs and skin to be used for making broth.  Some butchers also sell chicken bones and scraps for cheap, a great option for making broth without spending time in the kitchen cutting up loads of chicken! Another tip: keep a freezer container with trimmings from butchering fresh chicken, especially if you do not have enough trimmings to make a broth. The second chicken, I usually cut the wings and legs away and save for another meal. I keep the entire double breast portion as is. Now, from my 2 chickens, I have 1 Spatchcock chicken for roasting, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 1 double breast on the back bone and a fair bit of trimmings. Freeze or save your good chicken pieces for another meal. Now on with the broth and the soup. If you have made it so far, you have completed the yuckiest part of the job!

Really Good and Hearty Chicken Broth

1  double breast of chicken, uncooked, skin and bones on

About 6-8 cups of uncooked chicken trimmings (give or take)

The foot and leaves of a celery, plus a couple stalks

4 carrots, trimmed and peeled but left whole

1 large yellow onion, peeled

3-4 large bay leaves, fresh or dry)

a good handful of fresh thyme (I do not recommend using dry thyme)

1 tbsp of fresh summer savoury

1 generous tbsp coarse salt

pepper to taste

1 large stock pot

1 fine mesh sieve

Instructions

Clean all the vegetables; the celery foot is often discarded but it is full of flavour yet perfect for stocks. Just make sure to clean the creases very well. Peel the carrots and leave whole: they will be used later for the chicken noodle soup.

Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot. Add just enough water to cover everything by no more than one inch. Bring to a rapid boil but then, reduce to keep just a gentle bubbling going on. It is important to not vigorously boil the chicken as it will toughen instead of staying moist. Simmer for about one hour, partially covered. Remove breast from broth as well as the whole carrots. Leave the rest of the chicken pieces in the pot and leave to simmer. Set the carrots aside. Let the chicken breasts rest until cool enough to handle.  Once you can handle without burning your fingers, remove the cooked breast meat from the skin and bones. refrigerate the breast meat for later and return the skin, bones and any accumulated broth to the stock pot. Continue the simmering process until the liquid levels have dropped by about one third. This is where patience comes into play: it will take 2-3 hours to bring your broth to its glory! Let cool completely then pass the broth using the sieve to remove all the solids. Adjust seasoning to your taste. If you have reduced the broth too much and find the flavours overly concentrated, just add a bit of water until you are satisfied with the final product. Degrease the broth either using a ladle to scoop off the excess fat that accumulates to the surface or refrigerate until the fat congeals; it is much easier to remove when cold! Your broth is now done! You can freeze in batches, use for any broth base soups, save some for gravies and sauces, make chicken à la King… Home-made chicken broth is divine!!! Once your broth is made, making chicken noodle soup is breezy easy!

Assembling Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken broth (of course!), about 3 litres

3-4 finely diced celery stalks

Reserved chicken breast and cooked carrots, diced

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

3/4 cup of your favourite soup noodles* or more if you like your soup very “noodly”

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

A dash of ground sage, rosemary and savoury (optional)

* I like acini di pepe, which is a tiny round noodle that resembles couscous. I like that it doesn’t turn to mush, even after freezing the soup. And I also like that it is easy to slurp up without splattering soup all over my face! Acini di pepe is found easily in most grocery stores and at Italian speciality food stores.

Bring broth back to a soft boil. Add the celery and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except for parsley, bring back to a soft boil and cook until the noodles are tender. Add the parsley, adjust seasoning to your liking and serve.

 

 

 

Healthy(er!!!) Cream of Broccoli

I was asked by my good friend Sandra if I had a healthy version of a cream of broccoli soup. It took me a while to respond to her because I had to make one at home to be sure I was giving the proper ingredients and direction. I am an ingredient “tosser” and seldom follow recipes for soups… A traditional cream of broccoli soup would require butter, cream and potatoes. I swapped with avocado oil, organic sour cream and 1% milk. Eliminating the starchy vegetable provides a bit of wiggle room for those who count points and calories. I like the use of good oil and organic dairy as they each add a bit more nutrition to this soup. It is a complete meal in one bowl. If you prefer not to add dairy, you may consider adding a creamy substitute of your own such as silken tofu but it does change the flavour profile and I would recommend using a non GMO tofu. But that is my opinion and not meant to dictate what foods you like to include in your personal diet.

So while I was waiting for my squash to roast yesterday, I made this soup using the «romanesco» thingy I got in my farmer’s basket. I hear it is a cross between a cauliflower and a broccoli but my twisted mind gave me a visual of one of those pointy, bad ass bras Madonna used to wear on stage way back in the 80’s! Ok, weirdness aside, the romanesco is actually a very pretty vegetable: it is a beautiful shade of lime green with very intricate pattern of 3D triangular shaped florets. I munched on a few raw pieces and I thought it was even better than cauliflower. I should have taken a picture but I was too busy singing «Like a Virgin» at the top of my lungs! Well anyhow, since I already mentioned in my previous post that I was making this soup while my squash was roasting, I thought it would be no more than fair to throw in the recipe. Maybe the romanesco version should be renaimed La Isla Bonita Soup hahaha…

Cream of Broccoli (or cauliflower or romanesco)

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 leeks, white and light green parts only. (Leeks can be gigantic so this is roughly 2 cups of chopped leeks)

2 large garlic cloves

Avocado oil, about 2 tbsp

2 heads of broccoli, stems included but peel them first, coarsly chopped

2 regular size zucchinis, coarsly chopped

8 cups of vegetable broth: the trick is to use a very flavourful broth. Avoid low sodium commercial broths (if you can)

2 tbsp tarragon (if you like it)

2/3 cup sour cream

milk

salt and pepper

  • In large pot, heat oil and sauté onions then add leeks and garlic.
  • When the onions and garlic have softened, add the broccoli and zucchinis. Stir for several minutes until the vegetables start to soften
  • Add broth: just enough to cover the vegetables. Broccolis also come in different sizes so you may need to adjust the liquid content
  • Bring to a rolling boil then turn down heat and leave at a soft boil with a lid until the vegetables are all extremely tender.
  • Turn heat off
  • Using an immersion blender (or a counter top blender), whiz until the soup is silky smooth. Add sour cream and tarragon and blend again. Add enough milk to make it the consistency you like. Some like thicker soups and others like them thinner. Adjust your seasoning with salt and pepper.

This soup freezes well. If you keep it fairly thick, you can also toss it with pasta, vegetables, fresh tarragon, even cooked chicken for a healthier mock «alfredo» sauce

The humble little red lentil…

Inexpensive, planet friendly, über healthy, colourful, comforting, delicate, easy to find, easy to cook! Is this a magical new super food??? Not! Simply the tiny little unassuming red lentil. A legume not too many talk about let alone let shine as the star of a recipe. Mostly known as the main ingredient in Dhal, an Indian soup, the little orangey gem deserves a bit more respect! I will spare you the blurb on all the scientific  blah blah blah that makes this lentil (or any other lentil for that matter) a nutrition powerhouse, I’ll just insist that it is. I am pushy that way :). One of my favourite way to eat red lentils is by making my own rendition of a Dhal wannabe. However, I have noticed that this quick cooking starchy protein is a great way to thicken other soups and stews without altering the taste while adding a bit more punch to the nutrition value. Here is my infamous little red ridding soup because it could satisfy a wolf of an appetite!

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Red Lentil Cilantro Soup

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, diced small
  • 3 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
  • 1 generous Tbsp. coriander seed, crushed with a mortar and pestle (or 1 Tbsp. already ground)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1.5 cups of red lentil, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • 2 litres vegetable stock (chicken works fine as well)
  • 1 small can of good quality diced tomatoes (you can use freshly chopped, about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 1 generous handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  •  the juice of 1-2 limes, about 2 Tbsp.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat oil and cook the coriander seeds a few minutes to release the all the flavour.

Add the onions and celery. Sweat until they start to become translucent without browning, 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic and the lentils, and cook a few minutes more until the lentils start to slightly change colour, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.

Add the stock and tomatoes, bring to a boil and then reduce to a soft bubbling simmer.

Let cook until the lentils soften completely and start losing their shape. Stir regularly. It will take 30-40 minutes. If the soup is too thick, you can add a bit more stock or water.

Just before serving, add the fresh cilantro and the lime juice. Adjust seasoning to taste and enjoy…

This soup keeps well and freezes well. If you do not have diced tomatoes, fresh or canned, you can substitute with a few Tbsps. of tomato paste which you would add with the lentils before you add the stock. If you prefer a smoother soup, you can omit the celery completely. I like a little bit of a chunky soup but it is just as tasty without the celery.

Beet soup with Crème Fraîche

Beet Soup

This jewel coloured soup is delicate in flavour and very easy to make.

  • 6-8 medium size beets
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine (optional)
  • 750ml (approx.) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup sour cream or crème fraîche (lucky for me, I had put my hands on unpasteurized sour cream and the soup was brought to another dimension!)
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Peel and cook the whole beets in a pot of salted boiling water until tender. (Or boil beets first and peel after if you prefer)

  1. Reserve one beet for garnish.
  2. Dice up the other beets in large chunks
  3. In pot, over medium/high heat, add olive oil and then add onion, shallot and garlic. Sweat without colouring
  4. Add the wine and cook for 1-2 minutes
  5. Add the beets and cook another 1-2 minutes
  6. Add stock: the stock should cover the beets by about 1-2 inches
  7. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the beets are extremely tender.
  8. Using a blender or an immersion blender, purée the soup until it is smooth. Add sour cream and butter.
  9. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to flavour. And of course, you can always add more butter to your taste!
  10. Garnish: finely dice the remaining beet and sprinkle on top of soup. Add a few dots of sour cream to soup and run a knife through to create little hearts