When I worked at Book Beat, many of my co-workers were fine cooks and appreciators of fresh, organic and/or locally grown food. Conversation often turned to sharing ideas and recipes for whatever we had cooked recently, and especially in the winter, the topic was usually soup. I had the idea last winter that we should each make a big batch of something and then trade, since I would usually get tired of eating the same soup for a week straight. For whatever reason, it never came together, but I held on to the idea and finally decided that post-holidays was a perfect time to get a big pot of soup on and get together with a few girlfriends. There were four of us total, and we each made a 3-cup container of soup for each of the other participants to take home, as well as a bit extra for us to all sample that day. I made a loaf of bread and a salad, and we all ate small portions of everyone’s soup (and in my case, big portions of bread!). It was a wonderful way to spend a chilly winter afternoon. Dessert was courtesy of Marvin, who had just been at Shatila Bakery in Dearborn the day before.
All the soups were delicious and we had a great variety: from Michelle, a lamb, barley and escarole soup; from Sarah, an Eastern European-style vegetarian cabbage stew, and a creamy chicken noodle soup courtesy of Kate. I’m first going to post the recipes for the two soups I made (yes, I couldn’t help myself from making two… I already had all the ingredients and couldn’t decide!). The recipes for the other three will be posted shortly. I encourage you to organize your own soup swaps; it’s a great way to get a fridge full of great leftovers with only a little effort!
Note: Both of the soups below can easily be converted to vegetarian or vegan versions by using a good vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock, and by substituting vegetable oil where butter is called for. Also, both soups are adapted from a great little cookbook called Once Upon a Tart, which gets a good deal of use in my kitchen.
Tomato-Chickpea Soup with Rosemary (adapted from Once Upon a Tart)
This soup is ridiculously easy to make, and with the exception of the fresh rosemary, consists entirely of items I almost always have in my pantry. (I know, I need to grow some window herbs.) The partial puréeing gives it a rich, almost creamy consistency. If you wanted to, I bet cannellini beans would be a good stand-in for the chickpeas. It tastes great plain, but to take it to the next level, garnish with a little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padana and some garlic croûtons.
1 28-oz can + 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes- I like the Petite Dice for this (see notes)
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (see notes)
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 large or 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed from stem and chopped fine
4 cups chicken stock
3-4 tbs olive oil
salt, sugar and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Notes: If tomatoes are in season, by all means use fresh- you would need 4 lbs plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced. If you’d like to use dried chickpeas, soak 2 cups overnight in plenty of cold water. When ready to cook, drain and rinse the chickpeas and bring to a boil in 4 cups unsalted water. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until tender; this will probably take about an hour.
Directions: Pour enough olive oil in your soup pot to generously coat the bottom, and warm over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and a sprinkling of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to reduce in volume (about 10 minutes). After the first couple minute, lower the heat to medium. After the onions have softened and cooked down a bit, add the garlic and rosemary, adding a little additional olive oil if necessary so nothing sticks. Let the garlic cook for a few minutes to infuse its flavor into the oil.
Add the drained chickpeas and stock and bring to a simmer. Let simmer gently for 20 minutes; then turn off the heat and add the tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, and a few grinds of black pepper.
If you have an immersion blender, ladle about 1/3 of the soup into another container. Purée the remaining 2/3 of the soup in the pan, and then recombine. If you are using a blender or food processor, remove 2/3 of the soup and purée, then return it to the pan to recombine. Either way, be careful not to burn yourself with hot soup! Taste for salt, sugar and pepper (you may not need any salt depending on how salty your stock and tomatoes were). Gently reheat. The soup may separate on standing, but just give it a good stir before serving.
Curried Corn Chowder with Coconut Milk (adapted from Once Upon a Tart)
This soup also uses the technique of puréeing part of the soup to give a creamy texture, and leaving part chunky. It is best served the day it is made, but I ate some leftovers the next day and it still was pretty good!
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
1 16-oz bag frozen corn, preferably organic, or 4-5 ears fresh corn if in season, kernels sliced from cob
4 cups chicken stock
4-5 small redskin potatoes scrubbed and cut into bite-sized dice (if substituting a larger type of potato, peel it)- about 1 1/2 to 2 cups
1 tbs Madras curry powder
3-4 tbs clarified butter or ghee (directions on clarifying butter are here)
1 tsp brown sugar
salt & freshly gound black pepper
1 small sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, washed and chopped
thinly sliced scallion, for garnish
Directions: Sauté the onion and thyme in 2 tbs butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat, stirring to prevent burning or sticking. After 5 minutes or so, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, about 10-15 more minutes, until onion is soft and translucent.
Add the potatoes, stock, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (this will vary depending on the potato variety and the size of your dice; begin checking after 15 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat the remaining clarified butter in the smallest saucepan you have. When it is melted, turn the heat to medium low and add the curry powder, stirring well. Cook 2-3 minutes or until fragrant, taking care that the curry powder does not burn- it will become bitter.
When potatoes are cooked through, turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk, 2 tbs of the cilantro, and the curry butter (use a spatula and swish a little stock in the curry butter pan to get it all out). If you have an immersion blender, use that to partially purée the soup- you’re aiming for it to be about 50% puréed, with bites of potato remaining. Otherwise, purée half the soup in your blender or food processor and return it to the pot.
Put the soup back on the stove on medium heat and add the corn. If you’re using frozen corn, cook long enough to heat the corn through; if you’re using fresh, simmer for about 10 minutes and taste to make sure the corn has lost any raw flavor. Add salt and freshly ground black or white pepper to taste, as well as a pinch more sugar if you think it needs it. Garnish each bowl with a generous sprinkle of the remaining chopped cilantro and a few slivers of scallion.