Tag Archives: soup

Chilled Avocado Corn Soup with Zucchini “Latkes”

6 Aug

I’m a shiksa (non-Jewish woman, for you other gentiles out there), Zak is Jewish.  Meaning he was raised on latkes.  His grandmother made them, his mother makes them, and he made sure to let me know that the first time I suggested making latkes.  I think his close-to-exact words were, “Just so you know, you have a lot to live up to.  My grandma and mom both make killer latkes.  I’m not saying you can’t do it, but just … be aware.”  Talk about a lot of pressure!

So, I decided to mix it up from the traditional latkes to give myself something of an edge.  My mom had found a zucchini latke recipe to use up some of the copious zucchini from their garden, so I did some Googling of my own and adapted my own version from this recipe at Food Network.  They turned out absolutely delicious.  Zak had no complaints, which made me very happy.  The latkes would make a delicious appetizer, too.

Pairing these with the soup was a good idea.  The soup ended up VERY spicy, so the creaminess of the latkes and sour cream really helped cool it down.  All in all, this was a fresh, summery, yummy and very healthy meal.  Admittedly, it was a lot of work, but I had my favorite kitchen helper, Roo, to keep me company¹.

Chilled Avocado Corn Soup with Zucchini “Latkes”

Chilled Avocado Corn Soup:

Adapted from Gourmet, 2005

Serves 2

3 ears of corn, shucked

1 jalapeño

1 cubanelle

1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped and divided

2 cups of chicken stock, frozen

2 cups water

1-2 tsp. lemon zest

Juice from 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 ripe avocado

Cooking spray

Sour cream for serving

2-3 tbs. chopped cilantro, for serving

Preheat broiler and cover baking sheet with tinfoil.  Spray with cooking spray and place shucked corn, jalapeño and cubanelle on baking sheet.  Spray with cooking spray and place in broiler.  Broil, turning occasionally, roughly 15 minutes until the skins of peppers are charred and blistered.  Remove the peppers from the baking sheet and place immediately in a plastic zip lock bag (the steam will make peeling the peppers much easier).  Return corn to the broiler and broil additional 15 minutes until corn is browned and charred.  Let corn and peppers cool.

Remove peppers from plastic bag and peel off outer layer of skins.  Discard.  Remove most of ribs and seeds from the peppers, depending on how spicy you would like your soup (I left about 1/4 of the seeds and it was SUPER spicy).  Cut kernels off of the corn, reserving 1/2 cup of kernels for serving.  Cut the corn cobs into thirds.

Bring corn kernels, cobs, 1/2 of chopped Vidalia onion (reserving the other half for serving), chicken stock, and water to a boil, covered.  Reduce heat to a low simmer, remove cover and simmer until reduced by 1/3.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature uncovered.  Remove corn cobs and discard (or save for additional stock making).  In a food processor, puree mixture with peppers, lemon zest, juice from 1 lemon, and about 3/4 of the avocado (roughly 1/2 cup).  Reserve the rest of the avocado in slices for serving.

Cool pureed mixture in the refrigerator until serving time.

Serve with reserved onion, corn, sour cream and cilantro.

Zucchini “Latkes”:

Adapted from foodnetwork.com

Serves 2-3

3 cups zucchini, grated

1 medium white potato, grated

1/2 small Vidalia onion, chopped

2 eggs

2-3 tbs. flour

2-3 tbs. seasoned bread crumbs

Garlic salt to taste

Pepper to taste

3 tbs. vegetable oil

Sour cream, for serving

Mix zucchini, potato, and onion.  Squeeze out extra moisture using cheese cloth or paper towels.  Whisk together eggs and add to vegetable/potato mixture.  Mix in flour, bread crumbs, pepper and garlic salt.  Mix together well with your hands.

Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a large sauté pan.  Form zucchini, potato, egg and flour mixture into patties roughly 2 inches across and 3 inches long.  Sauté roughly 5 minutes per side until golden brown, adding vegetable oil as necessary.  Serve warm with sour cream.

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French Onion Soup

1 Aug

I woke this morning with a sore throat, a foggy head, and a low fever.   I went back to bed for a few hours after running some errands in the morning and woke up feeling slightly better, but I knew our plans to go out for Thai food and see Patrice O’Neal at the Improv were foiled.  Zak wins free tickets more than any other human I know, and I know he was excited to see Patrice.  Instead, he decided to stay home and keep his sickie company, which was very sweet though totally unnecessary.  One thing my nap did, though, was slightly revive my appetite.  What to eat?

Homemade beef stock?  Check.  Lots and lots of Vidalia onions thanks to sale prices at Marc’s?  Check.  A variety of delicious cheeses?  Check.  An entire afternoon to caramelize and simmer?  Check!

So I decided to make some French Onion soup.  I’ve never made French Onion soup before, but a quick Google search confirmed the main ingredients, as my palate had led me to believe, were caramelized onions, beef stock, bread and cheese.  The only thing I needed was bread.  Zak is the bread man around here, so he zipped off to the store to get a boxed bread mix and some more ginger ale for me (have I mentioned how lucky I am?).   I read about a dozen recipes from all over the place and decided to just wing it.

The end result was really, really good.  It didn’t have the cloying sweetness that you sometimes get from French Onion soup, but had a delicate, smoky caramel flavor that had me licking the bowl.  I felt much better after eating a steaming bowl of this.  I have a feeling I’m going to wake up tomorrow and feel basically 100% thanks to the fortifying powers of this yummy comfort food.

French Onion Soup

Serves 3-4 (or 2 with leftovers, which are delicious!)


3 small vidalia onions, sliced

2 tbs. olive oil

1 tbs. salted butter

3 1/2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

3-4 tsp. all natural whole wheat flour

2 cups white wine, divided (I used chardonnay)

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley, divided

1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, divided

1 tsp. oregano

12 cups of homemade beef stock

A few slices of cheese & herb bread (recipe Zak used follows)

1/2 cup each of Jarlsberg and Parmesan cheeses, grated

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Begin by slicing your onions into “half moons.”  Don’t be too fussed about separating the sections for the time being.  Heat 2 tbs. of olive oil and 1 tbs. of butter in a medium-sized, no-stick stock pot.  Once the oil is hot and butter is melted reduce heat to medium-low and add sliced onions.  Sprinkle with a large pinch of kosher salt.  Stirring frequently, caramelize the onions.

The caramelized onions are absolutely essential to the successful outcome of this dish.  It takes a long time, about an hour, and there really is no way to make the process go any faster.  I’ve seen a variety of tips, including adding sugar, adding vinegar, adding this, turning the heat up here or there, but none of it works (trust me, I’ve tried pretty much every which way).  The real key is just keeping the heat on low and keeping an eye on your onions.  It’s fine to walk away, but make sure the heat is very low and you come back within a few minutes to give it a stir.  When the onions are a rich, golden brown (NOT blackened), they’re ready.  I keep mine on the lighter end of a golden brown, because Zak isn’t a huge fan of caramelization and I don’t like to overdo it.

After caramelizing onions roughly one hour, add the garlic and sauté until light golden brown, 5-8 minutes.  Add flour a little bit at a time, stirring to make a roux.  Keep over low heat for 1-2 minutes to let thicken and brown slightly.  Add one cup of white wine, red wine vinegar and bay leaves.  Add about half of parsley, thyme, oregano and salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  You can re-season later, so don’t add the full teaspoons until then.  Simmer over medium low heat, uncovered, 10 minutes until slightly thickened and most of wine has evaporated.

Add 8 cups of frozen beef broth.  Turn heat to medium-high and melt beef stock.  You can also used defrosted stock.  Keep at a low simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for 1-2 hours.

Taste often and if necessary adjust seasonings or add more stock.  The soup should reduce by about 1/3 before serving.

Near to serving time, grate cheeses and mix together well.  Preheat broiler.  Slice bread (recipe follows) about 1/4-1/2 inch thick, and toast to a deep golden-brown.  Place soup into bowls, top with bread and cheeses and broil 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.

Cheese & Herb Bread

1 box Hodgson Mill European Cheese & Herb Bread Mix which requires:

  • 1 cup water, warmed in microwave but NOT hot
  • Entire package of dry bread mix from box
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil
  • Entire included packet of yeast

1 egg, beaten with fork

1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Cooking spray

In a microwave proof container, heat water about 20 seconds until warm.  Make sure the water isn’t too hot, it will kill the yeast.

Combine all ingredients through yeast in a bread machine and run the dough cycle in order to mix the dough.  Place your oven on the “warm setting.”  Take the dough out of the bread machine before it bakes.

Spray a large glass bowl with non-stick cooking spray.  Place the dough in the bowl and top with a lid or plate.  Turn the warm setting off and place the bowl with dough in the oven.  Let rise one hour.

Remove dough from oven.   Place warm setting on again.  Place on lightly floured cutting board and knead 5 minutes or so.  Spray a bread pan with cooking spray.  Place the bread in the pan and brush with egg, making sure to get some down the sides.  Sprinkle the top of the bread with the grated cheddar cheese.

Place bread in pan back in oven and turn warm setting “off.”  Rise 30 more minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Allow the bread to bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust of the bread is deep golden brown.

Let rest before slicing.

Ginger and Spice Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

28 Jul

This soup was smoky, spicy, salty and sweet – basically, everything I could ask for in a soup.  I had a bit of a minor disaster when I walked away from the simmering shallots, garlic and carrots for (no joke) five minutes with the heat turned a tad too high and came back to a charred mess of vegetables.  I was on my way out the door in a few minutes and really had to scramble to get the vegetables back to their perfect caramelized, tender state but in the end it was well worth it.  The hint of ginger, the smoky flavors of the roasted butternut squash, the spice of the Sriracha, and the salt of the soy really set this butternut squash soup apart from previous versions I’ve made or tasted.

Ginger and Spice Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 2

1/2 roasted squash (refer to the “Butternut Squash Puree” section and use the leftover half), removed from skin and cut into chunks

2 shallots, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

3 tbs. Brummel and Brown

1 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger, divided

1 tsp. beef fat from homemade beef stock

2 1/4 cups homemade beef stock, divided

2 tsp. soy sauce

2 tbs. plain Greek yogurt, plus more for garnish

1/2 tsp. Sriracha sauce, plus more for garnish

Large pinch of kosher salt, or to taste

In sauce pan, sauté shallots, garlic, and carrot in Brummel and Brown and beef fat until lightly caramelized, roughly 10-15 minutes.  Add 1 tsp. powdered ginger and sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant.  Add 1 1/2 cups beef stock and simmer covered 15 minutes until carrots are fork tender.

Transfer shallots, garlic, carrot and beef stock to food processor (or use immersion blender) and puree until smooth.  Slowly add chunks of butternut squash and pulse 10-15 times.  Once ingredients are incorporated, run processor until texture is smooth.  Transfer back to saucepan.

Add 3/4 cup beef stock (or however much until the soup is your desired consistency), soy, 1/2 tsp. ginger, plain Greek yogurt, Sriracha sauce, and large pinch of kosher salt and stir to combine.  Heat, covered, 15 minutes or until hot.  Serve in bowls garnished with a few drops of Sriracha and a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt.

Homemade Beef Stock

26 Jul

You might notice that all of my recipes call for homemade stock.  Why?  Well, my reasons are five-fold:

1)  It tastes better.  No joke.  Try a sip of that boxed or canned crap versus a sip of what you make with the recipe below.  No contest.

2)  It’s healthier.  Look at the sodium content in an average boxed or canned stock.  One cup of Swanson beef stock has 500 milligrams of sodium, which is about average for boxed stock.  I add zero sodium to my stock, so besides what was in any leftover scraps from when I cooked it (generally very minimal), there’s no sodium.

3)  You control what goes in it, and by proxy you control the taste.  All stocks start with the basic mirepoix of celery, onion and carrots, but you can add a variety of vegetables and herbs to that will really punch up the flavor and cater to your personal tastes or what you have on hand.  I recommend against using cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus, because they tend to overwhelm all over the other flavors.  I also never use tomatoes, which can also overwhelm, unless I plan to use the stock for a soup or sauce with tomato-y flavors.

4)  It’s cheap in comparison to anything you can purchase.  I use solely leftovers and scraps to make my stock, so it’s basically free.  Even if you go out and purchase some ingredients specifically in order to make stock, I guarantee you that you’ll save money.  As you may have begun to notice, I use stock in a lot of my recipes.  I almost never use water, simply because stock adds a layer of complexity and depth of flavor whereas water just adds, well, moisture.  Since I’ve begun making homemade stock, we save about 10-15 bucks per grocery bill.  That’s a lot of money for us!  I’m a student on a strict budget and Zak is really good about putting money away for a rainy day, a house, and whatever else might come up in our future.

5)  I love making it.  There is pretty much no easier cooking process out there.  If you can boil water, you can make chicken stock.  If you can turn on an oven and boil water, you can make beef stock.  It’s almost completely hands free, too.  Once the stock pot is on the stove, you can walk away and basically forget about it for almost the entire time.  I usually walk by every thirty or forty minutes to skim off fat and scum, but there have been times I’ve left the stock simmering untouched for the entire day and the results were perfectly fine.  While you’re cooking stock, the entire house fills with the delicious aroma of simmering meat and vegetables for the entire day.  Mmmm …!  Some people don’t like the smell, but I think it’s fantastic.  Plus, making stock leaves me feeling productive and thrifty.

This isn’t a traditional recipe.  It’s more of a “how-to.”  Use your judgment and I’m sure it’ll be okay.  I added a few extra pictures of the steps with superscripts next to them after the jump just in case a visual might help.

Homemade Beef Stock

Leftover beef bones with scraps (I used about 20 short rib bones)

Leftover vegetable scraps (any time I use a vegetable in a recipe, with the exception of the vegetables I detailed above, I save all the ends and non-pretty bits in a large zip lock bag and throw it in the freezer)

Extra carrot, onion, or celery stalk or two, roughly chopped, if your scraps are lacking

Cooking spray

Fresh herbs (I used about 10 sage leaves and 5 large sprigs of rosemary that were looking a little wilted.  At the very least, put in a few bay leaves and 10-15 peppercorns)

A few splashes of red wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 400°.  Spray baking sheet covered with tinfoil (easier clean up) with cooking spray.  Spread beef bones and vegetable scraps evenly on baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray¹.  Place sheets in oven and roast for 45 minutes, turning halfway through.  You want the beef bones browned, not charred², so if the bones or vegetables begin to burn, turn the heat down to 325º or so and roast a bit longer than 45 minutes.

Remove beef bones and vegetable scraps from oven and place in a large stock pot.  Put a quarter cup of very hot water on the baking sheet to loosen any browned bits and scrape off with a spatula.  Add the browned bits and any herbs to the stock pot.  Cover the bones and vegetables with water and place the stock pot on the stove.  Place a splash of red wine vinegar into the stock pot (it will draw more of the minerals out from the bones).  Bring water to barely a simmer so only a few bubbles escape every minute.  Periodically skim off any scum and fat that rises to the top and discard (don’t put down the drain, because the fat will solidify and be bad news bears.  Save it for future cooking or throw it in the trash).  Don’t stir the stock.  Simmer the stock for 6-8 hours³.

At the end of the cooking time, remove the beef bones and any large chucks of vegetables with tongs.  Discard these.  Place a fine mesh sieve over another large stock pot and pour stock through the sieve.  Repeat a few times until the broth is as clear as possible.  Let the stock cool to room temperature.  At this point, I usually divide the stock into a variety of sized Gladware containers, ranging from one cup to five cups or so.  This way, I have any amount of stock I need already pre-measured and ready to throw into whatever I need it for.

Now, if you are going to use most of the stock in the next day or two, it will be fine in the refrigerator.  A layer of fat will rise to the top.  Leave it – it will keep airborne bacteria from entering your stock.  When you’re ready to use the stock, simply use a spoon to “pop off” the layer of fat and use what is underneath.  At this point, you can also remove the fat and boil down the remaining stock to save storage space.  Once concentrated, you can stretch it out by adding water, wine, juice or whatever will work with your recipe.

If you want to save your stock for longer, as I usually do, place it in the freezer.  You can remove the layer of fat before placing it in the freezer, as it will be too cold for any bacteria to get to the stock.  Leave a little bit of “wiggle” room in the container, as the stock will expand as it freezes.

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