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Archive for Soups

TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup With Mustard Greens

Lentils

Top: Vegetarian lentil soup with mustard
greens from Good Eggs. Bottom: Black beluga
lentils from InHarvest.com.

 

Lentil soup is a winter favorite: hearty, nutritious comfort food. Why make your own? Better lentils, more nuanced flavors and the ability to control the salt.

Today’s tip is an easy recipe for homemade vegetarian lentil soup, with a variation if you’d like to add smoky ham hocks.
 
LENTILS: AN ANCIENT CROP

Lentils are an ancient food, found in Mediterranean archaeological sites up to 13,000 years old. As with all foods, it first grew wild and was then cultivated, sometime around 8,500 years ago. It grows well in rainfall-challenged climates like the Middle East.

In the Bible (Genesis 25:30-34), Esau, famished after working the fields, gave up his birthright (the rights of the first-born son to inheritance and position) to his younger brother Jacob in exchange for a pot of Jacob’s red lentil soup. The Greek playwright Aristophanes called lentil soup, the “sweetest of delicacies.” [Source]

Plentiful and inexpensive, through much of history lentils have been considered food for the poor. Marie Antoinette made them fashionable in 18th-century France, although elsewhere, even into the 19th century, they were called “poor man’s meat,” and acceptable during Lent for people who could not afford fish. They became a staple in the Middle East and India.
 
TYPES OF LENTIL SOUP
In modern times, in Europe and the U.S., lentils and lentil soup have moved up, acquiring a position as a hearty and tasty fall and winter comfort food.

  • Lentil soup can be vegetarian or contain meat. Adding ham hocks or other smoked pork is a popular meat version in Europe and the U.S.
  • Whether meat or vegetarian, the soup can include vegetables such as carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, turnips and yellow squash/zucchini.
  • Aromatics and herbs can include bay leaf, cumin, garlic and parsley, plus olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Spices popular in Indian recipes include cardamom, cinnamon and fennel seeds.
  •  

  • It can be garnished with butter or olive oil, chopped herbs, cream or yogurt and/or croutons.
  • Any lentils can be used: black beluga, brown, green, red or yellow.
  • The lentils can be cooked with or without the husk. Dehulled red and yellow lentils disintegrate in cooking, losing their shape but making a thick soup. Alternatively, the soup made with husked lentils can be puréed.
  •  
    WHAT ARE BELUGA LENTILS?

    Beluga lentils, also called black beluga lentils and petite beluga lentils, are tiny black lentils that glisten when they’re cooked. Their tiny size and shiny black surface reminded chefs of beluga caviar; hence the name.

    They are preferred by fine chefs for pilafs, salads and sides because they hold their shape when cooked and don’t become mushy. They have the same good nutrition profile as other lentil varieties: protein, dietary fiber, iron, potassium and important minerals.

    If you can’t find beluga lentils, substitute La Puy French green lentils.

    When you cook the lentils, consider making extra lentils to add to a salad or to serve as a side. Start with this recipe for Lentil, Olive & Arugula Salad.
     
    WHAT ARE MUSTARD GREENS?

    Mustard greens comprise the leaves and stems of the mustard plant, Brassica juncea. The seeds are used whole as a spice, pressed into mustard oil or ground into mustard powder, which in turn can be mixed with vinegar or wine to create prepared mustard.

    The greens are much more prevalent in Asian cooking than in Western recipes. While they have not received the media attention of kale, mustard greens are being discovered for their flavor and nutrition. Mizuna, a “designer green,” is a Japanese mustard plant, Brassica juncea var. japonica. Tatsoi, another Japanese specialty green, is mustard-like but from a different species: Brassica narinosa.

    Low in calories, mustard greens are high in vitamins A, C, K and folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 and vitamin M).

     

    RECIPE: LENTIL SOUP WITH MUSTARD GREENS

    This recipe takes 10 minutes of prep time and 45 minutes of cook time. For another vegetarian lentil soup recipe, check out this Red Lentil & Yogurt Soup.

    If you’d like to add a smoky meat flavor, use chicken stock plus 3 to 4 smoked ham hocks.

     
    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 celery root or 2 parsnips, peeled and cubed
  • ½ bunch of carrots, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bunch mustard greens, destemmed and cut into 1” ribbons
  • 2 cups of beluga lentils
  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice†
  • For meat version: 3-4 ham hocks‡
  • Optional garnishes: chile flakes; croutons; crumbled feta,
    grated Parmesan or similar cheese**; fresh parsley
  • Optional side: toasted baguette or multigrain, whole grain bread
  •  
    ________________________________
    *You can use any combination of broths, or combine broth with water. You can use all water, but the more broth, the more flavor. For a vegetarian version, of course, use vegetable stock.

     

    Mustard Greens

    Mustard Greens

    Red Mustard Greens

    Conventional and red mustard greens. As with kale and other vegetables, different varieties will have different leaf styles. Photos courtesy GoodEggs.

     
    †A medium lemon will yield 2-3 tablespoons of juice; a larger lemon can provide 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup).

    ‡A ham hock, also called the pork knuckle, is the joint where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg.

    **Substitutes for crumbled feta or Parmesan in this recipe include include cotija, goat cheese (lightly aged, so it crumbles), queso fresco or ricotta salata.
     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the lentils in a large strainer and rinse them under cold running water. Pick over the lentils and remove any discolored ones, or occasional debris like small pebbles.

    2. HEAT 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the celery root or parsnips, onions, garlic and carrots and cook over high heat for a few minutes. When the garlic starts to turn golden brown, turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking the mixture for about 7 minutes, until the root vegetables begin to soften.

    3. ADD the lentils and 8 cups of liquid—this can be any combination of water, stock or just one or the other. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. When the lentils are fully cooked…

    4. GENTLY STIR stir in the mustard greens and cover the pot. Cook the lentils and greens together for about 5 minutes—just enough for the greens to soften, but still maintain some of their bite. To finish, stir in the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.
     
    Variation With Ham Hocks

    1. FOLLOW steps 1 and 2, above.

    3. Add the ham hocks (instead of the lentils) and chicken stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 hour, or until the hocks are tender. Then add the lentils and continue cook for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

    4. REMOVE the ham hocks and stir in the mustard greens; allow to cook for 5 minutes, or until the greens soften. While the greens cook, cut the meat from the ham hocks and cube or julienne as desired. Stir the lemon juice into the soup and add the ham. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Soup In A Tea Cup

    It’s zero degrees here right now, with a wind chill below zero—the coldest February day since 1963. It’s a good day to focus on soup.

    We prefer to consume soup in a mug instead of a bowl. It can be easily sipped, and we never drip soup on ourselves. Our ability to avoid spilling some soup as it travels from bowl to spoon to mouth is not exactly enviable.

    Italian chef Stefano Ciotti showed us a more elegant way to sip soup: from a porcelain tea cup.

    All you need is an old-fashioned shallow tea cup (no mugs!), the soup and some beautiful garnishes.

    There are garnish options made from bread, dairy, herbs & spices, seeds, fruits and cooked or raw vegetables.

    Here’s a guide to pairing the right garnish with your soup.

    You still need to serve a spoon for eating the garnish (an espresso spoon works for us). While you can use a spoon to eat the soup, it’s acceptable to drink it from the cup.
     
    A BRIEF HISTORY OF SOUP

    Mankind is some 200,000 years old. For the majority of our existence, we had no soup.

    The earliest humans had no cookware—nothing in which to boil water (or anything else). Boiling was not easy to do until the invention of waterproof containers, probably pouches made of clay or animal skin, about 9,000 years ago. Archaeologists have dated the first soups to about 6,000 B.C.E., some 8,000 years ago.

    You can trace the origin of our modern word soup from the French soupe, which derived from the Vulgar Latin suppa, which in turn came from the post-classical Latin verb suppare, to soak. This referred to bread soaked in broth, or a liquid poured onto a piece of bread. The bread added heft to the meal.

    In Germanic languages, the word sop referred to the piece of bread—often a use for stale bread—used to soak up soup or stew. The word entered the English language in the 17th century exactly as that: soup poured over sops of bread or toast. Eating the soaked bread with one’s fingers often served as an alternative to using a spoon (flatware was costly).

    Today’s soup croutons evolved from sops. Prior to sop/soup, soups were called broth or pottage.

     

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01_data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/butternut soup in a cup stefanioCiotti italy 230sq

    Soup With Jumbo Crouton

    Top: Croutons, crème fraîche and pumpkin seeds garnish butternut squash soup. We’d add a sprig of green herb for contrast—and fill the cup with more soup! Photo courtesy Stefano Ciotti. Bottom: Soup gets its name from sop, a large piece of bread used to sop (soak) up the soup. It evolved into the modern crouton. Photo courtesy Castello Cheese.

     
    Soups For The Rich, Soups For The Poor

    While the rich enjoyed elaborate soup courses (think of modern bouillabaisse, chicken in the pot, cioppino or pho, Vietnamese beef and noodle soup), a simple bowl of soup might be a poor man’s entire dinner.

    Until recent times, the evening meal was the lighter of the two meals of the day. Soup/sop would be a typical evening dish. The name of the meal evolved to souper, than supper.

    It began to be fashionable to serve the liquid broth without the sop (bread); and in the early 18th century, soup became a first course.
     
    EATING VS. DRINKING SOUP

    Since it’s a liquid, why do we “eat” a bowl of soup? Because it’s served in a dish, not a cup.

    If you consume soup from a mug or cup, then you can be deemed to be drinking your soup.
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SOUP

    So many soups, so little time! Check out the photos in our Soup Glossary and pick out a type of soup you haven’t tried yet.

      

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    RECIPE: Savory Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Top: Savory chocolate gazpacho from Chef Mat Schuster. Bottom: Savory chocolate gazpacho with strawberries from GoodToKnow.co.uk. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Chef Mat Schuster of San Francisco’s Canela Bistro & Wine Bar offered us this Chocolate Gazpacho recipe, which we like for Valentine’s Day. It’s a savory chocolate counterpoint to all the sweet stuff.

    When most people think of savory chocolate dishes, Mexican mole comes to mind. You may have made a chili recipe with cocoa powder. It’s a popular ingredient in Mexican dishes.

    (And why not? Cacao cultivation was begun by the Olmecs, the first major civilization in Mexico, located in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco; and furthered by the Mayas of the Yucatán Peninsula. When the Aztecs learned about cacao from the Mayas, they made it a drink for noble or wealthy Aztecs and their warrior heroes).

    If you’ve ever had an all-chocolate dinner (chocolate used in every dish), you know that it can be included in every course, from cacao nibs in the salad to cacao chèvre for the cheese course. Here are more examples, with the recipes available at Saveur.com.

  • Asado de Bodas, pork in red chile sauce with Mexican chocolate
  • Charred Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers with Picada* Sauce
  • Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
  • Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
  • Enchiladas in Chile Chocolate Sauce, with Mexican chocolate
  • Gascon-Style Beef Stew (Daube de Boeuf À la Gasconne), made with
    Armagnac, chocolate and Madiera wine
  • Triple Chocolate Beef & Bean Chili
  • Turkey in Mole Poblano
  • White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj
  •  
    RECIPE: SAVORY CHOCOLATE GAZPACHO

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (substitute red wine vinegar)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup seedless or low-seed cucumber (Armenian, English,
    Persian, etc.), diced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup to 1 cup cold water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: shaved chocolate (70% cacao to 100% cacao)
  • and/or croutons†

    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a blender; blend until smooth.

    2. ADD enough water to make the consistency you prefer, but be sure not to dilute the flavor.

    3. TASTE, season with salt and pepper and chill the soup. Before serving, garnish as desired.
     
    WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT CHOCOLATE?

    Take a look at our Chocolate Glossary and other articles in THE NIBBLE’S Chocolate Section.

     
    _______________________
    *Picada is a Catalan-style pesto made with almonds, parsley and chocolate.

    †These can be American-style croutons—small squares—or French croutons/Italian crostini, slices of baguette or similar bread, grilled or toasted with olive oil, seasonings (herbs, spices, salt and pepper) and/or optional toppings (for this gazpacho recipe, try fresh goat cheese and chives). You can float it on top of the soup or serve it on the plate under the bowl.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Egg Drop Soup

    Chinese Egg Drop Soup

    Fresh Cilantro

    Top: Egg drop soup is known for its strands
    of eggs. Bottom: A fresh herb garnish
    —chives/green onion, cilantro or parsley—
    makes a big difference. Photos courtesy
    Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    Chinese egg drop soup is a very simple concept: chicken broth with thin strands of cooked egg. The strands are created by pouring a thin stream of beaten eggs into hot broth at the end of cooking.

    It’s the easiest dish you can make to celebrate the Chinese New Year—also called the Lunar New Year, since other countries in Asia celebrate the holiday. With no added fat or carbs, it’s also spot-on for new year’s diet resolutions—American or Chinese versions.

    The recipe below, from Good Eggs in San Francisco, is more sophisticated than what you get at Chinese restaurants in the U.S. Star anise and miso give the soup so much flavor, it becomes a knock-your-socks-off alternative to the standard American version—typically a bland, gummy (from too much cornstarch) soup.

    While you’re at it, make your own Chinese fortune cookies for dessert!
     
    EGG DROP SOUP HISTORY

    In China, the dish that we call egg drop soup is called egg flower soup. Food historians can’t pin a date on the emergence of the recipe, but the domestication of fowl for eggs was recorded as far back as 1400 B.C.E.

    Similar recipes combining chicken broth and eggs appear in other cultures as well.

  • In France, tourin, a garlic soup, is made with chicken stock that is drizzled with egg whites and thickened with an egg yolk. Unlike egg drop soup, the egg whites are whisked in rapidly to prevent strands from forming.
  • The Greeks added fresh lemon juice to create avogolemono soup. The eggs are added for body and don’t create strands.
  • In Italy, the addition of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese created stracciatella. As with egg drop soup, the eggs form strands.
  •  
    In China, versatility is the name of the game.

  • Tastes vary across regions, with southern Chinese preferring to thicken the broth with cornstarch, and northerners favoring a thinner soup without it.
  •  

  • Tomatoes, corn and green peas may get tossed in as well.
  • Other add-ins can include bean sprouts and tofu cubes.
  • Familiar garnishes may include black pepper, chopped green onions (scallions), and a drizzle of sesame oil, but that’s just the beginning of a whole slew of possibilities.
  •  
    In the U.S.:

  • The soup is thickened with cornstarch, as is done in southern China.
  • It is typically served without a garnish or extra add-ins—but make yours as customized as you like.
  • We like to add cooked chicken strips and chopped green onions, plus fresh cilantro or parsley—whichever we have on hand.
  •  
    As with any recipe, you can (and should!) make it your own.

     

    RECIPE: CHINESE EGG DROP SOUP

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.

    You can buy the broth or make it with this recipe.

    Ingredients For 2-4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, halved and sliced into thin pieces
  • 1 quart chicken broth/bone broth
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 4 eggs
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat in a big soup pot. When the oil is hot, add the leek and cook for about 6 minutes, until it is soft and starting to turn golden brown. At this point, turn the heat down to medium and carefully add the broth. Then whisk in the star anise, soy sauce and vinegar.

    2. ADD the miso: Pour a ladleful of the broth into a small bowl and add the miso. Whisk to incorporate, then pour the enhanced broth back into the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes. While the broth cooks…

    3. WHISK the eggs vigorously in a mixing bowl that has a pouring spout, until the whites and yolks are completely (and we mean completely) combined. When the broth has simmered and you’re ready to eat, turn the heat to high and bring the broth to a boil. As soon as it’s boiling, turn the heat back down to low and wait until the broth is at a steady simmer.

     

    Star Anise

    Midget Corn

    Star anise is perhaps the most beautiful spice. Photo courtesy SilkRoadSpices.ca. Bottom: Customize your soup with ingredients like baby corn. Photo courtesy Alibaba.com.

     
    4. At this point, hold the bowl of eggs in your left hand and slowly stir the broth with a whisk in your right hand. Pour the egg into the broth in a slow and steady stream and watch it form an eggy ribbon as soon as it hits the broth. (If it doesn’t immediately form a ribbon, the broth needs to be hotter—so stop pouring and turn up the heat for a few minutes before trying again.) Continue to pour and stir slowly until all of the eggs are in. Let the broth stand for a few minutes for the eggs to finish cooking, then garnish with parsley and serve.
     
    WHAT IS STAR ANISE?

    Perhaps the prettiest spice, star anise (photo above) comes from an evergreen tree native to Vietnam and China. Although it is not related to the herb anise, it closely resembles anise in flavor since both contain the organic compound anethole.

    Star anise, the seed of the tree, is harvested from the star-shaped pericarp*.

    It is widely used in China, where it is a component of Chinese five-spice powder; in India it is a major component of garam masala. It is also prominent in Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines. In Vietnam, you’ll find it in our favorite soup, pho. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia.

    The French use it in mulled wine (vin chaud).
     
    *Pericarp is a type of plant tissue, the outer layer of the flower’s ovary wall. It surrounds the seeds, in this case, the star anise.
      

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    RECIPE: Turnip Soup

    Turnip Soup

    Today is pretty chilly, so we’re making turnip soup. Photo and recipe courtesy Quinciple.

     

    Turnips are part of the super-potent cruciferous vegetables* group, from which we try to eat daily. There’s more about the family below.

    We’ve enjoyed mashed, purée, roasted and stir-fried turnips, and we’ve fried and baked them in the manner of sweet potato fries.

    But until now, we never tried turnip soup, a comfort food that can be crowned with garnishes from apples and chives to crumbled bacon and shredded cheese.

    Although the soup looks creamy, there’s no dairy. The rich color and texture come from the gold turnips.

    If you can only find white turnips, you can add a some carrots for color, or just enjoy the pale soup. But gold turnip are noted for their “bonus” flavor, slightly sweet with a nutty nuance of almond.

    The recipe is courtesy Quinciple, a subscription service that delivers the week’s best fresh produce.

     

    RECIPE: GOLD BALL TURNIP SOUP WITH APPLES

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound gold turnips, washed and peeled
  • 1/2 yellow onion, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Optional spice: 1/2 teaspoon cumin or dried chile pepper
  • Garnish: ½ apple, thinly sliced†
  • Garnish: 2 tablespoons chopped basil, chives or parsley
  • Garnish: extra virgin olive oil, plain or flavored
  •  
    __________________________________
    *There’s more about the cruciferous family below.

    †Wait until ready to serve to slice the apples, so they don’t brown. Leave the skin on for a touch of color.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Cut the turnips and onion into ½” cubes. Toss with two tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

    2. ROAST until the turnips are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Purée the roasted turnips and onions with the stock, and add enough water to achieve a smooth consistency.

    3. WARM the soup in a small pan. Taste and adjust the seasonings. To serve, garnish with apple slices, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

     

    GOLD TURNIPS HISTORY

    There are several varieties of gold turnips, heirloom varieties from Europe that were first grown in France in the 1800s.

    In the U.S. they are marketed variously as Baby Gold, Boule D’or (the prized French variety, which translates to “golden ball”), Golden Ball and Golden Globe turnips.

    Gold turnips are a less durable than the common white and purple-white varieties, as they are not a good “cellar vegetable.” This means that they will not maintain their firmness and flavor if stored throughout the winter—a prized feature of turnips, rutabagas and other root vegetables in the days before refrigeration.

    Turnip were cultivated as far back as the Greek Hellenistic Period, 321 B.C.E. to 31 B.C.E. They grow from fall through spring, and can’t tolerate summer heat.
     
    HOW TO USE GOLD TURNIPS

    Gold turnips can replace common turnips in any recipe, and provide more flare due to their color. In fact, they can pretty much be used anywhere carrots are used, as well.

    In addition to cooked recipes, turnips (white and gold) can be eaten raw as crudités and in salads. They can be shredded into a slaw along with cabbage and carrots, and tossed with a Dijon vinaigrette. The leaves can also be eaten raw or cooked.

    Per SpecialtyProduce.com, the flavor is truly transformed and sweetened when they are slow roasted, braised or sautéed in butter.

    Good accents include:

  • Acids: lemon juice and vinegar
  • Apples
  • Bacon
  • Butter and/or cream
  • Cheeses such as Parmesan and Pecorino
  • Herbs: chives, garlic, parsley, tarragon and thyme
  •  

    Gold Turnips

    Purple Top Turnips

    Top: Gold turnips. Photo © Marie Iannotti | GardeningTheHudsonValley.com. Bottom: Common turnips are all white or white with purple tops. Photo courtesy Good Eggs | San Francisco.

     

    THE CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES FAMILY

    The turnip is a cruciferous vegetable, a member of the Brassicaceae family of cancer-fighting superfoods. They are also called the brassicas, after their family name.

    “Cruciferous” derives from cruciferae, New Latin for “cross-bearing.” It refers to the flowers of these vegetables, which consist of four petals in the shape of a cross.

    The family includes arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radish, rapeseed/canola, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips.

    Cruciferous vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. You can’t eat too many of them, but you can overcook them.

    Like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and the rest of the family, cruciferous vegetables contain chemical compounds that, when exposed to heat for a sufficient amount of time, produce hydrogen sulfide (an unpleasant sulfur aroma).

    So take care not to overcook them.

      

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