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Cold Plum Soup

20 Sep

Cold Plum Soup

This is adapted from a recipe I clipped from the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent many years ago. It’s a great recipe for this time of year, when it’s still hot enough outside to enjoy a cold fruit soup and when plums are plentiful in the markets. You can use any kind of plums, but prune plums (also called Stanley or damson plums) are available now and they’re generally cheaper and easier to pit and quarter. Cutting up the plums is the hardest part of the recipe.

The soup will keep for a week or so in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

2 lb. plums, pitted and quartered
3 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Grated zest of half an orange (about 1 tsp.)
Grated zest of half a lemon (about 1 tsp.)
2 cups orange juice
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1-2 cups water
Fresh mint leaves to garnish (optional)

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, combine the plums, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests and just enough water to cover.

Simmer, partly covered, until the plums break down, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

In a blender or food processor (or using an immersion blender), puree the plum mixture with the orange juice, lemon juice, half the almonds. If the soup seems too thick, add a cup or two of water.

Chill for at least 2 hours. Before serving, sprinkle with the remaining almonds and garnish with fresh mint leaves if desired.

Serves 4 to 6

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Polish Mushroom Soup

16 Aug

Polish mushroom soupHere’s another winning recipe from my friend Greta Zalman. She said she got it from a website called Polska Foods. The last time I cooked this I used one pound of mushrooms, 1 large-ish onion, 2 small celery stalks, and reduced the other ingredients proportionately, and it made four generous servings. Also feel free to use regular white mushrooms instead of the brown ones.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs.  extra-virgin olive oil
1½  lb. brown mushrooms, sliced
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
2 large celery stalks, diced
3 or 4 garlic cloves
1 leek (optional)
2-3 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
4 Tbs. dry sherry
5 Tbs. all-purpose flour
5 – 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Dash of Tabasco
2 tsp. sea salt (or to taste)
1 tsp.  freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream (or 3/4 cup sour cream, or 3/4 cup plain yogurt)
Garnish: 1 tablespoon fresh dill or parsley, minced

Directions:

Clean and slice mushrooms.  Heat butter and olive oil till butter is melted.  Add the onion, celery, garlic, and leek and stir until slightly softened; do not brown.

Raise the heat to medium high and add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Cook 8 minutes until they are golden brown, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat and add thyme, bay leaf, dry sherry, and flour, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan for 5-8 minutes.  (It may not take this long; be careful not to burn the flour.) Add the stock slowly, stirring to keep it smooth, and the rest of the ingredients, except the cream (or yogurt).

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until slightly thickened for 30 minutes or until mushrooms and vegetables are tender.

Optional:  With a hand blender, blend ingredients to puree the soup. (I don’t do this, I like the mushrooms in slices.)

Remove the pot from heat and serve.  Or, keep on low heat and add heavy cream (or sour cream / yogurt) to make a creamy mushroom soup.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a few drops of lemon juice if desired.  Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes.

Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with fresh dill or parsley.

Serves 6

Corn and Smoked Salmon Chowder

20 May

Corn & smoked salmon chowderWe’re starting to see fresh corn in the markets again, so keep this recipe on hand for the summer months.

The original recipe called for frozen corn, but use fresh if you can get it. I also added a few squirts of Tabasco and a pinch of ground nutmeg. The potato is optional, but it gives the soup some body; cook it for about 15 minutes before adding the corn. The soup is good with fat-free milk, but if you make it with whole-fat milk it will taste richer.

You can probably use cooked salmon instead of smoked salmon and increase the amount of salt slightly. Once the smoked salmon is in the soup, it tastes like regular salmon!

This is not one of those soups that has to simmer for hours, so you can make it with little advance planning if you have the ingredients on hand.

Ingredients:

3 Tbs. unsalted butter
½ to ⅔ cup each finely chopped onion, celery and sweet red pepper
2 Tbs. flour
3 cups vegetable stock, heated
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces, optional
2 cups low-fat milk
½ tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 cups fresh corn (cooked and sliced from the cob) or frozen corn (thawed)
4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
A few drops of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce, optional
Dash ground nutmeg, optional
Fresh parsley, dill or chervil for garnish

Directions:

Saute the onion, celery and red pepper in butter over medium heat until the onion is just beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, another minute or two. Add the warm stock, stirring till smooth, and cook another 2 or 3 minutes until it thickens slightly (here’s where I would add the potato and cook a little longer).

Add the milk and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt, black pepper and corn. (Remember that the smoked salmon will add some salt, so don’t use too much; you can add more later if necessary.) Add the Tabasco and nutmeg if desired.  Bring back to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the salmon. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a chopped fresh herb such as parsley, dill or chervil.

Serves 6

Perfect matzoh balls

25 Mar

Passover Matzoh BallsIt’s time to start thinking about Passover. (I know — ugh!) With less than three weeks left, those of you who observe this annual frenzy of cleaning and eating are probably planning your seder menus. For almost everyone, matzoh ball soup will be featured prominently. In case anyone out there doesn’t already have the perfect matzoh ball recipe, I thought I’d tell you how I do it.

But first of all a caveat: I can give you instructions, but getting a perfect matzoh ball is almost more a matter of intuition than a recipe. Ask my daughter; she followed my recipe a few times with disastrous results, because she didn’t yet have the “feel” for it.

The secret is to make the matzoh ball mix just firm enough. Too soft, and your matzoh balls will fall apart. Too hard, and your matzoh balls will bounce. (Of course some people like them chewy. Me, I like them so fluffy that they seem to melt in your mouth.) Because of the size of the eggs, or because some of us don’t measure exactly, the mixture can be different from time to time. After you mix the matzoh meal into the egg mixture, it should feel firm but loose — not soupy, and not hard to stir. If it seems too loose, add a sprinkle more of matzoh meal. Too firm, add a teaspoon or so more water or broth. After you’ve made matzoh balls a few times, you’ll know what this mix should feel like, and your matzoh balls will be perfect every time.

The best matzoh balls are made with rendered chicken fat (schmaltz). But how many of us cook with chicken fat any more? I used to use fake chicken fat called Nyafat that you could buy in the grocery store, but they stopped making it a few years ago. I’ve seen recipes with oil, which I think is too liquidy. You can use margarine, which is what I do at Passover, though during the year I prefer to use solid vegetable shortening, which has the same consistency, if not the flavor, of chicken fat.

I like large matzoh balls and serve one per person. If you prefer, you can make them smaller and give everyone two. This recipe makes eight large matzoh balls. It can easily be halved if there are just a few of you or doubled to serve 16.

Ingredients:

4 eggs at room temperature
4 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. chicken fat, shortening or margarine, melted
4 Tbs. chicken soup or water
2 tsp. salt
1 cup matzoh meal
1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped fine, optional (or 1/2 tsp. dried)

Directions:

Beat the eggs and then beat in the fat, the chicken soup or water and the salt. Sprinkle in the matzoh meal and the chopped parsley if you use it,  and stir quickly with a fork so that there are no lumps. Add a sprinkle more matzoh meal if the mixture seems too loose.

Place plastic wrap on the surface of the matzoh and press down to remove air. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, and up to a few hours.

Fill a large saucepan (a Dutch oven is good) with water and heat to boiling.

Wet your hands and form round balls with the matzoh meal mixture. You can drop them in the boiling water as you make them, or place them on a plate or board until you’ve made them all to assure a uniform size.

Put the balls in the boiling water. Within a minute or two, they should float to the top. If any balls stick to the bottom of the pot, give them a little nudge with a wooden spoon to loosen them. When the water returns to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover the pot loosely.

Cook for 40 minutes. Remove the matzoh balls with a slotted spoon to a pot of chicken soup. You can serve immediately, or reheat the matzoh balls with the soup. (If you haven’t made the soup yet, place the matzoh balls in a large covered container, cover them with water, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.)

Serves 8

Moroccan Lentil Soup

21 Jan

Moroccan Lentil SoupI adapted this recipe from one given to me by my Hadassah friend Eva Lande, who got it from a friend who lives in France. The coriander and mint give it a little different flavor from standard lentil soup. It’s a good recipe for a cold winter day!

Ingredients:

1 tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium-large onion
8 cups water
1 package or cube vegetable stock
1 lb. brown lentils
1 can (15 – 16 oz.) chickpeas
1 can (14 – 15 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 potato (optional)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 Tbs. dried
1 – 2 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbs. fresh mint or 1 tsp. dried
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a Dutch oven heat the oil and sauté the onion until it is translucent. Add the water and vegetable stock powder and bring to the boil. Add remaining ingredients, return to the boil, cover and simmer for at least two hours.

To thicken the soup, you can mash it with a potato masher in the pot or blend a portion of it (in a blender or using an immersion blender) and return the blended portion to the pot with the unblended portion.

Serves 8 or more

 

Stick-to-Your Ribs Cabbage and Bean Soup With Pasta

17 Dec

Cabbage-Bean-Pasta SoupThis is my favorite winter soup recipe. I adapted it from one I got at a Weight Watchers meeting many years ago; I make it every winter. It can stand on its own for lunch – or add a salad and some crusty bread to make a nice dinner. The hardest part of this recipe is opening and recycling all the cans!

The recipe makes a huge potful of soup, but it lasts well in the fridge. The original recipe says it is 3 points per 1½-cup serving, but the Weight Watcher system has changed since then so I can’t say what the points value is now. If you use vegetarian soy crumbles instead of beef, as I do, the soup will have fewer calories and less fat. You can also use high-fiber pasta. Even with regular pasta, it’s high fiber and low fat – and very tasty.

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef (or 1 bag veggie “beef” crumbles)
2 tsp. vegetable oil (if you use beef)
3 cups water
A small head of cabbage (1 to 2 lb.), chopped
Large can tomato juice
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. dried thyme
3 15-oz. cans kidney beans, Great Northern beans or a combination, drained and rinsed
3 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, not drained
2 14-oz. cans fat-free beef or vegetable broth (or use 2 cups water and 2 tsp. beef or vegetable stock powder)
8 oz. uncooked pasta (I like elbow macaroni best, but you can also use spaghetti or angel hair pasta broken into smaller pieces or another small shaped pasta like shells)

Directions:

If you use beef, heat the oil in an 8- or 12-quart Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat and cook the beef until browned, stirring to crumble it. Drain well and return to pan.

Add all remaining ingredients except pasta. If you use veggie crumbles instead of beef, add them at this point as well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the soup seems too thick.

After 2 hours, raise heat if necessary to bring soup to a boil. Add pasta (if you use spaghetti or angel hair, break it into small pieces) and cook at medium-low heat for another 8 to 10 minutes until pasta is done.

Serves 12

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup — and some Tuesday Tips

19 Nov

Roasted butternut squash soupThe main Tuesday Tip is that if you don’t already have an immersion blender, put it at the top of your holiday gift list. They’re not all that expensive, and they are invaluable whenever you want to make any kind of pureed soup, like this one. When you’ve got everything cooked and ready to puree, you just stick the immersion blender right in the pot, even if the contents are still hot, and whiz away. In just a few minutes, your dish will be creamy smooth — no need to ladle the stuff out into a counter-top blender in batches.

Another Tuesday Tip is that you can save a lot of time and effort, and spend just a little more money, by buying your squash already peeled and cubed at Trader Joe or Costco.

And the third and final Tuesday Tip is that if you do peel and cube the squash yourself, here is the easiest way to do it:

Cut a thin slice off the squash at both ends. Cut the squash in half crosswise, between the thin part and the part where it starts to bulge out. Then cut the bottom half in two lengthwise; you’ll now have three pieces. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the bottom pieces. Use a vegetable peeler to take the skin off in strips. Be sure to also peel off the thin green lines that lie just beneath the skin.

After you peel all three pieces, cut them into wedges or cubes for your recipe.

Here’s a very short video from Good Housekeeping that shows you how to do it.

This delicious soup recipe comes from Chef Paul Penney, also known as Aussie in the Kitchen. He used to do cooking demonstrations in the workplace for the health insurer provider that my employer used. It’s creamy without being high in fat, and the spices make it very flavorful but not hot.

Ingredients:

3 cups butternut squash, cut in ½-inch pieces
1 Tbs. fresh sage, chopped, or ½  tsp. dried
2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. curry powder
2¾ cups vegetable broth
6 oz. light coconut milk
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro or parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Peel squash and cut into pieces (or buy cubed squash at Trader Joe or Costco — you’ll want about 1 lb. for this recipe). Put it into a bowl with the sage and the olive oil and toss until the squash is coated. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The squash should be nicely browned. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. butter or margarine and 1 Tbs. vegetable broth in a medium soup pot. Saute the onion in the butter and broth over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté another minute. Add the turmeric and curry powder and mix well.

Add the squash and the broth. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the squash is tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Add the coconut milk and blend. Use an immersion blender if possible. If you don’t have one, blend in batches on low speed.

Thin with a little broth if necessary. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Garnish with chopped cilantro or fresh parsley.

Serves 4 to 6