Archives for category: soup

In a previous life I probably wouldn’t have made pho at home. I figured someone else could do it better, and cheaper, at a restaurant than I could at home.

Living in Hartford has its hidden perks: the lack of veggie-friendly Vietnamese restaurants has made me less of a snob about what I cook. We made this twice last week and the broth is perfect.

The recipe is at The Kitchn. I followed the broth recipe exactly, and then I followed it imprecisely (the carrots were gone). It’s better when you follow the recipe exactly. Veggies and tofu (broccoli, bok choy, shiitakes, thinly sliced marinated tofu, steamed acorn squash) go in the bowl with the rice noodles (which are best when you soak them in boiling rather than merely hot water). Herbs, lime chunks, and bean sprouts go on the side.  Action soup.

The action extends to the prep: there’s a lot of it. But once you have a stash of clean, dry herbs and greens, the soup becomes easy. I would plan to make it twice in a week.

aerial pho

pho with waning paperwhites


cast of characters

I visited Philadelphia this past weekend, to see “The Largest Flower Show in the World.” Some Philadelphians mentioned it as the largest in the U.S. At any rate, it was big, and it afforded my cousin and me some time to test the cuisine in the area. The first night we ventured into a blustery, cold wind to find dinner, looked at several menus, and settled on an Italian restaurant with a large selection. We split a caesar salad, the romaine cut in ribbons like pasta, with a lovely dressing, no anchovies – my decision. I chose the sauteed chicken breast and grilled eggplant, sliced thin, which adhered to the meat with a little smoked mozzarella, a nice reduction over all. Between these courses, I ate a cup of onion soup, with no beef or chicken stock, that was rich and complex. The waitress told us the chef used tomato to thicken the broth, which led me to researching vegan onion soup recipes when I came home.

ALL the onions

At Amber Waves today, I was restocking onions in the produce section and noticed several had mold on the skins. I removed 12 of them, and thought “OK, now’s the time to make the soup.” This recipe is a compilation of the those I saw online, plus the tomato. No one had tomato in their recipe.

toasty soup

Vegan French Onion Soup

12 or so medium onions, thinly sliced
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper

1/4 C red wine
1-2 T balsamic vinegar**

1 t dijon mustard
2 t tomato paste

8 C vegetable stock (see below)
1 small bay leaf
sprinkle of dried thyme
french and italian bread for croutons, plus cheese

For the stock:
top 3″ of a bunch of celery
1 onion, cut in large chunks
1 large carrot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
8 C water
salt to taste

Put veggies into water, bring to a boil, simmer 20 minutes, turn off and let sit while you slice onions.


Pour olive oil into a large soup pot, add onions, salt and pepper, and saute on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are reduced in volume and barely cover the bottom of the pan. Add the red wine and balsamic vinegar, stir, and continue to cook until the liquids boil off. Turn the heat down, get a magazine or a good book, and cook the onions further, timing stirrings at 5 minute intervals, for about 30 minutes, until the onions are brown and sticky. Stir in the mustard and the tomato paste. (This is where I forgot to take a picture.)

Taste the stock and add salt until it tastes good. Strain the stock and add to the onions, scraping up the bottom and sides of the pot, toss in the herbs, and taste for salt and pepper. Cook gently for another 20 minutes.

Serve with toasted croutons topped with cheese of your choice, run briefly under the broiler or in a hot oven to melt. The French have nice ovenproof soup bowls for this purpose, or you can just put the bread on a cookie sheet, toast it briefly, top with Daiya or Gruyere or mozzarella, and pop back in the oven till it melts. Then put it into your soup!

I made this soup during a nor’easter, there’s lots of prep and time watching the onions caramelize. If you’re in a hurry, choose another recipe.

Bon appetit!

** One tablespoon of really thick, syrupy balsamic vinegar will suffice in this recipe. If you have the regular grocery store variety, use 2 T.

Two photography resolutions.

Stop using a camera phone.

i take too many pictures of leeks

Eat dinner at breakfast-time.


This is the second corn chowder I’ve posted here. I can’t help myself. This one is different; I promise. Both are smokey. Oh wow, both of them even have sweet potatoes. I’m sorry. But this one has collards, and even if you’re not a huge fan of collards you’ll like them here, I think.

Also, this one is vegan. Back then I thought that it was possible to whisk tofutti into soup. Ha.

soup and sandwichDSC_0024

Sweet Potato Chowder with Collards and Roasted Corn
serves 4 generously

1 C sliced, washed leeks
2 T vegetable oil
1 t kosher salt
1/4 C AP flour
6 C vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 t liquid smoke
3 C sliced, washed collard leaves
2 C peeled, cubed sweet potato
1 1/2 C frozen roasted corn
1/2 C soy creamer or half-and-half

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, saute the leeks in the oil with the salt for about 5 minutes, until soft. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the stock, raise the heat to high, and vigorously whisk some more (any remaining lumps will disappear as you go).

Add the bay leaf, liquid smoke, collards, and sweet potato. (Regarding the collards: I slice them while they’re dirty, submerge them in a big bowl of water, wash thoroughly, then lift them out of the bowl and directly into the soup–no need to dry them.) Once the mixture comes to a boil, bring the heat to low and cook 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender and the collards are no longer quite so green and pretty.

Raise the heat again to high, and when the soup is boiling add the frozen corn. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove from heat, stir in the cream, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot, with some bread or toast on the side.

Kid got a new camera.

cabbage chop

Photographing food for this blog has been bumming me out for a long time. I cook at night — don’t we all — and the lack of natural light makes for blurry foodstuff or (worse, in my opinion) food lit by the garish point-and-shoot flash.

I have not yet become a master of this device, but suddenly it’s possible to have pictures with a foreground and a background. The next photograph does not feature this distinction, but I like it nevertheless.

place setting

Justin and I got back from our annual convention last week, an event whose encompassing cloud of anxiety we avoided for the most part by staying in Chinatown and escaping to my folks’ house as soon as we could. When we got back to Oakland this recipe had arrived in my inbox; about once a month Vegetarian Times really hits the spot with their courtesy emails, and I recommend this soup highly. It’s like a vegan risotto soup, pretty earthy with the cabbage but creamy because of those little white beans. Very comforting.

Veg Times suggest stirring a mixture of breadcrumbs and pine nuts into the soup. In an effort to one-up them I’ve added capers to the breadcrumb mix, for a little tang, and I served the breadcrumbs on the side for maximum individual control over crunchiness. I know pine nuts cost an arm and a leg but they’re worth it here — no nut is quite as creamy.

warm kitchen

White Bean and Arborio Rice Soup
serves 6
adapted from Vegetarian Times

3 T olive oil, divided
half a large yellow onion, finely chopped
2/3 C Arborio rice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
8 C vegetable stock
2 C sliced green cabbage
1 bay leaf
1 15.5 oz. can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 slices country white bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about a cup)
1/4 C pine nuts
2 t capers, drained

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions are wilted and translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until it’s toasty, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, rosemary, and cabbage, the add the stock and bay leaf and raise the heat to high. Once the soup boils, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, make the breadcrumbs. Pulse the bread, pine nuts, and capers in a food processor until mixed together and chopped. (My bread was the tough and chewy sort, so I ended up with breadcrumbs plus bread chunks–this is just fine.) In a small frypan over medium heat, saute the breadcrumb mixture in the remaining tablespoon of oil for about five minutes until the crumbs are crisp.

Taste the soup. Season with salt if needed, and once the rice is cooked add the beans. Serve, spooning the toasty breadcrumbs over the top.

I just got back from a very important wedding in St. Louis, where I ate frozen custard twice and, in one memorable sitting, twelve tea sandwiches. Today marked my third visit to LAX in the past week, and between that and the general fattiness lining my mouth I was hoping to make something light and simple.

So this is the soup I made after a nap, when I could fathom leaving the apartment and getting nice green beans at the store. Whatever other spring vegetables you like in a soup would be ideal here, obviously. The part of this recipe to steal is the leek-tarragon-lemon-parsley part. And maybe also the couscous and the chickpeas, they’re very nice. The part you can futz with is the specific veggies. I really wanted green beans in there, so that’s what I bought. I also had some peas and artichoke hearts in the freezer, so I used those too. What else. Really fresh little carrots, zucchinis, spinach, asparagus. Asparagus would be great. If I had had any of those things I would have used them, but I stuck with beans, peas, and artichoke.

If you steep the tarragon in the soup as it simmers you get a delicate licorice flavor without bits of dried herb floating around. The lemon zest at the end complements that sweetness, and with a little grassy parsley in there the result is a very subtle, fresh, soup.

Spring Vegetable Soup with Lemon
serves 4-5, depending on how hungry they are

Soup base:
1 T olive oil
3 leeks sliced and washed thoroughly
2 stalks celery, sliced
7 C vegetable stock
1 t dried tarragon

Here are the approximate veggies I used–go wild:
2-3 C green bean pieces (about 1″ long)
2/3 C green peas
2/3 C chopped artichoke hearts

Finish with:
1/2 C israeli couscous or orzo
1 can chickpeas
zest of half a lemon
1/2 C chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Stir those around while you prepare the celery, then add it as well. Saute until the veggies are wilted, and add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Stick the tarragon in a tea infuser and pop it in the soup. (This is sort of like a bouquet garni, which I have never made because I am lazy–a tea infuser, however, is very easy.) Then add the green beans. From this point the soup cooks 20 minutes–that’s if you like a tender but not mushy green bean. I have grown to loathe squeaky green beans so I go out of my way to cook them thoroughly.After ten minutes, add the peas, artichoke hearts, couscous, and chickpeas. Bring back to a boil, and reduce again to a simmer for the final ten minutes.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon zest and parsley and serve immediately. A baguette wouldn’t be inappropriate.

I should never be surprised by the things my mom knows how to make off the top of my head, but once in a while I am. I guess miso soup isn’t very complicated. But I had been daydreaming about it, and mentioned it to my mom, and the she rattled off her recipe, step by step, and I went out and made it. Miraculous and easy. The years of macrobiotics pay off.

Obviously one of the beauties of miso soup is that you can put whatever you want in there. But I am very partial to this combination of things, and think you should try it. I know miso soup is supposed to be simple, and this one isn’t really. But it’s mealtime miso. Really savory and satisfying but also healthy as all get out–I don’t say that much but this soup fits the bill. And also simple. No sauteing. One pot. Lasts for days.

Miso Soup with Udon and Greens
serves four hungry people who like 2 bowls of soup each

2 pieces of kombu (approx. 1″ by 4″)
a knob of ginger, about tablespoon sized, sliced into matchsticks
1/2 C dried shiitake pieces, soaked in 1 C warm water (optional)

1/3 lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. dried udon noodles
1/2 C light yellow miso paste
2 bunches spinach, stemmed, washed, and roughly chopped
12 oz. silken tofu, cubed
4 scallions, finely sliced

sesame oil, for serving

First you make the stock, which is flavored with seaweed, ginger and mushrooms. I soak the mushrooms separately though because they can be gritty. So in a big pot, add the kombu and ginger to 8 C water and bring to a boil. Fish the soaked shiitake pieces out of their warm water bath, finely chop them, and add them to the pot along with the shiitake soaking water, pouring slowly to make sure that any residual grit doesn’t make its way into the pot. Cover, turn the heat off, and let sit for at least an hour (I usually do this in the morning or early afternoon). After an hour, fish out the kombu and slice it very thinly, then add it back to the stock.

When you’re ready for soup, add the fresh sliced shiitakes to the stock and bring to a boil. Add the udon noodles, bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook according to package directions. When the udon is done, ladle some of the stock into a bowl and add the miso. Whisk to combine, then dump back into the pot. (This is easier than chasing lumps of miso paste around the pot of soup.) Add the spinach and tofu and stir very carefully until the greens are just wilted. Turn off the heat, stir in the scallions, and serve with a little anointing of sesame oil.

I was looking through my trade magazines last Saturday, checking out the new products and reading vitamin articles when I spied this recipe. Although it’s actually a beef noodle soup, I thought maybe I could try it with seitan (wheat meat). So Sunday morning I got up and made the broth, sauteed a few aromatics, added the seitan, and brought the rest of the ingredients to my cousin’s house to finish it.

The soup was a total success, even my cousin’s brother ate some, saying the noodles reminded him of Korean fare. His regular diet consists of burgers, chips, coffee and fig newtons, so he surprised me by saying he was craving something with complexity. If you eat beef, I bet this would have even more depth, although it is very good vegan fare as well!

Niu Rou Mian (Spicy Chinese Seitan or Beef Noodle Soup)

2 oz soy sauce
1T + 1 t hoisin sauce
1 star anise or 1/2 t whole anise seed
1/3 stick cinnamon
zest of 1 small orange, peeled in thin strips
4 C water

1/2 T vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped, 1/2 for soup, 1/2 for garnish
1 T ginger, minced
5-6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 t red pepper flakes, or less if you want less heat
1 lb cubed seitan or beef stew meat
2 carrots, sliced
2 small zucchini, sliced

2 oz bean thread (cellophane) noodle
1/2 lb baby spinach leaves
2 t toasted sesame oil
1 lime, in wedges

In a large pot combine ingredients from the first group, bring to a boil, lower heat and gently simmer 20 min. Strain.

In a large saute pan or soup pot heat the oil, add the scallions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes, stir briefly, add 2 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Add seitan or beef, simmering for 20 minutes for seitan, 1 1/2 – 2 hours for the beef. (If you’re using seitan, add the carrots at this point as well. If you’re using beef, add the carrots for the last 20 minutes.)

I discovered the seitan absorbs an astonishing amount of stock, and added water, 1 – 1 1/2 C. It didn’t seem to affect the flavor much, at the end I added a bit more soy sauce.

When the soup is almost done, add the zucchini and simmer 5 minutes. Put the bean thread noodles in a saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil. Cut the noodles with scissors in several places when they are soft, it makes it much easier to get the soup into the serving bowls. Drain the noodles, add them with the remaining stock and spinach to the soup. Stir briefly until spinach is wilted, ladle soup into bowls, top with remaining scallions and a little sesame oil. Serve with a lime wedge.

Always on the lookout for a good soup cookbook, I came upon a free one at tai chi. There’s always a table full of stuff other people don’t want anymore, this week I scored a pizza peel and an atlas. I liked the look of this particular recipe using chicken in a non-traditional stew. I changed a few of the ingredients to make it more Mexican. I used bouillon cubes and water for stock, and it was suitably rich and tasty, what with all the veggies and linguica.

Southwestern Chicken Stew

3 lbs. chicken thighs, skin removed (about 6 pieces)
1/4 C flour
1/4 C olive oil
2 T minced garlic
5 C water with 4 bouillon cubes (or broth)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 large chopped onion
1 1/2 t salt
2 t cumin
1 T oregano
1 t thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 t red pepper flakes
8 oz. linguica sausage, cut in 1 inch chunks
2 C cubed potatoes
1 C sliced carrots
2 C cubed zucchini
1 10 oz. pkg frozen corn
fresh cilantro for garnish

This looks like a lot of ingredients but it goes pretty fast.

Put flour on a plate and coat the chicken thighs. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot over med-high heat and brown the chicken.
Remove chicken with a spoon or tongs to a plate, and drain off all but 1 T of the oil.

Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the leftover flour and spices and mix for a
minute. Whisk in the broth or water and bouillon cubes, bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add chicken and sausage, cover
and simmer 20 minutes longer, or while you prep the veggies.

Skim any accumulated fat off the stew, add all the vegetables, and simmer 20 minutes. Serve in big bowls with chopped cilantro on top. Corn chips or ciabiatta would be nice accompaniments.

This amount of red pepper flakes gives you a medium heat. It can be omitted or reduced, or increased!

I’m a little dubious about the cookbook I ganked this recipe from. First of all, it’s called Noodles. Just noodles. It seems to be selling on amazon for one cent. Also, its jacket sleeve says that “Much of the inspiration for this book came from London’s bustling Chinatown.” Isn’t London’s Chinatown sort of known for…sucking? I went repeatedly to one really good Sichuan place there a few years back, only because the reviews I read said, yeah…it’s in Chinatown but it’s actually really good.

My wariness aside, the cookbook definitely wants you to garnish all your noodles with various meat products, but I was taken with this Thai soup. At heart I’m a noodle girl–or maybe a dumpling girl–and after flipping through all the glittering pictures of noodles, so many different noodles, I overcame my attitude and went out to buy some tofu.

The original recipe calls for chicken, and I wanted to replace it with this product called Tofu Lin that my mom used to stuff into sandwiches for Amber Waves. I think maybe Tofu Lin doesn’t exist anymore. In any case, it was a pressed tofu product, a little marinated, packed in vacuumed plastic rather than a tub of water. So I poked all the tofu in vacuum packs and chose the firmest, rubberiest one. I wanted to grate the tofu–stay with me–so that it was easy to pick up along with noodles and cabbage in every bite. Success–the tofu I chose, some Wildwood extra extra firm stuff–grated without much complaint, and the tofu shards dispersed themselves evenly among the soup’s other strands. They don’t stand out, but they add a little chewy textual interest in this completely satisfying and aromatic soup.

Thai Coconut Soup with Cabbage and Tofu
adapted from Noodles by Beverly Le Blanc
serves 4

4 oz. dried cellophane noodles (tiny rice noodles)
5 C stock, veggie or chicken or whatever
1 lemongrass stalk
1 cm piece of ginger, finely grated
zest of half a lime
1 T cilantro stems, finely chopped
1 red chile, seeded and thinly sliced
4 scallions, whites separated from greens, all thinly sliced
1 C savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
10 oz. extra firm, pressed, or smoked tofu
1 C mung bean sprouts
1 C coconut milk (full-fat please)
1 T lime juice
2 T thai fish sauce (optional)
lime wedges and cilantro leaves for garnish

Set the noodles to soak in a big bowl of lukewarm water. They’ll be ready by the time you need them.

Next, cut off the dry end off the lemongrass stalk. Then cut it in two and bash each piece all up and down with the flat part of your knife. In a big soup pot, bring the stock to a boil with the ginger, lime zest, cilantro stems, red chile, and the white part of the scallions. Reduce the stock to a simmer.

Meanwhile, slice up your cabbage and, using the big holes on a cheese grater, grate the tofu (if your tofu isn’t firm enough for this rough treatment, just make tofu matchsticks). Once the stock has simmered for 10 minutes or so, raise the heat to high and add the cabbage, tofu, bean sprouts, and coconut milk. Stir and bring to a simmer.

Finally, stir in the fish sauce (if you’re using it) and the lime juice. Remove the soup from the heat. The noodles should be soft by now so divide them between four bowls (you can use tongs if you’re civilized…need I say that I used my claw hands). Then using a ladle or 1-C measure, dole out the soup over the noodles. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges.

As some of you may know, I have a hard time saying no. The UCLA campus seems to be a lightening rod for my spinelessness, particularly the area surrounding the coffee shop by the research library. There was the guy who was stranded on campus with car trouble and needed cash, and I won’t even say what I did when I discovered I had none on hand (let’s just say there’s an ATM in the vicinity). Then there was the guy who sold me magazine subscriptions–two of them!–despite my lack of funds, not to mention my lack of interest in any of the magazines he was selling. I also will not say what I paid for the subscriptions. Wow, just typing this up is making me feel a little ill.

The upside of this story is that I have a subscription to Vegetarian Times. Despite the really embarrassing origin of my subscription, I find it to be an interesting if confused publication, and one that I’ve developed a fondness for. Veggie Times isn’t sure if you’re a honey-eschewing vegan or a dairy hound, a teetotaler or a wino, and so its recommendations run a pretty big gamut, which is entertaining to watch. And like most food magazines, it wants you to buy stuff other than food, which always bums me out a little. Whatever. Who am I to criticize a magazine that runs in print, let alone one that prints a number of great recipes per month.

I was drawn to this Farmers’ Market Chowder immediately because, maybe, I’m from Cape Cod, and maybe because I make a corn chowder that I’m pretty proud of, with chipotle chiles and cilantro. So I stole the base of this recipe (which infuses milk with corn and other aromatics), added my chiles, removed a few extra frypans, and ate soup for breakfast. As a dairy hound myself I’m pretty enamored of the result, which has a fine chile-infused butter slick on top of melty chunks of sweet potato and perfectly cooked green beans, not the least bit squeaky but with a little chew left in them. That said I can’t help wondering how you’d make this vegan…maybe whisk in some tofutti? Blend some of the broth with a block of silken tofu? As I type them, both these options sound wacky. Mom, are you there?

Smoked Corn Chowder
adapted from Vegetarian Times (Sept. 2011)
serves 6 (at least)

4-5 ears fresh corn
the stems from one bunch of cilantro, washed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 1/2 C milk

2 T butter
1 T olive oil
4-5 medium leeks
2 chipotle peppers, chopped finely (or 1 if you’re wary)*
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into medium cubes
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 C dry cooking sherry
4 C water
salt and pepper to taste
2 T chopped cilantro, plus a few springs for garnish
lime wedges for serving (optional)

*I get these in a small can at the supermarket, packed in adobo sauce. Then again I live in Southern California.

First, get the corn kernels off the cob. The easiest way to do this is to get a giant bowl and a smaller bowl. Invert the small bowl and nestle it in the bottom of the big bowl. Balance the end of the corn cob on the small bowl and use your sharp knife to slice off the kernels, which get caught in the big bowl. Does this make sense? I learned it from Rachel Ray (who, say what you will, knows how to get that corn off the cob). Next, you want to get all the extra bits of corn off the cob. The Pioneer Woman will show you how, using the dull side of your knife (check out the 8th and 9th photos).

Now you have a big bowl with corn and another bowl in it, and 4-5 denuded corn cobs. Break these in half and toss them in a small saucepan with the milk, cilantro stems, and smashed garlic cloves. Maybe all your corn cobs won’t fit. That’s fine. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat, then remove from the heat and cover. Let the milk steep while you do the rest of the soup.

Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, clean your leeks. This woman cleans them the way I do–they are dirty critters and need loving attention (even better than running them under the tap is swishing them in a bowl of water). Slice them up and add them to the butter and oil along with two big pinches of kosher salt. I do this in stages–slice a couple leeks, add them to the pot, slice a couple more leeks, add them. Stir them up well. Next, chop up your chipotle peppers and add them to the leeks. Stir. Then the carrots. Stir.

Now, crank up the heat to medium-high and deal with your sweet potato. Once it’s peeled and chunked and the pot is hot, add it and stir well. Saute the mixture for 5 minutes or so, until you start seeing a little caramelization on the bottom of the pan and the potatoes are just starting to soften. Deglaze with the sherry, stir, and add the quart of water. Now’s a good time to add another two pinches of kosher salt and some pepper. Cover and bring to a simmer.

Simmer for 5 minutes or so while you prepare the green beans. Add them to the pot and simmer 6-8 minutes, until the green beans are a little squeakier than you like them (the sweet potatoes will be done by now). Add the corn kernels and simmer for one minute. Turn off the heat and strain the milk mixture into the pot, discarding the corn cobs, cilantro stems, and garlic cloves. Taste the broth and add more salt if you need it. Stir in the chopped cilantro and serve with extra springs of cilantro and a wedge of lime on the side, if you like.