Super Soup

It’s Spring, but around here there’s still snow on the ground and we just entered the dark times between when the winter farmers’ market closes and the growing season farmers’ market begins. That means when I discovered this morning that I still have three quarts of this soup in the freezer, I was super happy.

I wrote about this briefly last year, but didn’t post the recipe, so here it is:

Super Soup*, adapted from Anna Thomas’ Green Soup

makes 6-8 qts – enough to freeze, scale down if you’re just making dinner

  • 6 qts chicken stock (unsalted, ideally home made)
  • 3 bunches spinach or chard, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 bunches kale or collards, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 to 2 bunches chives, snipped
  • 1 large bunch parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt (more to taste)
  • 3 medium potatoes (Yukon gold or similar)
  • 2 large onions
  • olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cayenne
  • juice of 1 to 2 lemons

Combine greens, chives, and parsley in a large soup pot with 3 cups stock and salt. Scrub the potatoes, cut into small pieces, and add them to the pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, cover the pot, and let the soup simmer for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, chop the onions, heat a 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, and cook the onions until golden brown and soft. Don’t hurry them; this should take about half an hour. 

Add the caramelized onion to the soup. Put a bit more oil in the skillet and saute the garlic in it for just a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Add the garlic to the soup pot and simmer the soup for 10 minutes more.

Add remaining chicken stock and puree the soup in a blender, in batches, or use an immersion blender. Blend just until it looks smooth; potatoes can turn gummy if you process them too much.

Return the soup to the pot, bring it back to a simmer, and taste. Add a pinch more salt if needed, grind in some black pepper, and add a pinch of cayenne and lemon juice. Stir well and taste again. Correct the seasoning to your taste with more lemon juice or salt or cayenne.

Serve some immediately, garnished with a drizzle of fruity olive oil.

Freeze the rest and hope it lasts till fresh greens hit the farmers’ markets again.

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*so named because as much as I like to be snide about “superfoods” this soup is packed with bone broth and all the greens and will totally help you through the dark times.

(Relatively) Quick Posole

Child the younger remains a very particular, if quirky, eater. One of his New Year’s resolutions was to try more things, which we’re doing our best to support. Wish us luck.

In the meantime, one of the things he’ll eat is Posole, if it’s Posole from the Nellie’s Oyster stand at one of the Santa Rosa Farmers’ Markets. Since we live in Massachusetts most of the time, this preference is a teeny bit limiting, so I decided to attempt it myself.

I knew the preferred version was chicken-based, not fancy, and not too terribly spicy*. After reading through a number of online recipes, I ended up with the following, which was deemed acceptable once he added lemon juice.** It’s basically chicken soup, with Mexican influenced spicing and no vegetables. Perhaps it’s not so surprising he likes this after all.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • ~1 tablespoon olive oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried ground ancho chili
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tsp fresh)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 to 3 cups hominy, drained and rinsed

Toppings, use whatever and however many you like:

  • Lime wedges (or Lemon, if you’re like my kid)
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced onion
  • Shredded lettuce or cabbage
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced sweet peppers
  • Diced hot peppers
  • Chopped fresh oregano
  • Hot sauce

In a large saucepan, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and spices and heat just until aromatic, then add the chicken pieces and cook 1-2 minutes. Flip the chicken and add the herbs, then the stock and about 1 tsp of salt. Stir to make sure nothing is stuck on the bottom of pan and bring to a simmer. Cook at a simmer until the chicken is cooked through and can be pierced easily with a fork, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the chicken, place in a medium-sized bowl and shred with two forks, then return the shreds to the pot. Add hominy. Taste and add more salt if desired. Simmer another 5 minutes. Serve with toppings.

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*Just spicy enough for a “belly warmer”, as his Grandma would say.

**Yes. Lemon, not lime. I just don’t understand this kid.

Soup Season

The other day, I walked home from one of the local butcher shops with about 10 lbs of chicken feet, like ya do. It’s soup swap time.

Do you know about soup swaps? The basic premise is:

  1. Make and freeze 6 qts of soup.
  2. gather with at least 6 other people who have done the same
  3. exchange soups
  4. have a variety of great soup to get you through the winter

The Kitchn offers a write-up of how to host a swap with a bit more detail. In the next week, I’m going to two different swaps, with three different soups. Thus, chicken feet*, because they make really good stock.

Soup the first: Tomato w/ Parmesan stock

This one is kinda cheating. The truth is, tomato soup is super easy to make if you have stock on hand. It goes like something this:

Sauté an onion in olive oil or butter. Maybe add some thyme or oregano. Add a large can of crushed tomatoes. Add about half a can of veggie, parm, or chicken stock (by pouring it in the tomato can so you can also get more bits of tomato out). Blend. Bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Maybe add a dash of sherry. Serve with a dollop of cream or good olive oil and crunchy croutons if you’re feeling fancy.

So why bring tomato soup to a swap? Because parmesan stock** is really, really good and because tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side is one of the ultimate winter comfort meals. If you already have the soup in the freezer, it’s even easier. Yum.

Second Soup: Anna Thomas’ Green Soup w/ chicken stock

This one? This one is winter’s answer to summer’s green smoothie. It’s 5 gallons of greens & 10 lbs of chicken feet*** made into 7 qts (plus some extra stock) of superfood. It’s chicken soup to heal what ails you with all the green veggies you know you should be eating, but you probably aren’t because it’s winter and who wants salad, blended in. Plus! it actually tastes good. I used Anna Thomas’ recipe with chives instead of green onions and parsley instead of cilantro and chicken stock instead of the water and veggie stock. So far everyone likes it except my youngest, and, well, my youngest doesn’t like much.

Last Soup: Classic French Onion

You know what takes a very, very long time and might just drive your children away from the first floor of the house***? Caramelizing 10 lbs of onions does. I’ve never made French Onion soup at home because it’s always seemed like so much hassle for something most of my family won’t eat, but now that there is the promise of a comforting, easy, slightly fancy winter meal just waiting in the freezer, I’m happy I did it. I’m envisioning the folks who select this at the swap settling in one winter evening with French Onion Soup Gratinée and a good white wine, maybe with a simple baby spinach salad on the side.****

Bonus, I actually broke out my copy of Julia Child’s The Way to Cook for this recipe, and I love consulting Julia.


*and beef shanks and parmesan rinds and …

**a variation on this recipe from epicurious, though I use more water and don’t reduce it as much. (Note: Many stores which sell in-house grated parmesan will also sell parmesan rinds, for much less than than the cheese. It’s worth asking!)

***Don’t worry, I didn’t leave the chicken feet in. I used them to make the stock and strained them out.

***”Mom!! Stop cooking onions!!!”

****With this one, I managed to make 8 quarts, so I’m also envisioning myself doing this, some evening. Hooray!

A Different Winter Warmer – Beef Stock

Ah stock, one of those secret ingredients that make so many things* better, but which always seems like a pain to make. It takes planning ahead. It takes time. It takes bones, for goodness sake. But then, stock really is great stuff. I use it as a base for soups, stews, and chilis, sometimes when cooking beans or rice to make them extra rich, when braising all sorts of things. I even, sometimes, just heat it up with some added ginger or chili and have it for breakfast.

I’m making beef stock today, from stock bones I picked up at the farmers’ market**. It’s pretty simple:

  • 3-6 lbs beef or veal*** bones
  • 1-3 onions
  • 2-4 carrots
  • 3-6 stalks celery – optional if you don’t like this sort of thing
  • other veggies if you have them kicking around, though no brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.) because they’re too strong
  • maybe some garlic
  • ~6 sprigs parsley, or just parsley stems
  • some thyme, either ~6 fresh sprigs or ~1 tsp dried
  • some peppercorns, ~1 tsp
  • a splash of cider vinegar (~2 TBSP)
  • ~1/4 cup tomato paste
  • maybe a dried chili, if you like that sort of thing

If you have the time and inclination, roast the bones and vegetables at 400ºF or so for 20 to 30 minutes, turning once, until browned. Put everything in a pot and cover with water. (If you roasted the bones and veggies, be sure to scrape all the loving brown bits off your roasting pan into the pot as well. It helps to add some water to deglaze the pan.) Bring to a simmer****. Simmer forever – at least 4 hrs, though 12 hrs is lovely too. Add more water if needed to keep the bones covered, but otherwise ignore it. Strain. Store in fridge or freezer until you want to make soup (or have a lovely warming cup of broth or…).


*Things which are mostly, but not exclusively soups

**Yay! Misty Brook! I’ve also gotten great bones from our awesome local butcher, MF Dulock.

***Yes, veal. Veal is a by-product of dairy, so even if I don’t eat it, it still exists. Misty Brook, and other great farms out there, raise theirs humanely.

****Try not to boil it, because that will make the stock cloudy. Try not to worry too much either. Cloudy stock is still delicious.

 

Ubiquitous Kale

“What are you going to blog about today?”

“You could do a review of Steak & Shake.”*

“Nyah, I’m going to write about massaged kale.”

“Kale?”

Yep, kale. Everyone’s favorite hipster vegetable, for mockery if nothing else. I like kale! Though it did take me a decade or two to get there. My kids, like many kids who were toddlers in the last decade, have eaten their share of kale chips. I particularly like massaged kale, which I learned from reading The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Katz**.

Here are the basics.

Massaged Kale

  • 1 bunch kale, any type
  • vinegar, oil, salt, maybe honey, other things you might put on a salad

Wash and stem the kale, then cut into very thin, short strips (as thin as you can make them without stressing about it). I do this by stacking the leaves and then cutting across, as thinly as possible. Pile it in a bowl. Add a splash or two of a good vinegar*** and a hearty pinch of salt. 

Now the fun part: squeeze the kale with the salt and vinegar. Squeeze it a lot. Squeeze it a bit more. It should shrink by at least one half. Once it is pretty wet and bright, bright green and much, much smaller, you are done squeezing. It may be hard to get the shreds off your fingers. Add a splash of good olive oil**** and maybe some honey. Stir with a fork, then taste. Add whatever else you like*****. Serve like salad (because it is one).


*actually, Steak & Shake is a pretty great place to go with a party of 12 relatives, after post-holiday go-karting.

**I also like reading Sandor Katz.

***cider! or agro-dolce! or rice! or what have you

****or whatever you like!

*****I like diced apple and toasted walnuts. Something sweet is often good, particularly if you didn’t add the honey.

 

Cooked Cranberry Sauce

pot with cranberry sauce bubbling on stove with wooden spoon on top

I grew up on store-bought, canned cranberry sauce, the kind you sorta plunk out onto a plate and serve in slices. I love that stuff.

At some point, I decided to see how easy it was to make cranberry sauce myself. Turns out? It’s really easy. I’m certain there are many ways you can make it smoother, more nuanced, fancier, etc., but the basic recipe is: cook some cranberries with some sugar. More specifically, here’s what I just did:

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

  • 4 cups fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 cups sugar*
  • zest of 3 tangerines (or 1 orange, or…)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves

Put everything in a sauce pan with a bit (1/2 cup or maybe less) of water and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries mostly burst (or a bit longer if you like your cranberry sauce extra thick). Done.

Store in the refrigerator or can** like other fruit jams.

This yielded 3 and 1/2 cups. Would have been 4 if I’d cooked it down less.


 

*That’s 2 parts fruit, 1 part sugar, which just happens to be my standard jam ratio.

**I can mine, because I tend to travel for Thanksgiving and having it sealed makes that easier. This stuff will keep almost forever, though, so it’s not necessary unless you’ll be away from a refrigerator for a while or want a good seal.

Pizza Fridays (the Dough)

three rounds of pizza dough showing between two silpats

Family meal planning (really any meal planning) is a heck of a lot easier with recurring parameters. We’ve been doing Taco Tuesday almost every Tuesday since we saw the Lego Movie*. We’re trying to do Meatless Mondays more regularly. Friday? Friday is Pizza Night.

I picked up the habit of pizza night from my sister, whose household has a regular pizza and movie night. The beauty of pizza night is it can be as simple as getting delivery pizza and eating it out of the box and it is easily adapted to the “choose your own adventure” model of family dinner.

When I have time, we do make your own pizza on a simple homemade crust. This isn’t three-day, naturally leavened, meant for a wood-burning oven in Rome, crust. It’s more let’s maybe eat some whole grains and mostly everyone likes it just fine crust. And most Friday’s that’s just fine.

Pizza Dough

  • 10 oz white bread flour
  • 10 oz spelt or other whole wheat flour
  • 12 oz water, divided
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp salt

At least 2 and 1/2 hours before dinner – Combine the yeast with 4oz of (body temp or cooler) water. Mix flours, yeast, remaining water, and olive oil until they form a rough dough. Add salt and knead for ~5 minutes. (I use my stand mizer with the dough hook, on low.) Let rise in the bowl for 60-90 minutes.

When the dough has roughly doubled (about an hour), punch it down and divide into six or eight equal(ish) size pieces. Form each piece into a ball. If it’s over an hour until you want to bake, put the dough, loosely covered, in the fridge. (I usually space them out on a half sheet pan, on a silpat, which I cover with another silpat and a towel. Lightly oiled plastic wrap over the top also works well.)

About an hour before baking, have your dough balls on the counter, still loosely covered, so they can rise slightly and come to room temperature. Just before baking, form each into more-or-less a flat circle, about 1/4 in thick. Coat with a bit of olive oil, then add sauce and toppings of your choice.

Bake assembled pizzas at 475ºF for about 12 minutes.


*Taco Tuesday, er, Freedom Friday