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Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Soup for Good Luck and Prosperity: Hoppin' John Soup

Over the last couple of years, I've become aware of the Southern tradition of eating something called Hoppin' John on New Year's Day. I'm from the Pacific Northwest, and to be honest, I tend to stagger around on New Year's Day... there's not much hoppin' going on. But I do love the idea of a tradition, so this year I started looking into it with the intention that I would make a soup version.

History on Hoppin' John is all over the place. There are about a gazillion different versions of how the dish got its name and why it's supposed to bring good luck. However, the basic overall idea behind the tradition is that if you eat black-eyed peas along with greens on New Year's Day you will have good luck and prosperity over the coming year. The peas represent coins and the greens represent cash. And if you serve it with cornbread, as I plan to do, that represents gold. In this economy, it's awfully hard to argue with that!

I simply started by looking at a ton of recipes on the internet, and ended up with 6 different windows open with recipes I was interested in. In the end, I created my own by picking from here and there - a jalepeño from this recipe, ham hocks from another, and andouille sausage from yet another. I substituted kale for the traditional collard greens for accessiblity here in the Pacific NW as well as previously mentioned adoration of kale.  (And I vigorously eliminated green peppers whenever I saw them, YUCK!) Since I have never had a traditional version before, I can't honestly say if mine is on the mark or not. However, it is spicy and delicious, and that's enough luck in itself!

Hoppin' John Soup

Recipes were quite varied on soaking the beans, some said soak overnight and others said you didn't need to soak at all. I split the difference, and soaked them about 4 hours - putting them in the water in the morning and then cooking the rest of it that afternoon. Easy enough.

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz. andouille sausage links, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
2 smoked ham hocks
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium jalepeño, seeds removed, finely diced
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. paprika
2 bay leaves
16 oz. package of dried black-eyed peas, picked through, soaked for 4 hours, and rinsed
2 t. salt
10 cups water
1 bunch kale, center ribs removed, chopped
2 T. cider vinegar
1 t. tabasco (or more, to taste)

Add 1 T. olive oil to heavy-bottomed soup pot and heat over medium heat. When hot, add sliced andouille sausage. Sautee about 1-2 minutes per side, until sides crisp a bit and some of the fat has rendered. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon, leaving oil in pan. Cool a bit, then store in fridge for later.

Add the 2 ham hocks and sear on all sides, around 4 minutes or so, until they brown. Remove from pot and set aside. At this point you should have some lovely brown fond at the bottom of your pot.

Add in the diced onions and cook until they start to soften, stirring often to get the fond up from the bottom of the pot and coat the onions, around 5 minutes or so. Add in the garlic and sautee briefly, 30 seconds, then add the carrots, celery, and jalepeño. Sautee 3 or 4 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften, then add the spices: paprika, thyme, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Stir and sautee until all the vegetables are well-coated with the spice mixture.

Add the ham hocks back into the pot along with the black-eyed peas and add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for about an hour or so, or until the black-eyed peas are just tender.

Remove the ham hocks from the soup, let them cool a bit, then remove the meat from the hocks, cut into bite-size pieces and add it back to the soup. Stir in the vinegar, the tabasco, the kale, and the andouille sausage and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or so or until the kale is wilted.

Eat with positive thoughts of the year to come!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Leftovers = Soup! Turkey Soup with Lime and Chile

The day after Thanksgiving is officially "Turkey Sandwich" day at our house. I do absolutely no cooking whatsoever that Friday, and if anyone stands in my kitchen and has the gall to ask, "I'm hungry... what can I eat?" I really cannot be held responsible for my reactions.

On the other hand, if Friday is Thanksgiving-Part-Two-Served-Up-On-A-Roll, Saturday is "Leftover Transformation" day! After a full day of countless sandwiches made with a variety of leftover Thanksgiving wonders, I don't want anything I eat or make on Saturday to taste like Thanksgiving. We have been there/eaten that by Saturday.

This year I stole transformative ideas from other bloggers. I loved Savory Sweet Life's  Cranberry-Apple Crisp made with all my leftover homemade cranberry sauce. Transformed, and delicious! Our leftover New England Sausage, Apple, and Dried Cranberry Stuffing became a Stuffing Frittata by My Last Bite. Yum!

And then it was time for soup! I still had lots of lovely turkey, but we were all craving bolder flavors than just a plain turkey noodle. So this year I made Turkey Soup with Lime and Chile. The end result tastes NOTHING like Thanksgiving. The bright lime is in the forefront and the chiles leave a nice lingering heat behind. It's really good... I would make it even if I didn't have turkey to use up!

Turkey Soup with Lime and Chile
Serves 6-8

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. diced yellow onion (1 med. onion)
1 c. diced carrot (about 1 large carrot)
1 c. diced celery (about stalks)
grated zest of one large lime
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a press
3/4 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. ground ancho chili powder
2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
6 c. chicken broth
4 c. cooked turkey, shredded into bite-sized pieces
7 oz. can of diced green chiles
1 can Great Northern beans, rinsed
Toppings: diced green onions, fresh cilantro, tortilla strips

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until soft and tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add in carrots and celery and continue to sautee until vegetables soften slightly, another 3-4 minutes. Add in the garlic, lime zest, and all the spices. Sautee for one minute until the vegetables are coated and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the lime juice, broth, turkey, chiles, and beans. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until the flavors have had a chance to come together. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve, topping with chopped green onions, freshly chopped cilantro, and tortilla chips.

**I found the spicy heat held nicely with a night in the fridge, but the lime juice needed to be bumped back up the next day with another fresh squeeze.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Traditions: Warm-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower Soup

A word to the wise: if you offer to host Thanksgiving for your family for one year... you will never ever be able to give it back.

The first few years we were married we alternated every other year at our parents' houses for Thanksgiving. One year at my folks, the next at his. However, in 1999, I offered to host since our house was halfway between both of theirs. Believe me when I say that neither mom ever looked back.

That first year I was so excited! It was the first year I would be cooking the whole meal by myself. I wouldn't let anyone bring anything (I've since wised up on that front) and spent hours, no... days, perusing cookbooks and cooking magazines to formulate the perfect menu.

Somewhere in all my menu planning I came across a little blurb that caught my imagination. I think it was in Bon Appetit magazine, but I can't be sure since it was so long ago. There was an article on favorite Thanksgiving traditions, and one of the responders talked about how they always greeted guests at the door with teacups of soup. No spoons, just a nice soup to sip and enjoy as you entered their home. I was instantly charmed.

Beginning that first year, I have always served a soup as a starter for Thanksgiving. Not at the table, of course, but out in the living room where we are all relaxed and chatting. Over the years I have allowed spoons to sneak in if the guests want them, but in deference to the spirit of that original tradition, I always serve a blended soup.

This year's soup was particularly successful, if I do say so myself. Spending the past year obsessed with soup has served me well.

Warm-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower Soup
serves 8

1 head cauliflower, core removed, florets separated into ping-pong ball sized portions
5 T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 t. kosher salt
1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
1 stalk celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 t. grated fresh ginger
1 t. turmeric
1/2 t. cumin
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
6 c. chicken broth
sour cream for garnish

Toss cauliflower with 3T. olive oil and the salt and roast in oven at 425°F for 1 hour. Rotate the florets every 15 minutes so that you get a nice even carmelization on them.

Set cauliflower aside and heat remaining olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and sautee until soft and tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add in carrots and celery and continue to sautee until vegetables soften, another 6-8 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, and spices. Sautee for an additional minute until the spices are distributed over the vegetables and the ginger and garlic are fragrant. Add in the reserved cauliflower and the chicken broth. Bring the soup to a simmer and let it simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or so to bring everything together. Cool slightly and blend well with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Garnish with a sour cream drizzle.

I made this on Tuesday, and served on Thanksgiving Thursday. I actually thought it benefitted for resting those two days... so make at least one day ahead if you can!  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kielbasa, Take Two: White Bean Soup with Kielbasa and Kale

Allow me to justify posting two soups in a row using kielbasa.

A. This is a soup I made at the end of August, planning to freeze it as part of my back-to-school lunch repetoire. Unfortuntately, I loved it so much I couldn't stop eating it. I ate it twice a day, for both breakfast and lunch, and it was long gone before I started teaching. No lie.

B. Kielbasa was on a Buy-One-Get-One-Free sale.

That should about cover it.

This recipe originally caught my eye in one of my favorite soup cookbooks: Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom. It has turned out to be a real winner in my cookbook collection. Her version uses Spanish Chorizo, which is delicious, but not very easy to find. I've only been able to get it if I'm in Seattle or by mail-order. That doesn't meet my "soup for everyday life" requirements. (Mexican Chorizo, by the way, is a completely different product and the two are not interchangeable.) Kielbasa makes a tasty substitute, in my opinion.

I also loved the idea of this soup because it has 2 sources of protein, the kielbasa plus white beans. But the real selling point for me? It calls for kale. **Pause here for a worshipful moment for kale.** I so love kale. I was sold on the idea of this soup long before I ever made it and tasted its brothy soupy wonderfulness.

White Bean Soup with Kielbasa and Kale
Adapted from Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom

14 oz. beef kielbasa (I usually buy Hillshire Farms)
1 T. olive oil
1 lg. onion, diced
2 lg. carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. dried thyme
8 c. chicken broth
3 cans cannellini beans, rinsed well (you could also use another white bean like great Northern)
1 head kale, center ribs removed and discarded, leaves washed and chopped (around 5 cups)
2x2" chunk of parmesan rind (optional)

Slice the kielbasa into 1/4" rounds. Heat olive oil in bottom of soup pan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add kielbasa in a single layer and brown on one side, around 2 minutes. Flip and brown the other side. Remove kielbasa with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add onions to pan and sautee, stirring to scrape up the fond left by the kielbasa, until the onions are nice and soft, around 5-8 minutes. Add garlic clove, red pepper flakes, and thyme. Sautee for 1 minute. Add in carrots and celery and continue to sautee until vegetables have softened slightly, around 5-8 minutes longer.

Add chicken broth, rinsed beans, and reserved kielbasa to pot, along with the parmesan rind if you're using one. Bring to a simmer, and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Remove the paremesan rind and add in the kale, stirring until it wilts, approximately 3 minutes.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if desired.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Soup for Everyday Living: Corn and Kielbasa Chowder

As you can probably imagine, I spend time reading cookbooks. Reading and paging my way through a cookbook is one of my most enjoyable pastimes. In the past year, I have really focused on cookbooks that are all about soup. Some of them are really terrific, and some I immediately know are not for me. Thank goodness for our library, so I don't have to spend my own money to find out which are which!

The thing is, terrific or not, all of the cookbooks share one thing: an entire section devoted to the love and pursuit of homemade stock. Each recipe is different, of course, but they all enthusiastically insist that if you don't start with homemade stock - whether it be beef, chicken, or vegetable (one actually gave a recipe for lamb stock!!!) - your soup is doomed to mediocrity.

Whatever. I'm freaking busy here, people. I'm teaching 3rd grade full time right now, I have a husband and two teenage daughters and a household to run... I am not inclined to spend the money on a whole chicken and vegetables and 6 hours out of my life making stock BEFORE I make the actual soup I want to eat. And as for the books that tell me to befriend my "local butcher" and get spare parts for stock... are you kidding me?

So no, you won't catch me telling you to go out and make your own stock. I am particular about the chicken broth I buy, though. I find most to be tinny and way too salty. I prefer a specific type of Swanson's Broth. I buy Swanson's Natural Goodness Chicken Broth with 33% reduced sodium. And when I want to make soup, I can get started immediately. I need soup for real life.

This soup is a riff on one of my favorite soups from Ina Garten - The Barefoot Contessa. I love her cookbooks; everything I've ever made of hers has turned out great. In general, she is very sensible about everyday cooking for everyday people. Although she is definitely in the "you must make your own stock" camp, I forgive her the transgression since she's contributed in so many other ways to my kitchen.

Despite the dairy in this soup, I've found that it freezes just fine. It makes a lot, but that just means more for your freezer!

Corn and Kielbasa Chowder
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
makes 12 cups

14 oz. beef kielbasa, sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 T. olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced small
1 T. butter (optional)
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. freshly gound black pepper
1/2 t. ground turmeric (doesn't add much flavor but contributes a lovely yellow hue)
6 c. chicken broth
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into 1/4" dice
24 oz. frozen sweet yellow corn
1 c. half & half
8 oz. extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat until shimmering, and then add kielbasa in a single layer to the pot. Cook until brown on one side, and then flip and brown the other side. Remove kielbasa with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Check the amount of fat in the pot, and add the butter if it looks like you might need more to sautee the onions. If you have plenty, skip that step. Add the onions and sautee until translucent, around 6-8 minutes.

Add the flour, pepper and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes or so, just long enough to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add the chicken broth and the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for around 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the reserved kielbasa, the corn, half & half, and the cheese, stirring until the cheese melts. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning.

Serve hot, with some more cheese garnished on top if you like.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bowl Full of Autumn: Spicy Sausage, Wild Rice, and Butternut Squash Soup

It's absolutely dumping rain here today, and on top of that it's windy. Not that it's too surprising... we do live in Washington State. But I can no longer deny that summer is over and fall has arrived. On the bright side, a day like today is perfect for making soup! Additionally, it's exactly the right kind of day to make soup with full-on fall flavors. Sausage, butternut squash, wild rice, and kale all simmered together into a bowl of Autumn.

I love this soup because it was the very first time I made something without a recipe. Until this point I had been notorious (as most people who spend a lot of time in the kitchen are) for using a recipe as a guideline and tweaking it to adjust to my own taste. After a couple months of making a variety of soups from different cookbooks,  I decided one day that I would try and make "Cause it Sounds Good Soup." Which is to say that I simply looked around the fridge and pantry, gathered what sounded delicious, and went for it. Stone Soup, so to speak.

The end result turned out to be one of my favorites. Unfortunately, my husband also loves it, so there is often a bit of treachery involved on my part to get my fair share. I'm not above hiding my 1/2 cup containers in the back of the freezer. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Spicy Sausage, Wild Rice, and Butternut Squash Soup
makes 9 cups

16 oz. hot Italian ground sausage (not links)
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups. diced yellow onion (about 1 large onion)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried oregano
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 c. wild rice blend (I used Lundberg Wild Blend, a mix of wild & whole grain brown rice)
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced butternut squash (I'm sometimes lazy and buy this already diced for me)
2 cups chopped kale, center ribs removed

Heat heavy-bottomed soup pot with 1 T. olive oil. Add sausage and cook until it is all the way cooked through, breaking up with a spoon as you go. Remove sausage from pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

Add onion to pot and sautee until soft, but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add in garlic and sautee additional 30 seconds. Stir in red pepper flakes, thyme, and oregano and sautee another 30 seconds. Add rice, carrots, and celery and sautee around 4 more minutes, or until carrots and celery soften slighty. Add back in the sausage and the chicken broth.

Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer covered, stirring occassionally, for approximately 30 minutes, or until rice is al dente. Add kale and butternut squash and simmer (still covered) another 5 minutes, or until squash is just tender and kale is cooked down. Serve with a generous sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

This soup thickens quite a bit upon standing. When you reheat it, you can add additional broth to thin it a bit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Edamame... a Souper Food: Creamy Edamame, Lime, and Coconut Soup

For my birthday in June I got an immersion blender from my in-laws. Because they are foodies themselves, they bought a really nice and powerful one... it's like zooming an outboard motor around inside a soup pot! Which is good when you're trying to blend an edamame soup. Edamame (or soy beans, but ed-uh-mah-may is soooo much more fun to say!) might be a serious super food -packed with protein, high in fiber, and sporting a delicious mild, nutty flavor- but the skins won't blend without a fight. If you don't have a good immersion blender, a regular blender will do the job nicely... or a food processor if you are good at that sort of thing. I've never successfully blended soup in my processor without getting it all over the kitchen. Literally. (Hence the request for the immersion blender for my birthday.)

I've had some requests to post a soup that is puréed, so it can be eaten early on in the recovery stage from surgery. Before I started making my own soups, I ate a lot of cream of chicken soup during this phase. The kind that comes in a red & white can. It tastes really good the first time you have it, because all you've tasted recently is liquids. But very shortly you really can't stand the thought of another meal of cream of chicken soup. No lie.

Today's Creamy Edamame, Lime, and Coconut Soup will wake up your taste buds with its fresh Thai-inspired flavors. The different ingredients balance perfectly against each other, and it has just the right amount of heat from the red pepper and ginger, tang from the lime, and creamy luciousness from the coconut milk. I know this is one I will be making over and over again.

Creamy Edamame, Lime, and Coconut Soup
makes 6 cups

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. diced yellow onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
1 large clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 T. grated fresh ginger
4 c. frozen shelled edamame (no need to thaw first)
4 c. chicken broth
zest from 1 lime
3 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 c. canned coconut milk, shaken well before opening  (not the sweetened stuff you put in cocktails!)

Heat olive oil in heavy-bottomed soup pot until hot but not smoking. Add in onions, and sautee over medium heat until they are very tender, but not browned, around 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and fresh ginger and sautee an additional 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add in edamame and sautee together for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are all coated together.

Add in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, lime zest, and coconut milk. Let cool slightly and then puree it all together. (In the pot if you are using an immersion blender, or in batches if you are using a blender.)

Serve with a drizzle of sour cream if you like, and an additional sprinkling of lime zest.

**Reheat gently as coconut milk can be kind of a sensitive ingredient, and won't appreciate a full boil.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Behind Every Great Meal There's a Great Soup:Kung Pao Chicken Soup

A year down the road from surgery and I find I can eat pretty much anything I want. I've been lucky not to have too many problems with "regular" food. Well, except pancakes. I had kind of an ugly break up with pancakes. (It was me, not them.)

What do I really want now that I can eat whatever? Still soup! I love the way soup makes me feel: it's comforting, feels good on my stomach, and since I usually eat it out of a coffee mug, warms up my perpetually cold hands. 

But just because I crave soup all the time doesn't mean that I want to forget about everything else. BBQ chicken is still awfully tasty, you know. So here's the thing... I don't see why I can't take some of those traditional foods and turn them into soup. I want to have my cake and eat it too! Metaphorically, at least.... Cake Soup doesn't actually sound very yummy.

Today's soup came from a recent trip to the grocery store. There's a Chinese Food Buffet right in the front of the store and it usually smells great. Granted, it's a grocery store, so it doesn't always taste great, but the smell will suck you in every time. I had this thought, "We haven't had Chinese food in a really long time." Which was immediately followed by this thought, "Ooooh, I bet I could make a SOUP outta that!"

Obsession is perhaps too mild a word...

Gather the ingredients... Kung Pao Chicken Soup!

Sauteeing the garlic and red pepper flakes... sticking your nose over
the pot at this stage and sniffing appreciatively will cause
you to cough. A lot. Don't ask how I know that.

A note about broccoli slaw... I LOVE this stuff! I always
hated the crumbly texture of the heads of broccoli. Blech! With the slaw
I get the flavor, a satisfying crunch, and all the prep work is done for me. Score!

It turned out great! But it won't work in one of those little take-out containers very well...

I found this to have a pleasant, but not searing, heat. If you like your kung pao chicken to pack more of a punch simply increase the amount of red pepper flakes or even stir a bit of sriracha into the soup at the end. Also, I did not add salt to the soup at any point. Between the broth, soy sauce, and the peanuts, there's plenty of built-in seasoning!

Kung Pao Chicken Soup
makes 7 cups

4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 16 oz.)
1 T. rice wine
1 T. plus 1/4 c. soy sauce - divided
1 T. vegetable oil
1 T. sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 t. red pepper flakes
12 oz. bag of broccoli slaw
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1/2 c. chopped green onions
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. dry-roasted peanuts plus additional for garnish
1 T. rice vinegar

Marinate the chicken thigh pieces in the refrigerator with 1 T. rice wine and 1 T. soy sauce for about 20 minutes.

Put 1 cup of dry-roasted peanuts into food processor and blend together until it forms a thick paste. Set aside.

Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in soup pot until hot, but not smoking. Stir in garlic and sautee briefly, just until fragrant. Add in red pepper flakes and sautee 30 seconds longer. Add in the broccoli slaw and sautee together until broccoli has softened slightly, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in ginger and green onions and sautee 1 minute more.

Add chicken broth, 1/4 cup soy sauce, and the peanut paste to the pot, stirring frequently to break up the paste. Bring to a simmer. Drain chicken, and add to pot, simmering gently for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is just cooked through. Stir in 1 T. rice vinegar.

Serve with additional chopped peanuts sprinkled on top.

Now, did someone mention BBQ Chicken?

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Lie

How sad is this? I'm only on my second post, and I've already broken a promise. I know I said I was going to make Sausage and Wild Rice Soup and post it, and I had such good intentions. But it's nice and warm out, the sun is shining (and if you live anywhere near the Pacific Northwest you know how rare that has been this year!) and it just didn't feel like a sausage and wild rice kind of day. That's a soup that fully embraces fall, and I'm not feeling the love for autumn yet.

But it did absolutely feel like the kind of day where the bright taste of lemon would be perfect. So I decided to make a version of Greek Egg and Lemon Soup (Avgolemono). And to be honest, part of my decision was fueled by the fact that I had a rotisserie chicken chilled in the fridge and needed to use it.

Now, before you look at my recipe and go all Greek-Grandma-Ninja on me, I will fully admit that I have never had this soup before and am not sure at all what an authentic version would taste like. I do know, however, that whatever you want to call this, I am seriously grooving on it.

I started by looking at a couple of different recipes. The New England Soup Factory Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from the Nation's Best Purveyor of Fine Soup used a great technique for creating egg "ribbons" which I liked. But their soup only used one cup of cooked chicken for 10 cups of broth, and I wanted a lot more protein. Also, they used spinach, and I'm more of a kale girl myself. (I suspect at some point in the future I will wax enthusiastically on and on about kale, so you might want to mentally prepare yourself for that.) The cookbook Soup for Every Body: Low-Carb, High-Protein, Vegetarian, and More included onions, carrots, and celery, which added color and another flavor base. Now I had a good starting point!

First things first... dice and chop and prep.

Then begin! Sautee a cup of diced onions in 2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a soup pot until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add one clove of pressed garlic, and sautee another 30 seconds. Then add 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, one peeled and diced carrot, and one diced stalk of celery. Sautee for 2-3 more minutes, or until vegetables are beginning to soften.

Smells like the start of soup!

Add 6 cups of chicken stock. No, I didn't make my own. Yes, I'm okay with that. Bring to a boil, and when it's boiling, add 1/2 cup of orzo. Simmer for 5 minutes until the orzo is almost cooked, but not quite al dente yet.

Now comes the fun part... egg ribbons! Whisk 3 large eggs in a small bowl, and drizzle into the simmering soup, stirring the whole time. Lovely shreds of eggs will form in the soup. It looks like a lot, I know, but when you add the remaining ingredients it will all blend nicely.

Once the egg ribbons are formed you add the rest of your soup ingredients. 6 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 Tablespoons of grated lemon zest, 4 cups chopped cooked chicken (which coincidentally is exactly what I got from my Costco rotisserie chicken... imagine that!), and 2 cups packed chopped kale. Continue to gently simmer until the kale is wilted, chicken is cooked through, and the orzo is tender. Taste, and adjust your seasonings. I like things pretty darn lemony, so I snuck in another tablespoon of lemon juice, but most people don't like things as tangy as I do. 

Waiting for the kale to cook down... kind of impatiently.

The best part about this is how terrifically high in protein it is. I ran the numbers and a one-cup serving has nearly 30 grams of protein (I got 29.8) which means that my half-cup portion is good for about 15 grams of protein served up in lemony deliciousness.

Yes, please!

Greek-Style Egg, Lemon, and Chicken Soup with Orzo and Kale
Adapted from New England Factory Cookbook and Soup for Every Body
Makes 10 cups

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. diced onion
1 clove of garlic, pressed
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 t. dried thyme
6 c. chicken stock (I prefer Swanson's Natural Goodness)  
1/2 c. orzo
3 eggs, whisked together in a small bowl
6 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T. grated lemon zest (from about 2 large, or 3 smaller lemons)
4 c. chopped cooked chicken
2 c. packed chopped kale, ribs removed

Heat olive oil in soup pot until hot, but not smoking. Add onions and sautee until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and sautee 30 seconds longer. Add thyme, carrots, and celery, and continue to sautee until vegetables are almost softened, about 3-5 minutes longer.

Add chicken broth to pot and bring to a boil. When boiling, add orzo and simmer for 5 minutes.

Gently pour whisked eggs in a slow stream into simmering soup, stirring constantly to create egg ribbons. Once ribbons have formed, add lemon juice, zest, chicken and kale, and continue to simmer until kale is cooked, chicken is heated through, and orzo is tender, about 5 minutes.

Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Year of Soup

On October 7th, it will have been one year since I made one of the biggest leaps of faith and came to one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. After years of battling my weight I had gastric sleeve surgery, and life forever altered for me. I have watched in disbelief over this past year as weight melted off of me of its own volition. I swear, it was like an out-of-body experience.

Before the surgery I was trying to stay active and enjoy the things I like most in life. Travel, hiking, my family. It just kept getting harder and harder as the weight strained my body past its limits. My knees hurt. My back hurt. I was pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I was a poster-child for morbid obesity.

After my surgery, I began a love-affair with soup. I had always liked soup anyway, but for some reason, my new-shaped stomach really really REALLY loved it! It loved soup on a direct proportion to how much it HATED the protein shakes. I have much hatred for protein shakes, let me tell you.

At first I tried canned soups, but they were mushy, and salty, and just plain blechy. That was a definite no-go. So I started making my own. It was good, and full of protein (so THERE, you stupid shakes!), and comforting too. So I made more, and then more, and even more. Okay, to be honest, I became soup-obsessed. At times our freezer was stocked completely full of little 1/2 cup containers of frozen soup. Ham and Lima, Corn and Bacon Chowder, Sausage and Wild Rice, Butternut Squash and Cannellini. Little containers of soup gold in their very own freezer mine.

I started this blog because I'd like to share my soupy success with others. You don't have to have had weight-loss surgery to enjoy these soups. The rest of my family likes them really well too... when I share. Next time I post, I'll put up one of our all-time favorites... Sausage and Wild Rice Soup.

Soup: Good for the mind, soul, and body.