Tag Archives: soup

Cooking Food

Ajiaco

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 7 years since my trip to Colombia, and it feels like almost 7 years since I’ve posted. It’s all good though…I’ve been busy living my offline life. It’s been a little over a year since I jumped ship and became my own boss again, which has been fantastic and full of wonderful people and interesting work. I’ve been shuttling people around to volleyball-related things. I injured my knee and recovered (with the assistance of the physical therapists for the Padres…perhaps just a little overkill for my esteemed neighborhood running career). And we just got off of FaceTime with my 3-year-old niece who calls us when she needs to be coached through pooping. I’m so glad she thought of us.

We got some winter beach days in too, which is always nice — I love it when the beaches are pretty empty.

This springy time of year always reminds me of Bogota for some reason, and the delicious soup that we ate at our hosts’ farm, serenaded by peacocks. Ajiaco is a Colombian soup in a delicious broth, with a hearty helping of vegetables. The potatoes they use in Colombia aren’t available here, as far as I can see, but we can get pretty close. Spring is such a hybrid type of season that ajiaco — with its mix of rich broth and fresh ingredients — seems a perfect fit.

AJIACO by Tania Sigal from Fine Cooking

For the soup:
  • 3 lb. cut-up chicken, skin removed, rinsed well
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only), cut into 1-inch rings, and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 ears fresh corn, cut crosswise into quarters
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 lb. Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3/4 lb. small red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
For the aji:
  • 4 scallions (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled and seeded
  • 1 small white onion, peeled
  • 2 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles or 2 fresh hot red chiles, stems and seeds removed (wear gloves, and don’t touch your eyes)
  • 3 Tbs. fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 Tbs. white vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
For the garnishes:
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup nonpareil or other small capers, rinsed and drained (if using large capers, chop them coarsely)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Make the soup:

Put the chicken in a large (at least 8-quart) stockpot and add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, frequently skimming off the foam that floats to the surface.

Add all the vegetables, the garlic, the cilantro, and the bouillon cubes to the pot, along with the salt and pepper. Stir a few times to distribute the vegetables and submerge as many of the solids as possible. When the broth returns to a gentle boil, partially cover the pot and simmer, stirring once or twice, for 1-1/2 hours. Taste for salt and add more if needed.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, pick out the chicken pieces and put them on a large plate. Stir the soup with a large spoon, breaking up some of the potatoes to thicken the soup slightly. Keep hot if serving soon or let cool and refrigerate.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones and shred it by hand. Discard the bones and tendons, and put the shredded chicken in a serving bowl.

Make the aji:

In a food processor, pulse all the aji ingredients until they’re finely minced. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Serve the ajiaco:

Put the avocados, sour cream or creme fraiche, capers and cilantro leaves in small bowls and set them on the table along with the bowls of shredded chicken and the aji. Reheat the soup if necessay and ladle it into large soup bowls, putting a quater ear of corn in each bowl. Let your guests add the garnishes and the aji as they like.

Make Ahead Tips

The soup and the aji can be made a day ahead. If the soup is too thick after it’s reheated, thin it with a little water.

Cooking Food

How to Make Bone Broth in a Slow Cooker

Every once in a while, things I grew up with in my Chinese-American household manage to become the latest craze. Supplementary math books, growth mindset, and now: bone broth.

I’ve read tales of people queuing for these magical cups of inflammation-reducing, hair-skin-and-nail-enhancing elixir. While those appear to be attractive benefits of drinking broth, there’s another good reason to give it a try: it tastes really good. And after I have broth, I feel really good.

I’ve been drinking a lot of broth lately because I have a bum knee. For years, running has been my outlet for stress and my ticket to a decent night’s sleep, but years of aggressively pounding on concrete is finally catching up with me. I’ve had pain off and on for a couple of years now, but I really can’t run without pain anymore, and now it’s starting to hurt sometimes when I walk (never mind the gross popping sound it’s making now too). I’m seeing a doctor tomorrow, but for now, broth tides me over.

Sipping broth is a spiritual experience. It feels to me like serenity and replenishment. In our crazy lives there are so few things in life that we can control, so when there are opportunities to create serenity — in my case, like buying a really quiet dishwasher and oven. Broth is way cheaper than either of those!

My daughter made an Asian-style broth in a slow cooker; check out the video below to find out how!


SLOW-COOKER BONE BROTH

Ingredients

  • 1-2 pounds of bones (I like to use a mix of bone types, like chicken and pork; make sure you have a mix of meaty bones and bones with tendon and cartilage, so you get both flavor and collagen into your broth. I save my bones from roasts in the freezer for when I’m ready to make broth.)
  • 1 whole onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally
  • 1 TSBP whole ginger root
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • Water

Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan and sear the onion and garlic til browned. Keep them in big chunks as cut so they’re easier to fish out after cooking. Add to slow cooker. Add in bones, ginger and mushrooms, and fill the slow cooker pot with water until just 1 inch below the upper rim.

Cook for 1 hour on high and then 15-23 hours on low. Occasionally skim fat and other matter that floats to the top off the surface of the broth (I find that when I use bones from previous roasts, there’s very little cloudiness to the broth and you don’t have to worry about skimming much. I also prefer the flavor from pre-roasted bones).

 

Take out the solids (or pour the liquid through a strainer into a large bowl), season with salt as desired, and enjoy! If you want to keep an ongoing broth factory, just keep adding water, bones and veggies (feel free to experiment!) to leftover broth and cook — the flavor will become more complex over time.

 

Cooking Food

Lentil Sausage Soup

Ok, I’m going to tell you something about me that you can’t tell anyone who lives in California: I like hot dogs.

And I have a couple of packs of them in the freezer.

So I was excited when I saw this recipe from Ina Garten on a cold Sunday night, because it was a super-healthy and flavorful looking soup, mostly. Last time I looked I could not find sausage or hot dogs on any healthiest foods list, but I think life is all about balance so if you have a bunch of healthy, yummy ingredients in your recipe they should balance out the indulgent things. This is how I end up eating fruit-flavored ice creams. (If you follow  my Facebook page, you’ll know that I recently made ice cream for the first time, and am sort of wishing that my eyes were never opened to what’s actually in it.)

This soup is a lot yummier than it looks….and while it’s not the most colorful soup ever, it’s a nice, hearty meal for a winter’s eve.

I didn’t take any pictures of the “making of” this time, sorry. I was too preoccupied with my hair. Here’s what’s going on with it:

  • I’ve been afraid to get it cut again for fear of disrupting my Tokyo haircut. That haircut is magical — completely no-maintenance and for the first time ever I actually kind of have volume. Next time you see Crystal Gayle, you’ll do a double-take and then realize that it’s just me.
  • I have actually been curling my hair to make it look shorter. This has resulted in a co-worker calling me San-do-ra in the office. It makes me look like I’m ready to go out on the town…in a 1950s kind of way.
Curled hair portrait, courtesy of photographer age 9, via Instagram

Anyway, it’s fun to mix it up every once in a while. Apologies for going on about it. There aren’t many women at the office and sometimes I just want to talk about my hair.

Back to the recipe. When I made it I substituted hot dogs for kielbasa, just because I had them. Make up a batch and enjoy it for a few days!

LENTIL SAUSAGE SOUP (from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound French green lentils (recommended: du Puy)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (2 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock, recipe follows, or canned broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound kielbasa, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
Preparation

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the kielbasa and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Makes 8-10 servings.

HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK

Ingredients

  • 3 (5-pound) chickens
  • 3 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
  • 6 carrots, unpeeled and halved
  • 4 celery stalks with leaves, cut in thirds
  • 4 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in 1/2, optional
  • 20 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 15 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 20 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
Preparation

Place the chickens, onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, salt, and peppercorns in a 16 to 20-quart stockpot with 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Skim the surface as needed. Simmer uncovered for 4 hours. Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander, discarding the chicken and vegetables, and chill. Discard the hardened fat, and then pack the broth in quart containers.

 

Yield: 6 quarts

 

Cooking Food

Ham and Split Pea Soup

 

It’s been a cold winter here in southern California — and I’m talking about a greater than +/- 5 degree variance in temperature. Scoff if you like, but cold is relative. Like the saying goes, a sweater is what you put on when your mother is cold.

Cold weather puts me in the mood for hearty stews. I like my hearty stews chunky (I like my peanut butter, however, smooth, and my beverages shaken, not stirred — as if I knew the difference).

A lot of my cooking is done Iron Chef-style, with whatever happens to be in the fridge (tonight, for instance, I made a cauliflower and leek soup using some leftover garlic butter made a few days back and chicken stock — and it was lovely), and what I love about this is that it feels a bit like a scavenger’s soup, delicious edition. I made this batch after Christmas with leftover ham and brought it on our ski trip. It would have been a little more wonderful if my friend (who was in charge of dinner the first night) hadn’t brought an 8.5 pound ham, and if we hadn’t had ham in every iteration thereafter. Also, if I didn’t have to ski so much. But I still do love ham and split pea soup.

My favorite part of skiing is that kids look like cute little astronauts with no joints. Based on that I am sure you have deduced that I am an excellent skier.

The best version of split pea soup I’ve had comes from The New Best Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which is one of my go-to cookbooks despite not having a single photograph in it that would qualify as food porn — so that is saying a lot.

Start by simmering the ham for 2-2.5 hours, til the meat falls off the bone. This makes flavor for the broth.

Take the ham meat and bone out; add split peas and thyme and simmer 45 minutes. When the ham’s cool enough, shred the meat. You’ll want to devour all the tender meat immediately, but try to hold off.

Saute onion, carrots and celery in oil, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes til they’re really brown and caramelized. More flavor!

Add the veggies, potatoes and shredded ham into the soup and simmer about 20 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

HAM AND SPLIT PEA SOUP (Cook’s Illustrated)

Ingredients

  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 piece (about 2.5 pounds) smoked, bone-in picnic ham
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 pound (1.5 cups) split peas, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped medium
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped medium
  • 2 medium celery ribs, chopped medium
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • pinch sugar
  • 3 small new potatoes, scrubbed and diced medium
  • ground black pepper
  • minced red onion (optional)
  • balsamic vinegar

Preparation

  • Bring the water, ham and bay leaves to a boil in a large soup kettle, covered, over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meat is tender and pulls away from the bone, 2 to 2.5 hours. Remove the ham meat and bone from the broth; add the split peas and thyme and simmer until the peas are tender but not dissolved, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, when the ham is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces and set aside. Discard the rind and bone.
  • While the ham is simmering, heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots and celery; saute, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid evaporates and the vegetables begin to brown, 5-6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the butter, garlic and sugar. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 30-35 minutes; set aside.
  • Add the sauteed vegetables, potatoes and shredded ham to the soup; simmer until the potatoes are tender and the peas dissolve and thicken the soup to the consistency of light cream, about 20 minutes more (I still like my peas intact but very tender, so shortened this by 5 minutes). Season with pepper ot taste. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with the red onion, if using, and serve, passing the balsamic vinegar separately.

The recipe says that it serves 6, but I find it serves more like 8-10.

Cooking Food Popular

Guest Post: Creamy Zucchini Soup

My wedding anniversary’s coming up, so I just had a flashback to the first time I was going to cook for my mother-in-law, and my then-fiance just let it slip that his mother “used to run a cooking school in France.” Oh. Thanks for letting me know, because the last time I trained at the Cordon Bleu was never.

Needless to say, my mother-in-law is an amazing cook. I’ll be putting forks on the table or something and then turn around to her making a flambe of some sort that, had I tried, would have resulted in loss of eyebrows and hair. She’s also a well-known art journalist, whereas I am a famous…uh, let me get back to you on that one.

So when she said she’d share a recipe for my blog, I was excited. And she has shared one that even I, trained only by cookbooks and the seat of my pants, can execute.

*  * *

GUEST POST: MY MOTHER-IN-LAW GEORGINA

Here is an addition to the SOUP KITCHEN that is so darn easy that it seems unfair, if not outright EVIL. I mean, how can you possibly produce a delicious soup with just TWO ingredients? (Not counting water, salt and pepper). And one you can have hot or cold?

My family has forbidden me to say “this is soooo easy” so let me just say, this is not difficult. Not even a tiny bit difficult. In fact, a child could make it. And kids generally love it!

Ingredients for four:

Three average size zucchini (we in Britain call them courgettes, which must be French originally, showing how multicultural we are…)

three squares of Kiri, or Philadelphia cream cheese

water, salt, pepper

Er- that’s it.

 

Wash the zucchini, top and tail them, slice into one inch rounds, just cover with water, season, boil until soft.

Use a wand blender to liquidize until smooth with the cream cheese (I use low fat but of course it tastes better with full fat). Adjust seasoning.

That’s it! You can serve hot, sprinkled with chopped chives, basil or parsley; or cold in small glasses as a pre-starter.

* * *

Thanks Georgina! And before we close I just had to share one of the shots that I took. As you’ve probably guessed, I do my own photography and styling (with lighting courtesy of the sun). I was trying to unwrinkle the cloth under the soup but it was stubborn, so I tried sliding myself under the table stretching out the fabric, holding an ab-crunch position to stay out of camera view, while using the remote function on the camera. It didn’t work out so well.

CREAMY ZUCCHINI SOUP

Ingredients

  • 3 zucchini
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • water (enough to cover zucchini in pot)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Slice the tops and tails off the zucchini and cut into 1 inch rounds. Place in a pot and fill with water enough to just cover the zucchini. Season with a dash of salt and boil until soft, about 15 minutes.

Using a blender, blend the zucchini and water mixture until smooth. Add in the cream cheese and blend to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Cooking Food

Red Pepper Soup

I am extra-specially-excited to share this recipe with you today because I have just made this spectacular red pepper soup in anticipation of having my friends Christine and Dirk, who care deeply about food, over for dinner. It’s so lovely and silky and has the perfect combination of sweet and slightly tangy and it makes you feel like you’re doing pliés with a very long flowing ribbon against a perfectly impressionist out-of-focus background.

I first had this soup at a baby shower for my friend Heidi. It was a lovely shower, where instead of gifts she requested blessings written on pretty cards for the baby. Now, having gone to many showers, I am actually quite skilled at baby shower games — including the ones, strangely, that you win by chance — and probably should have reported all those winnings as taxable income. But now that my friends aren’t having so many babies anymore, I’m a little more out of practice, so I was happy to try out this new format. With the close-knit and cozy nature of the shower, and the very personal and heartfelt nature of the blessings, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. For me, especially, since I was probably over-hydrated after having at least four helpings of this soup. See if you can get away with less than four.

Sadly, I don’t know to whom to attribute this recipe. It was passed along by the woman who prepared it, Shannon, who got it from a cooking course she took.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what you’ll need:

Red Pepper Soup Ingredients

Ok, you’ll need a few other things that aren’t pictured, but I forgot to put them in the family picture. Sorry.

Start by slicing up all the veggies and fruit.

Sliced Peppers

Sliced pears

Heat up butter and olive oil in a pot, and throw in all the veggies and fruit. Don’t be alarmed if the pot looks very full, as the they’ll wilt down a bit. Add in 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper. Start the mood music.

Veggies in pot

You’ll want to cook until the veggies are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add in 4 cups chicken stock and 1 tsp honey, and cook for another 30 minutes. Add in the salt and pepper and adjust to taste.

Blend it in batches til it’s all silky smooth. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, or greens.

Blender
Yeah, I know, this is just a picture of my blender. I took it, so I'm putting it in.

This really is one of my all-time favorite soups. What are yours?

Red Pepper Soup

RED PEPPER SOUP

Ingredients

  • 8 red peppers
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 3 shallots, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 4 pears, peeled and quartered
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 TBSP (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp crushed dried red pepper
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt / ground pepper to taste
  • Optional: sour cream, herbs to garnish

Preparation

Slice the peppers, carrots, shallots, and garlic. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add in vegetables, garlic, dried red pepper  and pears (at first I typed “bears”. You definitely want “pears” for this one.). Cook until softened, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add in the chicken stock and honey, and cook for another 30 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender and pour back into the pot. Reheat over low heat, garnish with a dollop of sour cream or herbs, and serve.

Serves 4-6.