Hearty Lentil Minestrone

I’m not sure if any of you have the same problem that I do, but seem to always wind up with bits and pieces of vegetables, pasta, grains, etc, lying around my refrigerator and pantry after I’ve used up a portion for a recipe. One of my ongoing goals is the fight against food waste… I’m better than I used to be, but I still tend to wind up with veggies that go bad, or jars with small amounts of grains in my pantry that sit there for months. Not only wasteful, but bad for my budget as well.  This soup is the perfect solution. Not only is it delicious, but it is perfect to use up some of those odds and ends! This recipe comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks Love Real Food. Written by the author of the fabulous vegetarian food blog “Cookie and Kate”, it’s one of those cookbooks that I flipped through and wanted to make all the recipes immediately. I’ve tried several so far, and have been impressed with all of them. Not only are they delicious, they are healthy as well!

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I really try hard to always make a healthy lunch to bring to work during the week, and especially in the colder months, soups are the perfect thing. They last all week, are on the healthier side, are cozy and comforting, and are one of those meals that seem to improve as the days go by. Also, seeing as Ron doesn’t like soups or stews, making them for myself for lunch during the week is the perfect way to satisfy my pretty much daily soup craving.

Hearty Lentil Minestrone

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup butternut squash, chopped (or other seasonal veggies)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, with juices
3/4 cup lentils (green or brown)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pasta (orecchiette, elbow or shell), whole wheat or regular
1 15-oz can great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chopped Kale, curly or lacinato (aka Tuscan or Dinosaur), ribs removed
2 teaspoons lemon juice, more to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan (omit if Vegan)

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or soup pot), over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, and a pinch of salt, and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the veggies are softened.
  2. Add the butternut squash, garlic, oregano and thyme, and cook for a couple of minutes until you can smell the garlic and herbs, stirring often. Then add the water, vegetable broth, tomatoes with their juices, lentils, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil over medium high, and once boiling, lower to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While simmering, cover partially with a lid.
  3. Uncover pot, and add the kale, pasta, and beans. Simmer for another 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, and the pasta is al dente.
  4. Turn off heat, and remove the bay leaves. Add the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more lemon juice if desired. Serve with some freshly grated parmesan if you’d like!

Source: Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor

Notes:

This soup can be varied in so many ways to make use of what you have in your fridge/pantry. Don’t have great northern beans, use cannellini or chickpeas! Don’t have butternut squash? Use potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, summer squash, etc. You could throw in some fresh tomatoes along with the canned, or corn, or peas if you want. If you don’t have kale, I bet Swiss chard or spinach would be a good substitute. Don’t have lemons? I bet a couple teaspoons of red wine vinegar would work instead. Seriously, this soup is so versatile!

 

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Summer Vegetable Soup

Every week I try to make a healthy lunch that will last me for the week. I love not having to put something together every single night… and I feel much better about taking something homemade rather than store-bought (although sometimes in a pinch that stuff is awesome!). Soups make a great lunch. Usually they taste even better after sitting for a couple of days as it allows the flavors to meld together. This vegetable soup is a delicious, healthy, and very customizable recipe that made for an awesome lunch. You can use pretty much any vegetable you have on hand, mix and match depending on your own personal preferences, use up frozen vegetables from the freezer, and little bits of leftover pasta. This was a great recipe to use in my quest to clean out my fridge/freezer/pantry. I had an open bag of frozen peas that I threw into this, a bit of Israeli couscous, some red potatoes that were on their last hurrah, a can of cannellini beans that has been in my pantry forever, and all I had to buy was some zucchini, vegetable stock and green beans. You can throw in some diced sweet potatoes, fresh tomatoes instead of canned, yellow squash, spinach, leeks instead of onions… the sky’s the limit.

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, quartered and sliced thin

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or more, if desired to make the soup broth-ier)

1-2 small zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans (or Navy beans)

5 small red potatoes, diced

1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)- I omitted this because I didn’t have any

1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen), cut into 1-inch pieces

1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

3/4 tsp Kosher salt

1/8 tsp tumeric

2-4 ounces Israeli couscous (or other small pasta shape), optional

2 Tbsp tomato paste

Directions:

1. Place a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3-4 minutes, until softened.

2. Add the vegetable broth, zucchini, beans, potatoes, peas, corn, green beans, diced tomatoes and juice, salt, pepper, and tumeric. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. If you are using pasta, add when there is about 10-15 minutes left of cooking time.

3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the tomato paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Source: barely adapted from Prevention RD (originally adapted from food.com)

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I bet that chicken soup is a comfort food for a huge number of people out there, and rightfully so in my opinion.  It’s something many of us associate with childhood, and our mothers. It’s something I crave in the winter, and especially when I’m under the weather. I made this soup a few weeks ago when I was nursing a seemingly never-ending cold. One that seems to have finally gone away- I’d like to attribute that to this soup! This is my favorite quick and easy version of chicken soup. It is from the wonderful cookbook Fresh Flavor Fast, which comes from the people over at Everyday Food, one of my most favorite cooking magazines that unfortunately is no longer a standalone magazine. That magazine, this cookbook, and the other two in this series- Great Food Fast and Everyday Food: Light, I seem to turn to again and again for reliable and delicious weeknight meals. This soup comes together relatively quickly, uses some shortcuts such as store-bought chicken broth, but cooks in such a way that imparts it with so much flavor. Sauteing the onions and poaching the chicken in the chicken broth really work to make this soup so flavorful.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
32-oz low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup wild-rice blend
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8 oz), or 8 oz boneless skinless chicken breast 
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
4 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot, preferably a dutch oven. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until onion starts to soften, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth, rice, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 35 minutes.
2. Add chicken, carrots, and celery. Return soup to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Remove the chicken, and shred.
3. Return the shredded chicken to the pot, and season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Potato and Leek Soup

For about a week now I’ve been sick with a energy-sapping, tastebud destroying, cold.  One of the worst things to someone who loves food is not being able to taste fully, and so I’ve desperately been trying to make myself well.  I’m thinking some old-fashioned chicken soup might be just the thing I need to make so look for that post soon (I have a quick chicken and wild rice soup that is delicious).  But before I lost my sense of taste completely I decided that since I was in need of a comforting, soul-warming soup, I’d try Julia Child’s recipe for Potage Parmentier.  Since fall began I’ve been in the mood to delve deeper into Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and so lately it’s been my nightly reading.  The first chapter is on soups, and the very first soup in the book is this potato and leek soup, and it sounded like it couldn’t be easier.  Simmer some potatoes and leeks in water, then blend and add a little butter or cream for richness? That’s pretty much the easiest recipe ever, and easy sounded especially good to me this week in the midst of my cold.

Potato and Leek Soup
Potage Parmentier
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Makes about 2 quarts (6 to 8 servings)

Ingredients:
1 lb (3 to 4 cups) peeled potatoes, sliced or diced (3 to 4 cups)
1 lb leeks (3 cups), thinly sliced including the tender green; or 3 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 quarts water
1 tbsp salt
4 to 6 tbsp whipping cream; or 2 to 3 tbsp softened butter
2 to 3 tbsp parsley or chives, minced
Directions:
1. Place a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, or dutch oven over medium heat and add potatoes, leeks, water, and salt. Simmer together for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
2. Mash the vegetables together with a fork, transfer to a food processor, blend (in small batches) in a blender, pass through a food mill, or blend together with a stick blender until the soup is smooth.
3. Season to taste with salt (and pepper if desired)
4. Remove the soup from the heat, and add the cream or butter just before serving. Pour into a soup tureen, or individual bowls, and garnish with the fresh herbs.
Notes:
  • I used my stick blender to blend the soup and it worked perfectly to give it a beautiful, smooth consistency.  Julia Child says that she is partial to a food mill for this soup, but since I don’t have a food mill, I couldn’t try it her way.  
  • I was right in my assessment that this would be an easy recipe- it came together extremely quickly (other than the longish simmering time), and would be a great starter for an elegant meal, when you want it to look fancy, but don’t want to cook something extremely involved.

Tomato and Almond Gazpacho

One of my favorite dishes that I cooked (well, I use the term “cook” loosely here!) on vacation was this tomato and almond gazpacho!  It is so summery and refreshing, and has such great texture from the addition of the almonds.  They also make this soup feel so much more substantial and satisfying than gazpachos I’ve had in the past (although I like those too).  Even my brother who is not the biggest fan of soup enjoyed this recipe (well, at least that’s what he told me and I don’t think he was just being polite… hopefully).  This is the first gazpacho I’ve ever made, and it definitely makes me want to experiment more!  Since summer has unofficially ended though, the experimentation is probably going to have to wait until Memorial Day.  In fact, I had a beef and mushroom stew simmering on the stove just yesterday… perfect for fall!  
Speaking of fall, it rivals spring for my favorite season, and includes one of my favorite holidays, Halloween(!!), so hopefully I’ll be getting back to being a good blogger, and making some delicious seasonal recipes, I do love the flavors of fall dearly- I’m ready for pumpkin, apples, squash, and lots of soups and stews!


Tomato and Almond Gazpacho
from Martha Stewart Living, August 2011
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pounds tomatoes (about 4), cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 small garlic clove
2 ounces almonds (scant 1/2 cup), toasted (blanching the almonds prior is optional)
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions:
1. Place the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, almonds, water, vinegar, oil, and 2 1/4 tsp of salt in a blender, and puree until smooth.  Then season with pepper.
2. Refrigerate the gazpacho for at least 45 minutes. 
3. To serve, season with salt and pepper to taste right before serving, ladle into bowl, and drizzle with olive oil.
Notes:
  • I did not take the time to blanch the almonds when making this gazpacho, but it was delicious regardless, and the texture was great, so I’d say that’s entirely optional.
  • As I was working with limited cooking implements and ingredients as one is apt to do on vacation, I substituted cider vinegar and non-extra virgin olive oil in my gazpacho.  The original calls for extra-virgin olive oil, and sherry vinegar.  Either way you go it’ll still be wonderful, so if you don’t have sherry vinegar in your pantry, feel free to make a substitution.

New England Clam Chowder

One of my main goals during my vacation was to eat as much seafood as possible.  I love it, but I don’t buy it very often due to it’s price.  Even though I live in Connecticut, where you’d assume seafood would be abundant, it’s still often outside my limited price range.  I could certainly buy it more often, but then I’d be making ramen noodle soup more often as well.  In Chincoteague, as it’s right on the water, there is much more locally caught seafood to buy and eat, and the prices were generally much better!  I absolutely achieved my goal, and one of the ways I did that was to make the chowder twice, buying mounds of clams from Gary Howard seafood.  This is a very clammy clam chowder so if you like clams, you’ll like this!  It’s a thin, not creamy chowder, so if you are looking for something with a creamy consistency, this is not the recipe I’d personally choose for that (although I would like to try pureeing some of the potatoes in this chowder to see what it does for the thickness), but it’s super-delicious.  It’s great in larger servings for a main course, or as a first course to a meal, especially one loaded with more seafood.

New England Clam Chowder
Serves 4

Ingredients:
36 hard-shelled clams (less than 2 inches wide), such as littlenecks, scrubbed well
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 medium boiling potatoes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 bacon slices, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup half-and-half
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Directions:
1. Put the clams, and the cold water in a large pot, and place over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  When it starts to boil, cover with the lid, and steam for 5 to 8 minutes until the clams open.  Check after 5 minutes, and begin removing any that have opening.  If any are still closed, allow them to steam longer.  Discard any that haven’t opened after 8 minutes.  Strain and reserve the cooking liquid (there will be some fine grit, so use a fine-mesh sieve, or line a sieve with cheesecloth to strain out the grit).
2. When the clams can be handled, remove them from their shells, and roughly chop.
3. Peel the potatoes, and dice them into 1/4-inch pieces.
4. Place a large saucepan over medium heat, and add the butter. 
5. When the butter is melted, add the bacon, and cook until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes.
6. Add the onion, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
7. Add the potatoes, and reserved cooking liquid, and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender, 5-10 minutes.
8. Add the clams, half-and-half, and pepper to taste, and cook about 1 minute until heated through.  Do not let the chowder boil.  
9. Add the parsley.
Notes:
  • As I mentioned earlier, I’d love to puree some of the potatoes once they’re cooked as it should give the finished soup a thicker consistency. 
  • If you’d like, you can use salt pork instead of bacon, but the bacon lends a nice smokiness to the chowder.
  • It is very easy at the end for the half-and-half to separate a bit.  Mine did in fact, but it will not affect the taste or consistency if this happens a little bit, it’s more a visual thing.