Fall is my favorite time of the year, but winter has its fine points too. When rain and cold weather comes knocking, I start feeling really cozy when I think about making a pot of hearty homemade soup. It’s comfort food, but can also be a welcome addition to any dinner party, as there are recipes to suit all needs.
My favorite soups have a mixture of vegetables, perhaps some meat and something starchy such as rice, potatoes, pasta or toasted croutons. When I make a pot of soup, it is often heated up for breakfast and lunch the next day. Yes, breakfast - I have never been all that fond of typical breakfast foods, although I do love a good biscuit and sausage gravy meal, which to me, means homemade gravy made with real sausage and drippings. Well, come on, time to get in the kitchen and start creating that soup,
Using dried beans makes for a more flavorful soup, in my opinion. Regarding kale, cavalo nero, or lacinato, is a very dark type of kale. May also be called Tuscan kale.
2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, 3 minced or pressed and 1 halved
About 2 cups (10-oz. or so) cubed squash such as butternut or something similar
4 large kale leaves, preferably lacinato (sometimes called cavalo nero or Tuscan), if available, stemmed and chopped
1 medium potato, such as Yukon Gold, white or red, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
8 thick slices country style artisan bread
1. Drain beans then add them to a 3-qt. saucepan. Add half the carrots, the celery, onions and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, until beans are tender, about 40 to 45 minutes. Set 3⁄4 cup beans aside; transfer the remaining beans and their cooking liquid to a blender and puree. Set pureed beans aside.
2. In a 5-qt. pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add minced or pressed garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add reserved bean puree, along with the remaining carrots, the squash, kale, cubed potato and 1 cup water. Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the crushed fennel seeds and reserved whole beans. Meanwhile, toast the bread and rub it with the cut end of the halved garlic clove. Drizzle each toast with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
4. To serve, place 1 to 2 pieces toasted bread in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle soup over the top. Drizzle soup with remaining oil. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Pronounce Acini di Pepe as AHCH-ee-nee dee peh-peh - not that you need to know how to say it, but it’s sort of interesting.
1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced or pressed garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice white bread, crusts trimmed, grated or shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
8 oz. ground beef
8 oz. ground pork
12 cups chicken broth
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
About 6 to 8 ounces Acini di Pepe or any other tiny pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1. For the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Then add the cheese (if using), ground beef and ground pork. Shape the meat mixture into small meatballs, and place on a baking sheet.
2. Bring the broth and spinach to a boil in a large pot. Add the meatballs and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they don't stick. Add the pasta and continue cooking at a low boil until both the pasta and meatballs are done. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving, if desired. Makes 8 servings.
Roasted butternut squash and bacon
For the roasted mix:
1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and chopped
4 slices smoked bacon, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the soup:
4 slices bacon, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (if using fresh, double the amount)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, optional (I leave out)
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a baking sheet (with sides) or use cooking spray. Arrange the squash, onion, bell pepper and bacon in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Add olive oil and drizzle over all, coating evenly. Place in preheated oven and roast the vegetables about 25 to 30 minutes, adding the garlic about halfway through, to prevent it from burning. Stir occasionally, if necessary, especially around half-way through.
2. To cook the remaining bacon, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir and cook the bacon until it is browned and crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
3. Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add squash mixture and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in chicken stock and puree with an immersion blender.
4. Bring soup to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add more chicken stock as needed until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately, garnished with bacon, goat cheese and chives, if desired. Makes 6 servings.
I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes, and I peel them first. Some people leave the peels; it’s up to you.
1/2 pound bacon, cut into large pieces
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 container (32-oz.) low-sodium chicken broth (4 cups)
3 pounds red potatoes, quartered or halved, depending on size
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, medium or sharp
2 cups whole milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Suggested toppings: Shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions or chives, crumbled, cooked bacon, seeded and minced fresh jalapeno pepper or anything you like.
1. In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the bacon is browned and crisp. Remove bacon and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. Leave the bacon grease in the pot.
2. Reduce heat to medium, add onions. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over onions and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in chicken stock, whisking constantly until smooth. Add potatoes, bring to a boil then simmer until potatoes are very soft (15 to 30 minutes, depending on size of potatoes).
3. To thicken the soup, use a potato masher to crush potatoes, leaving some chunks but allowing some to blend into the soup. Stir in cheese until melted and smooth. Add milk, bring back to a simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes until very hot. Ladle soup into bowls and top each as desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.