Soup for What Ails You & Cheddar Ale Soup

stirring_the_potHave you ever pondered the curative powers of soup? No? Well, let’s take a minute to think about it. Somehow, a steaming bowl of soup can heal you, revive you, lift your spirits and get you going again. It is truly amazing. I suppose, in most cases, it’s some combination of willpower and placebo. Perhaps soup is nothing more and, more important, nothing less than the power of positive thinking in a bowl.

Think about it for a minute. Somehow or other, no matter what ails you; soup is the answer. Okay, maybe not every time but often enough …

Head cold? Slurp down a bowl of chicken soup, breathe in the steam and let it clear those sinuses. Then, take two aspirins and go to bed early. You’ll be almost good-as-new in the morning.

Heartbroken? Forget the ice cream. Stir up some tomato soup and maybe add a grilled cheese sandwich. These elementary school favorites will take you back to simpler times. You remember; when boys (or girls) had cooties. You might not be fully recovered by the next day but you’ll be on your way.

Your favorite little black dress just a tad too tight? Whip up a batch of healthy, hearty vegetable soup. It will fill you up without a lot of empty calories. Add a daily walk or a gym workout and you’ll be svelte again in no time.

Stuck inside on a rainy day? Break out the roasting pan and soup kettle and make a batch of butternut squash soup. Think big. You’ll want to enjoy some now and freeze a gallon or two for later. Boredom and your Thanksgiving appetizer dilemma are solved!

Depressed about the rapidly approaching, very long New Hampshire winter? Sink your spoon into a bowl of hearty chowder. Any chowder will do – fish, lobster or corn. A good chowder will warm you up and, at least at my house, stir up a few wonderful memories of Nana Nye.

Even more depressed about the increasingly negative tone of the election? That could be a tough one. I’m not sure if there is a soup powerful enough to ward off that kind of funk. Perhaps you should fight fire with a fire. A spicy Thai curry might do it. Then again, maybe you feel the need to take the rhetoric down a notch or seven. If that’s the case, consider the humble spud. A comforting mug of potato soup could be the cure.

Friends coming for dinner? So, you’ve asked six of your favorite people to come over. It’s only been a day since you issued the invitations. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Now you’re not so sure. Relax; it’s no big deal. Keep it super casual and encourage everyone to come in their most comfortable jeans and favorite sweater. Make it souper delicious with finger food and mugs of cheddar ale soup around the fire. There you have it – soup – the key to becoming the world’s most confident and capable host.

Get out your soup pot and have a great week. Bon appétit!

Cheddar Ale Soup
A cheesy soup (and pun) for what ails you! Serve it at your next fireside dinner and enjoy!
Serves 8cheddar_ale_soup_01

6-8 ounces thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 or more cups chicken broth
2 or more cups whole milk
12 ounces ale
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
24 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Garnish: chives and a little extra cheddar

Put the bacon in a soup pot and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Leave the fat in the pot, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.

Raise the heat to medium-high, toss the onion, carrots, celery and potato in the bacon fat, season with paprika, chipotle, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the butter and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the flour, toss to combine and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. A little at a time, stir in the broth, milk and ale, add the Worcestershire and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat and cool for about 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme twigs and, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pot.

Can be made ahead to this point, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated.

Set the soup over medium heat and re-heat to steaming. A handful at a time, whisk in the cheese. Whisking constantly and adding more milk or stock if necessary, cook until the cheese has melted and is incorporated into the soup. Do not boil.

Meanwhile, put the bacon pieces on a sheet pan and warm in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls, garnish with a sprinkle of cheddar, bacon and chives and serve.

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One Year Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Two Years Ago – Gorgonzola & Walnut Shortbread with Savory Fig Jam
Three Years Ago – Soupe de Poisson Provençal
Four Years Ago – Hearty Black Bean Soup
Five Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Six Years Ago – Gingerbread Cupcakes
Seven Years Ago – Buttery Chocolate Almond Brittle
Eight Years Ago – Pork Stew Paprika

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your secret? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Colorful Resolutions & Curried Carrot Soup

crayonsForget January, we should be making our new year’s resolutions now. It doesn’t matter if it’s been decades since you last saw a classroom. Back-to-school has always signaled a new beginning. Hear that sound? It’s not just the rumble of the school bus; it is the sound of new opportunities.

Like a big, new box of crayons, September holds the promise of a fresh start. Pacific Blue, Unmellow Yellow or Radical Red, what colors speak to you and your goals? Crayola’s brilliant array of 120 colors provides lots of inspiration. Take your pick and choose the crayons that best represent your September resolutions. Here are a few suggestions:

Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown – are you finally ready to promise yourself more downtime? And actually deliver on that promise?

Razzle Dazzle Rose, Cornflower and Lavender – take advantage of some of that downtime to stop and smell the flowers.

Outrageous Orange – or have you gotten rather staid in the past few years? Sounds like you need to give yourself permission to let loose from time to time.

Purple Pizzazz – okay, maybe outrageous is not your style. How about a little dash and dazzle?

Mango Tango – could be the answer if it’s been too long since you tried something new and exotic. Have you considered learning some new dance steps?

Outer Space – there’s nothing wrong with reaching for the stars or heading out into the …

Wild Blue Yonder – for a bold, new adventure.

Sea Green and Purple Mountains Majesty – wherever your travels take you, be sure to take a moment to marvel at your glorious surroundings

Neon Carrot – could there be a message here? Something like … eat your vegetables.

Sunglow – I’ll take this one to suggest that we all spend more time out in the sunshine.

Tickle Me Pink – foul mood or flu, regardless of what ails you, laughter is always good medicine.

Gold, Silver and Copper – just in case you need some help with your finances.

Shamrock – because we all need a little luck from time to time. Just remember that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Decisions, decisions, what colors will motivate you this fall? With a fabulous rainbow to choose from, you are sure to find the perfect inspiration.

Color me happy and bon appétit!

Curried Carrot Soupcarrot_soup_05
Not quite neon, this soup is bright and flavorful. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 quarts

1 large onion, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder or to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro Pistou (recipe follows)

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger, season with curry powder, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Add the carrots, toss to combine and, stirring frequently, continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove the soup from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender with the coconut milk until very smooth. Cool the soup to room temperature, stir in the lime zest and juice cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to let all the flavors combine.

Serve the soup cold or reheat over low heat until steaming. Ladle the soup into bowls or mugs, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Cilantro Pistou
1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Put the cilantro, garlic and lime juice in a small food processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse to chop and combine. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil until you have a thick, deep green sauce.

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One Year Ago – Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts
Two Years Ago – Baked Haddock with Fresh Tomatoes & Herbs
Three Years Ago – Pumpkin-Ginger Muffins
Four Years Ago – Roast Pork with Apples & Onions
Five Years Ago – Lemon Roasted Salmon with Beurre Blanc
Six Years Ago – Wild Mushroom Soup
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Tart
Eight Years Ago – Oktoberfest Sausages & Sauerkraut

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have any colorful resolutions for the fall? Feel free to share.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Time for a Hug & Tomato Soup

kaela_jen_emily_FLI hope you are ready because National Hugging Day™ is this Thursday. Created in 1986 by a minister out in Michigan, the day encourages warm embraces with family and friends. What do you think? Is that enough or should we take our hugs beyond our intimate circle?

On the one hand, your hug could surprise, even frighten that near stranger or acquaintance. On the other, well, everyone needs a hug. Not just occasionally, most of us could use one right about now. Whatever you decide is good with me. You needn’t feel pressured to hug anyone who crosses your path. It’s okay to be a discerning hugger and stick to people you know. However, since I live in a small town, I might decide to expand that to people I think I might know.

You know what I’m talking about. There’s the woman with the great collection of hand-knit sweaters. You can’t help but compliment her when you bump into her at the supermarket. And you see her at least two or three times a month, usually in produce but sometimes in the diary aisle. Then there’s the man in the red cap. You run into him at the dump every week. That’s just for starters, there are tons more. After a few years, you start to wonder, “Have I actually met you? If yes, what the heck is your name? If not, well, your face is certainly familiar.” If you haven’t actually met, a hug might be the first step to a beautiful, new friendship.

What will a hug do for you and your friends, both old and newfound?

A hug is the ultimate win-win. It will make both you and the recipient feel wonderful. This claim isn’t wishful thinking or urban legend. Science confirms that a hug releases the fab four chemicals of happiness: dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. You make them yourself. You don’t need a prescription or a bunch of fancy equipment. A cheery hug is all you need to get these chemicals flowing.

Why should you care? Well, let’s take them one by one.

First, dopamine is a motivator. While motivation is always a good thing, it is especially important on a gray winter day. When sky is the color of lead, it’s hard to get of bed in the morning let alone GO FOR IT, whatever IT is. A hug could give a friend the boost she needs to finally ask for that raise or throw that pile of laundry in the washing machine. Another cool thing about dopamine is that once the task is complete, we get a second, reinforcing shot. It’s better than a double expresso.

Serotonin helps create a feeling of well-being and importance. When a hug releases a jolt of serotonin, it sends the message that you matter, that you are loved. A nice hug will ease feelings of loneliness and depression. Think about it, it’s pretty hard to feel lonely when someone has their arms around you.

Next are the endorphins; the chemical of choice for runners and walkers. With thousands of miles logged over a lot of years, I can testify to this one. Commonly known as the runner’s high, endorphins reduce pain, stress, anxiety and depression. If you are one of those people who hates to exercise, make sure you get plenty of hugs. But take note, even walkers and runners love a hug.

Finally, oxytocin is good for building intimacy, trust and healthy relationships. Whether it’s a friend, family or a love interest, hugging will help you grow closer. Especially if you take it a step further and enjoy a long, cozy cuddle. Sounds good on a chilly afternoon or evening.

Enjoy a hug-filled day and bon appétit!

Tomato Soup
Comfort food is the culinary equivalent of a hug. Laden with fond memories, a mug of tomato soup is the ultimate comfort food. Feel free to add a grilled cheese sandwich! Enjoy!
Makes about 2 quartsstirring_the_pot

Olive oil
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
Pinch chili pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups (28 ounces) whole or crushed plum tomatoes
About 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
2-3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/4-1/2 cup half-and-half (optional)

Lightly coat a soup pot with olive oil and heat on medium-high. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with chili flakes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes, stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and herbs to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

tomato_soup_07

Cool the soup for at least 20 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf and, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half-and-half and more stock if needed.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

Stirring frequently, reheat the soup to steaming on medium heat, ladle into mugs or bowls and serve.

If you like, garnish the soup with a spoonful of pesto, a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and/or crunchy, homemade croutons.

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One Year Ago – Savory Galette with Spinach, Mushrooms & Manchego
Two Years Ago – Mac & Cheese with Roasted Broccoli & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Three Years Ago – Red Bean Chili with Pork & Butternut Squash
Four Years Ago – Piri Piri Prawns
Five Years Ago – French Lentil Soup
Six Years Ago – Spicy Chicken (or Turkey) Noodle Soup
Seven Years Ago – My Favorite Chili

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Are you hugger? Who will you hug on National Hugging Day™? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Weekend Special – A Wintry Mix

Pleasant_Lake_Thaw_02El Niño continues to hang around. This weekend’s weather forecast calls for a wintry mix of snow, ice and rain. Sounds like a good excuse to stay close to home. While you’re there, why not stir up a big pot of soup or batch of Bolognese?

What soup magic will you stir up? I’ve got a few in mind. For hearty, Italian flavor you might like to try my Pasta e Fagioli and a Whole Lot More or Raviolis in Broth with Meatballs & Escarole. Maybe you’d rather find inspiration in the flavors of France. If that is the case, try my Soupe au Pistou or French Lentil Soup. Or go New England with Potato & Cheddar Soup or Nana Nye’s Prize Winning New England Fish Chowder.

If the weather clears, you can invite friends over to share your delicious results! If that’s the case, you’ll want to start off with a glass of wine and some tasty
Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms. Toss up a colorful Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette to go with the soup. When it’s time for dessert, stay cozy with Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies and Hot White Chocolate.

Stay safe this weekend and bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2016

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr! & White Bean Soup with Sweet Potato and Wilted Greens

Last week reminded me of my first winter back in New Hampshire. At least last Thursday morning did. That first January back, it wasn’t just cold, it was brutally, day-after-day below zero cold. I’m convinced it was some kind of record-breaker. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t but, if not, well, it was d@#n cold.

But back to last Thursday. Like most mornings, I hobbled out of bed around 6:15. It was dark and cold and the day seemed particularly unwelcoming. Unlike like most mornings, instead of jumping into my walking clothes, I decided to check the thermometer. Wrapping myself in an old flannel robe, I stumbled downstairs to discover it was -18 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a flare for the even more dramatic, it was -28 on the Celsius scale.

Although I am remarkably loyal to my daily walk, I went back to bed.

Not so that first January back in New Hampshire. It was déjà vu all over again. When we were kids, my parents bought a season ski pass at King Ridge for the family. There was no snowmaking so the season was short. It didn’t matter how cold it was; if there was snow, you went skiing. No questions, no arguments, it was what you did. So that first winter back when I awoke to a subzero thermometer, I reverted to type.

With my father’s voice in my ear, I dressed like an onion in layer after layer and threw my skis in the back of the car. I was a hearty New Englander, returned to her roots. Like the mail carrier, we ski in sleet and snow and driving rain. We are hardly daunted by -20 degrees (-29 Celsius) and gale winds. Or so I thought.

I took one run, a second and then a break to warm up. I repeated the routine, again and again. Until the wind barreling up the mountain was so strong that it brought me to a complete stop. Gasping for breath, I pushed on and made it to the bottom of the hill. Shivering and defiant, I threw my skis in the back in the car and drove home. A woman can only take so much mediocre ski lodge coffee.

But not too defiant. A few days later, I tried again. After two runs, I uttered an expletive deletive and called it a day. Enough was enough. On that frigid January day, I became an emancipated New Englander. Always independent, some might say to a fault, I would be my own type of New Englander. One who defied definition but drank good, strong coffee and only skied when the sun was shining, the winds were gentle and the temperatures above 10 (still negative at -12C).

And one who is still remarkably loyal to an almost daily walk. While it was dangerously cold at 6:15 last Thursday, slowly but surely the mercury inched its way up the thermometer. At 2:00, it was now or never, so dressed like the Michelin Man, I headed out the door.

Stay warm and bon appétit!

White Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Wilted Greens
There is nothing like a bowl of soup when the temperature plummets. Enjoy!
Serves 8 or more

1 pound dried small white or cannellini beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
Olive oil
1 tablespoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 1/2 large onions, cut the half onion in large chunks and finely chop the whole
5 celery stalks, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 4
4 carrots, cut 1 in thirds, finely chop the remaining 3
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 cup dry white wine
6 or more cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
2 large (about 2 pounds) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
About 12 ounces baby kale
About 12 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Garnish: shaved or roughly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Put the beans in a large pot, add water to cover plus 3-4 inches and soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans. Rinse the pot. Return the beans to the pot, add the chunks of onion, celery and carrot and cold water to cover plus 2 inches. Tie 2 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf together with kitchen twine and add it to the beans. Bring everything to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the beans are tender about 1 1/4 hours. Remove the vegetables and herbs and drain the beans. Can be done ahead or you can use canned beans, rinsed and drained.

Heat a little olive oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat. Add the anchovy paste and the finely chopped onion, celery and carrot, season with cumin, allspice, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rosemary and garlic and, still stirring, cook for 2 minutes more. Add the white wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the beans, stock, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and remaining thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes (or 30 minutes if using canned beans).

Raise the heat to medium-high, add the sweet potatoes and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10-15 minutes.

Can be made ahead to this point. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

Raise the heat to medium, add the kale and spinach, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove the thyme twig and bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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One Year Ago – Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
Two Years Ago – Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola & Walnutst
Three Years Ago – Spanakopita Triangles
Four Years Ago – Braised Red Cabbage
Five Years Ago – Apple Bread Pudding
Six Years Ago – Root ‘n’ Tooty Good ‘n’ Fruity Oatmeal Cookies

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How are you coping with the winter chill? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

All Downhill from Here & Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup

rain_on_the_windowFor the next few, make that several, weeks; it’s all downhill from here. More often than not, Columbus Day marks the beginning of the end of leaf peeping. This year is no exception. While the roads are still filled with busloads of dead leaf watchers, the maples have peeked. No longer brilliant red; the tree in my yard is a skeleton with a few wispy leaves. For those that gush in wonder over the golden beeches and nutty brown oaks, there is still time for you. Truth be told, I’m a red girl. It’s more or less over for me when the maples fade, especially if the sky fades right along with them.

I’m not immune to bright yellow leaves against a brilliant blue sky but, unfortunately, mid-October can only mean one thing. We are entering the gray zone. Sure, we brag about our glorious fall to our friends who have the misfortune to live somewhere other than New England. We crow about our foliage, the mist on the lake in the early morning and the golden sunlight that filters through the golden leaves. The mornings and evenings are cool but my sunny (newly completed – yay!) terrace invites me outside for a break at midday.

That changes after Columbus Day.

It seems like overnight, glorious fall becomes a dreary twilight zone. It’s too miserable for autumn and not cold or clear enough for winter. Instead, it rains and rains some more. Followed by days of intermittent clouds, rain and, before you know it, snow. Not the nice fluffy stuff, the kind that is perfect for skiing or at least decent for snowshoeing. No, it is the wet, icy, sleety Halloween snow. The good stuff doesn’t come until late November or early December. Plus, it’s dark most of the time or maybe it just feels that way. The sun rises late and sets early, particularly for those of us that live at the bottom of the hill.

stirring_the_potSo, enough complaining! These dark, drab weeks are a perfect time to putter around the kitchen. The really well organized will cook up batches and batches of soup and marinara or Bolognese sauce. Not a bad idea if you’re a skier because, once the snow flies, you won’t have time to cook. If you’re not all that well organized or one of those I-hate-to-cook types, feel free to skip the puttering. Just flutter around the kitchen for a while, wave your arms a few times and then read a book or go for a walk. When you get back, make reservations.

Anyway, this too shall pass. The holidays are coming with lots of hoopla, fun and frivolity to keep us busy and happy. Before you know it, there’ll be enough snow for downhill and cross-country skiing. Whether you ski or not.

In the meantime, enjoy some time in the kitchen and bon appétit!

Hearty White Bean & Tomato SoupWhite_Bean__Tomato_Soup_06
It’s time to rattle the pots and cook up some rich and flavorful soup. Make a big batch of this delicious White Bean Soup; it freezes beautifully. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 pound dried small white beans, rinsed and picked over or 6 cups cooked, rinsed and drained
4 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped*
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 teaspoon or to taste hot sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped rosemary
About 4 cups or more (less if you are using canned beans) chicken stock*
About 3 cups (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)†
1 bay leaf
2 ounces (about 1 cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more to serve
1/2-1 cup half-and-half (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sage Oil

Put the beans in a large bowl, add enough water to cover the beans by 2-4 inches, cover and soak in the refrigerator overnight.

Put the bacon in a soup kettle and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

Leaving a coating in the bottom of the pot, drain some of the bacon fat, add the onion, leeks, carrots, and celery, season with hot sauce and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onion is almost translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse the beans. Tie the thyme and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine.

Add the beans, stock, crushed tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind and herbs to the vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the beans seem dry, until the beans are very tender, about 1 hour. If using canned beans, simmer for about 20 minutes.

Cool the soup for 20-30 minutes. Remove the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, thyme twigs and bay leaf and, working in batches, puree the soup. Use a blender for very smooth soup or a food processor for a more rustic version. Return the soup to the pot.

If you have the time, cool the soup to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Stirring frequently, reheat the soup on medium heat. Stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, half-and-half and more stock if needed and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Reheat the bacon in a 350-degree oven for about 2 minutes. Serve the soup in bowls or mugs with a drizzle of Sage Oil and a sprinkle of bacon.

* For a vegetarian soup, substitute the bacon fat with a little olive oil and skip the bacon garnish. Use vegetable instead of chicken stock.

A piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind will add wonderful richness to your soups. If you have one handy, add it to the soup pot. If not, when you reach the end of your next wedge of parm; cover and store the rind in the freezer for the next time.

Sage Oil
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, gently packed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped and incorporated into the oil.

Let the oil sit for an hour at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to mix and meld the flavors.

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One Year Ago – Lemon Pasta & Shrimp with Olives & Capers
Two Years Ago – Roasted Sausages with Caramelized Onions, Broccoli Rabe & Polenta
Three Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Four Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Five Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Six Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you spend Columbus Day weekend? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

Polar Vortex & Potato & Cheddar Soup

Hey! Canada! Come get your polar vortex.
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Don’t you hate it when that happens? A friend comes over to visit and then leaves something behind. Maybe he forgets his coat or gloves or she leaves a book after book club or a dish after a potluck. You call to let them know and they promise to stop by to retrieve it. Of course, you believe them and you leave whatever it is by the backdoor.

A few days turn into weeks, even months. After tripping over it one too many times, the coat is relegated to the back of the closet. The gloves are stowed in the mitten basket. Abandoned books are shelved and dishes go into the cupboard. More often than not, these friends stop by from time to time. No matter how often they visit, they always manage to forget their stuff.

Before you know it, you are not only wearing those gloves; they’ve become your favorites. Thanksgiving rolls around and the homeless need winter clothes. The front hall closet is filled to overflowing, so, without really thinking about it, his coat goes into the pile for the shelter. Come spring, her book joins a stack for COA’s fundraising sale. A rainy day cleaning binge uncovers a beautiful platter but you can’t figure out why it doesn’t fit with the rest of your dishes. Your niece moves into her first apartment and you give it to her.

If only it were so easy to get rid of this arctic blast that just won’t quit. Or teases us by retreating for a few days and then come back with a vengeance.

So listen up Canada, you’re welcome to visit anytime. You’re an ally and a friend. We share a border and a language with most of you. And those who don’t, whether you are speaking English or French, you have lovely accents. So please come down and see us, enjoy our ski slopes, snowshoe in our woods and skate on our ponds. Visit our museums, give our musicians a listen, shop ‘til you drop and enjoy our restaurants. It’s all good as long as you leave your #@%&* polar vortex at home.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s March already and this is New Hampshire. It’s not the Yukon or Val-d’Or. All right already, we get it. We know it’s too early for sandals and cherry blossoms. We understand that spring is relative and Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions don’t apply here. No one expects to see daffodils until the end of April or early May. However, we shouldn’t be waking up to minus eight.

Now, if by some unfortunate chance, the arctic cold slips into your backpack and hitches a ride south, we’ll understand. We won’t like it but we’ll understand if, and ONLY IF, you take it with you when you leave. We get it that you too are ready to see the last of the blasted polar vortex. However, you sent it down here; taking it back is the right thing to do. Consider it good global manners or being a decent neighbor. We would be most grateful.

Stay warm and bon appétit!

Potato & Cheddar Soup
As long as the cold air refuses to head back up north, this soup will be perfect for a hearty lunch or light supper. Hopefully, it won’t be on your 4th of July menu! Enjoy!
potato_cheddar_soup_03Makes about 2 1/2 quarts

3-4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoke paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pounds red skinned potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
3-4 sprigs thyme, tied in a bundle
1 bay leaf
1 cup sour cream (optional)
4 ounces (plus more for garnish sharp) Cheddar cheese, shredded
Chopped chives and/or fresh parsley for garnish

Put the bacon in a large stockpot and cook over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, drain and reserve. Leaving just enough to coat the pot, drain most of the fat.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot, season with the paprika, salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Add the potatoes and chicken stock to the pot. Tie the thyme and bay leaf with butcher’s string and add the bundle to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Let the soup cool for about 30 minutes. Remove the herb bundle.

Using a potato masher, smash the potatoes until the soup is thick and chunky. For a thicker soup, process about 2 cups of soup in a food processor until smooth and stir back into the pot. For a very smooth soup, puree the soup in a blender.

Put the sour cream in a bowl and, a little at a time, whisk in 2 cups of soup. A little bit at a time, whisk the sour cream mixture into the soup. Reheat the soup to steaming on medium heat. Whisk the cheddar cheese into the soup. Stirring frequently, reheat the soup to steaming.

Meanwhile, put the bacon pieces on a sheet pan and warm in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the cheddar cheese, bacon and chives. Serve immediately.

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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your thoughts on the record cold and, in some parts of the country, record snowfall? Feel free to share. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014