Finally, It is Soup Season…
October 27, 2017
I don’t like cold weather very much and I am not exaggerating when I say that my complaints begin when the temperature dips below 50 degrees. I walk around my house with multiple layers from November to May. But in the kitchen, cold weather is a bonus. It is time to make and enjoy all of those comforting favorites that make it so appealing to snuggle inside. Of these homey foods, soup leads my list. And this one is a family favorite.
Before I share my lentil soup recipe, I want to make a bold statement that will make some of you unhappy, but here goes…I encourage you to take the time to make your own stock if at all possible! (Or at least buy a good-quality alternative.) There, it’s out there. Before you stop reading in frustration or say to yourself, "she just doesn't get it," please give me a few more lines of attention. I have an express chicken stock recipe that requires very little active time and you can make it in large quantities to freeze and have on hand for other soup projects throughout the long season. In addition, freeze some in ice cube trays, pop out when frozen, and keep in the freezer to easily add stock to other dishes like stir fries, sauces, etc. It truly is as easy as throwing chicken wings in a pot and adding water. Your efforts will be rewarded. I promise. I also have included a recipe for vegetable stock that can be made in 45 minutes, but has more active time than the chicken stock. You might even decide to try both. You never know. Invest the time now and you will be all ready for the first snow day.
Make it a Meal:
Make soup a meal by adding parmesan pita crisps and a lightly-dressed green salad.
Great Garnishes for Soup:
Chopped fresh herbs or vegetables; fresh greens cut into thin ribbons; croutons; pasta; grains; sour cream or yogurt; extra virgin olive oil; fried herbs or shallots; a few drops of vinegar or lemon; or grated cheese.
Secrets For Success For Soup Making:
A wide pot is better than a tall one. The vegetables need plenty of surface area to brown rather than steam.
Refrigerate, for up to 3 days, or freeze leftover soup, for up to 6 months.
Soup thickens as it sits. Don’t be afraid to add water to bring it back to the desired consistency.
Thin soup can always be boiled to concentrate flavors and thicken as long as it doesn’t contain milk, cream or eggs.
Dicing Carrots and Onion:
Silver Palate Lentil Soup (Almost)
adapted from The Silver Palate
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon celery seeds
2 bay leaves
14 ounces brown lentils (or a 1lb. bag minus 1/3 cup)
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock plus 2 cups water
1 1/2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, pureed or 1 1/2 cans of tomato puree
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 box baby spinach, optional
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and sauté over low heat, covered, until tender and golden, about 25 minutes. Stir in the thyme, celery seeds, bay leaf, and lentils and sauté for one minute. Then add the chicken or vegetable stock, the water and the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer until lentils are very tender (they should mush easily when pressed with your fingers), about 40 minutes to one hour. Discard bay leaves and puree half of the soup in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Return pureed soup to the pot. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper, as necessary. Right before serving, stir in the spinach, if using, and simmer until wilted.
Serves 6 to 10.
Parmesan Pita Crisps
Carefully slice apart a pita so you have two circular pieces and toast lightly. Remove from toaster and carefully spread with butter. Cut into triangles, if desired. Sprinkle liberally with freshly grated parmesan. Return to the toaster, and toast until golden brown and bubbly. Allow to cool completely. Keeps in a zip loc or plastic container for 24 hours.
Secrets for Success for Stock:
Always use cold water to make stock.
When making stock, as soon as it boils, lower it to a simmer. Boiling stock makes it cloudy.
Initially, white froth and other imperfections will come to the top. Continue to skim and discard until stock clears.
Remove the chicken from the stock as soon as it is done cooking.
Weak stock can always be concentrated by boiling. Make sure to remove the chicken first.
For stock making, a tall pot is better than a wide one. Less water will evaporate.
Removing Fat from Stock:
Chill stock until fat hardens; discard fat.
Put stock in a degreasing cup, let sit until fat comes to top, pour degreased stock from the bottom.
Use strips of paper towel to soak up the fat on stock surface and discard.
Express Chicken Stock
Sara Moulton taught me how to make this quick and easy stock when we worked together at Gourmet Magazine, and I have been making it ever since. It gives you what you need from homemade stock: flavor and body, but without any fuss. Throw a pot on while you are doing almost anything else, and reap the results later.
5- to 10- pounds chicken wings
Thoroughly rinse wings under cold water, and place in a stock pot with water to cover by one-inch. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, using a skimmer to remove froth and imperfections that rise to the top. Lower to a low simmer and continue to cook for 3 to 5 hours, skimming imperfections and adding water as necessary. Drain stock, cool, pour into containers, and refrigerate or freeze.
Makes 21-30 cups.
Basic Vegetable Stock
Adapted from Deborah Madison.
1 large onion
4 small carrots
2 celery ribs, including a few leaves
1 bunch scallions, including half of the greens
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 parsley branches
6 thyme sprigs or ½ teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
Scrub the vegetables and chop them roughly into 1-inch chunks. Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the vegetables, garlic, and herbs, and cook over high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The more color that the vegetables get, the richer the flavor of the stock. Add 2 teaspoons salt and 2 quarts cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain.
Makes 6-7 cups.