Soups and Stews

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Around the World in Six Soups

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January is National Soup Month. January 24th is about the time when most people start losing focus on their New Year’s resolutions to eat better. I love soups and find that they provide a tasty and nutritious meal without a lot of work. So when Foodbuzz sent out a call for proposals for the January 24, 24, 24 event, I knew exactly what I wanted to do – a world tour of soups. (A soup Olympics, if you’re eagerly anticipating the games next month.)

That’s right: I’m presenting you with six soups, one representing each (populated) continent. Each soup is hearty enough to be a meal and can be made quickly and easily as long as you have stock on hand. And to keep everyone happy, two of them are vegan. They also all freeze well, which is good considering I now have enough soup to feed a small country.

(Six recipes with photos makes the just about the longest blog post ever, so I’m cutting it off here. Please click through to read more!)

Manhattan Clam Chowder

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I just got back from my last holiday get-together of the season, and while it’s nice to see everyone I have to admit that I’m so happy it’s finally over! All of that traveling is exhausting, and I think I’ve eaten enough cookies over the past two weeks to last me until summer. Everyone kept trying to send me home with goodies, but I honestly just didn’t want them. I’m tired of eating garbage, and I can feel the negative effects that eating like like this has had on my body. I’m definitely ready to get some balance back in my diet.

I made this clam chowder last week, and it’s exactly the type of dish that I’m looking forward to eating over the next few weeks. We love clam chowder, but typically go for the creamy New England style over the tomato-based Manhattan style. I wasn’t in the mood for a creamy soup this time though (even if I lightened it in terms of calories, it seemed too heavy), so I set out to make a new and improved Manhattan Chowder.
And improved I did! First, I used fire-roasted tomatoes since I love the way they taste with seafood. They gave the soup a really nice flavor that was mellower and less tomatoey than typical soups. A few slices of bacon lent a slight smokiness and tabasco passed at the table provided some heat. Nutritious vegetables added bulk to make the soup filling while keeping the calorie count down, and fresh seafood made the dish seem special. Shawn was actually very skeptical when I said I wanted to make this, because he hates tomatoes so tomato based soups really aren’t his thing. He loved it though, and told me that I should make it again! Served with a crusty piece of bread to sop up the broth, this is the perfect dinner on a snowy January night. [….]

Snapper in Ginger-Citrus Broth with Asian Vegetables

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Lately it seems like everything I’be been eating is so heavy: cheese here, cookies there, puff pastry galore … and don’t even get me started on the fried stuff. I may have to start a second blog called “Fatty McFatterson Fried Things” to document those. 😉 After all of those heavy, greasy (and oh so tasty) meals, this snapper was like a breath of fresh air. The flavors were so bright and even though there was something that seemed almost summery about this dish, it didn’t seem out of season at all. There’s something inherently comforting about ginger and noodles that makes this dish perfect for the chilly weather.

I have to confess – I used frozen vegetables in this. I don’t know why, and I really don’t have a good excuse for it. Rookie mistake. The mix I used contained green beans, carrots, peppers, bean sprouts, and onions. While none of these vegetables are necessarily in season right now, they are widely available, and I’m sure they would have tasted a lot better than this mix which just had NO FLAVOR. Apparently eating fresh vegetables has me spoiled, but I also think I finally figured out why I hated vegetables a a kid. These didn’t taste bad, but they were boring and you really couldn’t distinguish one from the other, flavor-wise. In a pinch, I guess there’s ok but this would be so much better with fresh vegetables. As it is, it took me about 15 minutes to make this dish. Peeling a few carrots and blanching some beans would have added an extra 5 minutes or so? Totally worth it.

But its ok, because this dish isn’t about the vegetables. It’s all about the broth. Which makes sense, since I actually built this from the broth up. I really felt like a warm, gingery broth and I had some ponzu left from making Brussels sprouts so I set off from there. Fish seemed like a good idea, and vegetables. Up until the last minute I was planning to make rice but then I switched to noodles which was an awesome idea because is there anything better than slurping up delicious broth-y noodles? But yea, the broth… on their own each component of this dish tasted ok, but when the broth was added the flavors all popped and the dish really came together. I’ll be honest – snapper isn’t my favorite. I think it has a tendency to taste really strong and fishy. But in that broth? Perfection. [….]

Black Bean Soup

Thanksgiving dinner has been eaten, Christmas music is in the CD player, and it’s COLD out!!! It seems like Mother Nature got the memo, and all of a sudden it feels like winter.

Since my mom always hosts Thanksgiving, I’m not stuck trying to get rid of leftovers all week. No turkey sandwiches here! I’m focused on more important things. Like soup. This time of year, there is very little that appeals to me more than a nice, warm bowl of soup. This bean soup is a great way to get back on track after the Thanksgiving weekend – it’s vegetarian (vegan if you skip the sour cream on top), full of wholesome vegetables and fiber, and extremely soul-satisfying. Adding your own toppings also makes the soup fun, and allows you to switch it up a little bit so that the leftovers don’t all taste exactly the same. [….]

Cooking Basics: Browned Chicken Stock

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As the weather continues to cool down I find myself wanting soup more and more often. I think soup is just about as close as you can get to the perfect meal: warm, comforting, balanced and great for wither lunch or dinner (and in some cultures even for breakfast!). I usually make my soup with boxed stock, but nothing beats homemade soup made with homemade stock. This browned chicken stock is a great base for almost any soup – it’s richer than regular chicken stock, but the chicken flavor isn’t so overpowering that you can’t use it in a vegetable based soup too. I most recently used it in my Pho Ba, and it was wonderful. If you have a few hours one afternoon to let the ingredients simmer, you can easily make enough of this delicious stock to last you through a few pots of soup. Just divide it into smaller containers and freeze it – since you can cook it right from froze, you’ll be able to make a great homemade soup whenever you want. [….]

Healthy Delicious is On The Menu at Foodbuzz!

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I got some super exciting news today – thanks to Bertolli Sauces, we’re On The Menu at the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival next month!!

When Foodbuzz announced last month that there would be a few sponsorship opportunities to cover the cost of travel and accommodations for the Festival and that the first would be offered by Bertolli Sauces, I knew that I had to submit an entry. I was excited but I never thought that I would actually be chosen! Entrants were asked to develop to 2-course menu using to different Bertolli Sauces products – I wanted to do something different since I figured they would be flooded with Italian recipes, but it didn’t take me long to come up with my menu.

Since the Festival is being held in San Francisco, I thought it would be fun to start my menu with something representative of the city. I don’t know what says San Francisco more than sourdough and cioppino! But I didn’t want to make just any old cioppino – it needed to be different! So I used Bertolli Sauce’s Fire Roasted Tomato and fish stock as my base, and added lots of garlic, celery, onion, and other traditional cioppino flavors. The to make it even more different, I gave it a Spanish spin by adding saffron, shrimp, and mussels. The final dish has a markedly Spanish flavor that’s slightly spicy and a wonderful aroma that ignites your senses the moment you bring the fork to your mouth. Sourdough was the perfect tool for sopping up all of the extra broth. We ate every last bit and I’ve been itching to make more ever since.

From the minute I tasted the final Menu Item, I knew that it was a winner. This was SO GOOD and it’s killing me that I’m not allowed to share the actual recipe with you all (yet). But here’s the deal: Foodbuzz and Bertolli Sauces tested my recipe and I made it into the Top Eight. That means I won the sponsorship and get to go to the Festival for free (whoo!) and that this dish is On The Menu. BUT only THREE of us get to actually demo and serve our Menu Items at the Festival. This menu item is fabulous, and I really want to share it with my fellow bloggers. This is where I need your help: The top three recipes will be chosen by a vote from the Foodbuzz Community. So, can I count on your vote? Pretty please?

Voting starts tomorrow, Friday, October 23rd and runs through November 2nd. I’ll post the final details when I receive them.

Don’t you want some of this??

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(In case you were wondering, only my appetizer was chosen as a Menu Item. My entree was Lamb Meatballs in a Cumin-Scented Sauce over Spaghetti Squash and Wilted Spinach. It was also amazing – Shawn actually said he liked it better than the cioppino but I disagree – and I’ll be posting that recipe to the blog soon.)

Daring Cooks: Quick and Easy Chicken Pho (Pho Ba)

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The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. I’ll be honest here – I wasn’t particularly excited about this challenge. I’ve made pho before, and I love it, but I didn’t want to do a second post on it. Plus, the main recipe presented to us was for chicken pho, and I don’t usually care for chicken soups. So I dragged my feet on completing this challenge and didn’t make it until last night. I’m glad I did though, because it was really good, and really EASY. Crazy easy. 90% of the ingredients are things that I generally have on hand (and the other 10% could be omitted or swapped) so this is a great recipe to keep in the back of your mind for when dinner hasn’t been planned. And the best part is that it makes very few dishes, so cleanup is a breeze![….]

Beef Pho (Pho Bo)

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Whenever I watch No Reservations, I get a craving for Pho. Which is funny, because until I made this, I’ve never really considered myself to be a pho fan. When we used to live in DC, there were a number of great Vietnamese restaurants that we would go to pretty often. Shawn would get pho and I would get some sort of noodle dish. The other night I thought if Anthony Bourdain loves pho so much, maybe I’m missing something. It had been a few years since I tried it, and I knew Shawn would be happy if I made it, so I did. And it was awesome.[….]