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Creamy Mushroom Soup

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Time: 40-45 minutes

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: I’ve always loved creamy mushroom soup and have thought about trying to make it, but prefer not to eat soups with a lot of cream. Once I tried my version of a healthy creamy zucchini soup that turned out well, I thought I’d use a similar approach to a mushroom soup – creamy without the cream! This turned out even better than I had thought it would. Wow! Yum! It’s amazing how much creamy texture yellow potatoes can add!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 large white onion
  • 2 small to medium yellow potatoes
  • 2 pounds cremini mushrooms
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth (don’t use low fat or low salt – get the ones with all the flavor or make your own)
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Approximately 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Preparation:

  • Wash the mushrooms and let them drain in a colander.
  • Wash, peel and dice the potato.
  • Pour the chicken broth into a medium sized soup pot and add the diced potatoes (the broth should cover the potato). Simmer for about 15 minutes until potato is soft.
  • While potato is cooking, slice the onion and sauté it on medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil until it’s well cooked and translucent.
  • Once the onion is cooked, add it to the chicken broth and potato.
  • Slice and dice the mushrooms. In the same pan, sauté the mushrooms on medium heat with 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper until cooked through – about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  • Remove 2 cups of the sautéed mushrooms and place in a bowl. Add the rest to the soup pot and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Using a cup or ladle, take about half the mixture from the soup pot, put it in a blender and puree – about 1 minute. Taste and add salt if needed and then pour into a large serving bowl. Repeat this with the rest of the mixture in the soup pot until it has all been pureed and salted to your liking. Add half of the reserved mushrooms to the soup and stir in.
  • Chop some fresh parsley.
  • Serve the soup into bowls, garnishing each with fresh parsley and the rest of the reserved sautéed mushroom slices.

Wine Suggestions: This would be fabulous with a Red Burgundy. Mushrooms and an earthy Pinot Noir are awesome! We drank this with a yummy older earthy Bordeaux last night and it was also a fantastic combination.


Crab Cioppino

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Crab Cioppino

Time: 60-75 minutes

Serves: 4  – just the two of us had this tonight with fresh whole grain bread and roasted brussel sprouts. We could have easily had two more people join us – we ate way too much and we’ll still have awesome leftovers for tomorrow.

Inspired by: It’s the end of December and for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing Dungeness crab at the fish counter. I’ve been thinking that I must get some of these before the season is over! I LOVE crab and it brings with it a lot of memories for me – mainly related to my dad. I remember as a child going out for crab with my family, and my brother and I would leave the restaurants still playing with the claws. I also think of my dad ordering crab cioppino at restaurants and wearing a bib because it was so messy. When I started thinking about what I wanted to have for dinner tonight, crab and tomatoes came to mind… and that got me googling crab cioppino recipes. The first one I found was “Judith’s Dungeness Crab Cioppino Recipe” from Food and Wine (Judith was chef Michael Mina’s late mother-in-law who apparently used to make it for Christmas Eve dinner). It looked great and easy, but I had to make a few modifications based on ingredient availability and the fact that I was cooking for 2, but it turned out so amazing, I’ll do it exactly the same way next time! This recipe makes a very thick soup with a LOT of kick! Yum.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small red bell pepper – chopped
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno – minced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves (2 minced; 2 whole)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 14 oz can of fire roasted organic tomatoes – diced
  • 1 10 oz can of whole baby clams
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 – 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 steamed Dungeness crab
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 littleneck clams
  • 12 shrimp – shelled and deveined
  • some small scallops or halibut pieces (optional)

Preparation:

  • In a large soup pot, sauté the onion for about 2 minutes on high heat. Add the red bell pepper and sauté for about 2 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and jalapeno and sauté for another 6 minutes or until it is all very soft and beginning to brown.
  • Add the tomato paste, stir well, and cook for another minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, wine and bay leaf and cook for another 5-10 minutes – until thickened.
  • Add the can of clams with their broth and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile – in a food processor – combine the basil leaves, whole garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes – chop well. Add 1/8 cup of olive oil and puree until smooth. Then prepare the crab by removing the top shells and the flap on the undersides – pry out any brownish insides and feathery lungs and discard. Rinse the crab bodies in cold water and break them up into pieces that are a few inches in length – or however you’d like to see them presented in your dish when serving.
  • Now it’s time to add the clams, mussels and shrimp to the pot – be sure to push them into the hot broth. Once the shells of the clams and the mussels open (about 2 minutes), add the crab pieces and push into the broth as much as possible – put the lid on the pot and continue to cook for another 2-4 minutes until everything is hot.
  • Use tongs to take out all the shellfish and distribute evenly into bowls – then scoop out broth evenly into bowls.
  • Drizzle/spread the basil puree over the top of each and serve with fresh bread.

 

Notes: I would have liked including some scallops, but they weren’t available. White fish, such as Halibut, would have been good too. If you like your broth thinner – replace the can of clams with 16 oz of clam broth (I wasn’t able to find it – the stores were probably sold out from Christmas, but it’s what the original recipe called for). I’m sure you could also double the diced tomatoes without losing flavor – this is a VERY flavorful and spicy dish! It can also be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Wine Suggestions: We drank this with a 2003 La Spinetta Barbera d’ Asti Superiore. It needed some decanting, but it was a fabulous pairing with the rich tomato and spice of the dish.


Creamy Zucchini Soup

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Time: 1.5 hours total; 20-30 minutes of prep, about an hour to simmer, and another 5 minutes to puree.

Serves: 10-14

Inspired by: I took an eight-day cycling trip to Piedmont, Italy in September of 2008. We tasted nearly 20 different wine varietals in that short time. The overall food and wine experience was exceptional – as was the cycling with 40-50 miles a day and some awesome climbs! One day we stopped for a couple of hours to have a multi-course lunch at a beautiful winery  (it was very difficult to get back on the bike after that – even with all the food – I think we had even more wine!). The soup was amazing and we all asked about what was in it because it was so rich and creamy, but when it was described to us, it sounded so healthy! As soon as I got home I tried something similar and this was the result.

Supplies: Large soup pot

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 large potato
  • 6-8 medium zucchinis
  • 70 oz chicken broth (4, 14 oz cans) – organic preferred, do not used reduced fat or salt
  • 2-4 tablespoons chopped basil (or Italian leafed parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or curry powder (optional – I love the “kick” this gives but skip this if you don’t want a spicy soup)
  • 1 additional teaspoon of salt (if you aren’t sensitive to salt, you might want to add this at the end to bring out the flavors)

Preparation:

  • Dice the onion and sauté in the olive oil and butter until soft and translucent (approximately 5-8 minutes).
  • While sautéing the onion, peel and dice the carrot and potato, dice the zucchini and celery, and chop the basil.
  • Add the above items (except the basil) to the pot and stir/cook for a few minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, basil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, cover with lid, and cook for about an hour or until all veggies are soft.
  • Put into a food processor and blend (I have the large 14 cup kind and do this in two batches). If you want the soup to be thicker, strain out some of the broth before blending. You can always add it back in.
  • Add additional salt as needed.

Wine Suggestions: Contrast with a crisp white such as an Chablis, White Burgundy or Albarino or compliment with a creamy white such as a barrel fermented (rich, buttery) California Chardonnay. If you add the spice you might even consider a light to medium bodied spicy red such as a Southern Rhone or Rioja or an off-dry white such as a Riesling.


Armenian Lentil Soup

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Armenian Lentil Soup

Time: Approximately 30 minutes of prep time and 3 hours of cook time.

Serves: 8-12

Inspired by: I’ve always enjoyed lentil soups and they can be so healthy. Many Armenian and Turkish versions of lentil soup include apricots. I love the concept of that, but often find they use too many and overpower the soup. After experimenting a bit, I like this version because it adds some depth and interest to the flavor without throwing it out of balance.

Supplies: Large soup pot

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 small onions or one large onion)
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 6-8 medium tomatoes chopped (or 1, 28 oz can organic fire roasted diced or crushed tomatoes)
  • ½ cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 cups lentils (any color)
  • 6 cups water to start (you may add another 3-6 cups while it’s cooking)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • ½  teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (could use a curry powder instead or for part of this to change flavor a bit)
  • ½  teaspoon crushed ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Garnish – Finishing Touches:

  • Fresh parsley – chopped
  • Paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I typically add another 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt)
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice

Preparation:

  • Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.
  • Add lentils, tomatoes, apricots, water and spices.
  • Simmer for 3 hours, or until the lentils are completely soft. Add hot water as needed to keep the soup to your desired thickness.
  • Add additional salt & pepper if still needed.
  • When serving, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and garnish with paprika and parsley.

Note: You can of course skip the lime and the other garnishes, but I love lime juice drizzled on this lentil soup – I think it brings out a beautiful flavor.

Wine Suggestions: This soup has a spicy kick to it, but also a hint of sweetness. A medium bodied red with some nice fruitiness and/or a bit of spice on it would be perfect such as the 2006 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel (45% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 5% Counoise) or a similar Southern Rhone blend. I’d probably also try a Rioja or a lighter-style Zinfandel (something like Hartford Court is nice). If you prefer white, the best match would be something off-dry such as a Kabinett Riesling. I had an inexpensive Riesling from Washington recently that was actually a very good pairing – Eroica from Chateau St. Michelle. What I enjoyed about this one is that it’s only slightly off dry. Eroica is the result of a winemaking collaboration between Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Bob Bertheau and famed Mosel winemaker Ernst Loosen.


Chicken Noodle Soup

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Time: 5-6 hours (easy to make, but waiting for the chicken to slow cook takes time)

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients (First List)

  • Whole chicken (approximately 3 lbs; remove the “innards”)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 large onion – chopped
  • ½ cup fresh parsley – chopped
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves – chopped
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes or 2 tablespoons chicken soup base
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon dried celery seed
  • Dash of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Ingredients (Second List)

  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup minced onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • Salt and black pepper to taste (can add a little cayenne as well if you like a kick)
  • ½ cup rice (uncooked) OR 1 lb fusilli or rotelle

Recipe

  • Combine first list of ingredients above: chicken, water, onion, celery, parsley, peppercorns, bouillon/soup base, bay leaves, celery seed, thyme and salt in large pot (water should cover chicken so don’t use a pot that is too large/wide).
  • Cook over low heat for 3-4 hours and keep covered.
  • Remove chicken from pot and allow it to cool.
  • Strain vegetables and spices from broth and discard (because all flavor has been sucked out).
  • Put broth in refrigerator to cool for 30-90 minutes.
  • Remove skin and bones from chicken – cut or tear meat into bite-sized pieces.
  • Skim/remove fat from top of cooled broth.
  • Bring broth to a boil.
  • Add second list of ingredients to the broth, including the chicken.
  • In a separate pot, cook the pasta according to instructions (if you cook it separately, it keeps the soup from getting too starchy)
  • Simmer for approximately 30 minutes until vegetables are cooked but not too soft – this makes a large bowl of soup so if you are making it to reheat again later they’ll get softer.

Wine Suggestions: If you enjoy the complimentary flavors and textures – then a creamy white, such as a buttery California Chardonnay, is a nice compliment to this soup. However, if you prefer something more contrasting, I think a crisp white with good acidity is wonderful to cut through the oiliness that comes through in the chicken. The photo above was when we tried it with a a very light, fairly high-acid red (Arbois) and it was nice, but not a fantastic pairing.  I’d have prefered a light White Burgundy with some beautiful lemony flavors.


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