Hot and Sour Soup

Hot and Sour Soup in serving bowl

Happy Chinese New Year! Monday, February 8th marks the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey. Billions, that’s right, billions(!) of people are expected to travel within China over the next couple of weeks. It really is a mass migration as people go home to celebrate this holiday with their families. And when families get together over holidays, there is sure to be delicious food.

Bowl of Clementines

The foods associated with Chinese New Year are very symbolic and are meant to bring good fortune, longevity, and happiness. Oranges and tangerines are often displayed and eating them is said to bring prosperity and luck. The Chinese words for gold and orange sound alike, and the word for tangerine is similar to the word for luck.

Red Snapper

Another play on words is associated with fish. The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance. Fish is often on the menu for the Chinese New Year, and is served whole signifying a good beginning and ending to the New Year. To serve two fish is even better, one on New Year’s Eve and the other offered on New Year’s Day, guaranteeing good fortune year after year.

Red Snapper

One of my favorite Chinese dishes (New Year’s or not) is Hot and Sour Soup. Unfortunately, so many restaurant versions are too thick and viscous, almost coming off as slimy, victims of cornstarch added by a heavy hand. This homemade version is infinitely tastier. Instead of cornstarch to thicken the soup, eggs are whisked in to add body without muddling the bright tangy flavor of the vinegar or heat of the pepper. Ground pork is not traditional, but is faster than roasted pork. The original recipe comes from Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery and Myers and Chang restaurant in Boston. I’ve cut the ground pork in half, and doubled the amount mushrooms. You can easily make this completely vegetarian by eliminating the pork all together and using a vegetable broth instead of chicken stock. You’re in complete control of the tanginess and the heat, both quickly adjusted to your taste by ramping up or toning down the rice vinegar and Sriracha sauce.

Now, I’m off to make Longevity Noodles. The key is not to cut the noodles… the longer the noodle, the longer your life. Will post Friday!

Hot and Sour Soup in serving bowl

Hot and Sour Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

adapted from Flour, Too by Joanne Chang

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
1 Tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger (about 1 ½ inch piece of ginger)
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, set aside 2 Tablespoons sliced for garnish
4 oz ground pork
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 lb block firm tofu, (not silken or extra firm) cut into ½ inch cubes
8-10 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 large eggs

Instructions:
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and ground pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. Break the pork into smaller pieces, but don’t worry about breaking it down completely. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium high heat. (Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.)

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Divide the soup among four bowls and garnish each with a sprinkling of scallions. Serve immediately. The soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Hot and Sour Soup ingredients on cutting board
Prep your Hot and Sour Soup ingredients: garlic, ginger, scallions, ground pork, chicken stock, tofu, mushrooms, sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha, and eggs.
Ground pork, garlic, ginger, and scallions in a saucepan
In large saucepan heat oil over medium high heat. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, and ground pork. Cook for 1 minute, breaking up pork, but not completely breaking it down. You want some chunks.
Adding chicken stock to ground pork, garlic, ginger, and scallions
Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Adding tofu to soup
Add the tofu…
Add mushrooms to soup
Add the mushrooms…
Adding sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha to soup
Add sugar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha (I had all these ingredients in one bowl, as I knew they would be going in all at once).
Adding rice vinegar to soup
Add the rice vinegar and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium high heat.
hot and sour soup in saucepan
Bring soup back to a simmer.
Hot and Sour Soup garnished with scallions in serving bowl
Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

Butternut SquashButternut squash has a long shelf life- which works well for me when I receive large quantities of it as part of my CSA! As you can imagine the growing season in New England is short, though our local farm does an amazing job of squeezing every last bit of sunshine and warmth out of earth and sky to make the harvest last as long as possible. In fact, they do such a good job, that the farm offers an “Extended Harvest” share, with pick ups well into November.

Each week from June through November I am the happy recipient of culinary treasures… fruits and veggies of all sorts. The spring and summer pick ups Cabbagesgenerally contain perishable produce that has to be dealt with immediately… eaten, frozen, or canned for future meals. The November shares are far more forgiving in terms of shelf life; onions, garlic, potatoes, and winter squash can live on my kitchen counter or in a cool spot in the basement for a long while before I turn my attention to them. Cabbages, radishes, and carrots will survive almost the entire winter in the produce drawers of my fridge.

Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter veggies and incredibly versatile. It can be baked, roasted, or turned into soup, pairing well with many different types of flavors. According to The Flavor Bible, the wide range of combinations include (but is definitely not limited to):
Butternut squash + bacon + maple syrup + sage
Butternut squash + cilantro + coconut + ginger
Butternut squash + ricotta cheese + sage

Below is my take on Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream. The tart apples are beautiful with the rich nutty squash, while the cider’s sweetness rounds everything out. I usually use chicken stock, but vegetable stock will work equally well if you’d like to keep this strictly vegetarian.

Do you have a favorite winter vegetable that you like to use? What do you with it?

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream

  • Servings: 10
  • Print

*adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
½ cup chopped peeled carrot
½ cup chopped celery
2 small granny smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon crumbled dried sage leaves
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 ½ cups apple cider, divided
2/3 cup plain greek yogurt or crème fraiche

Instructions:
Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium high heat. Add squash, leeks, carrots, and celery; sauté until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Mix in apples, thyme, and sage. Add stock and 1 cup cider. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until apples are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender, puree soup. Alternatively, soup can be pureed, in batches, in a blender.

Make cider cream. Boil remaining ½ cup cider in heavy small saucepan until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Cool. Place yogurt or crème fraiche in small bowl. Whisk in reduced cider. (Soup and cider cream can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Bring soup to simmer. Ladle soup into bowls. Dollop with cider cream and serve.

Squash, leeks, carrot, and celery in dutch oven.
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan. Add squash, leeks, carrot, and celery.
Adding apples and herbs to sautéed vegetables in dutch oven.
Sauté until veggies are softened, 15 minutes or so, then add apples, thyme, and sage.
Adding stock and cider to sautéed veggies and apples.
Add stock and 1 cup of cider. Bring to a boil.
Simmering veggies, apples, and herbs in stock and cider.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until apples are tender.
Pureed Butternut Squash Soup
Through the magic of the blogosphere, the soup has been pureed. Actually, I used an immersion blender, but couldn’t get an action pick- not enough hands! If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches in a regular blender.
Cider syrup, plain yogurt, and whisk
Boil remaining 1/2 cup cider until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.

Cider Cream

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream
Bring soup to a simmer, laden into bowls and dollop with cider cream.

 

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup with meatballs, spinach and orzo

Italian Wedding Soup with meatballs, spinach, and orzoThis fragrant and nourishing soup quickly comes together with ingredients you probably already have on hand. Besides the meat for the meatballs and dill for the soup, the other elements are pretty standard pantry and fridge items.

The humble, but delicious broth begins with a “holy trinity” of carrots, celery, and onions; the addition of white wine and dill brings about a brightness and freshness. I especially love the meatballs, “pre-seasoned” by using Italian sausage mixed with ground turkey. And, instead of standing over a stove cooking them in hot oil, inevitably developing tiny blisters over your hands and wrists from splattering grease (clearly, I am speaking from experience), the balls are measured with a small ice-cream scoop, laid in neat little rows, and baked in the oven. I often double the meatball recipe and freeze half for future soups, pasta nights, or meatball subs. These bite sized gems are incredibly handy to have tucked away in the freezer for last minute snacks, appetizers, or meals.

The original recipe appears in Ina Garten’s Back to Basics. I’ve tweaked it a bit for my tastes (and you can, too). For example, while the original calls for ground chicken and chicken sausage, I use ground turkey and regular Italian pork sausage, one sweet and one spicy. Ina uses a tiny pasta, such as tubetini or stars, which I can’t always find. Instead I use orzo, a staple in my pantry. I cook the orzo separately and add it to the broth right before serving, otherwise the pasta soaks up too much liquid. Not that that’s the end of the world; it will happen if you have leftovers. Simply thin the soup with a bit of water or stock. Speaking of stock, you will need 10 cups- homemade or store bought. Though I love homemade stock, I’ll be completely honest, I don’t always have some stashed in the freezer. Good quality store bought stock is smart to have on hand and I do, though I am very picky about the brand. I only use low sodium Swanson’s Organic Chicken Stock (Swanson’s did NOT pay me to write that!).

On another note, while no one in my family suffers from celiac disease, one of my best friends does. Whenever I can, I reach for a recipe that with just a little tinkering, can be one everyone at the table enjoys. This Italian Wedding Soup is one of those easily adjusted recipes. Simply use gluten free breadcrumbs, and a small gluten free pasta to replace the orzo, or if that isn’t available, rice would be a fine substitute.

As always, I encourage you to “play with your food!” If your CSA pick up included lots of kale, chard, or other greens use them instead of spinach.  Do you love carrots?  Add more.  Are there other veggies lingering in your vegetable drawer… turnips, leeks, or even a handful of cherry or grape tomatoes would be savory additions to this lovely soup.  Most importantly, have fun and enjoy gathering your friends and family around the table to share a meal.

Italian Wedding Soup with meatballs, spinach and orzo

Italian Wedding Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Print

*adapted from Back to Basics, by Ina Garten

Ingredients:
For the meatballs
½ lb ground turkey (white meat)
½ lb ground turkey (dark meat)
2 Italian sausages, casings removed
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (gluten free, if needed)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
3 Tablespoons milk
1 extra-large egg, slightly beaten
salt and fresh ground pepper

For the soup
2 Tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots)
1 cup diced celery (3 stalks)
10 cups chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup small pasta, such as orzo (gluten free, if needed or use rice)
¼ cup minced fresh dill
10 ounces baby spinach

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the meatballs, place the ground turkey, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. Using a tablespoon or small ice-cream scoop, drop 1 to 1 ¼-inch meatballs onto a parchment lined sheet pan. You will have about 40 meatballs. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the soup, cook orzo (or rice) according to package directions, removing a minute or two before it’s done. Rinse and drain, toss with a little extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking and set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium low heat in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs and cooked orzo to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, just until the spinach is wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan cheese.

Meatball ingredients on a cutting board- ground turkey, hot italian sausage, sweet italian sausage, pecorino romano cheese, parmesan cheese, milk, egg, parsley, breadcrumbs, and salt

Raw Meatball Mix
Using a fork, gently combine all of the meatball ingredients.
Scooping meatballs onto parchment lined baking sheet.
Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, measure out the meatballs.
Raw meatballs laid out on a sheet pan, ready for the oven
Bake the meatballs in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.
Cooked meatballs on a sheet pan.
The meatballs are done and ready for the soup (or freezer).
Carrots, celery, and onions are the base of the broth.
Carrots, celery, and onions are the base of the broth.
Adding wine and chicken stock to carrots, celery, and onions.
Add wine and chicken stock.
Meatballs, orzo, and dill are added.
Meatballs, orzo, and dill are added.
Raw spinach is added to the soup.
Spinach is the last ingredient to be added and only takes a minute to wilt.
Wilted spinach in Italian Wedding Soup
Soup is ready! Serve with a warm crusty loaf of bread and parmesan for passing at the table.

Italian Wedding Soup with meatballs, spinach, and orzo