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Tomato & Lemongrass Broth with Orzo

20 Mar

Tomato Lemongrass Soup with Orzo

Mother Nature is playing cruel tricks on us this year. We are well into March and every time there is a faint glimpse of spring, the Weather Gods dampen our spirits with a cold front or a wintery-mix. This atypical weather makes it rather challenging to determine seasonal produce. Winter produce is almost on its way out. Spring and even summer produce is starting to preview in stores, but more than often the quality is far from desirable. So meals and menus need to be planned in the grocery store based on whatever looks good – winter, spring or summer produce – your guess is as good as mine, till you are in the store.

Last week I came across some remarkable Roma tomatoes, despite it being quite early in the year for them. Given my insatiable love for tomatoes, I returned home with several pounds of these beauties, that found their way into a heartwarming soup recipe.  Continue reading

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul

8 Feb

IMG_2487My Facebook news feed is flooded with updates of plans and preparations for the potential historical blizzard – winter storm Nemo. Since you cannot really beat Mother Nature at her game, why not stay in and warm up with an effortless, delicious and hearty one-pot soup-based meal? And even if you are not caught in the eye of this storm this is the ideal flavorful and healthful one-pot meal for any chilly night.

This soup is a detour from a classic chicken noodle soup; it is in fact a Far East variation of it. Ginger, lemongrass, lime and Thai birds-eye chilies breathe new life into a classic chicken broth, while the bacon adds a layer of smokiness to it. The chicken, noodles, bok choy and mushrooms come together to create a well-balanced meal. There’s nothing wrong with a traditional chicken and egg-noodle soup, but this feisty and flamboyant cousin is sure to gratify your soul on a cold and dreary day.

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul
Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats: Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup with Lime and Ginger Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth (Store bought or homemade)
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut into 2 inch pieces (see note)
2, 1 inch pieces of ginger, peeled
2 -3 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
2 Thai birds-eye chilies, seeded and diced
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (or 2 small ones)
½ tablespoon of good olive oil
3 slices of center cut bacon, diced
½ cup scallions (whites and greens), minced
2-3 bunches of baby bok choy, roughly chopped
6-8 thinly sliced shitake mushrooms (see note)
1/3 cup thin Thai basil, shredded (see note)
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
4 ounces of rice noodles or ramen-style Japanese noodles, cooked al dente per package instructions
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon of cilantro
Optional condiment: Siracha sauce, to be added per taste at the time of serving

Notes:

  • Fresh lemongrass is available at all Asian grocery stores and several large grocery chains. If you cannot find fresh lemon grass then, substitute it with the bottled kind that can be found in the international aisles of most grocery stores.
  • Thai basil is available at all Asian grocery stores and several large grocery chains.
  • You can substitute the shitakes with crimini or white button mushrooms.
  • The fish sauce and broth are salty, so make sure before you add any additional salt you taste the soup to determine how much you need.

Method:
1) Pour the chicken broth into a large stock pot. To this add the lemongrass, ginger, garlic cloves and birds eye chilies. Bring these ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the broth reaches a roaring boil, reduce the heat to low and add the chicken breast. Cover and simmer until the chicken breast is fully cooked.
2) Turn-off the heat and remove the pot from heat. Remove the chicken breast and it set aside to cool. Remove the ginger pieces and garlic cloves from the broth and discard. At this point you can even discard the lemon grass, but I prefer to remove it right at the end as it keeps infusing the soup with flavor. Set the broth aside to use in the soup. Use a fork to shred the chicken once it has cooled and is easy to work with.
3) In a medium Dutch-Oven or soup-pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook it through. Now add the scallions and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
4) Add the broth to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil (uncovered). Once it reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low and add the bok choy and mushrooms. Cook for a minute and then add the shredded basil, chicken, noodles, fish sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Give everything a good stir and then turn-off the heat.
5) Stir in the lime juice and garnish with cilantro. Serve with Siracha sauce for some extra heat!

Garlicky Green Mung Bean Soup

23 Oct

“To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.”

My husband rides the overcrowded DC metro to and from work each day. Once or twice a year he brings home the cold and flu virus. Since we are together in sickness and health, it’s inevitable that I get sick every time he is just about recovering. The truth in our house is that I am a horrible patient. I do not accept the invasion of germs without grumbling and moping. I also become really finicky about food and refuse to eat anything short of hearty comfort food.

We recently just encountered a round of flu and to survive the week it was essential to have nourishing and cozy meals each day. This soup was developed to satiate a craving for green lentil soup. I did not have French green lentils in my pantry so I worked with green mung beans that I always have on hand. The addition of garlic, cumin, cinnamon and a bay leaf gives this soup a rustic and earthy flavor. Topping it off with fried onions and serving it with crusty bread or toasted pita crafts a meal that you will enjoy, both in sickness and in health!

Garlicky Green Mung Bean Soup
Serves: 4 people
Time: Active time: 15 minutes   Inactive time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
Soup
1 cup green mung beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1 bay leaf
½ cinnamon stick
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Method:
1) Put the lentils into a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a rapid boil and boil the lentils for 10 minutes. The lentils will start to change color.  Drain them and set aside.
2)  In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and the butter on medium heat.  Add the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and let it cook for 1-2 minutes till you get their aroma.
3) Add the diced onion and cook till translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until the raw garlic smell dissipates.
4) Add the cumin and turmeric and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the lentils, water and broth and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
5) While the lentils are cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet. Add the sliced onion (for garnish) and cook stirringly frequently till the onions are golden brown. Do not let them burn. Remove them and place on a paper towel to drain off the excess oil.
6) Once the lentils are soft, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Use an immersion bender or potato masher to achieve a soup consistency that consists of half ground mung beans (See picture above). You do not want to over-puree this soup. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
7) Pour the soup into bowls and top each bowl with the fried onions and cilantro. Enjoy with warm crusty bread or toasted pita.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Truffle Oil & A Herbed Goat Cheese Ball

27 Sep

We all have our lists of comfort foods; foods that warm our hearts and feed our souls. They are foods that calm our nerves and satiate our appetites on days that seem far from perfect. I have a long list of favorite comfort foods and soup is pretty high up on that list. And not just any soup – tomato soup, particularly a roasted tomato soup.

By now you know my love for tomatoes, and since tomatoes found in the cooler months of the year are often not at their best, roasting wheedles out the flavor of a less than pristine tomato. A classic roasted tomato soup is a staple around our home in the cooler months, but is an entertaining worthy soup?

This is a dilemma I found myself grappling with a few days ago. Since I profess that I feed people’s appetites, I ought to have my fancier, party worthy meals stem for classic comfort food recipes. I need to create dressed up versions of comfort classics that have both the panache of a fancy dinner and the cozy feel of comfort food. This self-imposed mandate was the foundation of this recipe.

The herbed goat cheese ball replaces the cream that would traditionally thicken a tomato soup. As it melts into the soup it creates an additional layer of flavor and texture. This coupled with a hint of white truffle oil elevates a comfort classic to celebrity status.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Truffle oil & Herbed Goat Cheese
Serves 4 people

HERBED GOAT CHEESE BALLS:

Ingredients:

4 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
¼ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

 Method:

1) Mix together all the above ingredients.
2) Use your hands to form small balls that are just a little smaller than golf balls. Place them on a plate and chill in the refrigerator till the soup is ready.
3) If you have leftover goat cheese balls, they make a great spread for toast or crackers.

ROASTED TOMATO SOUP

Ingredients:

1 lb vine ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
5 unpeeled whole garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
5 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon of white truffle oil (See note)
2 tablespoons of basil, Chiffonade
Salt and pepper to taste

Note:

  • You can use more truffle oil if you want to. Be aware that it is very strong and a little bit more can have an overpowering flavor. You want to just have a hint of it when you taste the soup.

Method:

1) Pre-heat the oven to 450⁰F.
2) Cover a large sheet pan/cookie sheet with foil. Lay out all tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves on it. Drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper.
3) Roast all these vegetables in the oven for 30 minutes. Flip the vegetables over half way through to ensure even charring.
4) Once the vegetables are roasted, bring the chicken stock to a boil along with the bay leaf and oregano in a Dutch oven on the stove top.
5) Add the roasted vegetables and the tomato paste to the boiling broth. Don’t forget to remove the roasted garlic from the peels and discard the peels before adding to the broth. Let everything come up to a rolling boil.
6) Now reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat when done.
7) Using and immersion blender or a food processor, blend everything together. Use a sieve to strain out any seeds.
8) Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the truffle oil and basil.
9) Serve the soup in your best soup bowls and top each bowl with one of the goat cheese balls.

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