The holidays are over and winter has set in. The good news is, we will see a couple of minutes more daylight with each passing day. My cold-winter night, quick dinner-go-to is a piping hot and steamy bowl of soup. I thought back to childhood days when I would eat a bowl of alphabet soup, trying to find all of the letters in the alphabet. I bet some of you did this, too!
Today, I have a repertoire of favorites I tend to make again and again, but not from a can. Soup must be a favorite for many of you, since the most popular restaurant recipe requests I receive from readers are for soups. The red lentil soup from the Turkish Kebab House in West Haven, requested several times, is one of my favorites. The recipe is below. Try it in the restaurant, too, so you can compare your results.
I am always on the lookout for recipes to add to my standards. Every country, culture and family have their traditions. Mine? My grandmother’s matzo ball soup, mushroom and barley and split pea are in my repertoire; her borscht, not. There is a diner I stop at in the Hudson Valley of New York just for its Manhattan clam chowder, which appears on the menu every other Friday. They alternate with the New England style, a favorite for many.
Some of you might have an affinity for the tomato soup from the iconic red-and-white can! By the way, it was John T. Dorrance who worked as a chemist, and then became president for Campbell Soup, who invented condensed soup. His invention allowed the can to be smaller and sold at a lower price, since the shipping costs were lower. Just add a can of water at home.
January is the perfect month to celebrate National Soup Month. So get out the biggest pot you have, and to help add to your menu of soups, pick up a copy of “Cook’s Illustrated All Time Best Soups,” by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen (2016, $22.95).
After reading the book, you will realize that making a kettle of soup isn’t difficult. Their tips are helpful. You might have wondered why many recipes say to use a sturdy pot. It transfers heat evenly and prevents scorching. The editors give pot recommendations. They go on to: how to sauté the aromatics, how to choose a good stock if you don’t make your own, how to cut the vegetables the right way, and why to simmer and not boil.
When I make soup, I make quite a bit. The section on storing, freezing, thawing and reheating soup provided some helpful ideas. Here is a helpful hint for creamy soups and soups that have a pasta component that won’t freeze well. This works if you are making the soup in advance and immediately freezing it. “The dairy curdles as it freezes and the pasta turns bloated and mushy. Instead, make and freeze the soup without the dairy or pasta component included. After you have thawed the soup and it has been heated through, either stir in the uncooked pasta and simmer until just tender or stir in the dairy and continue to heat gently until hot (do not let it boil).”
There are chapters on:
“Weeknight Workhorses” such as chicken and ramen, easy black bean with chorizo, and Turkish tomato, bulgar and red pepper soup. For this recipe, visit https://bit.ly/2QfmFde.
Soups from around the world: Matzo ball, Italian Wedding Soup, Russian-style beef and cabbage, Thai-style chicken soup.
Chowders: New England clam; Manhattan, lobster and corn, celeriac, fennel, and apple.
Modern vegetable soups: super greens soup with lemon tarragon cream, hearty cabbage soup, artichoke soup a la barigoule.
Elegant purees: creamy cauliflower, sweet potato, and the recipe below for creamless creamy tomato soup.
Rustic bean soups: Tuscan white bean, Moraccan-style chickpea, black bean with chipotle chiles.
Stocks and broths: classic chicken stock, beef bone broth, vegetable broth base.
There are never enough soup recipes to have in your file and it is the time of year when a hot bowl of soup is comforting and satisfying, so look out for a few more of the soup recipes mentioned here next week in part two.
The headnote says: “Why This Recipe Works: A warm bowl of tomato soup brings out the kid in all of us. Our homemade version satisfies a grown-up palate with its creamy texture and fresh taste. We wanted a tomato soup that would have velvety smoothness and a bright tomato taste — without flavor-dulling cream. We started with canned tomatoes for their convenience and year-round availability. Sautéing an onion in olive oil ramped up the sweet notes of the tomatoes and a little brown sugar balanced the tomatoes’ acidity. A surprise ingredient — slices of crustless white bread torn into pieces and blended into the soup — helped give our tomato soup luxurious body without adding cream. Make sure to purchase canned whole tomatoes in juice, not in puree. If half of the soup fills your blender by more than two-thirds, process the soup in three batches. For an even smoother soup, pass the pureed mixture through a fine-mesh strainer after blending it. Serve with Classic Croutons (a crouton recipe provided in book).”
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, and pepper flakes, if using. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in bread and sugar and bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
Transfer half of soup to blender. Add 1 tablespoon oil and puree until soup is smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Return pureed soup to clean pot. Stir in broth and brandy, if using. Return soup to boil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkling individual bowls with chives and drizzling with oil. Serves 6 to 8.
Put lentils, carrot onions and 41/2 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low until lentils are cooked. Put aside.
In a second pot, put olive oil and butter over high heat until butter is melted. Lower heat to medium and add flour tomato paste and mint, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add 41/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add the boiled lentil mixture to the pot and return to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and cook for 20 minutes. Continue to stir so soup does not become too thick. Serves 6-8. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing into soup.
Taste of Middlesex County Jan. 13- 19, fixed-price three-course dinners priced at $20.20 and $30.20. Participating restaurants and menus at https://bit.ly/39fpLVR.
Consiglio’s Demonstration Cooking Class: Jan.,15 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Menu: Spicy Shrimp and Sausage Bruschetta, Iceberg Wedge, Gorgonzola, Bacon & Tomato Pepeso , Tuscan Pepper Beef Stew over Creamy Polenta, Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti. https://bit.ly/2Nd0xAg
Fire & Ice Outdoor Winter Festival Jan. 17, 7-11 p.m., Saybrook Point Inn, 2 Bridge St., Old Saybrook; $69.95 plus tax. Cash bar. Adults-only (21+) event features winter fun on the terrace, music by Java Groove, ice carving demonstrations, a photo booth and unique specialty cocktails. Food stations offer raw bar, chowders and chili, seafood, smoked chicken, barbecue beef sliders and desserts. An overnight stay package is available. 860-339-0555, info and tickets at https://bit.ly/35Z5MsF.
Consiglio’s Mystery Dinner Party: “Pajama Jam 2” Jan.24, 7 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a 3-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. Wear your jammies to compete for a prize! https://bit.ly/2QztQvt.