Category Archives: Soups

Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk

Meatless Monday.

It’s become a thing in our house, like, I suppose, some of yours.curry

It’s something Ellen has instituted here, and it happens most of the time (except when it doesn’t).  The kids often object, but not all that strenuously unless I produce something with bulgur or faro or some other grain that they perceive tastes like packing peanuts.

So we’re constantly challenged to come up with vegetarian offerings that are packed with nutritional value and interesting genealogy and, oh yes, flavor.

Such is the case with this tasty and fragrant Indian-influenced soup adapted from a recipe taken from the pages of Vegetarian Times.  It’s loaded with flavor—it will perfume your whole house as it cooks—and protein and fiber, and will gain props all round as you serve it up with an interesting hunk of artisan bread or pita wedges or toasted naan, or a scoop of brown rice on the side.

Try this one.  It’s simple to make and memorable, too.

By the way, if you’ve avoided getting an immersion blender, this is the perfect excuse to get one, or ask Santa to deliver one to you this holiday season.

Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups cold water.

2 cups sweet onions, chopped

1 cup red lentils

3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 14-ounce unsweetened (light if possible) coconut milk

1  teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon finely round white pepper

1 bay leaf

3 cloves garlic, roughly minced

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly minced

1 tablespoon Indian (or try Jamaican) curry

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation:

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add water, lentils, carrots, coconut milk, salt, pepper, and the bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, curry, and cilantro.  Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes, then add to the soup.  Remove the bay leaf.

Puree the soup, either in the food processor or blender in batches, or in the pot with an immersion blender, until velvety smooth.  Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve hot with fresh sautéed vegetables, brown rice, and/or a nice fresh bread.

Locally Grown French Mushroom Soup

Continuing our trip around the world with friends, soupwe next stop in Marseille, on the southeast coast of France, to where we have traveled from Spain by train.  There we encounter a small restaurant that has created a velvety-smooth mushroom soup that is dressed with a “salad” of ingredients also found in the soup.  It is not your mother’s mushroom soup, or anything like that concentrated product from the soup giant.  This soup has a sophisticated and complex flavor that is at the same time subtle and earthy, touched as it is by fresh raw mushrooms that bathe shortly in finished soup as you partake.  Try this one yourself.  It is simple and elegant.

The soup is a true French creation: it’s made with champignons de Paris, or what we know as plain white or button mushrooms, and it’s inspired by a soup from the Paris bistro, Les Papilles (whose name means taste buds). At the little restaurant, the soup comes to the table in a big tureen, and you’re encouraged to dip the ladle into it as often as you like.

At Les Papilles, shallow soup plates are brought to the table sans soup but with a small mushroom “salad”: thin slices of raw mushrooms seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped chives, and parsley and topped with a tiny bit of crème fraîche. When the hot soup is poured over the salad, the mushrooms cook just slightly.  You’ll get to enjoy that nice contrast between the cooked soup and the raw vegetable.

The name champignons de Paris is more honorific than correct these days. While the mushrooms did get their start near Paris — Louis XIV had them in the gardens at Versailles — they were found growing in the catacombs beneath Paris when construction for the metro began, today the mushrooms are ubiquitous in America, but they are grown all over Chester county right next to us here in Lancaster, and they are likely fresher here than almost anywhere else.  I believe we could just as easily call this Fresh and Local Mushroom Soup, as all the ingredients–right down to the butter and yogurt–can (and ought to be) locally sourced.

French Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

For the soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ large onions, coarsely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1½ pounds white mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed, and sliced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 parsley sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
6 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons French cognac

For the “salad
6 large white mushrooms, wiped clean and trimmed
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Plain Greek yogurt, for serving

To make the soup: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Toss in the onions and garlic, season with salt and white pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the mushrooms and the remaining tablespoon of butter, raise the heat to medium, and cook, continuing to stir, for another 3 minutes or so, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Increase the heat to high and cook until almost all of the liquid evaporates. Pour in the wine and let it boil until it, too, almost evaporates.

Toss the herbs into the pot, add the broth or water (and the bouillon cubes, if you’re using them), and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot almost completely, and cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Pull out the rosemary sprig (it will have lost its leaves).  Add the cognac.

Working in small batches in a blender or food processor, puree the soup until it is very smooth; or use an immersion blender. If you’re using a processor or an immersion blender, you probably won’t get a super-smooth soup. If you’d like, you can push the pureed soup through a strainer, but it’s really not necessary. Taste for salt and white pepper. Pour the soup back into the pot and heat it gently — it shouldn’t boil, but it should be very hot.

To make the salad and serve: Divide the mushrooms, scallions, parsley, and chives among six soup plates; season lightly with salt and white pepper. Ladle the soup into the bowls, and top each with a dollop of crème fraîche, if desired.

Serving
Arrange the salad in shallow bowls.  Bring the dressed bowls to the table and ladle the soup from a tureen or soup pot into the bowls.  Finish the soup with a spoonful of crème fraîche or plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle a bit of freshly chopped parsley over the top.

Storing
The soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

Some of the text for this entry and the recipe, which I have altered just a bit, come from a fine cookbook titled Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this “Ellen’s Favorite Soup,” because there are an awful lot of soups that she likes.peanut soup But let’s just say this, and let the evidence stand for itself: She made a batch of this soup a few weeks ago, and I had a second bowl for dinner, leaving none for leftovers the following day. She was really steamed. She doesn’t get steamed very often, and even when she does, she rarely shows it. But leaving her no Thai chicken soup? I certainly won’t let THAT happen again.

So what is this liquid gold that gets her gussie all bundled up in a batch? The ingredient list alone is enough to make a foodie swoon: red curry paste, peanut butter, coconut milk, fresh ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce. Wow! My taste buds are shifting into overdrive even as I type this. It’s a darn good thing that there’s a batch on the kitchen counter as we speak. Smells fabulous. Mix those ingredients together with the rest of the list, and you have a dish made for the Gods.

Well, the gods of Thailand, anyway.

And to boot, because it’s a slow-cooker thing, the whole pot can be thrown together in just minutes, you can leave the house for the day, and come home to the dancing fragrance of this wonderful batch of creaminess filling the kitchen with the aromas of Southeast Asia.

That’s a good thing.

So here’s the scoop on this scoopable:

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 12-ounce cans coconut milk

2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼” slices

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Cilantro for garnish

Chopped peanuts for garnish

2 cups cooked white rice

Preparation:

  1. Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a 4-6-quart slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, onion, red bell pepper in the crock, cover and cook for 4 hours on high or seven hours on low.
  1. Add the peas and cook for ½ hour longer. Stir in the lime juice, serve in heavy bowls garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and peanuts and a bowl of white rice. The rice can be added to the soup at the table. Or not.

Ellen’s Chili-party Chili

It’s taken me years to accept a harsh reality:  chilifor popular consumption, Ellen’s chili-party chili is better than mine.  Now I still swear by my own Tex-Mex Tequila-mole-beanless chili, but the truth is, my version is simply not for everyone–it’s an acquired taste, and one has to be a real fan of the Tex-Mex style of chili, but for the larger audience, hers is way better than any of the chili recipes I have in my  holster.  And so, I have spent the day preparing a big batch of Ellen’s chili-party chili, in advance of our annual open house soup and chili party, which, you may already know, is scheduled for the Sunday between Christmas and New Years day.  This year will be our fourth (almost) annual party, and if you’re reading this and you’re in the vicinity that weekend, you’re invited.  If you haven’t found the way here yet, be advised that it will go on with or without you, although we’d love to see you.  We make three soups and a chili.  This years selections will include our usual and most favoritest soup, Ellen and Babs’ Hearty Chicken Chowder  (https://jeffskitchen.net/2012/10/07/ellen-and-babs-hearty-chicken-chowder/); one vegetarian or vegan selection; and one kid-friendly soup; and one chili–we alternate years between a red chili and a white chili; this year’s selection being Ellen’s Chili-party Chili.  The vegetarian selection and the kid-friendly selections have yet to be determined, but will be soon.

We are often asked for the recipes for our productions; all are homemade and from personal favorite recipes.  They are always posted here.  For the party we will produce something in the vicinity of 50 gallons of soup and chili, and you may just come and enjoy.  A kiss for the chefs is all that is necessary for you to bring, but bring your family and your appetite.  This is a fun event, sitting a few days after Christmas, when most folks are either out of town or are tired of leftovers or looking for something else to do rather than cook again.  This is your weekend off.  Let us cook for you Sunday night.

Forthwith, allow me to present to you the recipe for Ellen’s fabulous presentation, of which I just completed 2 gallons, and there will be more to come.

Ellen’s Chili-Party Chili

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups chopped onions

1 whole head of garlic, peeled and cloves chopped.

1 32-oz jar medium (or mild) red salsa

3 pounds ground beef, turkey, or a combination of both

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 4-ounce can chopped green chilis

4 tablespoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons dried or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (optional)

3 12-oz cans Yuengling lager beer (dark beer, ale, IPAs or other beers optional, at your pleasure)

4 28-oz cans or 1 #10 can whole tomatoes, crushed (Cento San Marzanos are my favorite)

7 cans dark red kidney beans

Preparation:

Heat the olive oil in a very large pot over medium-high heat–this recipe is a big one; makes 2 gallons.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the ground meat and continue to saute until completely browned.  Add the salsa, stir well, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes.  Add the salt, pepper, chilis, beer, and spices, stir well and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and beans, stir well, and simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with sour cream, chopped scallions, shredded jack or cheddar cheese, and red Tabasco Sauce.

We will have all these and more

Hearty Mushroom-Barley Soup…Moosewood Style

The first thing I want to report in this entry is that I love—LOVE!!!—the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY.  For years I have used and featured recipes from the various Moosewood cookbooks; one of my all-time favorites is Moosewood Celebrates.  It is chock full of holiday-specific recipes for just about as many holidays that you can imagine.

And this being the coldest part of the coldest winter in my memory, I thought I’d cook my go-to meal for a winter Sunday evening. P1100054

Soup.

You all know of my affinity for soups. I love making soups—creamy soups, hearty soups, beefy soups, chickeny soups, veggie soups—there isn’t a soup I won’t try.

But this week, I’m turning back to what I know and love best:  Moosewood.

This recipe comes from the original book, The Moosewood Cookbook.  Compiled and written by Molly Katzen and published in 1977, The Moosewood Cookbook is a beautiful-to-look-at-and-read cookbook, with lovely pen-and-ink drawings instead of photographs, a typeface reminiscent of hand-written recipes, and one of the best collections of down-home vegetarian recipes that don’t scream VEGETARIAN!!!, but rather present tasty entries that a whole family can enjoy without feeling like they are eating nuts and twigs.  This is a soup I made a variation of at the gourmet store in Miami, and was one of our favorites.  Herewith, I present to you the Moosewood Restaurant version of one of our all-time faves:

THE MOOSEWOOD RESTAURANT MUSHROOM-BARLEY SOUP

Ingredients:

½ cup raw pearled barley

1 ½ cups water

5 cups vegetable stock

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons tamari

4 tablespoons dry sherry

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 small-to-medium onions

1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced white mushrooms

Preparation:

Cook the barley in 1 ½ cups water for 45 minutes at very low heat. Do it right in the soup pot.  Add the stock, tamari and sherry and continue to simmer.

Saute the onions and garlic in the butter slowly, until they begin to brown lightly and start to caramelize.  When they begin to soften, add the mushrooms and salt.  When the mushrooms are tender, add to the simmering soup.  Make sure to get all the liquid that is rendered by the onions and mushrooms.

Give the soup a generous grind of fresh black pepper  and simmer 20 minutes over the lowest possible heat.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve with fresh, warm, crusty bread.

I can’t begin to tell you just how wonderful this soup is; it’s reminiscent of the best French onion soup you’ve had, and so much more.  It’s fragrant and hearty; it’s thick enough to stick to your ribs in winter, and at the same time tasty enough to serve to company.  Try this one.  It’s an oldie but goodie, and not much has come across my table that is much better.

Pho Bo (Beef Pho) and Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

Please permit me to introduce you to Andrea Nguyen.

Andrea is the maven of an incredible website that is full of the culture and recipes of Viet Nam, www.vietworldkitchen.com.  It is there that I found two recipes that are to become staples of my kitchen, Chicken Pho and beef Pho, the rich and tasty dinner soups that are central to the culture of Viet Nam, and have found their way into the lore of American cuisine by way of the many immigrants from South Viet Nam who have found their way to America.  Local to us here in Lancaster is the incredible Rice & Noodles restaurant in Manheim Township, an addition to our culinary life that is among the most welcome I have seen in my years in Central Pennsylvania. Vy and her family moved here after the disastrous hurricane Katrina decimated their home and business in New Orleans, and they are a most pleasurable addition to our wonderfully diverse life here in Lancaster County.  Vy’s Pho soups are a joy to behold, and while I love dropping in to grab a potful and bringing it home, I wanted to find a way to make it myself.

Enter Andrea Nguyen.

She has produced a fabulous collection of her own family recipes into an incredible cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, which I have purchased as a NookBook and downloaded onto my Nook and my kitchen computer, my beautiful HP Touchsmart PC,hp_touchsmart_600_02 which has become the most invaluable kitchen accessory I own (and which my better half–who was skeptical when I insisted that it had to be in our remodeled kitchen–now considers it vital to the welfare of our family).

But I digress…

Andrea Nguyen has enlightened me to the ways of Vietnamese Pho, and I am now a changed man.  The stock used to make this legendary meal is the stuff of magical qualities, and I think that I will forever keep frozen containers of it, ready to use whenever the mood comes upon me–just add noodles and protein!

Here I will introduce you to the magic of two varieties of Pho, Ga (chicken) and Bo (beef), which hopefully transform your life as they have mine.

Pho Bobeef pho

For the broth:
2 medium yellow onions (about 1 pound total)
4-inch piece ginger (about 4 ounces)
5-6 pounds beef soup bones, marrow and knuckle bones (get them at Central Market if you can’t find them at the grocery store)
5 star anise (40 star points total)
6 whole cloves
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 pound piece of beef chuck, rump, brisket or cross rib roast, cut into 2-by-4-inch pieces (weight after trimming)
1  1/2 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar (duong phen; get this at the Asian market on Liberty Street or the one near McCaskey High School)

For the bowls:
1  1/2-2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh banh pho noodles
1/2 pound raw eye of round, sirloin, London broil or tri-tip steak, thinly sliced across the grain (1/16 inch thick; freeze for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, left to soak for 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water
3 or 4 scallions, green part only, cut into thin rings
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Ground black pepper

Optional garnishes arranged on a plate and placed at the table: 
Sprigs of spearmint  and Asian/Thai basil
Leaves of thorny cilantro (ngo gai–also available at most good Asian markets)
Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
Red hot chiles (such as Thai bird or dragon), thinly sliced
Lime wedges

Prepare the Pho broth:

PhoonionChar onion and ginger. Use an open flame on grill or gas stove. Place onions and ginger on cooking grate and let skin burn. (If using stove, turn on exhaust fan and open a window.) After about 15 minutes, they will soften and become sweetly fragrant. Use tongs to occasionally rotate them and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin. You do not have to blacken entire surface, just enough to slightly cook onion and ginger.

Phopeeled_onion_and_ginger_for_br_2Let cool. Under warm water, remove charred onion skin; trim and discard blackened parts of root or stem ends. If ginger skin is puckered and blistered, smash ginger with flat side of knife to loosen flesh from skin. Otherwise, use sharp paring knife to remove skin, running ginger under warm water to wash off blackened bits. Set aside.

Parboil bones. Place bones in stockpot (minimum 12-quart capacity) and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to boil. Boil vigorously 2 to 3 minutes to allow impurities to be released. Dump bones and water into sink and rinse bones with warm water. Quickly scrub stockpot to remove any residue. Return bones to pot.

Simmer broth. Add 6 quarts water to pot, bring to boil over high heat, then lower flame to gently simmer. Use ladle to skim any scum that rises to surface. Add remaining broth ingredients and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Boneless meat should be slightly chewy but not tough. When it is cooked to your liking, remove it and place in bowl of cold water for 10 minutes; this prevents the meat from drying up and turning dark as it cools. Drain the meat; cool, then refrigerate. Allow broth to continue cooking; in total, the broth should simmer 3 hours.

Strain the broth through fine strainer. If desired, remove any bits of gelatinous tendon from bones to add to your pho bowl. Store tendon with cooked beef. Discard solids.

Skim as much fat from top of the broth as you like. (Cool it and refrigerate it overnight to make this task easier; reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust flavor with additional salt, fish sauce and yellow rock sugar. The broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. (If you’ve gone too far, add water to dilute.) Makes about 4 quarts.

Assemble pho bowls:

The key is to be organized and have everything ready to go. Thinly slice cooked meat. For best results, make sure it’s cold.

Heat the broth and ready the noodles.  Reheat the broth over medium flame as you’re assembling bowls. If you’re using dried noodles, cover with hot tap water and soak 15-20 minutes, until softened and opaque white. Drain in colander. For fresh rice noodles, just untangle and briefly rinse in a colander with cold water.

Blanch noodles. Fill 3- or 4-quart saucepan with water and bring to boil. For each bowl, use long-handle strainer to blanch a portion of noodles. As soon as noodles have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10-20 seconds), pull strainer from water, letting water drain back into saucepan. Empty noodles into bowls. Noodles should occupy 1/4 to 1/3 of bowl.  I prefer fewer noodles, because I want more broth!  Then blanch bean sprouts for 30 seconds in same saucepan. They should slightly wilt but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnish plate.

Add other ingredients. Place slices of cooked meat, raw meat and tendon (if using) atop noodles. (If your cooked meat is not at room temperature, blanch slices for few seconds in hot water from above.) Garnish with onion, scallion and chopped cilantro. Finish with black pepper.

Ladle in broth and serve. Bring broth to rolling boil. Check seasoning. Ladle broth into each bowl, distributing hot liquid evenly so as to cook raw beef and warm other ingredients. Serve your Pho with with the garnish plate.

Note: Yellow rock sugar (a.k.a. lump sugar) is sold in one-pound boxes at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets. Break up large chunks with hammer.

Variations: If you want to replicate the splendorous options available at Pho shops, head to the butcher counter at a Vietnamese or Chinese market. There you’ll find white cords of gan(beef tendon) and thin pieces of nam (outside flank, not flank steak). While tendon requires no preparation prior to cooking, nam should be rolled and tied with string for easy handling. Simmer it and the beef tendon in the cooking broth for two hours, or until chewy-tender.

You can also make Pho with beef meatballs (bo vien), which you can purchase in Asian markets in the refrigerator case; they are already precooked. Slice each one in half and drop into broth to heat through. When you’re ready to serve, ladle them out with the broth to top each bowl.

Pho GaOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Broth
2 yellow onions, about 1 pound total, unpeeled
Chubby 4-inch section fresh ginger, unpeeled
1 chicken, 4 pounds, excess fat and tail removed
3 pounds chicken backs, necks, or other bony chicken parts
5 quarts water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1-inch chunk yellow rock sugar (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet for about 1 minute until fragrant
4 whole cloves
1 small or 1/2 large bunch cilantro (bound stems about 1 inch in diameter)

Bowls
1 1/2–2 pounds small flat rice noodles, dried or fresh
Cooked chicken, at room temperature
1 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
3 or 4 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only
Black pepper

Optional garnishes
3 cups bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
10 to 12 sprigs mint, 10 to 12 sprigs Thai basil
12 to 15 fresh cilantro leaves
2 or 3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 or 3 limes, cut into wedges

Make the pho broth
Phoonion 1. Place the onions and ginger directly on the cooking grate of a medium-hot charcoal or gas grill (as pictured, to the right) or a gas stove with a medium flame, or on a medium-hot burner of an electric stove. Let the skin burn (if you’re working indoors, turn on the exhaust fan and open a window), using tongs to rotate onion and ginger occasionally and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin.

After 15 minutes, the onions and ginger will have softened slightly and become sweetly fragrant. There may even be some bubbling. You do not have to blacken the entire surface. When amply charred, remove from the heat and let cool.

Phopeeled_onion_and_ginger_for_br_22. Rinse the cooled onions under warm running water, rubbing off the charred skin. Trim off and discard the blackened root and stem ends. Use a vegetable peeler, paring knife, or the edge of a teaspoon to remove the ginger skin. Hold it under warm water to wash off any blackened bits. Halve the ginger lengthwise and bruise lightly with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife.  Set the onions and ginger aside.

3. Rinse the chicken under cool water. Detach each wing by bending it back and cutting it off at the shoulder joint. Add the wings and neck, and set the wingless chicken aside.

4. Remove and discard any loose pieces of fat from the chicken parts. With a large chef’s knife or heavy cleaver designed for chopping bones, chop the bones to break them partway or all the way through, making the cuts at 1- to 2-inch intervals, depending on the size of the part. This exposes the marrow, which enriches the broth.

5. To achieve a clear broth, you must first parboil and rinse the chicken parts. Put them in a stockpot (about 12-quart capacity) and add cold water just to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes to release the impurities. Dump the chicken parts and water into the sink (make sure it is clean), and then rinse the parts with water to wash off any clinging residue. Quickly scrub the stockpot clean and return the chicken parts to the pot. Put the chicken into the pot, breast side up.

6.  Add water to cover the chicken.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the top. Add the onions, ginger, salt, fish sauce, rock sugar, coriander seeds, cloves, and cilantro and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes, adjusting the heat if needed to maintain a gentle simmer.

At this point, the chicken is cooked; its flesh should feel firm yet still yield a bit to the touch. With a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Flush with cold water and drain well, then it set aside for 15 to 20 minutes until it is cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, keep the broth at a steady simmer.

7. When chicken can be handled, use a knife to remove each breast half and the whole legs (thigh and drumstick). Don’t cut these pieces further, or they’ll lose their succulence. Set aside on a plate to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before assembling the bowls.

8. Return the leftover carcass to the stockpot and adjust the heat to simmer the broth gently for another 1 1/2 hours. Avoid a hard boil, or the broth will turn cloudy.

9. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve (or a coarse-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth) positioned over a pot. Discard the solids. Use a ladle to skim as much fat from the top of the broth as you like. (To make this task easier, you can cool the broth, refrigerate overnight, lift off the solidified fat, and then reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust the flavor with additional salt, fish sauce, and rock sugar. There should be about 4 quarts of broth.  At this point, you can freeze the broth.

Assemble the pho bowls
10. If using dried noodles, cover them with hot tap water and let soak for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are pliable and opaque. Drain in a colander. If using fresh rice noodles, untangle them, place in a colander, and rinse briefly under cold running water.

11. Cut the cooked chicken into slices about 1/4 inch thick, cutting the meat off the bone as necessary. If you don’t want to eat the skin, discard it first. Set the chicken aside. Ready the yellow onion, scallions, cilantro, and pepper for adding to the bowls. Arrange the garnishes on a plate and put on the table.

12. To ensure good timing, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat as you are assembling the bowls. (For an extra treat, drop in any unused white scallion sections and let them poach in the broth. Add the poached white scallion sections (called hành chần) to a few lucky bowls when ladling out the broth.) At the same time, fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil.

For each bowl, place a portion of the noodles on a vertical-handle strainer (or mesh sieve) and dunk the noodles in the boiling water. As soon as they have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10 to 20 seconds), pull the strainer from the water, letting the water drain back into the pot. Empty the noodles into a bowl. If you like, once you have finished blanching the noodles, you can blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. They should wilt slightly but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnishes.

13. Top each bowl of noodles with chicken, arranging the slices flat. Place a mound of yellow onion in the center and then sprinkle scallion and cilantro on top. Finish with a sprinkle of pepper.

14. Raise the heat and bring the broth to a rolling boil. Do a final tasting and make any last-minute flavor adjustments. Ladle about 2 cups broth into each bowl, distributing the hot liquid evenly to warm all the ingredients. Serve immediately with the garnishes.

Empty-The-Vegetable-Bin Minestrone

Here’s a simple, hearty vegetable soup that you can make on a Sunday afternoon when you plan to clean out the vegetable bin.  You can put virtually anything you have left over in the soup, along with some vegetable broth, a big can of diced tomatoes, some beans and some pasta.

It’s a family staple around here.

Empty-the-Vegetable-Bin Minestrone

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white (cannellini or navy) beans, drained
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked ditalini pasta
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Basil sprigs, garnish, optional

Directions:

In a slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Potato Leek Soup

This is the kind of soup that is so simple to make yet tastes like you really know your way around the kitchen. I grew up loving this classic soup as a kid, and eating it always brings me back to a happy place. The flavors of the leeks and the potatoes compliment each other so well. I like mine pureed, but if you like it a bit chunky you can use a potato masher instead of an immersion blender to give you bigger chunks. This is ready in under 30 minutes. (To make this gluten-free, simply eliminate the flour)

Servings: 6 • Serving Size: 1 cup • Old Points: 3 pt • Points+: 3 pt
Calories: 110.3 • Fat: 0.7 g • Protein: 3.5 g • Carb: 23.2g • Fiber: 2.3 g • Sugar: 3.4 g
Sodium 660.6 mg (without adding salt)

Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch leeks (about 4) dark green stems removed
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 5 cups fat free chicken stock (or vegetable broth for vegetarians)
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • salt and fresh pepper

Preparation:
Wash leeks very carefully to remove all grit. I usually cut them horizontally and separate the rings to make sure no dirt remains. Coarsely chop them when washed.

In a medium soup pot, melt butter and add flour on low flame. Using a wooden spoon, mix well. This will thicken your soup and give it a wonderful flavor.

Add chicken stock, leeks, onion, potatoes and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for about 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth adding the milk and adjusting salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serving size:  1.5 cups

PPV:  4.5

Meatball and Spaghetti Soup

What can be more kid friendly than a bowl of soup with spaghetti and meatballs! Lean turkey meatballs are cooked in a light tomato broth with cut up spaghetti. This is a one pot meal my whole family loves and leftovers are great for lunch.

This is a recipe from the archives that has been greatly overlooked. I finally got a chance to re-photograph this one, something I wanted to do for a while because it’s very popular in my home and I’m sure it will be popular in yours. A delicious quick family-friendly meal for under $10!

Servings: 6 • Size: 1/6th (about 1 1/2 cups) • Old Points: 4 pts • Points+: 5 pts
Calories: 212.9 • Fat: 3.2 g • Carb: 27.4 g • Fiber: 3.9 g • Protein: 22.1 g • Sugar: 2 g
Sodium: 738.7 mg (without added salt)

Ingredients:

For the soup:

  • 5 cups low sodium, fat-free chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chopped cloves garlic, divided
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/2 onion, chopped, divided
  • 3-4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper
  • 6 oz dry cut up spaghetti, I used a low-fat whole-wheat product, but try it with whole-wheat macaroni.  It’s easier for kids to eat with a spoon

For the meatballs:

  • 16 oz 99% lean ground turkey
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil

Directions:
In a soup pot over medium heat, bring chicken broth, water, 1 clove crushed garlic, 2 tbsp chopped parsley, 1/4 of the chopped onion, tomato sauce, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh black pepper to a boil; simmer about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the meatballs by combining ground turkey, Parmesan cheese, egg, remaining garlic, remaining onion, remaining parsley, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Form into little 1 inch meatballs (about 36). Drop meatballs into the broth, cook about 3 minutes; add pasta and cook according to package directions. Add fresh basil, adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serving size:  1.5 cups
PPV:  6

Thanksgiving With a Lighter Touch

For anyone watching their weight, Thanksgiving has become a day filled with potential pitfalls and dietary disappointments. The original Pilgrim celebration of gratitude for having enough food to survive the coming winter has evolved into an all-day, all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Many families spend the day parked on their couches, watching parades followed by football, snacking whether they are hungry or not, before sitting down to an enormous meal.

 

Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to prepare and serve a light, healthy Thanksgiving dinner without depriving your guests of their traditional favorites or letting them go hungry. By making a few simple changes to your menu, it is easy to make a meal you and your guests will enjoy and remember, without the morning-after regret that too often accompanies this special day

 

Suggestion One:  Cut the fat.

 

The centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner is almost certainly the turkey, which is an easy place to cut fat without cutting flavor. Unless you are entertaining a dozen or more people, a turkey breast may be a better choice than a whole turkey.  White meat is far leaner than dark meat, and turkey cooked on a grill (breast or whole bird) will release much of its internal fat during the cooking process. Brining a turkey can compensate for any moisture lost through decreasing the fat.  This recipe is for a 12-15 pound turkey. If you have a larger turkey, double the brine recipe.

Grilled turkey

Ingredients:

Brine:

1 gallons water

1 ½ cups apple cider

¾ cup kosher salt

1 cups brown sugar

2-3 bay leaves

2 branches fresh rosemary, stripped from the branch

5-10 whole pepper corns

2-3 cloves fresh garlic

Peel of 1 navel orange, coarsely chopped

 

Preparation:

The day before cooking, bring one-half gallon of water and all other ingredients to a brisk boil; immediately turn off the heat, cover and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Half way through the cooling process, add the remaining half-gallon of cold water.

When the brine is completely cooled, place the turkey, breast side down, in a brining bag, a food-grade bucket or large soup pot.  Pour the brine over the turkey and refrigerate covered for 8-16 hours, turning the turkey over two-thirds of the way through. Leaving the turkey in the brine for more than 16 hours may leave the turkey mushy when finished.

Before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry.

 

Dry Rub:

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground white pepper

2 tablespoons granulated garlic

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Bell’s poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Olive oil in a spray can

 

Preparation:

Start with a dry rub. Wash the turkey and pat dry. Rub the turkey inside and out with this rub or any favorite combination of spices. Spray the turkey with the olive oil, then place it, unstuffed, on the grill with the coals or burners not directly underneath. Include a pan to catch the drippings. Cook the turkey until the legs can be jiggled loosely from the thighs, (180°F on a thermometer inserted into the thigh) or in the case of a breast, until a meat thermometer inserted deep into the meat (but not touching the bone) reads 180° F. Remove the turkey from the grill, cover with foil, and allow to rest 15 minutes before carving.

 

Suggestion Two:  Slow down and enjoy the company.

 

Many families load the Thanksgiving table with multiple options for entrees and side dishes. Dinner begins with the circulation of bowls and platters around the table, allowing each guest to take their portion before passing it on. By the time everyone is served, the food is cold and everyone is tired of waiting to eat.

By serving Thanksgiving dinner in courses, it is easy to fill up on low-calorie, vegetable-based dishes before confronting the tempting entrees and side dishes. An added benefit will be the wonderful conversations your family and guests will have in between each course.

Start with a soup course (a corn soup is perfect for Thanksgiving), serving it in cups or small bowls.  Then serve an autumn salad, made with butternut squash, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and fresh greens, with a tangy-creamy dressing.

Try these recipes, which use traditional ingredients that were used in the 1600s.

Curried Corn Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper

½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

¼ cup minced shallots

2 teaspoons curry powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups fresh corn or one 16-ounce bag frozen corn, thawed

1 cup vegetable stock

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 cups soy milk, 2% milk or evaporated skim milk, divided

½ cup shredded reduced fat cheese, divided (optional)

 

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add the shallots and stir 2 minutes.  Add the curry powder and salt, and stir to combine. Stir in the corn, stock, and pepper; bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook ½ hour.

Transfer 2 cups of soup to a blender, add 1 cup milk, and process until smooth.  Return the blended corn soup to the soup pot, add the remaining milk, and stir gently until the soup is hot.

Serve immediately, garnished with the optional cheese and some chopped chives or parsley.

Adapted from soyfoodcouncil.com

Roasted Squash Salad with Tahini Dressing

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash

Olive oil spray in a can

½ teaspoon paprika

4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

¼ cup dried cranberries

8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups spring mix

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

1 ½ tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, finely minced

½ cup boiling vegetable stock

 

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Peel the squash, halve, remove the seeds, and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Lightly spray a roasting pan with olive oil, spread the squash on the pan, sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper, and spray with oil. Roast 35 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the squash is tender. Put the pumpkin seeds on baking sheet and bake for the last five minutes of the cooking time.

While the squash is roasting, make the dressing:  whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic.  Slowly stir in 1-2 tablespoons stock, until the dressing reaches the consistency of buttermilk.

Plate the salad greens, top with the squash, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, feta cheese, and parsley, and sprinkle the dressing on top. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Adapted from redonline.co.uk

 

Suggestion Three:  Limit options and focus on vegetables.

 

In order to make your dinner lighter and healthier, consider limiting the number of options you present your guests, featuring one or two interesting new recipes in which vegetables play the starring role rather than laying out the full cast of customary starchy favorites. No one needs stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole, after all. New flavors may encourage new behaviors, as serving old favorites can entice your guests to heap too-large portions on their plates simply because they are accustomed to doing so.

Here is a vegetable dish that is out of the ordinary, yet made with many of the familiar ingredients of traditional Thanksgiving dinners. It is easy to make, beautiful to serve, nutritious, and much more interesting than the customary green-bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and canned onion rings.  And so much better tasting!

Polenta Dome with Roasted Autumn Vegetables

Ingredients:

4 cups vegetable stock

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons olive oil

Olive oil spray in a can

2 cups diced onions

3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2 cups cornmeal

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and shredded

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped (1 teaspoon dried)

2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Preparation:

In a covered pot, bring the stock and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil.  Spray a medium-sized mixing bowl.

While the stock heats, heat olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat.  Cook the onions, garlic, and remaining salt for about 25 minutes, until the onions are caramelized.  Stir the squash, sage, fennel, and pepper into the sautéed onions and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover.

When the stock boils, gradually pour in the cornmeal, stirring vigorously.  Reduce the heat until the thickening cornmeal simmers gently.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thick (but still pourable), adding hot water as necessary, and tastes done. Fine cornmeal cooks in a few minutes; courser meal takes longer. The consistency is key.

When the polenta is done, stir in the sautéed vegetables and cheese.  Pour into the oiled bowl and set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes, until set.

About a half hour before serving, turn the cooled polenta dome onto a baking pan or ovenproof platter sprayed with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot. Serve on a bed of steamed spinach or Swiss chard and surround with toasted autumn vegetables.

 

Roasted Autumn Vegetables

Ingredients:

Marinade:

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

5 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary or sage, chopped

 

Vegetables:

2 medium onions, peeled, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup baby carrots

2 sweet potatoes or ½ seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, cut to 2-inch squares

2 cup tiny patty pan squash or 2 medium zucchini, 1-inch slices, halved

8 ounces fresh whole cremini, baby portabella or white mushrooms, halved

6 firm, fresh plum tomatoes, halved

 

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a bowl mix together the marinade.  Toss the hard vegetables (onions, carrots and potatoes) in the marinade, and spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, turning once. Toss the remaining vegetables in the marinade. Lower the heat to 400°F, place on a second baking sheet and roast another 20 minutes, turning once, and turning the hard vegetables again. Serve on a large platter around the polenta dome.  Watch carefully that the vegetables don’t burn.

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates

 

Suggestion Four:  Change Your Thinking about Stuffing and Gravy

 

Probably the most troublesome parts of the Thanksgiving meal for people endeavoring to eat light and healthy are the stuffing and the gravy. The notion that stuffing and gravy are integral to the meal is deeply ingrained in our consciousness. A simple way to cut some of the fat from stuffing is to bake it outside of the turkey. Likewise, traditional gravy can be made without calorie-laden pan drippings. Even better, try a new approach to stuffing and gravy altogether, replacing bread cubes with high-fiber whole grains such as quinoa or barley and combining interesting new flavors into an almost fat-free gravy.

Wild Mushroom Barley Stuffing

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided

1 ½ cups uncooked pearled barley

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, chopped

5 slices turkey bacon

2 small carrots, diced

1 pound fresh wild mushrooms, assorted varieties

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced

2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 cups vegetable broth, heated to a simmer

1 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

 

Preparation:

Bring eight cups of water and 1 ½ teaspoons salt to a boil in a large saucepan; add barley.  Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes; drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; add onion, bacon, and carrots.  Cook, stirring often, until onion is lightly browned and almost tender, about five minutes.  Add mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes more.

Stir in herbs, pepper, remaining salt and olive oil.  Reduce heat to low, stir in broth and barley, toss to coat.  Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and sprinkle with parsley.

From weightwatchers.com

 

Caramelized Onion Gravy

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 cups thinly sliced sweet or Spanish onions

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon dried thyme or ¾ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

½ teaspoon dried marjoram

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 cups vegetable broth

¼ cup dry sherry wine

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

 

Preparation:

Warm the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the onions are coated with oil.  Add the paprika, salt, herbs, and nutmeg. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until the onions are limp and very brown.  You should have about a generous cup of caramelized and very sweet onions.

Add the soy sauce, 1 ¾ cups broth, and the wine to the onions; bring to a simmer.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining broth and mix into the gravy in a slow but steady stream.  Stir constantly until the gravy is thickened.

From Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates

 

Suggestion Five:  Serve smaller plates and individual portions

 

A cherished part of Thanksgiving for many is filling one’s plate with heaps of good food. Slow everyone down a bit by serving your meal on smaller salad plates rather than dinner plates. Your guests will retain the pleasure of combining delicious foods together without committing themselves to more than they can – or should—eat in one sitting. If, by some chance, they are still hungry after cleaning their plate, they are welcome to come back for more.

 

            The same strategy works well with dessert.  Instead of baking a pumpkin pie, bake the pumpkin custard (substituting egg whites and evaporated skim milk to lower the fat) in ramekins.  Serve each guest their own portion with a ginger snap in a ramekin, saving them the fat and calories of the crust and the temptation to eat more dessert than they should.

 

The secret to losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight is to make a series of small changes and then be consistent in retaining those changes; but in the end, food and the experience of sharing a meal with loved ones should still be pleasurable. This Thanksgiving, try one or two of these tips to save yourself unnecessary fat and calories without losing any of the enjoyment of spending this special day with the people you love. Who knows? Maybe you will be creating new, healthier traditions for years to come.

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