Soup up your supper

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 26, 2011

By Katie Scarvey
From January to March, the part of my brain devoted to food thinks about soup.
Soup is the perfect winter food. It’s warm and satisfying and it’s a good way to eat in a healthful way at the beginning of a new year. Plus, when it’s cold outside, the wonderful aromas will make your whole house at least seem warmer.
Many soups freeze well, so you can make a big batch on the weekend, eat what you want and freeze the rest.
A soup I’ve always wanted to try is the Indian-inspired mulligatawny.
I don’t think mulligatawny had ever registered on my food radar until it appeared in the famous “Soup Nazi” episode on “Seinfeld.” It was Kramer’s favorite soup, and since seeing that episode I’ve wanted to try it.
When I started looking for recipes recently, I realized there are dozens of mulligatawny recipes out there.
I skimmed enough of them to get a general idea of what the soup was all about and picked a recipe from Emeril Legasse on the Food Network website and then tweaked it to suit myself.
I will admit, this soup is a good bit of work, but the results are worth it. These ingredients combine to sing a hallelujah chorus of flavor.
One of the important ingredients is a spice called garam masala. I used the McCormick variety, which contains coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. (Many mulligatawny recipes contain curry, but this one does not.) If you can’t find garam masala, you can make your own by combining spices.
The following recipe, while based on Emeril’s, is somewhat different, so if you don’t like it, you can blame me and not him.
I love the zing that the Granny Smith apples give this soup. The ground cashews sprinkled on top give it a wonderfully decadent finish. Emeril uses ghee (clarified butter) instead of regular butter, but I didn’t have time to find this specialty item or make my own. Regular butter worked fine for me.
1 chicken
5 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. garam masala
1 3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 C. finely diced onions
1/2 C. finely diced carrots
1/2 C. finely diced celery
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. minced ginger
2 C. peeled, cored and diced Granny Smith apples
1 C. peeled and diced Yukon gold potatoes
1 C. peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 C. dried red lentils ( I used regular)
2 (32-ounce) cartons chicken or beef stock
3/4 C. diced zucchini
3/4 C. diced yellow squash
1 C. tightly packed baby spinach
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 C. peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (I used canned diced tomatoes)
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
3 C. steamed white basmati rice
1/2 C. toasted, finely ground cashews
1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
In a large pot, boil the whole chicken, on low, until cooked, about an hour. After it’s cooled enough, pick the meat off the bones to add to the soup before serving.
Heat the butter in a Dutch oven and sautee the onions, carrots and celery, along with the garam masala, until lightly caramelized, about 4 to 5 minutes. (I must admit, I’m not sure if mine were caramelized, but if they weren’t, it didn’t seem to matter.)
Add the garlic, ginger and apples to the pan and saute until the apples are caramelized, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes and lentils, along with 4 cups (a carton) of the chicken stock.
Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook the soup until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the salt, pepper, another 2 cups of chicken stock, zucchini, squash, spinach, coconut milk and tomatoes. Continue to cook the soup at a simmer until the lentils are tender, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
Add more chicken stock if you prefer a “soupier” soup — there will be two cups left in the carton.
Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken and the cider vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
To serve the soup, place 1/4 cup of the rice in a warmed bowl, and pour a cup of the soup over the rice, garnish with a tablespoon of the cashews, and 2 teaspoons of the cilantro.
• • •
This Potato and Cheddar Soup is from “Home Plate Cooking: Everyday Southern Cuisine with a Fresh Twist” by Marvin Woods.
With three cups of cheese, this definitely isn’t a low-fat soup, but it would be perfect after a day of skiing, sledding or hiking — or hard work.
Potato and Cheddar Soup
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
4 C. homemade chicken stock or reduced-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
3 C. milk, skim, low-fat or whole
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced, about 1 3/4 pounds
3 C. packed, freshly grated, sharp Cheddar cheese about 12 ounces
Hot sauce
Freshly snipped chives for garnish
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Saute until vegetables begin to soften, 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the stock, then the milk. Add the potato and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the cheese about 1/3 cup at a time, stirring until melted and smooth after each addition. Taste and adjust for seasoning with hot sauce to taste and salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately.
• • •
I love a great vegetable soup, and I recently found an excellent recipe in “The Right Bite” by Stephanie Dalvit-McPhillips. The book isn’t a cookbook but a primer on how to “outsmart 43 scientifically proven fat triggers and beat the dieter’s curse.”
This soup is one of the author’s favorites and one she recommends for weight loss. A cup contains only 200 calories. Whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, this soup is delicious.
She calls it “Stephanie’s Super Lentil Soup,” but I think of it as more of a supercharged vegetable soup.
The recipe calls for 10 cups of broth, but I used two cartons (8 cups) and added a little water.
Some grated parmesan is the perfect finishing touch.
Stephanie’s Super Lentil Soup
Salt substitute (potassium chloride)
Lemon Mrs. Dash (I couldn’t find that flavor but used something similar)
10 C. low-sodium chicken broth (can substitute vegetable stock)
1 can low-sodium stewed tomatoes (I used a large can of diced tomatoes, including juice)
1 C. shredded cabbage
3/4 C. dried lentils
1/2 C. pearl barley
1/2 C. dried whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 C. diced onions
1/2 C. diced carrots
1 C. diced celery
1/2 C. frozen Italian green beans (cut in about 1-inch lengths)
1/2 C. frozen peas
1/2 C. frozen lima beans
1/2 C. mushrooms
1 C. diced zucchini
Using a Dutch oven, combine the broth, tomatoes, cabbage, onion, celery, lentils, carrots, green beans, peas, lima beans and barley. Cook uncovered over moderate heat, then adjust the heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add zucchini and whole wheat macaroni. Cook uncovered until the macaroni is done, about 10-15 minutes. As the dry ingredients cook, you may wish to add more chicken or vegetable stock, keeping in mind that this is a very thick soup. Now add the mushrooms, which will be cooked within a few minutes. Finally, season to taste with Mrs. Dash and a salt substitute.
This soup is best when the consistency is somewhere between a soup and a stew. Feel free to experiment. You can leave out ingredients you don’t like and double up on others or try additional ingredients, like yellow squash or spinach.