A Year of Soups

Remember that my wonderful mentor sent a remarkable Christmas package that contained a gift that surprised me: a cookbook. I have been out of favor with cookbooks for the past five years now, in the past two years relying solely on revised concoctions mused from online sources. Yet this one, stole my heart. Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. A Benedictine monk authored this beloved edition that relies heavily on French cuisine and a sense of soulishness. What I cherished about this cookbook was that many of the selections felt foreign to me, and featured seasonal fare plant based and flavorful. I promised to make a soup from each month following the recipe exactly as written with no substitutions or creativity.

My December Selection:

Saint Nicolas Day is celebrated here in Germany on December 6th. Kids continue to put out their boots the night before in hopes that he will come and fill them with goodies.

And yep…this year, after failing to get anything in mine although I left my shoe out THREE nights last year, I found a BOOT FILLED WITH oranges, chocolate, nuts and dried fruit on my doorstep.

I must be less naughty this year.

So I thought it fitting to celebrate with Saint Nicolas Soup.

UBER Simple…

Melt two ounces of butter in a pan, add in 3 carrots, one onion, 3 turnips, 2 potatoes, half a head of cabbage…….and stir stir stir until glazed and yummy, add salt and pepper, and cover with veggie broth (1 quart).  Now, at this point, I placed the veggies in a crock pot overnight to make the preparation easier as I was also making sweet potato biscuits for guests. After about 8 hours (overnight) it went into the fridge. Then, when I got home from work, I blended the mixture up and back in the crock pot it went…for three hours.

Tasting Notes: Boy, my little saint nick…those little veggies got a little complicated in the crockpot or something, because my belly was jingling all the way with delight. Why don’t I have a picture, you may ask? Well, because all my guests imbibed the concoction faster than cookies out of the oven disappear. You’ll have to make your own to feel a little Christmas Magic. What a surprising, and satisfying way, to end a year of Soups.

This won’t be the last of my soup days though…in fact….as we speak, I am roasting a butternut squash to blend in the vitamix with roasted fennel and apple topping and a puree of pumpkin seed oil….

Ah! In the darkest time of year, soups serve as my hope, warmth, and light.

My November Selection:

When the air turns cold, I tense up. The “holidays” with images of family, of routines, of ideals that the “good will be rewarded” and images of cookies and cocoa and flying animals, my anxiety naturally awakens. Living in a world where most people value extroversion and the loudest often get the most attention, it is easy for a single gal living 3000 miles away from family and my intimate circle of friends,   my heart aches for comfort, for a sense of belonging to something, for….

SOUP. I am soup crazy right now, pouring out FOUR in the course of a week. First up? My cookbook November Selection:

Zuppa alla Pavese

Bread Soup from Pavia

I chose this simple one after making three other complicated recipes. And I changed it from 4 to one serving.  Plus, I liked the little bit of history offered:

Fry up a slice of bread in 1 tsp of butter until golden

Boil some water, then reduce heat. Break egg into a cup…and then, gently drop it into the water. Using slotted spoon, keep the white together close to the yoke…and cook until egg sets (about 4 minutes)

HINT: It took me 4 tries to easy poach these suckers before getting the hint of putting a jelly jar ring in the water to “contain” the eggs


Success!

 

Boil 1 cup of broth (I used beef broth!)

Slide egg on top of bread in the bottom of a bowl, pour broth over it. Set for 2 minutes, sprinkle with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.


This is a soup that doesn’t sit for a day. You eat it. You slurp it. You marry it. WITHOUT HESITATION.


TASTING NOTES:

OH. HEAVEN. Gone in 2 minutes almost. Like sweet french toast at the bottom of maple bacon, for some strange reason the earthy-ness of that egg in the salty brine of the beef broth, transformed the liquid into molecules of manna. I LOVED this easy-peasy dream concoction and was DEVASTATED that it was gone. The best appetizer I’ve whipped up in IONS.

Seriously? this might be my favorite BY FAR. It certainly lambasts the corn, parsley and asparagus soups of late.

My October Selection:

orn gets a bad rap….for well deserved reasons. If the average American plucks up any packaged item in her pantry and its got a 75% likelihood of having corn in it. Only 10% of the corn made it consumed by us in America. Yet, seriously! I am a big Corn Fan (not in my whiskey, of course, I prefer BARLEY) I can eat popcorn for dinner….and use it in my cereal mix in the morning. I love hominy (NOT AVAILABLE HERE, with little Latino/Hispanic influence) swirled with beans, simmered in vegetable broth and spicy enchilada like sauce . I even love corn flakes toasted and whipped up with peanut butter and cocoa and marshmallows.

It’s got fiber, folic acid, and vitamin C and is a great grain for carbohydrates…if it wasn’t, we would have it in so many food products.

Instructions (serves 4…I got 5 out if!)

Peel slice and dice 2 onions (I used sweet) and 2 garlic cloves. on medium low heat, pour 4 tablespoons oil into the pot and once heated, saute until they become golden. Immediately add 5 cups of broth (I used homemade chicken stock) and one red pepper cubed. Lid it and let simmer for 15 minutes or so…

Then add 1 green pepper sliced and cubed and 3 Tablespoons tomato paste, and 8 ounces of corn (use can use frozen, I used fresh). Stir in salt and pepper and twirl it…

Then cook for 15.


REMEMBER! I don’t eat these soups that same day…I put them in the fridge to “marinate” and think about how they can prove that following recipes sometimes can reward my super tasters.

TASTING NOTES:

So…the freshness of the poppy corn produced a little jiggle, and it really tasted like a autumn tomato soup. After half a bowl, I decided I craved more Creamy Peamy-ness, so I halfed the mixture and blended it up in the magic bullet…before marrying them together:

Better Blended!

Okay….have you tried corn muffins with jam inside? Well, serving those on the side with my favorite alcohol infused berry jam and a simple red lettuce salad speckled with feta, zuch slices, and green onion in a yogurt hot sauce spiked dressing made the meal.

My September Selection:

I am STILL in favor of zucchini, even after the gourmet experience at Mistral led me to consider that my sub-average picks at the vegetable stand may not deliver against picked-30-minutes-ago palate cleansing fireworks of a burrito that engraved its memory months ago.

After a pal dropped off some zucchini muffins last weekend, I nibbled on one at the same time upon stumbling upon the recipe for this typical Italian dish. First of all, I love licorice, real flavor the BLACK stuff (not the artificial red stuff!) and thus, fennel and anise studded. If you have not ever sampled fennel, one of my favorite salads of all time includes orange slices, lightly toasted walnuts and sliced fennel, with a little swirl of walnut oil) and a little dousing of lemon juice. SO delicious and simple.

Anyway, so the soup recipe just SPOKE to me, harnessing the softness of Northern Italy, and relying on the last goodness of summer’s basil and tomato.

Veggies are Rearing to GO!

AND remember….I follow these recipes TO THE T. No substitutions, no swaps, no extra spice or flavoring here and there. And almost every time, I am surprised at the goodness that flows from my steadfastness.

Chop up 1 large onion, and saute it in 1/3 olive oil for about 5 minutes under low heat, until it becomes soft. Then you’ll add 2 minced garlic cloves and turn up heat to medium and stir for a minute or so.

Then, add in the goodies, turning it down to LOW:

2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced, 2 medium zucchinis, diced, 6 tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped…I just boiled mine for a spell, peeled them and let cool for 10 and then seeded em up) and 8 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped. Just stir around for 2 -3 minutes, and don’t let it stick. Pour over the soup 6 cups vegetable stock, and 1 cup dry white wine (german riesling ROCKS!…for $4 a bottle) and then cover and cook for 30 minutes…then season with salt and pepper.

The only change I make now is to let the soup sit in the fridge a day before par-taking in the PLEASURE.

Like the new soup pot?

TASTING NOTES:

Oh, oh, oh, the licorice gives in a slight heat-y sweetness and sets the soup EONS above a basic tomato zucchini mixture. With a crusty side of brie and Special K Tomato Ginger Jam spread english muffin, and a carrot white bean salad with apples and a tahini sauce, I slurp-ped for a good 30 minutes straight, having almost three helpings.

Like my new Soup Pot? It’s from a street market in Brussells

What are you doing with your end of the season produce? Have you considered making zucchini pickles? (place shaved zucchini in a hot-tub of vinegars and spices and garlic and sliced onions and you’ll be spooning it out of a jar and dazzling guests when you roll them on top of crunchy flatbread crackers.

My August Selection:
Yep…this green curlie monster remains the worlds most popular herb. Minced it up with garlic and lemon for an Italian Gremolota. Blend it up with walnuts and oil for a spicey pesto. Throw it on top of potatoes for flair.

Did you know that it is charged with vitamin K to boot? I could tell you that in some studies eating a boat load prevented tumors in rats from growing, that many claim that it promotes healthy hearts with its high folic acid content or I can divulge that its compounds may rid the body of free chemicals.

Or I can simply share that the market had a ton of it for under a buck….

and thus, it became my August selection:

Parsley Perfection?

Parsley Soup

Wash 4 tomatoes and then boil them for a few minutes. The peel should come right off. Slice and discard the seeds

in 5 TBL of olive oil, saute 1 finely chopped leek, 1 minced onion until GOLDEN. Than add the tomatoes, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 CUP of dry white wine (I used a riesling from the mosel) and 4.5 CUPS of water, and season the heck with salt and pepper….Allow the flavors to blend for at least 20 minutes…

Then add 1 big bunch of finely chopped bunch parsley.

Blend it up in a blender….

I must be fan of these herb soups in the summer, because I keep trying to find the recipes from each month’s selection that appeared easy, simple and weekday friendly. I finally got the AHA to make the soup on Sunday to enjoy on TUESDAY, because all these recipes taste so much better in 2 days.

TASTING NOTES:

Good with wine, but NOT my favorite. The soup was very subtle, and I longed for something IN there to perk it up. Potatoes, Turnips, and chunky tomatoes with some more garlic or something. The next day I threw in some orzo and ended up taking it to a potluck at work and topped it with shredded parmesan cheese and slivers of lemon and some chickpeas…a little better…

So…not going to make it again and wished I made the CREAM OF FENNEL SOUP instead…basically the same gist, but with fennel for parsley, and yogurt for the wine (plus stock).

My July Selection:

Basil…don’t you just love anything with basil, AND tomatoes in the summer?  It’s like a little tap dance of the mouth. And being an anise fan, I dig the sweetish notes to it. Basil means “King” in Greek, and I once had a crush on a boy named Basil during Swing Class, East-Coast Style, at Harvard. Should have  asked him out. Darn!
Of course, for my July soup selection, I couldn’t NOT do the Cold Basil Soup

Place in a blender:

2 medium cucumbers, peels, seeded and sliced (I did this one day in advance!), 3 green beels, sliced, 4 medium diced tomatoes, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 25 basil leaves

After blending, pour into a soup pot, and then add 5 cups cold water, them salt and pepper to taste, then 1 16-ounce yogurt…mix it up with a big spoon and chill (3 hours minimum) before serving with basil leaves.

I wised up after my last carrot soup and waiting 48 hours before serving it up, poured over broiled French bread with a little garlic infused oil brushed before roasting it. The pungency of the basil tasted less forward than initially hoped, perhaps due to the vibrancy of the pepper. Isn’t it peculiar how one individual vegetable can increase and dramatically shift flavors depending on its ripeness and season?

Would I make this soup again? Well, my guest sure slopped it up, but I am not super-uber-head over heels about this one. Perhaps it was because I was looking at a pureed yellow zucchini soup…..

Anyway…super good with garlic and I used the left overs poured over polenta….now, that hit the basil soft spot!

My June Selection:

Chilled Carrot Soup….

Exactly simplicity at its peak, and a selection that comforted, but didn’t call for much fanfare. I had everything already (except the half and half)…which is a philosophical discovery all on its own.

When you feel tired, stressed, not energetic enough to feel as if you are you, or feeling as if everything you are doing is half-mast and substandard, you discover that you already possess all the ingredients for what you crave…AND…that sometimes, your dish needs a few days to sit, in order to reach the peak of its potential.

Serves 4

2 chopped leeks

2 potatoes

4 good sized carrots, diced

3.5 Cups good stocks

Place all in a soup pot and bring to a boil….simmer COVERED, under veggies are tender (around 30 minutes).

.5 teaspoon ginger powder

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup half and half

add the above ingredients, and STIR

Then Blend the mixture up…

AND CHILL FOR AT LEAST A FEW HOURS!

Orange-Ya Happy?

Tasting Notes:

The sweetness of the carrots practically hid the first night, and my heart sank a bit, and I second guessed following the recipe to a “T” and not adding any honey or curry, or garlic, or olive oil…

and THEN! YES! THEN! Day 2…SUPERB! I made some homemade cheddar corn quinoa scones and a salad with dried figs, onions, oranges and romaine and served it up again. I have to say, having a pot that goes from stove to fridge and a little spout super convienent and oh, so, pleasing!

Just goes to show that a little orange patience, pays…

My May Selection:

White is Right. And in Germany, purple, green and white asparagus proclaimed their presence rather arrogantly in the fruit stands, crowding out other produce. Each plant lives about 10 years, and thus, it is a perennial. I’ve never bought nor cooked WHITE, and thus had to hallmark it with this light delicate soup, as the WHITE delicate fingers, a little “does this really taste like anything?”, found their way into my canvas.
A little FAQ:
White asparagus comes from the process of etiolation, which is the deprivation of light. Dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk, depriving it of light. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green color to the stalks.

White asparagus is considered to be slightly milder in flavor and a bit more tender than green asparagus.  Some say it can be used like their green cousins, but I disagree…they seriously are VERY light and PRUDISH.

Remember that my wonderful mentor sent a remarkable Christmas package that contained a gift that surprised me: a cookbook. I have been out of favor with cookbooks for the past five years now, in the past two years relying solely on revised concoctions mused from online sources. Yet this one, stole my heart. Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. A Benedictine monk authored this beloved edition that relies heavily on French cuisine and a sense of soulishness. What I cherished about this cookbook was that many of the selections felt foreign to me, and featured seasonal fare plant based and flavorful. I promised to make a soup from each month following the recipe exactly as written with no substitutions or creativity.

My Mayl selection?

Something to celebrate this German delicacy…….a spring light Veloute. What’s a Veloute, you may ask? In France…soup is NOT just SOUP.  There are 5 different types of “sauces”. The  The queen, Diva Childs, noted that Veloute’s involve white thickener of some sort, and thus, a veloute, is a “white” soup.  The WHITE stock usually is amplified by a thickening white roux, usually at the beginning, not at the end of the preparataion.

Ha! Learned a new technique, I did!

One POUND asparagus

Wash and peel the lower hard parts. Boil gently for 20 minuts, drain (preserve 4 cups of WATER) and then cut stalks in half, and place little tops aside.

4 Tablespoons butter, 3 Tablespoons flour, S & P

Melt butter, and add the flour TINY bits at a time, slowly add ASPARAGUS WATER with S & P, and the butt of the Guses…bring up to a boil, for about 7 minutes. Then, Blend up this mixture with an immersion blender or BULLET. Return to the pot, and keep at a VERY LOW HEAT DO NOT BOIL.

2 egg yolks, 1 Cup DRY white wine, 2 Tablespoons Creme Fraiche (or Sour Cream, or QUARK!) 1 TSP Sugar

Lightly beat eggs and mix in wine, friache, sugar….slowly pour this into soup and then add:

1/2 C. Freshly squeezed OJ.

Then, stir well. Add back in the Gus-Tops, and maybe sprinkle som nutmeg in. Don’t let boil, but reheat the soup through.SERVE Immediately.

Seriously? LOVE/HATE following these recipes TO A TEE!

Because although I have to restrain myself EACH time, the results always reward my faithfulness.  I served it up with a lovely dried fig, pear, spinach salad with quark-agave dressing and dried garlic flakes…

Tasting Notes:

So elegant and simple. Maybe it is the recipe, or my mood, but each bite highlighted a different flavor. One second, orange, the next a little creamy wine. Remember: NO GARLIC! NO ONION! and if I did add thoses, surely, the little white guses would be goners. If you want to impress, but simply so, try this one out. With crusty bread and brie and that wine….wow! Should we just pretend we’re in Pare-y? EVEN BETTER DAY 3!

Gonna Let it Shine!

Like my new plate? had to get it when I went emotional shopping after Egypt. Also picked up a new pair of German-hand-made Mary Janes by Joseph Siebel.

Now, this is a SOUP TO SHARE!

My April selection?

Something to celebrate the colors of this season, and champion my Barcelona adventure…Three Pepper Soup. The trick behind this succulent treat: ripe sweet peppers and tiny fresh threads of saffron (of course, mine nabbed from the market in Barcelona).

Three Pepper Soup

One Green, One Red and One Yellow Pepper

Broil them or grill them (I did on my Cuisinart Panini Press) and then let cool for 30 minutes, then core and thinly slice

Chop up 4 garlic cloves

Heat up 5 tsp olive oil and sautee peppers and garlic for only 1 minute. Add in

5 Cups of Veggie Stock and 1/3 tsp, I used three threads, saffron. Cook on medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, toast 2 slices of bread for each person (I used one thick whole wheat loaf slice) and place in the bowl, perched perhaps halfway down.

Then, take 1 egg per person, and crack them WHOLE into the broth. Sea Salt and Pepper the tops of them, and carefully turn off burner, and lid the pot. Wait 5-7 minutes, the egg whites will solidify. Carefully spoon one egg onto each person’s bowl. Ladel broth over the egg.

Seriously? LOVE/HATE following these recipes TO A TEE!

Because although I have to restrain myself EACH time, the results always reward my faithfulness.

Tasting Notes:

Succulent little lumps of peppers truly melt into your tongue. The broth, light and rich at the same time, imparts such fulfilling undertones without the bitterness of sodium fringed taste buds. The gooey egg, perfectly bathed in the broth, on top of the bread, seriously reminded me of something enjoyed in France.

SUPER SLURPAGE

March:
but what would be better than BEER SOUP?

My wonderful mentor sent a remarkable Christmas package that contained a gift that surprised me: a cookbook. I have been out of favor with cookbooks f or the past five years now, in the past two years relying solely on revised concoctions mused from online sources. Yet this one, stole my heart. Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. A Benedictine monk authored this beloved edition that relies heavily on French cuisine and a sense of soulishness. What I cherished about this cookbook was that many of the selections felt foreign to me, and featured seasonal fare plant based and flavorful. Immediately, I sent another book of his off to my friend Y in hopes of sharing the passion. I promised to make a soup from each month following the recipe exactly as written with no substitutions or creativity. My March selection?

Saint Lioba Beer and Mushroom Soup

It’s German, named for a big evangelist in the 7th century. See? Beer saved SOULS here people! No wonder why it can be used to heal open wounds. Saint Lioba means “dear one” and you’ll find this soup pretty endearing as well…especially on DAY THREE.

6 Tablespoons oil of choice (Spanish Olive!)

2 cups chopped mushrooms

2 large onions choped

6 cans of beer (I used Urplis)

1 bay leaf

2 eggs

4 tablespoons cream

chopped parsley, salt and pepper to tastand grated Gruyere to top

Step 1…sautee the mushrooms and onion in oil, add beer and bay leaf and raise heat from low to medium, bring to a slow boil, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.

Step 2… Mix beaten eggs and cream. Add about 6 tablespoons of broth to this and mix very well. Then add this to the big soup pot and mix togethr. Bring soup back to medium heat.

When you serve it, season with salt and pepper and cheese on top.

Let it "ferment" for Two days!

Ever had beer as a broth? DO NOT add chicken stock or any premade broth to this. It RUINS the pungent flavor! Believe me. There is a tangyness that was not all that yummy the first night, but after two days, let me tell you….no wonder this lady was a saint. Simple, bu oh so flavorful. It ROCKED with a mozzarella pear grilled sammie.

One night, I whipped up sweet potato goat cheese pancakes: 1/4 C. Whole Wheat Flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tbl dried garlic, 1/3 cup Sweet Potato Puree, 3 Tablespoons crumbled goat cheese, 1 egg, plus some quick oats to thicken it and a few tablespoons milk.

Try something new. And try not to tinker with it. Faithful following will be rewarded here…and madness mastered.

February:

Simple, one-pot, wholly healthful soup. This soup starred, of all things, escarole.

Yes, escarole.

Escarole isn’t anything new; this leafy green has been around for 5,000 years or so. The Egyptians ate it. The Greeks. Ovid mentions the stuff, as does Pliny. It’s a staple in Italian cuisine. But the truth is, this vegetable is relatively new to me.

Like all leafy greens, escarole is a great source of iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and minerals. Unlike other kale or collards, it doesn’t require too much cooking. It resembles a kind of wide-leaf, tough, homely variety of romaine lettuce – just heartier and a little more bitter.

This soup isn’t anything unique; you can find a gazillion variations in cookbooks and online. But I thought this version was so, so good. Good enough to turn a blue day into something better

1 Head of Escarole, chopped

1 small onion, diced

3 garlic cloves

Step 1…sautee the garlic and onion in a sprinkle of oil, 5 minutes, before adding in the turnip and tomato. After they were browned, I turned the heat down real low and added the wine, plus the broth. After a little bubbly action occurred, the leafs were thrown in. Then, immediately the heat was reduced to almost nada, and I let the flavors meld a bit. It said parmesan was optional, which I thought was silly. Parmesan is a must, so I threw in a thumb nail sized wedge. I let the stew sit there for an hour, although the recipe says 25 minutes. Then I turned up the heat, added salt and pepper, and let it brew for 5 before serving with a piece of toast on top with a swirl of olive oil.

Ever had lettuce soup? My goodness, the wine and tomatoes totally taste like honey together, almost jarring with the fragrant bitter leaves. I never would have combined these ingredients on my own, and as the white-y chewyness of the parmesan laces itself into the onions, believe me, you’ll be slurping.

Still am tired. But definitely NOURISHED. This is comfort food all the way. I served it with a mozzarella apple grilled sandwich and a carrot-avacado-banana raw salad. Seriously? Who knew killer Tuesdays could be so delicious!

January:

January: Brussels Sprout Soup (serves 6)

1 pound brussel sprouts, thinlu slices

3 leeks, sliced

2 quarts water

2 boullion cubes (I used beef)

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 table spoons flour

sale and pepper to taste

French bread

Pan fry the leeks and sprouts for less than a minute, slightly browning, add in the water, boullion, oil…simmer for 40 minutes. On the side, mix flou and 4 tbl. spoons broth, until a paste forms, then add paste to the soup. Salt to taste…stir. On the side, place egg yolks in 6 spoons of broth. Slice bread in each bowl, put eggs over bread and then ladel soup in it to enjoy!

Tasting Notes:

The little sprouts melt in your mouth, as if they took a Roman Steam Bath in buttery leekyness. The eggyolk clumps the broth into the bread like a sticky pudding and my heavens, is there sugar in here? Nuts? I don’t know, but I taste both.

Love love love it! So satisfying!

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