Friday, January 16, 2009

Speaking of stew....

This glorious weather (not being sarcastic. I love cold weather) puts me in the mind of soups and stews. I've been on a soup tangent for some time now. I've tried not to inflict it on too many people, but today just SCREAMS soup.

The beutiful thing about soup is that it rarely tastes the same any time you make it. They are among the most forgiving of all dishes -- a little variation in a recipe generally adds character and is rarely a deal-breakers. They don't have the pouty nature of baked goods. They won't crash and burn and dry like chicken or beef, if you get careless.

Soup rules.

Pistou

This Italian vegetable soup is ready in an hour. For four servings:

3 3/4 cups of water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound green beans, trimmed and chopped
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
14-ounce can of peeled tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 minced garlic cloves
4 ounces spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
2 tablespons olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese to serve

Pour all ingredients (except pasta, cheese and olive oil) into a large saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the spaghetti and cook about 12 minutes more or until the pasta is tender.

Serve in bowls topped with some cheese.

Vegetable Soup
If Italian vegetable soup won't work, try this one from Quebec. It's not red or tomato-based, like most vegetable soups, which makes it ideal for folks who can't stomach tomatoes. A few Octobers ago, I had it at a restaurant in Quebec City. Super easy and, agian, four servings ready in less than an hour.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
5 cups chicken broth or stock
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, trimmed and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. yes, nutmeg
4 egg yolks (hang with me)
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat for about a minute. Add the vegetables and stir. It'll be chunky and pasty. Stir in your cold or room-temperature broth/stock. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks and the cream. Take ladle and put some (1/2 cup) of the hot soup and stir quickly into the cream-egg mixture to 'temper' the egg yolks (you don't want scrambled eggs). Then, just as quickly, whisk the egg-cream-soup mixture back into the full batch of soup. Stir briskly and cook for about 4 minutes until it's heated through.

Top with croutons.

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