Mussels in Ginger Coconut Milk Broth


(serves 2 people)

1 lb mussels
1 small onion, thinly sliced then roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 TSP tomato paste
1 can of coconut milk
1 fresh hot pepper (or dried hot chili pepper flakes)
1/2 cup of dry vermouth or white wine
1/2 cup water
large bunch of cilantro, loosely chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

Clean and de-beard your mussels under cold water. Discard any that are open or have broken shells. If you bought wild mussels, soak them in cold fresh water for 20 minutes before cooking.

In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-low heat. Saute the onions, garlic, ginger and tomato paste, stirring regularly so that the garlic does not burn. Add the coconut milk, vermouth, and water. Add in a few slices of your hot pepper (I used 4 thin slices of a jalapeno, but if you want it really hot, add more. If you use dried pepper flakes, start with just a pinch). Add a pinch of salt and the same of freshly ground pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes so that the flavors blend. Add a bit more water if it starts to thicken too much.

Taste for salt and pepper, but leave it just slightly under-salted.

Stir in the mussels and cilantro, cover and simmer until all the mussels are open.

Serve in a bowl with lots of the broth and good bread on the side.

p.s. fun tip for eating mussels: use an empty shell as your utensil to pinch the meat out of the other shells.

Littleneck Clam and Watercress Soup


This is a riff off of my grandmother’s oyster stew recipe, which I’ve adapted for clams and lightened up a bit. Lisl loved it. Great with a crisp white wine.

24 littleneck clams
1 onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
watercress, loosely chopped
2 tb of butter
1 cup of light cream
2 cups of whole milk
dry white wine
worcestershire sauce

Rinse the clams. Heat up a soup pot, place the clams in the pot on a high flame, and pour in a bit of white wine to create steam. Cover and cook for a few minutes — just long enough for the clams to open. If most are open, turn off the heat and keep covered for another minute or so for the rest to fully open.


Remove the clams from their shells and chop up.

Save the brine-y liquid from the soup pot and put to the side.

Rinse the soup pot. Put back on the stove on medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the diced onion and minced garlic, stirring to make sure they do not brown. When the onion is translucent, add the celery and cook until the celery softens.

Add the cream, milk, a cup of wine, half a cup of the reserve liquid from steaming the clams, and a cup of water. Add the clams. Turn the heat down to low and simmer very lightly so that the cream does not curdle.

Add 4 drops of worcestershire sauce (or to taste) and a pinch of fresh pepper. After 15 minutes, taste. If you want more of that briney flavor from the clams, add more of the reserve steaming liquid (I ended up using about 1 1/2 cups).

Serve with a bunch of the chopped watercress, and a nice baguette.


p.s. oh it’s nice to sneak a moment to food blog again…

Curry Lentil, Chickpea and Spinach Soup

This was a hearty vegetarian soup I tried last night, inspired by this recipe spotted on Gojee, albeit with quite a few changes in ingredients and cooking time (and a much less pretty photo). It was simple to toss together and perfect for a cool evening.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large bunch spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1 cup red lentils
6 carrots, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 tsp curry
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
big pinch of black pepper

In a soup pot, saute the onions in the oil for several minutes on medium-low heat and then add in the garlic, potatoes, and carrots. Saute, stirring occasionally, for another 10 to 15 minutes. Then add all of the other ingredients except for the spinach. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, and add more curry or cayenne if you want a stronger or hotter flavor. Add the spinach and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with some yogurt and potentially some fresh cilantro.

Green Pea and Red Lentil Soup


I’m a huge fan of pea soup on a chilly day.  I make it slightly differently every time, but one thing I’ve learned is that a soup needs to be built up. When I was young, I would dump everything in the pot at once, turn up the heat and simmer, and wonder why it didn’t taste like it should. In this case, I started with the onions and gradually added ingredients until only the legumes, water and herbs remained to be added. I was happy with this particular version and thought I’d share it here.

1 spanish onion, diced
4 carrots, roughly chopped (size depends on how chunky you like your soup)
3 celery stalks, diced
4 medium red potatoes, roughly chopped
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 thick slices of ham, sliced into small cubes (again, your size preference)
1 lb dried green split peas
1/4 lb dried red lentils
10 to 12 cups of water (depending on how thick you like your soup)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp ground savory
salt and pepper
olive oil

If you have time, brown the ham in the bottom of the soup pot in a little bit of olive oil, then remove to a bowl. Add a couple tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of your soup pot, and saute the onions, stirring occasionally, on medium-low heat until they are translucent and starting to carmelize. Add the carrots and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes minutes; add the potatoes and garlic (and the ham, if you didn’t brown it) and cook for another 5 minutes; add the celery and cook for another 5 minutes. During this process, stir occasionally because while a little browning on the bottom of the pan can add a nice flavor, you don’t want to go overboard and burn anything, which will ruin the soup. Stir in the ham.

Add the water, herbs and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Bring to a boil, stir the pot and lower the heat to a very gentle simmer.  Most likely you’ll want more salt, but it is better to add and taste for salt in increments and there is plenty of time ahead. I’ll cook this for a few hours, stirring every once in a while, until the legumes have completely disintegrated.  Towards the end of the cooking process, I’ll add in some freshly ground pepper to taste.

This is marvelous served with some good bread, and maybe a garnish of fresh, chopped parsley on top.


Smoky Legume and Sausage Soup

The blog has been pretty quiet lately because the evul-death111 cold/flu plague struck and struck hard, and I stopped cooking for a couple of weeks. It’s nice to be back! Of course, I warn you that we will probably disappear again for a bit, since kiddo #2 is expected literally any day now. Tick tock. I have totally forgotten what the first six months are like with a baby, which is nature’s way of encouraging humans to have more than one child. And if our English starts looking like we not only didn’t sleep, but also failed our first grade equivalency test, just blame it on that state of self-induced mania called parenthood.

This soup was the first thing I made when it was clear that I was not going to turn into a zombie and spend the rest of my days lurking around malls and B-movies. It ended up being an interesting merge of a soup bubbling around in my brain and a recipe by Joy Manning posted on Serious Eats.

Smoky Legume and Sausage Soup

1 smoked pork chop or ham hock
1/3 lb ground pork shoulder
1/3 tsp fennel seed
pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1/2 coarse salt
1/4 lb dried cranberry beans
1 cup dried green lentils
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 rind of parmesan cheese
1 bay leaf
3 cups of chicken stock
4 cups of water

Soak the cranberry beans for several hours in cold water before starting the soup.

Heat up a splash of olive oil in a large soup pot on medium-high heat and brown the smoked pork chop on both sides, then remove to a side plate. Place the ground pork into the pot, along with the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp of salt, and brown thoroughly. Remove to the plate with the pork chop.

Lower the heat to medium and place the onions in the pot and cook until they start to turn translucent, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot. Then add in the green pepper, carrots, celery, and fennel and cook for 20 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients: cranberry beans, lentils, garlic, crushed tomatoes, pork chop and ground pork, parmesan rind, bay leaf, chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a light simmer. Simmer for an hour or two and check the tenderness of the cranberry beans. Adjust for salt and pepper.

Notes: if you want to thicken the soup, you can remove a couple ladle-fuls to a food processor and puree, then add back into the soup. I do not recommend using an immersion blender for this step, because you don’t want parts of the soup partially blended.

You can keep on cooking this soup for hours, and like most soups, it is really good the next day. I just ate it with some good bread, but you can also try it with a little olive oil or balsamic vinegar drizzled on top.

smoky legume soup

Lentil Soup with Pesto

lentil soup with pesto

Ever since I married an Australian, one of those rare moments of perspicacity, I have developed a fondness for all things antipodean. For many months, I’ve been wanting to join in the “Hay Hay it’s Donna Day” event, needing no other motivation than the fact that it is from down under. This month’s event focused on pesto, and is hosted by two blogs I have long enjoyed: 80 Breakfasts and Bron Marshall.

For HHDD, I decided to make an arugula pesto, and put it to work similar to an aioli in a soup. In this case, I made a rich lentil soup with ham and a healthy dose of tarragon that complemented the pesto marvelously.

Arugula Pesto

arugula pesto

1 cup arugula, finely chopped (1 cup after being chopped)
3 small/medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp lightly toasted pine nuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
a small pinch of salt

The Donna Hay recipe that 80 Breakfasts put forth used a rough chop method. I decided to loosely follow in those footsteps and leave the food processor in the cupboard, but I still ended up chopping everything pretty finely.

To lightly toast the pine nuts, heat up a non-stick saute pan and then toast the pine nuts for a minute or so, shaking the pan to move and roll the nuts around.

I should note that when I normally make pesto to eat with pasta or with bread, I go much lighter on the garlic, but this pesto was purpose-made for the following soup. I had the strong garlic aioli of Provence in mind as a rough inspiration.

Lentil and Ham Soup

1/2 lb dried lentils, washed
3 carrots, 2 roughly chopped, 1 whole
3 celery stalks, 2 finely chopped, 1 whole
5 small/medium garlic cloves, minced
2 medium/large onions (1 white, 1 spanish)
1 cup of smoked ham, chopped in a 1/3 inch dice
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/3 inch pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt + more to taste
3 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
1/8 tsp ground pepper (to taste)
olive oil

In a large soup pot, heat up a tbsp or so of olive oil and saute, over medium heat, the garlic and onions until onions are translucent. Remove onions to a bowl and place the bacon into the pot. Cook the bacon until it is 2 or 3 minutes away from being crispy, then add in the ham and cook, stirring occasionally, for another couple of minutes. Remove the bacon and ham to the bowl with the onions and drain any excess bacon fat.

Heat up the pot again with medium-high heat and deglaze the bottom of the pan with the white wine. Add back in the onions, bacon and ham, and stir in the lentils, chopped carrots, chopped celery, tomato paste, salt, parsley, and tarragon. Pour in enough water to about 2 inches above the tops of the vegetables. Add in the whole carrot and celery stalk (for added flavor), and the bay leaf.

Bring to a boil and then immediately lower down to a gentle simmer. Skim any foam or excess oil off of the surface as it cooks, and simmer for 3 hours (if you can wait that long). Taste for salt and pepper, and if the soup is looking too thick for your liking, add some boiling water as needed. Before serving, discard the whole carrot, whole celery stalk and bay leaves.

Serve in a bowl with a large dollup of pesto in the middle. As with most soups, this only gets better the next day.

Additional notes: I do not usually make lentil soup with tarragon, but found that it added an interesting element (and I like the herb – if you are less sure, halve the amount). In particular, I found that the tarragon complemented the pesto extraordinarily well, and the two together elevated a hearty, peasant-like lentil soup to another level of sophistication.

If you choose not to go with the tarragon and pesto flavoring as shown here, serve the soup with a nice handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley.

lentil soup w pesto

Minestrone, and the joys of making soup with Parmesan rind

minestrone soup

Today was the first time I’ve been really happy with my results with a from-scratch minestrone soup attempt, and I give all the credit to Stacey Snacks for suggesting the addition of a rind of parmesan cheese. Soooooooo much better.

This was a day for soup. Our town had a festival sponsored by the local businesses (the Christmas decorations are out in force already), and I got to stand around freezing while Munchkin happily leaped around inflatable castles like a maniac. Ah, energizer bunny. I had made the soup for lunch, but by the time I got back I wanted nothing more than another bowl. The cheese transformed a vegetable soup into a comfort dish.

1 large onion, diced
4-5 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced
4 carrots, chopped into circles
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
6 white button mushrooms, sliced
1 rind of parmesan cheese
1 cans (~400gr) of cooked red kidney beans
1 can (~400gr) of cooked “young” red kidney beans
2 bay leafs
large handful of parsley, washed and tied into a bunch
handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped for serving
3 or 4 tbsp tomato paste
3 or 4 handfuls of dried small pasta shells
1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese, plus a little more for serving
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
water (huh, what’s that? is that organic?)

Fill a kettle with water and bring it to a boil while you put the soup components together.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat and saute the onions and garlic for several minutes, and then add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, fennel and the parmesan rind. Add a few pinches of salt and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Rinse the beans well in a collander and stir into the pot (Note: you can use two cans of red kidney beans, but I liked the texture difference of having normal and young kidney beans, the latter of which Goya sells as “small red beans” or Habichuelas Coloradas Pequenas).

Place the tied parsley on top, add the bay leaves, 6 or 7 whole peppercorns and the tomato paste, and then pour in the cup of white wine and the hot water from your kettle — add water until the level is over the top of the vegetables. Stir gently, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat, cooking covered at a gentle simmer for 40 or 50 minutes. Give it an occasional stir and make sure the tomato paste has disintegrated nicely into the soup.

In another pot, boil your pasta shells in lightly salted water until al-dente and then transfer the pasta to the soup pot. Depending on the desired consistency for your soup, add water from the pasta pot. Cook the soup for another 10 minutes, tasting for salt and pepper. Right before serving, stir in the grated pecorino cheese.

Serve with a little freshly chopped parsley and grated pecorino cheese on top.

Chickpea Chorizo & Spinach Soup

chickpea chorizo soup

Several weeks ago, the food portions of my brain were tickled by Bitchin Camero’s chickpea and chorizo casseroles, and 80 Breakfasts’ cabbage, chickpea and chorizo soup. I decided that the chorizo and chickpea combination was a necessity for my tastebuds, and this soup was born. It was perfect for a crisp fall Saturday, and could take its time cooking while we buzzed around the house.

Chickpea Chorizo and Spinach Soup

1/2 lb dried chickpeas
2 oz chorizo, sliced into bite-sized pieces*
1 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
Pinch of smoked paprika*
1 jalapeno pepper (in this case, red), de-seeded and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 oz baby spinach, washed and loosely chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and pepper

Put your chickpeas in a large soup pot with enough water to cover 2 inches above the top of the chickpeas. Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender. Place a colander atop a bowl and strain the chickpeas, reserving 3 or 4 cups of the cooking water. Set both chickpeas and reserved liquid aside.

Heat up a dash of olive oil in the soup pot over medium heat and then cook the chorizo, stirring regularly, or a couple of minutes. Lower the heat, add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the wine, chicken broth, reserved cooking liquid, smoked paprika, bay leaf, jalapeno, and about 1/4 tbsp of salt. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Loosely cover and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf, and add the spinach, lemon zest, tomato paste, and a few grindings of black pepper. Once again, bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Loosely cover and cook for another 30 minutes.

Before serving, taste for lemon zest, salt and pepper.

* Notes
You can get very different types of chorizo, and this will definitely affect the soup. The 2 ounces I mention is probably equivalent to 3 inches or so of a normal chorizo sausage. If the sausage is potent, you probably don’t need to add much smoked paprika, but if it is on the milder side, you might want to add another pinch than recommended above.

Chilled Potato, Leek and Onion Soup (with alfalfa / tomato garnish)

amuse grouped
(part of From Provence to the Catskills, our celebration held as part of of the Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 blog event)

The amuse bouche for our 24, 24, 24 dinner was to be inspired by Elizabeth David, a brilliant chef who by many accounts woke the English up to Mediterranean cooking in the 1950s. We wanted something relatively light that could be served in small portions, and Elizabeth David’s potato and watercress soup in French Country Cooking caught our eye.

In our actual implementation, I took the dish more in the direction of a vichyssoise, and garnished with alfalfa and tomato.

Chilled Potato, Leek and Onion Soup (with alfalfa / tomato garnish)

Serves 2 large bowls or 6 small portions

4 medium red potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
2 leeks (white to light green portion), diced
3 1/2 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch of nutmeg
Handful of cherry tomatoes, carefully minced
Handful of alfalfa sprouts, chopped

Boil the potatoes until tender. In a separate saute pan, melt the butter on low heat and cook the onions and leeks for 20 minutes, stirring periodically.
amuse cookingleeks

Normally I would just use a food mill for a vichyssoise, but we wanted the texture to be really smooth so I added the step of quickly pureeing the potatoes, onion and leeks in a food processor once everything was cooked. Then shift the combination to a food mill on a fine-mesh setting, and run it through the mill into a bowl.


Add the milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir. Then stir in the white wine. Taste for salt and pepper, and you can err just a little bit on the salty side as its effects will be reduced when chilled. Chill in the fridge.

To serve, chop up some alfalfa sprouts and finely mince up some cherry tomatoes (try not to mush it up with the knife). Garnish the top of your servings with a pinch of alfalfa and then a pinch of the tomatoes. Serve with a small spoon.

One of the key criteria for this first course was that we could make it in advance, and serve it with minimal final prep work, since the second course was a complex pudding / souffle. We served it with white wine and it was a hit at the table. The above amount make enough for two full bowls of the soup, and was more than enough for the 6 portions we needed to kick off our dinner.

table starting

Chilled Avocado & Cucumber Soup (and photo struggles)

Tonight I played with a soup that would work on a hot evening, which combined a base inspired by the Food & Wine’s 2007 Annual Cookbook and a relish picked up from an old issue of Gourmet.

Soup base:
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
2 avocados, pitted and peeled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all the ingrediants into a blender and blend until smooth. Theoretically one could then strain this, but I found it smooth enough as is. The buttermilk adds a wonderful tang, not unlike a good natural yogurt.

Corn Relish
2 fresh ears of corn
6 cherry tomatoes
handful of cilantro
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar

I find that the only useful thing the microwave can do, other than heating up spagetti sauce, is cooking corn.* Leave the corn in the husk, cutting off the excess on either end, and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes. Set aside and let cool before removing husk. Chop up the tomatoes and the cilantro, then combine in a bowl with the minced shallots, lime juice, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Husk the corn and with a sharp knife remove the kernals. Mix the kernals in.

When you serve the soup, dollop the relish in the soup and lightly mix in.

* my favorite way to cook corn is to leave in husk, soak in water, and cook on the grill for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on grill heat

The combination came out pretty well. What did not was the photo. Right now I’m trying to use a digital camera, and *thought* that I had enough light for the pictures, but as you can see below they came out in an orange-tinted shadow (the image on the right is a separate mushroom dish I tried that also suffered from the orange plague). Clearly I have some work to do understanding my camera’s settings, since I primarily cook in the evenings when natural light is an impossibility. [UPDATE: I just use a small digital camera (Canon SD1100) and first tried playing with the ISO speeds, but really the easiest solution to get decent shots is the manual white balance feature.]