Tag Archives: easy soup

Amazing Escarole and White Bean Soup (with tiny meatball option)

5 Nov

My friend Marianne and I cook together most Sundays, putting together at least one big dish that we can pack for lunch a few days of the following week. My lentil soup is a regular feature of Sunday night cooking, as are roasted vegetables, But a glorious head of escarole at a recent end-of-season Restoration Farm pick-up proved inspiring and nostalgic.

The veggie version

The veggie version

For Marianne it was all about her Italian nana who Marianne swears made this soup out of a handful of leaves, a pinch of ground beef and water. Grandmothers from those days were like that…they somehow conjured the most memorable, intoxicating flavors out of thin air like fairy godmothers.

Me, I need a good stock to help me out. Especially because my own abuela never made anything like this that I can remember, so I don’t know where I first had escarole soup, or why it provokes such sighs of nostalgia in me, or how I knew that mine has to have white beans, even though Nana Manone doesn’t seem to have included them in hers. And I wasn’t planning on meatballs, but since Nana used them….(which might explain the water instead of stock) Marianne’s big brother Peter will have to shed some light on this one, if he remembers.

The meatball version...with a handful of pasta in my lunch

The meatball version…with a handful of pasta in my lunch

In the meantime, I defrosted my prize homemade chicken stock in the fridge and softened the beans and grudgingly defrosted some raw but seasoned ground beef and prepared myself for battle. Continue reading


Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup! (vegan)

26 Feb

I had a butternut squash from way back in the fall and a desire for real arroz con habichuelas (Puerto Rican pink beans and rice), which may seem not to have anything to do with butternut squash soup, but after I boiled the squash, I realized I had about twice as much as I needed!

This recipe uses just about a half a typical butternut squash

This recipe uses just about a half a typical butternut squash

Waste not want not is my motto (as much by necessity as by design), so I thought it would be nice to simmer up a warm soup.

A bit of home-made sofrito (substitutes included in recipe!)

A bit of home-made sofrito (substitutes included in recipe!)

Thus, this ever so simple butternut squash soup, vegan (unless you swirl in some yogurt or sour cream at the end), and rich without being fatty. I used some sofrito I made the other day, but give instructions for store-bought or home-made substitutes.

squash and seasonings simmering

squash and seasonings simmering

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and boiled until soft in vegetable broth. RESERVE broth

1 tsp olive oil

2 Tbs sofrito (homemade or Goya. May be substituted with a tablespoon of finely minced onion and a tablespoon of finely minced green cooking pepper like cubanelle, in which case you need to saute a bit longer until tender)

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp mild curry powder

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

(dab of pesto, hot sauce or –if you aren’t vegan – yogurt or sour cream to finish, optional)

In a medium soup pot, heat oil at high until fragrant. Lower to medium, add sofrito and garlic and sauté until fragrant and getting dry. Add curry powder and cumin and toast until slightly fragrant. Add broth and squash, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until very, very soft. Use an immersion blender or food processor or blender to liquefy. Season to taste and serve with optional toppings.

Arroz con habichuelas (click for basic recipe!)

Arroz con habichuelas (click for basic recipe!)

Or click for another MORE basic recipe!

Back-To-School Freezer Fillers 2: Nostalgia-Driven Tomato and Rice Soup

31 Aug

When I was a kid, I love-love-loved Campbell’s Tomato and Rice Soup, the kind from the can that you just added water to and stirred around on the stove top for a while. Holy Happy Meal, Batman, with a couple of saltines on, that was the best stuff ever to slurp on a fall day, and best of all, I could do it myself from a young age. Don’t ask me how young, because I don’t remember! But it was a handy thing to make, and it got you tons of labels for your school back in the day. Ah yes, the Campbell Soup Label Drives…. Continue reading

Black Bean Soup (Criollo Caribbean style – sort of)

29 May


Black bean soup is the perfect blend of pragmatic and sexy. Black beans may be cheap and robust and there is no shyness to their flavor or definitive color – but they have a nutty subtlety that intrigues and keeps you coming back for more and wanting to try it new ways. They are happy in the company of the spicy as well as the subdued. Try this basic recipe first (it is broken down into easy steps, so it only looks long) and then start ad-libbing and improvising according to your tastes. Black beans are very sociable and get along with all sorts of flavors!

Black Bean Soup (with vegetarian options)


2 oz salt pork in a single piece, scored – don’t cut through as you will remove it (skip if doing vegetarian soup)

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup cubanelle or green bell pepper, minced (may mix or substitute with red pepper. Cubanelles are the pale green cooking pepper, sometimes called Italian cooking peppers)

6 culantro leaves, minced (if available. If fresh from the garden, 2-3 leaves should be enough. If you can’t find it, skip or add parsley)

1 Tbs cilantro, chopped (plus another Tbs chopped and reserved for garnish)


2-3 carrots, peeled and diced (about ½ cup)

2-3 stalks celery, diced (about ½ cup)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)


1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 Tbs oregano (2 Tbs if fresh)

1 tsp cumin powder


2 Cups black beans from dried (soaked overnight, water replaced in the morning and simmered for two hours in the afternoon) OR two 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained.

Salt and pepper to taste



Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a soup pot. Add salt pork and sauté until it has rendered much of the fat. Remove the salt pork and discard. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil and warm it. One at a time, stirring to coat, add onion, garlic, peppers, culantro (recao), and cilantro. Saute at medium heat, stirring occasionally.


When the sofrito elements are translucent and limp, add the vegetables and stir to coat and cook till somewhat tender.


Add broth and heat to boiling. If using soaked beans, add at this time with remaining spices and cook for 15-20 minutes, until tender. If using beans from a can, first cook broth and vegetables for 15 minutes, then add beans and cook for another five minutes.

(Optional finishing touches: Some folks, Cubans in particular, like to add a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar at the end to finish. You may like to serve with sliced or chopped avocado, dressed with a bit of red onion, squeeze of lime and salt. You can also serve over rice. I like to garnish with finely minced red onion, cilantro, and/or finely chopped hard-boiled egg. Sriracha is my current favorite hot sauce, but any hot pepper based hot sauce will spike this up nicely)

Manhattan Clam Chowder: zesty, cozy, bacon free

21 May

A Margarita glass makes for a novel soup presentation. Nota bene: The glass should be sturdy!

I make several versions of “Manhattan Clam Chowder,” none of which is particularly authentic, but then again, this is a soup named for Manhattan. Of all places in the world, this is the one where everyone belongs and everyone is unique, if not downright quirky. So consider this a mandate to scoff at tradition and do it your way.

This version doesn’t use bacon and relies heavily on vegetable gusto.

Manhattan Clam Chowder (without bacon)

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 cup onion, peeled and chopped fine

3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine

½ cup red pepper, chopped fine

½ Cup carrot, peeled and chopped (first in quarters lengthwise, then in thin slices)

½ Cup celery stalks, peeled and sliced into small chunks

Two medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½ inch squares

4 cups vegetable juice (low sodium preferred)*

1 bay leaf

Four 5.5 oz cans of chopped clams, juices reserved

1 Tbs dried oregano (2 Tbs fresh, chopped)

1 Tbs dried parsley (2 Tbs fresh, chopped)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot at medium high until fragrant and very liquid. Stir in onions to coat, lower heat to medium and add red pepper and garlic. Cook an additional minute. Add carrots and celery and cook until beginning to get tender, about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add potatoes and stir to coat, then add vegetable juice, bay leaf, and reserved clam juice. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add clams, oregano, and parsley and cook for an additional five minutes. Add salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Serve with oyster crackers or saltines and spike with sriracha, Tabasco or other red pepper-based hot sauce.

*If you happen to have an additional bottle of clam juice in the pantry, you may substitute a cup of the vegetable juice with the bottled clam juice to pump up the briny flavor

Souped Up: Andouille Sausage, Garbanzos and Kale

13 Apr
Aye me hearties…

One of the few things I miss when winter finally gets out of my face for a few months is hearty soups. So, to celebrate (or bid adieu to) the tail end of the cold and damp, I made just such a hearty (and spicy) soup. I served it to late evening guests recently as a stodgy and substantial — but lively – counterbalance to late evening imbibing. It was very restorative the day after too! I actually served it in tea cups, which was kind of sweet and cozy, and just the right moderate portion for night-time. It’s also easier to handle than bowls when you are sprawled on couches and not seated at a table.

It is another riff on one of my favorite types of soup: a bean, a green and a sausage. This time the bean is nutty, firm garbanzo and the sausage spicy Cajun-style Andouille. The green is kale. If you are not familiar with kale, it is available pretty much year-round, another leafy-green packed with nutrients and fiber and all that good stuff. It is similar to spinach and chard when you cook it, but you have to cook it quite a bit longer for it to soften up. The advantage is that it won’t get mushy in your soup, but will retain a bit of crunchy character. The colors in this one are also really lovely!

Andouille Sausage, Kale and Garbanzo Soup

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

½ Cup red pepper, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

6-8 oz andouille sausage (or other highly seasoned sausage – I like spicy, but you can use non-spicy too), in ½ inch slices

1 bunch kale, washed thoroughly, stems removed and chopped

2 cups russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½ inch squares

32 oz low sodium vegetable broth (or however much broth you have, mixed with water to make 32 oz)

1 15.5 oz can chick peas (garbanzos, ceci), drained and rinsed

2 Tbs fresh thyme or 1 Tbs dried (may be increased or decreased to your liking)


In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil until liquid and fragrant, add onions, stir to coat then reduce heat and allow to soften and become translucent. Add red pepper and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened. Increase heat to medium high, add sausage slices and cook through. Stir in kale and potatoes and coat well. Add vegetable broth and additional water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a lively simmer for 15 minutes. Add garbanzos and thyme and simmer another 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread/a grating of parmesan cheese/a dollop of fine extra virgin olive oil.

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