Winter Squash and Greens Soup

A simple soup, ready in little time, if you have cooked winter squash on hand. The soup is very good as is, but it can also be a template. Add in some cooked grain, beans, meat, herbs, spices.

4 – 5 strips bacon or 2 T vegetable oil
1 c onion or leek, finely chopped
7 – 8 c chopped greens, stemmed if necessary
4 c broth, stock, or water
4 c cooked winter squash chunks or purée
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven or soup pot until just crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Crumble or chop into small pieces. Set aside.

2. Sauté the onion in the bacon fat or, if forgoing bacon, in vegetable oil until softened and translucent. Add greens and cook until just wilted.

3. Add broth and winter squash (along with any additions). Stir to combine. Bring just to a simmer or gentle boil. When everything is heated through, remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve, garnished with reserved bacon pieces.

Panade with Greens

A panade is basically a bread soup/stew that is made by layering various components, such as bread, onions, greens, and cheese, pouring broth or stock all over and up to the top of the ingredients, then covering and baking until most of the liquid is absorbed. It’s wonderful comfort food and just a really good, gooey, slurpy meal. It’s a bit of work, as one either needs stale bread or bread that’s baked to crouton consistency (so the bread doesn’t dissolve in the liquid) plus the onions need to caramelize for a good 30 – 40 minutes (you can get by with sautéing the onions for ten minutes or so, but the results are not as good). Then it bakes for at least an hour. It’s worth it. Oddly, panade is considered a side dish, but I find it’s quite filling on it’s own. Cheese note–while you can use most any cheese here, gruyère and/or other so-called “melting” or fondue cheeses (fontina, raclette, emmental, provolone, morbier, appenzeller, etc.) are superb in this dish. Bread note–whole grain is, I think, a better choice for this than white, it holds up better. I usually halve the following recipe, and it’s still plenty.

8 c or so stale whole grain bread, cubed (see step #1 for details on using fresh bread)
3 – 4 c broth or stock, divided
1/2 c vegetable oil, divided
3 c half-moon slices of onion and/or leeks
1 1/2 – 2 c sliced mushrooms, optional, but adds deep, earthy flavor
3 – 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 c red wine
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 t caraway seeds; or other seeds, such as fennel, coriander, dill…
1 t thyme leaves, or other, dried herb
1 large bunch greens, stemmed if necessary, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 c shredded gruyère or other cheese

1. If you have stale, cubed bread, toss it in a large bowl with 1/2 c of the broth/stock, 2 T oil and a little salt. Set aside. If starting with fresh bread, cube, toss with oil and bake for about 15 minutes in a 325ºF oven. Or, toast, then cube and toss as for stale bread. Or, set fresh bread out on the counter for a day or two.

2. Heat 1/4 c oil in a large skillet. Add onions and some salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 30 – 40 minutes. You want a rich, brown color. Add a splash of broth/stock if the onions are sticking. Add the mushrooms after about 15 minutes of cooking. Towards the end, add the garlic, red wine, vinegar, caraway, and thyme. Keep cooking until the liquid has almost all evaporated. Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl (but not the bread bowl).

3. In the same skillet, heat a T of the oil and sauté the greens until wilted and any liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Use the last T of oil to grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish or other, similar, suitable dish. Layer half the bread on the bottom, then half the onion/mushroom mixture, half the greens, and half the cheese. Repeat. Pour the broth over all. You want the broth to come up to the top of the ingredients, even cover it–just leave some space so you don’t spill it putting it in the oven. Cover with foil.

5. Put baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, for insurance. Bake for an hour, until golden and bubbling. Remove foil, then return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, to brown the cheese some. Allow to sit for another 10 minutes, then serve. Whew!

Pasta Soup with Napa Cabbage

I love soups like this, that come together quickly. Short on time, long on flavor. Broth or stock is a must here, for the best flavor. Lots of other vegetables are good here. Any kind of cooked protein is also good here, or a protein, such as shrimp, that cooks quickly. You can also add any number of seasonings, spices, spice mixes and the like, hot sauces, herbs–whatever catches your fancy, and your eye, as you peruse your refrigerator and pantry. If you decide to add extra vegetables, you will need to increase the amount of oil for the initial sauté, to prevent burning of said vegetables.

1 T vegetable oil
1/2 c chopped leek or onion
1/2 c chopped carrot
extra vegetables, if desired
1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
salt, to taste
7 – 8 c broth or stock
ground black pepper, to taste
1 c small pasta shapes, such as orzo, ditali, macaroni, etc.
3 c cooked protein (see headnote)
3 – 4 c thinly sliced Napa cabbage

1. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add leek, carrot, extra vegetables if using, garlic, and salt. Sauté, stirring, until tender.

2. Add broth or stock along with some pepper. Bring to the boil. Add pasta and cook until almost done. Add cooked protein and Napa. Cook an additional 2 – 3 minutes until cabbage has wilted and is tender. Taste for seasonings and serve.

Celeriac, Leek, and Greens Soup

Easy easy easy. And very very very good. This soup is a good introduction to herbaceous celeriac; celeriac lovers already appreciate how much more flavorful this root is compared to its cousin, celery. Cooking time for the celeriac will depend on how big the pieces are. Add greens appropriate to their cooking time. Thus, arugula or spinach can be added in at the last minute (literally), while sturdier greens will need to be added in soon after the celeriac. The baguette slices can be served alongside or in (on) the soup, as croutons–goat’s cheese is a good counterpoint to the soup.

3 T butter or oil, or a combination
2 c chopped leeks, white and light green parts only or chopped scallions
3 c peeled, chopped celeriac
6 c stock or broth
salt and pepper, to taste
5 – 6 c chopped greens, stemmed if necessary
toasted, sliced baguette or other bread
soft goat’s cheese, or other soft cheese

1. Melt butter and/or heat oil in a soup pot or other large sauce pan. Stir in leeks and cook until soft but not browned. Add celeriac, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the celeriac is soft. Add sturdier greens during this part.

2. If using arugula, tat soi or other such green, stir in and cook until just wilted. Purée, in batches or use an immersion blender.

3. Serve with cheese-topped baguette slices.

Eggplant Soup

Eggplant soup! What will they think of next! For eggplant lovers, this is a treat. It’s simple and elegant with a lemony tang. Come next summer, or even now, turn this into a ratatouille soup, adding tomatoes, zucchini, and bell peppers to the soup. You’ll need about 3 1/2 c or roasted or cooked eggplant, from 2 medium-sized eggplants, or 3 – 4 Asian eggplants. Ground sumac or smoked paprika can usually be found in the international section (Middle Eastern) of urban supermarkets.

2 medium eggplants
3 T vegetable oil or butter
2 c sliced leeks and/or onion
1 or 2 green or red bell peppers, cored, seeds and ribs removed
salt and pepper, to taste
5 – 6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 – 1 t crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
6 c broth or stock
3 – 4 T lemon juice
1 t lemon zest mixed with 2 T extra-virgin olive oil (or just use all olive oil)
ground sumac or smoked paprika, for garnish

1. Prepare eggplants. Either broil: Preheat broiler. Pierce eggplants in several places. Put on a baking sheet and broil for about 8 – 10 minutes, turning a few times, until eggplants are charred and have softened. Or roast: Preheat oven to 450ºF. Pierce eggplants. Put on a baking sheet and roast  until eggplants are browned in spots and have collapsed. In both cases remove from oven, allow to cool, then peel and roughly chop eggplant flesh. Set aside. Stovetop: Trim eggplants. Peel, if you like. Cube. See Step 2.

2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add leeks, bell peppers, and cubed eggplants along with some salt and pepper and sauté, stirring until vegetables are very soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another couple of minutes. If using broiled or roasted eggplant add with garlic and red pepper flakes.

3. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and continue simmering for 10 – 15 minutes. Purée soup, in batches, in a blender. For a smooth soup, push the purée through a sieve, discarding solids and seeds. Otherwise, put in a bowl while you finish puréeing. Then return to soup pot. Or, for a chunky soup, don’t purée.

4. Reheat soup gently. Remove from heat. Add 3 T of the lemon juice. Taste for seasonings and lemoniness. Serve, with a drizzle of the lemon-zest-infused olive oil and a sprinkle of sumac or smoked paprika. Serve hot or cold.

Pork Egg Drop Soup with Tomatoes and Greens

A soup that can be thrown together quickly and that requires no broth or stock. Water is simmered with the ground meat to create a broth. Of course, if you like, you can use any broth or stock you have on hand, this will give a much richer flavor. You can use any ground meat here, or forgo it altogether, subbing in some vegetarian item if you like. Add in the greens so they have time to cook, which means don’t throw in curly kale at the last second. The amount of the ground meat to use will depend on how much you have on hand as well as your preference–the more you use, the more substantial a soup you will have. Feel free to toss in some spices here, I added curry powder (a tablespoon) with great success.

2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 c chopped (sweet) onion
1/2 t salt
1/2 – 1 chopped fresh hot pepper, optional (seeded, ribs removed, if you like)
1/2 lbs or more ground pork or other ground meat
2 – 3 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 1/2 T fish sauce, or 4 t soy sauce plus 1/2 t powdered sea vegetable
spices, to your preference, optional
5 1/2 c water (or broth or stock)
4 c or so (stemmed) chopped greens
2 eggs, lightly beaten
grated cheese, for serving, optional
fresh, chopped herb, for garnish
hot sauce, for serving, optional if you’ve used fresh hot pepper

1. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and salt and sauté, stirring for about 5 minutes or so. Add the fresh hot pepper, if using, after a couple of minutes. Add the ground meat and cook, stirring, until the meat loses it’s pink color and breaking the meat up if need be. Add the tomatoes and fish sauce and stir to combine. Cook for about five minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down some.

2. Add the water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off any foamy scum on the surface for the first five minutes after adding the meat. Cook for another 10 – 15 minutes. Add the greens as appropriate to their cooking time.

3. Remove from heat and add the beaten eggs, stirring all the while. Continue stirring until the eggs are cooked and are well incorporated into the soup.

4. Serve, topped with grated cheese if you like, and sprinkled with fresh herb. A dash of hot sauce is always good.