Category Archives: Soups & Stews

Soup with Escarole, White Beans and Sausage

When I saw that we were getting escarole from Tecolote Farms in our Local Box, I was excited for two reasons: (1) I have been craving sausage and escarole soup something fierce (2) I was already planning to visit Tecolote Farms on Saturday for a food swap. It seems silly when I write it down, but I felt like seeing the farmers who grew my Local Box escarole would be like seeing celebrities!!

Tecolote farmers Katie and Dave did not disappoint when I saw them last Saturday.  Their fields are about half an hour east of my house in Austin, flanked by live oak trees and dirt roads.

At the food swap, I managed to keep my celebrity-farmer-worship in check long enough to trade Farmer Katie some muffins for some Tecolote mustard greens. After the food swap Farmer Dave was kind enough to give us  swappers a tour of the farm.

Dave discussed some of the challenges of organic farming in Texas (draught, wind, heat, politics) and gave us some delicious, fresh-picked samples of the crops they’re growing at Tecolote this spring. Here he is, picking some peppery micro-greens for us to try.

As I had hoped, I got to see some of the Local Box escarole while it was still in the field! Dave didn’t seem to mind my paparazzi farm photos too much.

Visiting the farm in person really helped me appreciate how many hours of work local farmers spend providing food for us each week in the city. I left Tecolote Farms with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for locally sourced produce. And a renewed craving for that sausage and escarole soup.

Since I was in the neighborhood, I sourced the sausage in this recipe from Meyers’ Sausage in Elgin. Any sausage would work fine, but I am partial to either Meyers’ smoked sage or Richardson Farms‘ brats because their rich flavor complements the creamy beans and bitter greens in this hearty soup.

Escarole, Sausage and White Bean Soup (serves 4-6)
4 links sausage
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 spring onions
2 cloves garlic
1 head escarole
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1-3/4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini (2, 14.5 ounce cans)
1 cup cooking liquid from the beans (or liquid from the can)
1 quart chicken broth

Cut off the tough bottom stem of the escarole, then wash the remaining leaves in cold water to get rid of any grit. Set the escarole leaves aside to dry. Slice spring onions and mince garlic; set aside.

Slice sausage into rounds and place in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally. Once the fat from the sausage starts to render, add onions and garlic to the pot and cook until tender. Add Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon of water to the pot as the sausage mixture continues to cook. Meanwhile, slice the escarole leaves into thin ribbons and mince the parsley. Add these to the pot along with the red pepper and stir. Continue sauteing greens until they lose half their volume, for about 5 minutes.

Once there’s enough room in the pot, add the cooked beans, 1 cup of bean liquid, and 1 quart of chicken broth. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to low, and allow soup to simmer for about 15 minutes before serving.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Fennel Potato Soup with Turnip Greens

Hey you guys! I’m an aunt! My sister Beth had a beautiful baby girl last Thursday night. Meet Ella:

Thanks to Ella’s arrival, we ended up eating out for dinner on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights with family.  I’m not complaining– we finally got to show off Blue Star Cafeteria to my parents– but I do have a lot of leftover produce in my fridge today. Four meals’ worth, to be exact! Plus, I feel a little bloated.

In order to knock out a lot of veggies and help my poor stomach, I turned to this Potato-Fennel soup recipe from the Mayo Clinic Foundation for Medical Education and Research. I knew the potatoes would give the soup a mild flavor, and fennel is supposed to be great for digestion.

I adapted the Mayo Clinic’s recipe by incorporating turnip greens and radish tops into the soup, and by increasing the liquid in the recipe accordingly.  And since I had just one half-pound bulb of fennel on hand, that’s all we used. (I couldn’t taste it a bit in the final dish.) I happened to have radish tops and turnip greens in my fridge today, but any cruciferous dark green would work well here.  However, I would avoid would be mustard greens; their spiciness would probably overpower the delicate balance of flavors in this soup.

All weekend I’ve been imagining what kinds of food Ella will enjoy as she gets older.  Hopefully some day I can make her a big steamy bowl of this fennel soup and tell her all about the weekend that we met!

Fennel Potato Soup with Turnip Greens (4 large servings)
adapted from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups chopped dark greens, such as turnip, arugula, radish, spinach, or kale
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper
Sour cream for garnish
Fennel fronds for garnish

Chop the onion and fennel bulb*. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and fennel. Saute until the onion is translucent and the fennel begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, peel and chop potatoes and wash and chop greens.  Add potatoes and greens to the pot, along with the broth and milk.  Bring the soup to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and season accordingly. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fennel fronds, sour cream, and additional pepper.

*If you’re new to fennel (anise), like me, it can be tricky to know how to cut the bulb open. Here’s a great video with instructions:

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and a modified version appears on their blog, Eating Out of the Local Box.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Yesterday I picked all the meat off our leftover Thanksgiving turkey and boiled the bones to make turkey stock.  I felt a little like Ma Ingalls making my own broth, but the whole process was just too easy for me to forgo. I followed Kalyn Denny’s instructions for making broth with turkey bones and it turned out great.  In the end, I netted 12 free cups of turkey stock for my troubles!  That much low-sodium, organic broth would cost at least $10 at the grocery store.

Besides saving money, it felt really good not to waste any parts of our Thanksgiving turkey. I had previously portioned out the leftover meat and froze it for use it for dinners in the next few weeks.  Of course, the bones went into the soup pot.  And the skin, tendons, and other leftover boiled meat bits?  I whizzed those in the food processor along with a few tablespoons of wheat flour and made 3 cups of meat Kong filling for Barclay. (We’re trying to help him gain some weight and free treats make this much easier!) The only downside to all this thrify fun is that I have 12 cups of turkey stock sitting in my refrigerator, needing my attention!

This butternut squash soup recipe is adapted from a vegan version published on Allrecipes.com, and it is one of Rami’s and my favorite winter comfort foods.  Its spicy-sweet flavors are very forgiving, and I’ve made it with mashed  sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, and roasted butternut squash, depending on what’s handy.  To save time, I always roast the squash or potatoes ahead of time and add them to the broth cooked and mashed.  However, another option would be to peel and chop raw squash or potatoes and cook them in the boiling broth until tender. Since the soup goes through the blender at the end, either way would work just fine.

Finally, a note about the light coconut milk in this recipe: it’s a must-include.  In a pinch, you could substitute heavy cream, but the coconut milk’s sweetness enhances the buttery squash and spicy red pepper flakes.  I used half a can of coconut milk in a red lentil sweet potato soup recipe I made last week. I froze the leftover coconut milk right in the can and it kept just fine until I needed the remainder for today’s recipe.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry
2 cups mashed roasted butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato
3 cups turkey stock (recipe is vegan if you use veggie stock)
1 cup light coconut milk (1/2 of a 14 oz. can)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish

Saute onions and garlic in oil in a heavy bottomed soup pan over medium high heat.  Once onions are soft, add pepper flakes, turmeric, curry, squash, and stock.  Stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer soup, covered, for half an hour.  Add coconut milk in the last five minutes of cooking.  Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or allow it to cool some and blend carefully in small batches in a conventional blender.  Season finished soup with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.  This soup doubles easily and freezes exceptionally well.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro

I’m ready to eat. Ready for turkey. Ready to cook two kinds of bread for homemade stuffing from scratch on Thursday.  (What was I thinking with the homemade stuffing???)  One thing I’m not really ready for is all the other dinners this week. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

Enter red lentil soup.  This recipe is healthy, tasty, and it only takes about 10 minutes of hands-on work to prepare.  It’s also inexpensive and easily adaptable to whatever fall produce you have on hand: sweet potatoes, leeks, onions, winter squash, whatever.  Best part is, while it’s bubbling away on the stove, there’s plenty of time to whip up some stuffing.

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro (serves 4)
adapted from “Vegan Red Lentil Soup” published on Allrecipes.com

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato, pumpkin, or butternut squash
1 cup dry red lentils
2 cups water
1/2, 15 oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided
1 lime, cut into wedges

Chop onion and garlic.  Saute them in oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Meanwhile, peel and chop sweet potato or squash. Once onion is translucent, add all remaining ingredients except for half the cilantro and all the lime wedges.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for half an hour, until potatoes/squash and lentils are tender. Taste soup and season with salt and pepper.  Garnish each bowl of finished soup with fresh cilantro and a lime wedge.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Cincinnati-Style Chili

I feel a little blasphemous writing about Midwestern chili on a blog titled “The Austin Gastronomist.”  Chili is the state dish of Texas after all!  Texans are rightly pround of their chili, but we could learn a thing or two from the adventurous Cincinnatians, who traditionally season their chili with cinnamon and cocoa powder.  This dish combines those sweet flavors with spicy peppers and smoky chili powder in a thick, hearty stew.

Cincinnatti-Style Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
2 bell peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 Serrano pepper
1 pound venison, bison, or beef chop
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornmeal

Chop onion and, wearing rubber gloves, seed and rib all peppers. Chop the bell peppers and mince the jalapeno and Serrano peppers. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add onions & peppers.  Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender and start to caramelize (turn brown in places).  Meanwhile, chop meat into bite sized pieces.  Add meat to caramelized veggies and cook for about 2 minutes, until meat begins to brown.  Add chili powder, paprika, cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne and salt to the pot, stirring to distribute; then pour in the apple juice and water.  Bring liquid to a boil, then turn heat to low.  Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.  Before serving, whisk in cornmeal to thicken chili.  Plate over mashed sweet potatoes, cornmeal mush, or serve traditional Cincinnatti style over spaghetti.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Although this chili was inspired by the Midwest, I  stayed true to my Texas roots by serving it over jalapeno cornmeal mush.  Next time I make this, I’m planning to take a cue from my friend Hilah and do it vegan by substituting mushrooms and beans for the meat.

Creamy Summer Squash Soup

This soup is creamy and rich, and pretty easy to prepare on a busy weeknight.  The best part is, it uses a lot of zucchini without tasting like zucchini, a real plus if you’re trying to use up a whole lot of squash! I adapted it from Heidi Swanson’s spinach and zucchini soup recipe, published on her wonderful blog, 101Cookbooks. I replaced the spinach in Heidi’s recipe with peppery arugula, which is plentiful in Central Texas this time of year.

The secret to this soup’s creamy texture is the pureed potatoes in the broth.  I recently bought an inexpensive immersion blender (under $20!), which pureed the soup right in the pot and made preparation a breeze.  I definitely recommend adding this handy gadget to your holiday wish list if you don’t have one already!

Creamy Summer Squash Soup (serves 6)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chopped potatoes (2 medium potatoes)
2 cups chopped zucchini squash (1 giant squash or 2 medium squash)
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
3 cups chopped arugula (1 big bunch)
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
Sour cream, yogurt, or olive oil to garnish

Chop all the vegetables.  If you’re using an immersion blender, be sure the vegetable pieces are less than 1/2 inch so they’ll puree easily later.  Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large soup pot.  Add onions and garlic and saute until onions are translucent. Stir in the potatoes and zucchini, then pour in the vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft.  Stir in arugula and turn off heat.  Puree with an immersion or conventional blender until soup is smooth.  Squeeze juice from half the lime into the soup and stir.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  I liked lots of pepper in this soup!  Serve soup, garnish with lime wedges, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt or a little olive oil, and additional cracked pepper to taste.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

We loved this soup as a side dish, and ate it for dinner tonight with beer braised bratwurst and onions.  A big bowl of soup and half a bratwurst made for a hearty, comforting meal for each of us.

Austin Beer Week: Texas Chili Pie

I made this chili pie in support of the Rangers’ first ever World Series appearance and so far it is working! (We’re winning game one of the series as I type.)  The idea for this recipe came from the concession food I liked to eat at Rangers games when I was a kid: frito pie!  This healthier, non-processed version combines a spicy  chili with hearty jalapeno cheddar corn bread.  Pure Texan comfort food!

If tomatoes and fresh beans were in season, I probably would have added them to the chili.  However, this version will satisfy the most picky Texas Chili enthusiasts since it has neither.  In celebration of Austin Beer Week, I used a whole bottle of Independence Brewing Company’s Austin Amber Ale in the chili, plus a half cup in the cornbread topper. The cornbread also features roasted corn and jalapeno peppers plus local cheddar cheese for added flavor and  texture.  You could skip those ingredients in a pinch, but the pie wouldn’t be nearly as rich and tasty!  I adapted the cornbread recipe from The Beer Wench‘s “Some Like it Hot” cornbread.  If you’re interested in gourmet brew, check out her website, it’s very cool.

One last thing: both the chili and the cornbread work as stand-alone recipes.  However, I think the presentation of the pie is really special.  Just like game day food should be! I hope you enjoy this easy and tasty Texas Chili Pie as much as we did, and let’s go Rangers!!

Texas Chili Pie (serves 6)
Chili:

1 lb. ground venison, beef, or turkey
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 bottle Austin Amber Ale
2 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Cornbread:
1 ear sweet corn
1 fresh jalapeno pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (n.b. I tried this with whole wheat and it wasn’t good)
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Austin Amber Ale
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten

In a heavy bottomed pan, brown meat over medium heat, adding a little oil if it’s very lean, stirring occasionally. While meat is browning, chop onions, garlic, peppers, and cilantro and add to pan. Stir the meat mixture and break up any large clumps of meat. Once onions are translucent and meat is broken up, pour in the beer and stir.  Add paprika, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Allow chili to stew, uncovered, for about half an hour while you prepare the cornbread topping.

For the cornbread: First, cut corn off the cob and mince jalapeno pepper.  Roast corn and pepper in a skillet over high heat with a little olive oil until some kernels of corn are brown.  Set aside to cool.  Whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add milk, beer, and egg and stir until just combined. (Lumps are okay.)  Finally, fold in shredded cheese, corn, and peppers.  Set aside and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Back to the chili: stir in cornmeal one tablespoon at a time until chili thickens to desired consistency.  After two tablespoons of cornmeal, mine was as thick as juicy taco meat, just how I like it!  Remove chili from heat and carefully pour it into a 1.5 quart casserole dish.  Gently pour cornbread batter on top of the chili.  Using potholders, put the casserole in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, until cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Garnish chili pie with fresh sliced jalapenos, diced onions, sour cream and cilantro.  Cheer for the Rangers!!

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.