Thanksgiving is right around the corner. The weather folks keep making dire predictions of cold, snow, rain and sometimes all of the above. I don’t know about you, but when the outside is crappy, I like the inside to have soup. Lots of soup to warm a person up. I try to keep a pot of something on the stove at all times. I picked the following three soups because I LOVE them. I also picked them because they are great cold-weather soups. Adding a slight international flare because they all originated in different countries.
Simple ingredients. Melding together to make something great. There is a lot of speculation that the first meals cooked on fire were not just meat shish kebabs, but also one pot meals. Can’t think of a better, simpler one pot meal our ancestors could have stumbled up other than soup. So it is very possible that soups have been eaten by humans and humanoids for as long as we’ve had fire. It’s something to think about.
– makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for drizzling on top
1 large onion, chopped (1 ½ cups)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
2 celery stalks, chopped (3/4 cup)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bunch (about 10 oz) Tuscan kale, chopped (stems and ribs removed)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken stock or water
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 parmesan rind*
1 can (15.5 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cubed, firm bread such as ciabatta, whole wheat or multigrain loaf
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Heat the olive oil in a wide based pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and chili flakes and cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until partially softened. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and cook another 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Stir in the kale and cook until it starts to wilt, 3-4 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, stock (or water), thyme, bay leaf and parmesan rind and raise the heat to bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, pour about ¼ of the cannellini beans into a small bowl with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid and mash them together with a fork to form a paste. Pour the paste along with the remaining whole beans into the soup and stir to combine. The mashed beans will help to thicken the soup as it cooks. Simmer the soup with the lid slightly ajar, about 25 minutes until the vegetables are softened but still al dente. Add the bread and simmer another 5-7 minutes, partially covered. The bread will start to dissolve into the soup and thicken it further.
Before serving, remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parmesan rind. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the ribollita into bowls and top with parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
Note: The soup thickens as it sits and should not be very liquidy. If you prefer more liquid, feel free to add more water at the end.
*Adding the rind of a block of parmesan cheese is a traditional Italian method of adding flavor to soups. The next time you buy fresh parmesan cheese, you can reserve the rind which is normally discarded. Wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the freezer to use in dishes like this. If you don’t have one, just add some extra grated parmesan cheese as a topping at the end.
French Onion Soup
-makes 4 servings
1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
8 cups homemade beef stock, or good quality store bought stock
1/4 cup Cognac, or other good brandy
1 cup dry white wine
8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, toasted
3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere
Heat a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, increase the heat to medium high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, Cognac, and wine. Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning
Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.
Spanish Sopa de Ajo
– makes 4 servings
About 6 cups of cubed French or Italian bread
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle on bread cubes
6-10 thinly sliced garlic cloves
2-3 oz ham diced
3 tsp paprika or to taste
6 cups chicken broth
4 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
In a large stock pot, eat olive oil. Add garlic and cook until lightly golden brown. using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the oil and set aside. In small batches, toast the bread adding more olive oil as needed.
Once all of the bread is toasted, take the pot off the heat and add the paprika, ham and stir to combine everything. **Do not burn the paprika or it will turn bitter.** Once it is well combined, add the stock, reserved garlic and put back on the heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes more.
As soon as the soup is off the heat, gently break eggs into the liquid to poach the eggs. Tast and adjust seasoning. Gently transfer into 4 bowls, each with one egg. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve.