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A Nice Little Italian Minestrone

Italian minestrone

This is called an Italian minestrone — which usually means whatever you have in the fridge made into a soup — and it is a wonderful soup for those occasionally cool rainy days that still show up in April. This came originally from a Bon Appetite article I saw, probably four or five years ago, and with a little tweaking, became a fast friend at my house, at least.

The base for this soup is relatively easy, and it’s very good in just about every situation I can think of. But what’s great, is there are a whole host of other things you can add, which only make it better. I’ve use a little broccoli, some asparagus, some spinach (added late in the soup) and a few other things. I’d stay away from zucchini (courgette) for this recipe, mainly because it drastically changes the taste, but otherwise — go for it. I tend to like the leeks and carrots in this soup. You might try scallions or better yet shallots instead of the leeks, but keep the carrots.

And for the pasta, main thing is to keep it small, little pasta leaves, ditalini, small shells. Just small.

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Shrimp and Curry Soup

shrimp and curry soup

Shrimp and curry soup is something that originally came from a New England and Soup Factory Cookbook, something I used for more than a number of good soups. And after trying it a few times and making some adjustments, it turned out to be as good a shrimp soup as I’ve ever tried. And while I tend to keep my own home made curry around, it works just as well with good ol’ curry powder from the grocery store. The main thing is to try the curry, adding more or less to suit your taste.

The secret here, by the way, is not the shrimp or the curry, but the wonderful way the soup uses okra, which adds color and otherwise just brightens up the whole soup. It’s amazing and really represents something new (for me) in a soup. Don’t even try making this without the okra.

Otherwise, while it looks like there is a lot going on here, there really isn’t much going on that you wouldn’t find in almost any good soup. 

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Red-Eye Shoulder Stew

red-eye shoulder stew

Red-eye is one of those things that the folks in the South, particularly, can’t (or don’t) do without for very long. Me? I can usually get by ok without that good ol’ red-eye gravy, but I can tell you this: if you’ve ever had really good red-eye gravy, then eventually you’ll  be back for more. It has that magnetic pull to it that you just can’t stay away from it forever.  All that’s to say that it was that bacon/coffee mixture that prompted me to start looking for a great stew that could use those same flavors. 

So first of all, if you’re not from the South, you probably have no idea what red-eye gravy is. In a nutshell, it’s a pork fat gravy (usually from ham, bacon or sausage) that’s made with very strong coffee. I’ve seen it used a lot of ways, but mostly it’s just served with the ham itself, and it’s great that way. But this time around, I had some beef shoulder, some veggies and I wanted to see if I could make a shoulder stew with coffee that would have some of the great red-eye taste. 

That’s pretty much how it came to be, and while it may not be necessary, I made this in a slow cooker, so in the end, it really took very little effort and the taste was extremely good (though I may mess with the spices a bit more next time around). And yes, the coffee definitely comes through.

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A Little Vegetarian Minestrone

Minestrone

Minestrone is a staple throughout Italy, and while we will from time to time feature others of this soup, this particular vegetarian version is actually one of our favorites, for a lot of reasons. Unlike a lot of this soup, this minestrone has plenty of good bean broth for starters and lots and lots of fall roast vegetables. 

If you’re not as well-versed in minestrone (like most people aren’t) it is actually a very ancient soup made mainly from whatever veggies you happened to have around the kitchen. This version, like most these days in Italy, has tomatoes and beans and broth from the beans as the main ingredient, which gives it a very vegetable taste that we happen to like a lot. And fortunately, the broth itself really doesn’t take so very long to make. And this one has leeks, turnips, carrots, onions, celery and a little basil and oregano to spice up the flavor. 

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Cheesy Broccoli Soup

cheesy broccoli soup

I told you we’d be having a lot of soup, the past few weeks and yes, we’re still at it. This time around it’s a very cheesy broccoli soup, and this is one of my all time favorites.  It’s got plenty of broccoli and cheese, of course, but it also, strangely, doesn’t need much of the way in seasoning. It’s one of those soups that just, plain, stands for itself.

They key, of course, is the cheese. I like using Gouda and sharp cheddar, which gives a nice lovely flavor without overwhelming the broccoli, but you can indeed use all cheddar or just about anything that seems to fit your mood on a given day. And apart from the little bit of bay leaves (and the celery and carrots), there is no other seasoning required for this soup. That’s because good fresh broccoli provides really all the flavor you could ask for. 

Honestly, guys, THIS is the soup you’ve been waiting for.

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A Little More Soup: This Time It’s Split Pea Soup

split pea soup

I haven’t forgotten about soups! There’s a rule somewhere, that says I can’t write about soups everyday, or every three days, or whatever. And then there’s a rule that says I should write about soups and the rest of you can wait until I get done. So, I’m going to try to split the difference. Which brings us to one of the best creamy soups I’ve ever made — a nice little split pea soup.

I don’t remember a good soup I don’t like, so I’m not much of a fair guide on this. But this soup’s got a rich creamy texture that doesn’t come from eggs or cream, but from a small addition of potatoes instead.  That does something that’s makes this soup slightly different. And it’s also vegetarian (though you could use chicken stock and butter, if you like). What really sets this off, though, is the little addition of bacon and a whole lot of tarragon for the garnish. It adds just the right touch of finesse. 

Oh, and yes, the peas come through like you wouldn’t believe.

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Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

All of a sudden, we’ve gone from 90-plus degrees to 80’s and now we’re barely hitting 70 degrees. It may not last, but I can tell you, it’s starting to feel like soup days are upon us and for my money, that’s a very good thing. We’ll start this week with a great southwestern chicken tortilla soup, and over the next several weeks, we’ll try out a number of other new soups and several that are, well, a bit old, as well. Not everything will be soup, of course, but for now, let’s have some fun with them.

The chicken tortilla soup is one of those “yeah, I probably don’t want this everyday,” but when you really need a real pick me up at the end of a lovely fall day, this is a winner. Oh, and yeah, it’s made in a slow cooker, so you can set it to cook in the morning, go have some fun and come home to a nice warm dinner, with just a little bit of fixin’s on the side. Really, I can’t have this soup without avocado’s but honestly, you can do a lot of stuff to this soup if you really want to do it. 

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