Cool and Creamy Cucumber Soup

Cucumber Soup

This is one of those lovely French dishes that just makes summer. It’s a light, creamy and cool cucumber soup that turns an ordinary meal into something wonderful. That’s the best description I can give it.

The main thing I really like about this dish is that it really focuses on the cucumbers. And with just a small amount of mint (which is essential) and a little onion, there really isn’t much else in there. I generally use two cucumbers, nice medium size ones, and save only a few slices for garnishing it at the end. The rest goes in the soup and I’m actually thinking of trying to add even a bit more cucumbers. We’ll see. 

This is probably not a full meal. It really doesn’t have that kind of heft to it, but it is perfect for starting almost anything else you might have — a salad, some chicken, maybe even some beef. It adds to just about anything. When you can get them, use fresh cucumbers. They make enough of a difference you’ll want them. But the truth is, just about any good cukes will do just fine if that’s all you have.

Enjoy!!

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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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Sausage and Tortellini Soup

sausage and tortellini soup

A good sausage, a little beans and some very good cheesy tortellini are about as much as you could ask for an “Italian style” soup, one that sticks to your ribs and makes you want to go out and tackle the world. Alright fine. Maybe you don’t want to kick the world’s butt this morning, but it does fill you up and does kind of make you want to at least let the world know you’re alive. This sausage and tortellini soup does that, and more.

Better yet, this is another one of those soups that, depending on how you finish it off, you can have most of the soup made, add the tortellini at the end along with some spinach and you’re ready to go as soon as the tortellini is ready. Nice things about good soups is that they’re often flexible like that. You can get them close to finished and then unleash them at just the right second.

This soup uses some good tortellini made with three cheeses and a lovely mild Italian sausage. You can, of course use a hotter sausage and even add a few crushed red peppers to get the spice where you want it.

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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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White Bean and Tomato Soup with Shrimp

White Bean and Tomato Soup

Usually, soups aren’t a summer thing, but every once in a while, you can come across something that works well just about any time of the year. That’s where this white bean and tomato soup comes into play — and it knocks the socks off the summer season, believe me.

This soup is both rich and at the same time, very light in texture. I’m not sure  why it works that way, but it really does. Nothing is overstated (except maybe the shrimp) and it really works well as both a diner and lunch entree, especially if you’re hot, tired and just want a fresh, light meal with little or maybe even nothing else on the table. 

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