Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I took the baby to Wisconsin this past winter to introduce her to family and friends. When I arrived at my oldest friend’s house, a heavenly smell greeted me. She had chicken and and wild rice soup in the slow cooker, which to be honest always struck me as the kind of soup grannies order from the corner café. What a strange stereotype! The rich, homey taste convinced me though, so I brought her recipe back home and adapted it to my non slow cooker having self. I’ve also cut down on the béchamel sauce as I don’t really like extremely creamy soups.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup wild rice mix (not parboiled)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and rough diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 liters (8 cups) water
  • 1 Knorr cacito de pollo (my preferred stock pots)
  • 1.5 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1.5 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp adobo powder (or salt if you don’t have adobo)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 40 grams butter
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk

Instructions:

Put raw chicken (don’t bother to cut it up), rice, vegetables, water, stock and herbs/spices into a 5.5 liter dutch oven or other similar heavy pot. Heat over medium heat until the water breaks into a boil and then lower the heat until it’s just the barest simmer. Cover, stirring occasionally and allow to cook for two hours.

After two hours, fish out the chicken breasts and allow them to cool slightly in a bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers or a fork and then add back to the pot.

Make the béchamel: melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it’s fully melted, whisk in the flour so there’s no lumps, and allow to cook stirring all the while until the roux bubbles for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return to the heat and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens. Add to the chicken soup and stir until completely incorporated.

 

 

 

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Pasta e Fagioli

I think it’s probably very likely that for many Midwesterners like myself, their first exposure to pasta e fagioli was at The Olive Garden. Unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks can’t be beat! Even if your culinary tastes are somewhat more refined these days, this is a hearty, healthy (and cheap) soup that’s great with crusty bread or toast!

Ingredients:

  • 100 g bacon lardons (thick cut bacon cut into strips)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and medium diced
  • 400 g can of tomato sauce
  • 150 g chopped frozen spinach
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 500 ml chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1200 ml water
  • 400 g cannellini or Santa Pau beans
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • secret ingredient: parmesan rind (optional – when I finish a wedge of parmesan cheese I chuck it in a ziploc in the freezer)

 

Instructions:

Brown the bacon in a large pot (I use a 5.5 liter pot) over medium high heat. When the bacon is browned, swirl in the olive oil, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onions until they start to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they start to become soft, about 10 min.

Add the red pepper flakes, herbs, tomato sauce, spinach, broth and water. Chuck that parmesan rind in if you have it! Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 min. Add the beans and allow to gently simmer for 10 more minutes. Adjust for salt and pepper. Finally, add the pasta and simmer until al dente.

Serve with bread and grated parmesan.

Asparagus Vichyssoise

So I wanted an alternative to gazpacho (and I don’t mean swapping cucumber for watermelon, etc., been there/done that. Delicious, but.) that screamed springtime, and here it is. I’ve made this vichyssoise a couple of times now, it’s a winner. I think it’s best just a bit chillier than room temperature, however I brought some to work to share with my pal/colleague Becky and we agreed it’s also lovely warm.  Adapted from this easy peasy recipe at  foodandwine.com.

Ingredients:

  • 2 leeks, white & light green parts, rinsed well (watch that sand!) and sliced
  • 2 tsp olive oil + 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch green asparagus (400-500 g.) woody ends cut off and chopped into 1″ chunks
  • 2 medium yellow-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1 thyme sprig (fresh or dried)
  • a pinch of fennel seeds (use seeds, not fresh fennel or it overpowers the asparagus)
  • 500 ml broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 200-250 ml milk
  • freshly ground pepper (5 peppercorn blend is nice)
  • freshly snipped chives and olive oil, to serve

Instructions:

Melt the butter/olive oil in a large saucepan.Add the leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus stalks, potatoes, broth, water, fennel, thyme and a good grating of pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat source and let it cool down a bit. Discard the thyme sprig. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add the milk and blend again, adding a bit more milk depending on the consistency you prefer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. Take soup out of fridge and allow to come to just below room temperature before serving.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle with just a bit of a nice cold-pressed olive oil and freshly snipped chives.

Servings: Four generous bowls. 125 calories

Minestrone

I’m going through some of the things I’ve made recently but haven’t posted, so there will probably be another flurry of activity for a few days and then silence again for months, sorry!

Minestrone is a hearty and healthy soup that’s easy to whip up mid-week. The wee bit of pancetta adds a nice smoky touch, but if you’re a veggie leave it out and you’ll be none the wiser.

Ingredients:

  • 50 grams of pancetta, diced (or tiras de beicon)
  • 1 tb olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 leek, washed and sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 100 grams fresh or frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 400 g cans of tomato puree (triturado)
  • 1 jar white beans (mongetes or cannelli, whatever you can get your hands on), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 liter of chicken stock
  • 1 tsp each of dried oregano, basil and thyme
  • bay leaf
  • black pepper and sea salt, to taste

Instructions: 

Heat a soup pot over medium heat, add a lug of olive oil and the pancetta/bacon, fry the bacon until it starts to brown, then add in the leeks and onion. Scrape up the bits of browned bacon that have become stuck to the bottom of the pot and continue to sauté until the onion starts becoming translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, until you can smell the garlic frying. Add the carrots, celery, zucchini and cook slowly for 10 minutes until the veggies start to soften. Add in the spinach, tomato puree, herbs and stock and bring to a boil. Gently stir in the beans and lower heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with grated parmesan and fresh chopped herbs (if you’ve got any) and some nice crusty bread.

Servings: Six, 190 calories (without cheese).

Sweet Potato & Leek Soup

It’s October, so I can start making autumn/winter food now if I want, even if the temperatures don’t really match (the high today was 25º C / 77º F). This time of year you start seeing little huts all over town near the metro stations and at major intersections where they roast sweet potatoes and chestnuts and sell them in paper cones. The first time you buy a roasted sweet potato it looks pretty dubious, as it’s sort of blackened and shriveled and not at all appetizing to look at. The attendant wraps it in paper and lops off the top with a sharp knife, and inside the sweet potato is bright orange, steamy and soft and you eat it with a spoon.

I’m a big fan of the sweet potato in nearly all its incarnations (save the sickeningly sweet marshmallow topped version you see at Thanksgiving) and the flavor and nutritional value far outshines that of regular potatoes. This soup is a twist on traditional potato & leek soup and it can be spicy or not depending on your tastes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg sweet potatoes*, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 leeks, washed and trimmed (white and light green parts only), split lengthwise and chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 2-3 tsp raw ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 liter of chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make this recipe vegetarian-friendly)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • fresh cilantro and smoked paprika for garnish

* If sweet potatoes aren’t in season or you’re looking for a little variety in your life, you can substitute 1 kg of any mixture of orange vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, etc.)

Instructions:

In a large soup pot, sauté leeks, onion, garlic and ginger in olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped sweet potatoes, broth and spices. If the liquid doesn’t cover the vegetables add a bit more water. Simmer over medium heat until the sweet potatoes are soft, approximately 20-25 minutes. Purée the soup using an immersion blender (or mini-pimer as we call it here) until it’s smooth. Serve immediately with a bit of smoked paprika sprinkled on top and some freshly chopped cilantro.

Servings: Six, approx. 206 calories.