White Bean Soup – A Family Favorite

White Bean Soup – A Family Favorite

Now that it’s starting to cool down a bit in the evenings, we can turn our thoughts to soup. There is nothing quite like a nice, cozy meal to bring family together, and Claire is here to share a recipe from her sister for comforting White Bean Soup. This is the perfect recipe to ease us into soup season. Grab a spoon and come along for story time and soup with Claire!

I have two sisters and I love them like crazy. Like a lot of siblings, we fought a lot when we were kids, but as we got older and less obnoxious, we became much closer. Though we all live far apart now, we speak on the phone often and try to get together as frequently as we can manage with our busy schedules. One of the side effects of our relatively infrequent face-to-face interaction, though, is that my older sister and I came to realize that we probably didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did. In an effort to remedy that, we have been trying to spend as much time together as possible so we can become reacquainted. Over the summer, I got to spend my vacation week at the lake with her, but by the end of my trip, I still wanted more one-on-one time. I found a relatively inexpensive flight to Denver and I planned a long weekend for some more quality time with my big sis, and, let’s be honest here, a break from the California heat.

We managed to pack three parties, three meals out, and several hours of crafting time in just Friday and Saturday, so when Sunday rolled around, we agreed that we needed a day to just sit around. We sat and knit Christmas stockings and chatted. We vented about family frustrations and work. We made plans for this Christmas and next summer, and then when we got hungry, we made plans for dinner. Unlike in California, in Colorado, the weather is actually starting to cool to boots and jean jackets temperatures, so I requested one of my all-time favorites from my sister’s dinner recipe arsenal: white bean soup.

This white bean soup is perfect because it is hearty and filling, but not heavy.

It’s easy to cook, so it fits with a lazy afternoon, and the addition of a simple green salad and some bread or crackers turns it into a good, square meal.

To make this soup, you will need:

  • 2 cans Great Northern Beans, drained
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, chopped (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 bacon slices, chopped
  • 10 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

White Bean Soup

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add bacon and onion and cook until bacon fat is rendered, then add the rest of the chopped vegetables. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes.

Add beans, chicken stock, thyme, and rosemary. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Since we are using canned beans instead of dried, there is no need to cook the beans, but simmering time will allow the flavors to deepen.

Next, blend the soup until it is smooth. If you have an immersion blender, you can achieve this step right in the pot. If not, you can use a blender or food processor to puree the soup in batches.

When the soup has reached a smooth, consistent texture, stir in the cream. Season with salt and fresh pepper and serve.

White Bean Soup

Soup is easy, but relationships are hard. They take work and dedication and willingness to be open and listen, but they reward us with a sense of kinship and emotional fulfillment. By the end of my trip to Denver, I felt like my sister and I had both revealed new facets of ourselves. I think I know her better now than I did before, and I hope she feels the same about me. Also, I hope this white bean soup tastes as good when I make it at home as it always does at her house.

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Get Healthy With Homemade Stock and Soup

Get Healthy With Homemade Stock and Soup

Happy New Year! Seems like just about everyone I know, myself included, has the post-holiday yuck. Unfortunately, our dear friend Claire Hoenke caught it, too. But the magical thing about Claire is that, rather than wallow in her sickness, she gets motivated to whip up a batch of rich, restorative stock and then make matzah ball soup. Considering my soup skills are on more of a ramen level, this is pretty dang impressive. Claire assures me that it’s actually pretty easy to pull off, and I’m inclined to believe her, so let’s all learn/recuperate together.

Well, it’s 2016, and I’m starting my year off not with a bang, but with a deep, throaty cough. While my coworkers are all resolved this year to really stick to their diets this time and “get healthy,” my only resolution this New Year’s is to actually get healthy and get over this cold as quickly as possible. In the face of a pounding headache and a rumbling chest cold, I wrap up in my warmest pajamas and slippers and head to the kitchen for the best medicine I know: a steaming bowl of soup. I skip the canned stuff in the pantry. Store-bought soup might feel nice enough on a sore throat, but I’m pretty sure real healing only comes from the homemade stuff.

Luckily, stock is actually pretty easy to make. It can be as simple as throwing a whole chicken in a pot of water and just letting it simmer, but I like to introduce a little more depth of flavor into the stock by first roasting the chicken. The nice thing about stock is that you can basically throw anything into the pot. For treating congestion, I recommend hot peppers and ginger, to open the sinuses.

I am going more classic with my get-healthy stock, though, and sticking with the basics. Carrots, garlic, celery, and onions make a nice, all-around stock that you can use to make any kind of soup.

Stock

  • 5 pounds frozen turkey or chicken wings, thawed
  • Chicken giblets
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 4 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Healthy Stock Soup

(Notice how the juice groove on Claire’s block catches the veggies before they roll off the sides? That dual functionality has never occurred to me!)

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken well, and then add the veggies into the bag with the wings and giblets. Add the oil and salt and ground pepper, and then mix them all together to coat. Spread everything in a single layer over two rimmed baking sheets and roast, turning once, for 45 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are slightly browned and soft and stick to the pan a bit.

Stock Prep 6

Transfer everything from the pans into a large soup pot and add 16 cups of water. Pour about a cup of water into each of the baking pans and scrape up the browned bits. Empty the pans into the soup pot, add bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 2 hours, until the stock is deep brown and reduced by about 5 cups. Take a nap in the meantime; your body needs to conserve energy.

Healthy Stock Soup

When the stock has reduced, strain it through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a sauce pan, if you’re using it right away, or storage containers, if you’re saving it for later. Throw away the solids. Let it cool completely before covering and storing. After your stock has cooled, the fat will form a layer on the top. This is pure culinary gold. Carefully skim it off and save it for later. As for storing the stock itself, I like to fill an ice cube tray and a gallon freezer bag for the freezer, and an air-tight jar for the fridge. You can keep the stock frozen for up to three months, but once it’s thawed, it goes quickly, so if you don’t have soup scheduled for the near future, freeze the whole batch.

Now you have your soup base, but what’s the next step? This rich stock will happily make any kind of soup you like, but for me, there is only one way to really treat a sore throat. If you were raised by or near Jews, chances are good you’ve had at least one bowl of matzah ball soup in your life. If so, you know the powerful restorative properties that the steaming golden broth and soft, fluffy balls possess. If not, trust that no amount of Nyquil or Tylenol can soothe the way this soup does. This is where that schmaltz (the rendered fat) comes in.

Matzah Ball Soup

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons schmaltz
  • 1/4 club soda or chicken broth
  • 1 cup matzah meal
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

With a fork, beat the eggs well in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Take another nap while your mixture chills. When you wake up and you’re ready to cook the balls, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Dip your hands into cold water to prevent the dough from sticking and form the mixture into balls. They can be anywhere from one to two inches in diameter, depending on your preference. Carefully drop each ball into the water and reduce to a simmer. Cook the balls for 30 to 45 minutes, until they start to drop a little below the water’s surface.

Heat your stock in a separate soup pot, and carefully transfer the cooked balls into the stock. You can add other things to this soup, like carrots or celery or chicken, but sometimes I prefer the simplicity of just a perfect matzah ball in some very good broth, maybe with some fresh dill or parsley to round it all out. This recipe makes about six servings, so it should last you through most of a week of your illness.

Healthy Stock Soup

From my home to yours, I wish you a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping you have paid sick leave and someone to make this soup for you while you lie in bed and re-watch the entire run of Gilmore Girls. Ess gezunterhait!

Printer-friendly recipes: Homemade Stock and Matzah Ball Soup

Fall Soup – Cozying Up with Clam Chowder

Fall Soup – Cozying Up with Clam Chowder

There is just nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup on a cold day, and clam chowder is easily in my top three favorites. Oddly enough, I have never made it! Clam chowder has always seemed like one of those soups that will take a ton of time to make; it’s a restaurant meal, not an at-home dish. Well, as usual, Claire Hoenke is blowing my mind. Turns out clam chowder is actually not hard to make at all. I’ll give it a try if you will, too. Claire, teach us your chowdery ways.

Last month, I told you all about my undying love for autumn. For part two of my love song, I have set my sights on dinner. By now, the weather around here has actually started to turn ever so slightly cool. I have switched my air conditioning off, and in the mornings, I wake up and pull my blankets tighter around my chin against the cold night air. By the time I’m ready to leave the house for work, I’m already thinking about soul-warming comfort foods.

But it’s a work day! There’s no time to braise short ribs or a brisket. I need to come up with something I can make inside of an hour; over the course of the morning, my mind has zeroed in on soup. Stews, chowders, and broths start rippling through my brain, and already the thought of a steaming bowl of soup has my mouth watering. I run a mental checklist of recipe components against my pantry’s current inventory, and after work, I make a brief stop at the grocery store.

It’s going to be clam chowder tonight, and I could not be happier.

My clam chowder is adapted from the Culinary Institute of America’s recipe, and both my husband and I count it among our favorite things to eat; at this point I have made it so many times, I can basically do it in my sleep. I also have a tendency to keep bottles of clam juice in the house, just in case of a clam chowder emergency, and tonight is just such an emergency! I pick up some bread and cream and rush home to pull out the rest of my ingredients. Less than an hour later, I am sitting down at the table with my husband and a hot bowl of soup, and we both float off on a chowdery cloud. This recipe is so easy, and so luxuriously comforting, I have decided that I just have to share it.

Clam Chowder

  • 1 to 1 ½ pound canned or frozen baby clams, juices reserved
  • 2 8oz. bottles clam juice
  • 2 or 3 bacon slices, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled, diced
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons dry sherry, or to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce (such as Tabasco), to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce, to taste
  • Optional loaf of bread or soup crackers

Start out by draining the juices from the clams. In my case, I did have one 10 oz can of clams, but that’s not really enough, so I also pulled a bag of Trader Joe’s cooked frozen langostino tails out of my freezer and let them thaw in the sink for a few minutes. Really, any seafood will do in a pinch, and if you’re lucky enough to live close to a Trader Joe’s, you can usually find some fun options in their frozen section. Add the bottled clam juice together with the drained juices, and it should equal at least 3 cups. Mince the clams and set them aside for now. At this point in the cooking process in my house, the cats have moved into the kitchen with me and are swirling around my ankles begging for bits of whatever is producing that delightful smell. I do not give in to their demands.

Fall Soup Clam Chowder

Chop up the raw bacon and throw it into a 6 or 8 quart soup pot set over medium heat. You want to let the bacon bits render slowly, for about 8 minutes until they are almost crispy. While the bacon is cooking, chop up the onion. When the bacon is ready, add the onion and cook it, stirring occasionally, until it is translucent. Add in the flour and turn the heat down to low, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. Then, slowly add in the clam juice. Use your spoon or a whisk to get all the crispy bits up off the bottom of the pan, and then cook the juice at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

While the juices simmer and thicken, peel and dice your potatoes. I like my soup to be super chunky, so I use 4 medium to large sized Yukon golds. When the clam juice is about the thickness of heavy cream, add the potatoes to your pot, along with the chopped thyme and the bay leaf. Cook the potatoes until they are tender, which should be about 15 minutes, depending on the size of your dice.

Fall Soup Clam Chowder

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine the cream with the minced clams and simmer them together for about 5 minutes to cook the clams. If you have bread to go with the soup, this is the time to put it into the oven to warm up in time for dinner. If you are using any pre-cooked seafood items, chop them to bite size and add them to the soup pot in the last minute or so of the clams’ cooking time.

When the potatoes are tender and the clams are cooked, add the cream mixture to the soup pot and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the sherry, and season to taste with Worcestershire, salt and pepper, and a good couple shakes of your favorite hot sauce. Take the bread out of the oven and get ready to feast. I guess a side salad would be good here, if only to round out the meal, but I just can’t be fussed to bother with it on soup night. Luckily, this recipe yields about 2 quarts, so there is enough for seconds!

Fall Soup Clam Chowder

I think it’s pretty important to have a couple of can’t-fail recipes in your back pocket, and this is one of my favorites. It combines all good things into an even better thing, and it cooks up quickly without much fuss. It’s perfect for a chilly evening, and we’re fixing to get quite a few of those in the near future. Do yourself a favor and just add clam juice and canned clams to your next grocery list and you’ll be a believer too!

Printer friendly recipe: Clam Chowder