Garlicky Tortellini, Spinach and Tomato Soup

It’s often been said that garlic is an acquired taste. And generally when it comes to the pungent member of the allium family, you either love it or hate it.

I’m in the love it camp. The more garlic, the better. In fact, I sometimes go out of my way to find recipes that contain. However, I have to be careful in my choices.

Therese likes garlic, but only in smaller quantities, because she doesn’t wan to overpower her co-workers or students at school with bad breath. So, when I cook something that calls for garlic, the amount usually is scaled back a bit.

Today, I’m making the following tortellini, spinach and tomato soup recipe, which we’ve sampled in the past. It calls for six to eight cloves of garlic, which gets cut to one or two, in order to preserve my marriage.

The soup is incredibly easy to make, and served with some crusty bread, it makes a delicious lunch or dinner.

Garlicky Tortellini, Spinach and Tomato Soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 to 8 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups (1 quart) homemade or low-salt chicken broth
6 ounces fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
10 ounces spinach, washed and stemmed; coarsely chopped if larger
8 to 10 leaves basil, coarsely chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook halfway, about 5 minutes for frozen pasta, less if using fresh. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook just until the pasta is tender. Stir in the spinach and basil and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the grated cheese.
Yield: Serves 2 to 3.

Tuscan Ham and Bean Soup

It’s hard to beat a sandwich made with leftover ham. Add a little cheese to the mix, and you have something that can be quite special if complemented with a nice condiment such as Dijon mustard.

But there’s a large segment of the population that might disagrees. Especially those people who grew up using the leftover ham in a good bean soup.

You can probably count me in the latter camp, since my dad always made bean soup with our leftover holiday ham. And without a doubt, I’ve rarely had any since that can match his.

I’m hoping to re-create a little of that magic later this week, since we’re having ham for our New Year’s Day dinner. However, I plan on putting a few more potatoes and carrots in my soup than Dad used in his as well as a little Italian seasoning for a Tuscan flair.

The recipe can be made in a pot on the stovetop or in a slow cooker.

Tuscan Ham and Bean Soup
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into fourths (about 3 cups)
4 medium carrots, sliced (2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped (½ cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 15-ounce cans great northern beans, drained, rinsed
3½ cups chicken broth
2 cups diced fully cooked ham
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1  tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, mix all ingredients except parsley and oil.
Cover: cook on Low heat setting 8 to 10 hours.
Stir in parsley and oil before serving.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving:  380 calories, 8 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 1,470 milligrams sodium, 50 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams dietary fiber, 27 grams protein, 4 grams sugar.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Pasta e fagioli – pasta and beans – is a staple of Italian cuisine My initial encounter with it was when I tried a recipe in a cookbook by Dom DeLuise. It was love at first taste.

Recipes for pasta e fagioli can vary greatly from region to region in the Mediterranean country, depending on available ingredients. The consistency of the dish also can vary, with some being soupy and the others much thicker, like the DeLuise recipe.

Over the years, I looked at a number of other pasta e fagioli recipes but never have tried any of them. That’s until today, when I decided to make a soupier version of the dish. I added a couple of my own twists to the recipe: tortellini instead of elbow macaroni or ditalini and some diced or julienned carrots.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 carrots, chopped or julienned
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
3 cups chicken broth
1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
10 ounces tortellini
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook celery, onion, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and salt in the hot oil until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce and simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes.
Add pasta and cook 10 minutes, until pasta is tender.
Add beans and mix well. Heat through. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Turkey Wild Rice Soup

The possibilities are endless when it comes to leftover turkey. Of course, sandwiches immediately come to mind for a lot of people. Others like to use the turkey with other leftovers such as mashed potatoes and vegetables in a shepherd’s pie.

My preference is soup. The carcass of a leftover roast turkey makes the best broth and certainly is one of the best bases a person can find for soup.

I just put the finishing touches on a kettle of soup, a turkey wild rice version, complete with home-grown carrots, onion, celery and frozen peas. I seasoned the pot with ground savory, which I’ve found to be a great addition to any vegetable-type soup.

Here’s my recipe, in case you still might have some leftover turkey.

Turkey Wild Rice Soup
2 cups cooked turkey, diced or chopped
½ cup wild rice, uncooked
8 cups broth
3 carrots, sliced thinly
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 cup frozen peas
2 teaspoons ground savory
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat broth and then add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours.
Yield: Serves 10 to 12.

Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn

It’s no secret that diets high in whole grains are healthy. One reason is because of their high fiber content, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. One of the shortcomings of whole grains, though, is their lack of protein.

But if you are looking for a food that can deliver the same heart-health benefits as cereal grasses such as wheat and barley and fulfill your protein requirements, search no further than quinoa.

The grain-like seed native to South America has been singled out by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations as a food with “high nutritive value” and impressive biodiversity that has an important role to play in the achievement of food security worldwide. In fact, the FAO has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.”

Quinoa has become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years because of its interesting texture, great peanut-like flavor and nutritional superiority. It can be served alone as a side-dish or as part of a main entree, and its mild flavor makes it a great substitute for couscous, bulgur or rice in recipes.

Nutritionally quinoa provides all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein, is gluten-free and cholesterol-free whole grain, is kosher for Passover and is almost always organic. (One-third cup of cooked quinoa has 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.)

Here’s a recipe for quinoa that I heard about the other day during an NPR interview with chef Jose Garces, a Philadelphia-based restaurateur, author of  “The Latin Road Home” and son of Ecuadorean immigrants.

Crema de Quinoa de Zuleta
(Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn)
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 small russet potato, peeled and cut into matchsticks
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ Spanish onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 to 6 cloves)
1 tablespoon achiote paste
1½ cups quinoa (any color)
Kernels cut from 2 ears fresh white sweet corn or 1 cup thawed and drained frozen white corn kernels
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or cut into 1½ -inch strips
¼ pound smoked bacon, cut into strips, cooked until crisp, and drained
Sliced avocado, for serving
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees in a Dutch oven over medium heat, using a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature.  Fry the potatoes  in batches, turning in the oil until golden brown and very crispy on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per  batch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried potatoes to the baking sheet to drain and cool.
Season to taste with salt. Heat the butter and olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Cook the  onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the achiote paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and corn and cook, stirring often, until the grain is lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and cream and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer the chowder uncovered until the quinoa is very tender and the liquid is
reduced by one-quarter, about 45 minutes. To serve, fold in the parsley, chives, bacon, and fried potatoes. Season to taste with salt. Garnish with avocado.
Yield: Serves 4.

Creamy Potato Soup

Fall undoubtedly is the kickoff for soup season for many people. Millions of people around the country eat soup in the fall, whether they make it at home or eat it while dining out.

And for most of those who cook their own, the challenge is how to make it better the next time or as good as those they eat when dining out.

According to Ryan Fichter, executive chef of Thunder Burger in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Georgetown, “Great tasting soups are within reach for everyone to make. It may just take a few extra steps to make it happen.”

Here are five tips from Fichter, along with one of his own recipes, that will put  you on your way to making amazing soups.

1. Start right. The soup base, or stock, is a big part of the equation when it comes to having a great-tasting soup. Pay close attention to the base, so it gets off to a good start. Homemade base is usually the best first choice. If that’s not an option, choose a stock that does not have MSG.
2. Mind the pasta. If you are going to have pasta in your soup, be sure to cook it before adding it in. Many people skip this step, and it can throw off their whole recipe. Pasta should only be added to the soup once it’s been cooked separately.
3. Go fresh. When it comes to any of the ingredients going into your soup, fresh is the best option. Any time fresh ingredients can be used, they should be. If fresh is not an option, then go for frozen, before opting for canned.
4. Cook well. Using the right kitchen tools is important to a tasty soup. Some people prefer to use a slow cooker, which is fine. If you will be using a pot, choose one that is large and heavy. Also, an immersion blender can be helpful when preparing soup.
5. Serve right. Enhance the soup’s presentation by using a garnish. Also, most people prefer to have something with their soup, so choose the right addition, such as crackers, biscuits, muffins, bread, or breadsticks.

Creamy Potato Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 small celery stalks, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1½ pounds potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1½ cups heavy cream
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, saute about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes.
Add potatoes, chicken stock, allspice, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
With an immersion blender puree soup in blender until smooth.
Add cream and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead).
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Pheasant Barley Soup

Hunting season is in full swing, and nothing tastes better than freshly harvested game. And just back from a successful four-day pheasant hunting trip to western North Dakota, I had my eyes set on some homemade soup.

So, after the final cleanup on a dozen pheasants and the freezing of the legs, thighs and breasts in vacuum-sealed bags, I started the process of making some pheasant barley soup.

First, I used the backbones and necks to make a broth for a pheasant barley soup. Next, I took the meat off the bones, placed them back in the pot and added the remaining ingredients, all of which we had on hand, including carrots, onions, tomatoes and cabbage from our garden.

The result was nothing short of mouth-watering. A slice or two of Cheddar cheese with a couple of homemade biscuits completed the meal.

Pheasant Barley Soup
2 cups pheasant, cut up (see note)
1 onion diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced thinly
½ cup pearled barley
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup chopped cabbage
12 cups water
1 cup peas (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook raw pheasant in water for 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat for 1 to 2 hours.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.
Note: I used a dozen backbones and necks from recently harvested pheasants.

Vegetable Beef Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles

A day with temperatures forecast in the high 70s to low 80s isn’t exactly soup weather, but predictions sometimes fall short of expectations, and then all bets are off.

That’s exactly what I was thinking when the idea of making some homemade vegetable beef soup came to mind on Thursday.

I knew that meteorologists (the fancy name TV weather people now go by) were predicting summerlike temperatures for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but that didn’t stop me from going ahead with my soup-making plans.

And with some nice cabbage awaiting harvest in my garden, home-grown carrots already in the refrigerator and a package of elk meat in the freezer, I was well on my way. All I had to do was go to the store and get a rutabaga, pearled barley and eggs for homemade noodles.

The recipe that I was using was one that my dad, Hap, often made. I fondly recall those days whenever making the soup myself. And this time, it was no different.

Here’s Dad’s recipe, which I hope you will enjoy as much as my family does.

Vegetable Beef Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles
12 cups water
1 to 2 pounds beef roast or stew meat
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 onion, diced
1 small cabbage, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 rutabaga, cubed
1 cup medium pearled barley
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 quart tomato juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
6 to 8 tablespoons flour
For soup: Cook meat in pot of water until tender. Remove and cut up into bite-size pieces if using roast. Set aside.
Cut up vegetables and place in water along with tomato juice, meat and pearled barley. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours.
For noodles: While soup is simmering, beat two eggs in a small bowl. Add flour and salt to taste. Mix with a fork until batter is a little stiff.
Once vegetables are cooked thoroughly, add egg and flour mixture to pot, 1 tablespoon or so at a time. When finished adding batter, cook for about 10 minutes or until noodles are firm.
Serve with crackers or crusty bread.

Pheasant Noodle Soup

Soup is hard to beat when the weather starts to get cold. And that’s what happens as summer turns into fall, and the days keep getting shorter and the nights longer.

One of my favorite soups to make this time of the year is pheasant noodle soup. It’s especially tasty with carrots fresh from the garden and homemade egg noodles — the German type from South Dakota — courtesy of a co-worker and friend Paulette Tobin. (I trade homemade sauerkraut for the noodles.)

Another ingredient that I really sets the soup apart from traditional noodle soups is ground savory, which we’ve really come to enjoy.

I had a hankering from the soup the other day and just happened to have some of the noodles in the cupboard,a big bag carrots and a half-dozen cooked pheasant legs — along with some broth in the refrigerator.

Pheasant Noodle Soup
6 pheasant legs (minus thighs), cleaned well and skinned
8 to 12 cups water (depending on how thick you want soup)
3 teaspoons salt
3 celery ribs, diced
onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons ground savory
1 8-ounce package egg noodles
1 cup frozen peas
Put pheasant legs in large kettle and cover with water.
Add salt and cover. Cook until pheasant is done.
Remove pheasant, debone and put meat back in kettle.
Add remaining ingredients except noodles. Cook until vegetables are tender.
Add noodles. Cover and cook till noodles are soft.
Note: This is also good with chicken instead of pheasant.
Yield: Serves 6.

Seafood Brodetto

A lot of recipes for fish soups and stews can trace their origins to the coastal areas of Italy where seafood reigns. One such dish is cioppino, the pride of many find California restaurants, which was derived from an fish soup called ciuppin, from the province of Liguria, an important fishing area on the Italian Riviera.

(Cookbooks from Italy describe ciuppin as a rustic relative of bouillabaisse — minus the saffron, Provencal herbs and Pernod.)

Another such seafood recipe that’s caught my fancy recently is brodetto. I had the Olive Garden’s version of it the other night and it very delicious. (Olive Garden describes it as scallops, shrimp and delicate tilapia with spinach and mushrooms simmered in a light white wine and marinara-saffron broth.) The stew was served with toasted ciabatta bread.

Almost all brodetto recipes feature a tomato base and a lot of seafood. Upon doing some research, I discovered one of the oldest recipes for brodetto comes from the Le Marche town of Ancona and calls for 13 different types of fish.

Here’s a brodetto, though not as elaborate as the Le Marche version, which I may have to try.

Seafood Brodetto
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/6 cup vinegar
1 cup white wine
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
½ pound tilapia, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ pound scallops
½ pound shrimp
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
To the pot, add the tomato sauce, vinegar, wine, water, tomato paste, and parsley. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.  Let the mixture come to a boil to burn off the alcohol from the wine.  Return to a simmer, cover, and cook about 30 minutes.
Add the fish, followed by the scallops and shrimp.  Cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.  If you are using pre-cooked shrimp, don’t add the shrimp until the last 5 minutes or so.  You want the shrimp to meld with the other flavors, but not overcook.  Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 3 to 4.