Best Minestrone Soup

Minestrone

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, diced
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, sliced in ¼” rounds
6 cups vegetable broth
1 796ml can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 769ml can crushed tomatoes
1 540ml canned kidney beans, drained
1 540ml can green beans, drained
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed and checked*
2 zucchinis, quartered and sliced
2 yellow squash, quartered and sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoons dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup pasta, seashell or ditalini, or your favourite shape
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

In a large stock pot, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and sauté garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth, diced and crushed tomatoes and bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach leaves, zucchini, squash, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better. If the soup is too thick, or you would like more broth, you can add additional vegetable broth or water.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and add a heaping teaspoon of salt. You can omit the salt if you’re watching your sodium, but this is really your only chance to flavour the pasta itself. You could also add a teaspoon of bouillon to the water instead of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender. Drain water and set aside. Once pasta is cooked and soup is heated through place 2 tablespoons cooked pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle soup on top of pasta and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

* To learn how to check spinach, click here.

Viva Italia!

Viva Italia

Well, so far we’ve gone Latino and New England, I thought, why not Italian? I love a hearty Minestrone soup, and it tends to fall into that category of Stew-oups that I mentioned before. Soups so chunky that they are almost stews! I love that Minestrone soup in particular tends to turn into a “kitchen-sink” recipe. What ever is left in your vegetable drawer in the fridge, add it in! Got cans of different veggies in the pantry? add them in! It really makes it easy for substitutions as well, as the recipe is not set in stone. You don’t HAVE to use both zucchini and yellow squash, one or the other will do. Don’t have kidney beans? Use navy beans, or chick peas. You’re really only limited by your imagination. To me, Minestrone soup is a tomato based broth with tons of chunky veggies and some pasta thrown in. Who’s to say which veggies they have to be, or which pasta? The good thing though is that it is so easy to make and so filling, that all you need is some nice crusty bread and a glass of vino and you’re set! Ciao Bella!

New England Fish Chowder

Fish Chowder

This is a rendition of Leah Adler’s delicious fish chowder served at The Milky Way. The key is use lots and lots of white pepper.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups onions, diced
½ cup celery, diced
1 cup corn, canned or frozen
4 tablespoons butter
4 cups potatoes, diced
Salt and white pepper, to taste
4 cups boiling water or vegetable stock
2 pounds fresh halibut, or other firm fish, cut into large chunks
4 cups whole milk
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

Sauté onions and celery in butter until soft, but not brown. Add potatoes, corn, seasonings and water/broth, simmering until the potatoes are tender. Add the fish to the soup. Cook another 5 – 10 minutes. Do not stir (you’ll break up the fish). Add the milk and bring back up to temperature. Do not boil. If the consistency of the soup is too thin for your liking, you can add the cornstarch, to thicken it. First temper the starch in a small bowl with some of the hot liquid from the soup. Stir until the starch has dissolved and then add this to the main soup pot. This will thicken the broth. Serve this with some crusty buttered bread and it’s a meal in itself. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Out California Way…

California

Yesterday’s blog started me thinking back to my family’s travels. We were very fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit, whether it be for business or pleasure, often a bit of both, as my parents who had their own business did consulting work all over North America, and would take us with them when they travelled. It made a very good impression on me, and I still love to travel to this day.

On one trip in particular, we went out to California. I think I was around 14 or 15, but I could be completely wrong about that. There are two things about that trip though that I remember with perfect clarity. Firstly, My mother sang every song she knew that related to California in general, and to the locale we were in specifically. That meant anything from the Beach Boys (or arguably The Mamas & The Papas) “California Dreamin'” to “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” by Dionne Warwick.

The second thing was the fish chowder that we had at The Milky Way, a kosher dairy restaurant in L.A., owned and operated by Leah Adler, otherwise known as Stephen Spielberg’s Mom. She is a tiny sprite of a woman, but a huge power house! She is just wonderful. As for her soup, when I was there, it was only served on Fridays, but it was AMAZING! So here is a version that I was able to come across that may come close, but to be honest, get out there and get a bowl of hers yourself! To read more about the restaurant, check out their ZAGAT review here.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups frozen corn kernels
1 15oz. can black beans, drained, but not rinsed
2 cups onion, diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cups chunky salsa
8 corn tortillas cut into 1-inch strips
1 cup shredded non-dairy (parve) cheese, to serve (optional)
Non-dairy (parve) sour cream, to serve (optional)
Lime wedges, to serve (optional)

Directions:

In a large pot over medium heat, poach the chicken in the chicken broth. Once cooked through, remove the chicken from the broth, and set aside to allow it to become cool enough to handle. Strain the chicken broth to remove any impurities that may have accumulated while poaching the chicken.

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven (can be the same one you poached the chicken in), add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and bring to a medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they become translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder and cumin and mix well, allowing the spices to become fragrant. Then add the broth, corn, beans, lime juice, and salsa. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. While the broth simmers, take the chicken that you have set aside, and using two forks, or your hands, shred the chicken. Add the chicken to the soup and let it simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.

While the broth mixture simmers, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Fry the tortilla strips in the hot oil until crisp. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Place half of the tortilla strips in the bottom of each bowl, and then serve the soup hot with the remaining tortilla strips on top, along with the options of the cheese and sour cream. Serves 8.

South of the Border

South of the Border

When I was a little kid, my family used to travel down to Florida quite often for a summer vacation. My parents would put work aside for 3-4 weeks, and we would all climb into the family car and drive down I-95 to the citrus-laden,  warm (read sticky and humid) sunshine state. The trip usually consisted of a 4 or 5 days in Walt Disney World (truly the happiest place on earth!) and then about 10 days on the Gulf coast in a rented house where we would read, swim, eat, swim, watch a movie, swim… you get the idea. The drive always included though a stop at “South of the Border”, a rest-stop/attraction located just south of the border between North and South Carolina. It was, and still is, a mecca of awful tourist kitsch and slightly offensive novelties. For a kid, it was AMAZING! You would see the signs along the highway, crazy day-glow billboards with moving parts beckoning you to stop, for a little siesta. Truth was though, my parents loved it as much as we did. Recently, my mother stopped by to pay homage on a a road-trip, and she told me it was just like I remembered. With that in mind, today’s recipe is for Chicken Tortilla Soup. A Mexican/Latino spin on what we Jews have been using as penicillin for years. I hope you enjoy the caliente flavours and give yourself a little olé!

Curry-Scented Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, 2 ½ lbs or about 6 cups, peeled and cubed in 1” pieces
2 large sweet apples such as Fuji or Honeycrisp, peeled and cubed in 1” pieces
3 medium onions, diced
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
6 cups vegetable stock
1 container (8 oz/250 g) mascarpone cheese
2 teaspoons salt
Sour cream and snipped fresh chives (optional)

Directions:

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, melt butter in over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook for 5-6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add squash, apples, brown sugar and curry powder. Cook and stir for 1 minute or until curry powder is fragrant. Add stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook 25-30 minutes or until squash is very soft. Remove from heat. Carefully ladle about one-third of the squash mixture into blender container. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour blended soup into a stand-by bowl for holding while you blend the rest of the soup. Repeat two times with remaining squash mixture. Alternatively, if you have an immersion blender, you can use this rather than transferring the soup. Return soup to stock pot and whisk in mascarpone and salt until mascarpone is completely incorporated. If the soup is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out with additional stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and remove from heat. Garnish each serving with sour cream and chives, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Bonus – When scooping out the seeds from your squash, do NOT throw them away! Clean them under running water to remove any residue, and then toss them with a little oil and spices of your liking. With this soup, since it has a curry flavour, you can toss a little curry powder or even cinnamon or nutmeg on the seeds, along with some salt and pepper. Then spread the seeds out on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds. You should just keep an eye on them, as seeds tend to burn quickly! Once done, remove from them oven and toss a few on top of each soup serving as a nice crunchy garnish.

Get Your Soup On

Soup

Is it just me, or did it get noticeably colder lately? I mean, I do realize that it is the end of October, but I just can’t seem to get warm! My Bubbie had a saying, “When you’re old, you’re cold!”, so maybe it’s just age catching up with me. So what’s a girl to do? Make soup of course! Nothing warms you up from the inside like a nice hot bowl of soup. A big bowl, with some crusty bread, and you’ve got a meal! So this week, it’s all about the Soup people. We’ll have broths, creamy purees, and my personal favourite, Stew-oups, a term I learned from Rachael Ray, for chunky soups that are a close toss-up between a soup and a stew. So get your stock pots out, because this week, we’re going to be simmering our way to warm stomachs and warm hearts!

Endings and Beginnings

Vodka-Kaluha Cake

Vodka & Kahlua Cake
I got this recipe from my little sister, Mrs. Shuli Schwechter, who in turn got it from her friend’s mother, Mrs. Kleinman. It is a great recipe that my family makes quite often. A note on the Kahlua. According to the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc), whom COR recognizes as a reputable kosher authority, only Kahlua BOTTLED in Mexico is recommended. If you can’t find this type, any other coffee flavoured liqueur will do. Other alternatives are using a hazelnut or orange flavoured liqueur instead.

Ingredients:

1 package of yellow/white cake mix
1 package of chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup oil
¾ cup water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup vodka
¼ cup Kahlua/coffee/chocolate liqueur
4 eggs

Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon coffee/chocolate liqueur

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, water, vodka and liqueur. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together. Adding 1 egg at a time, stir in each egg until fully incorporated. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Pour in the batter, and then bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick entered comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then remove cake from pan and cool on a cooling rack. To make the icing, blend all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Once icing/glaze has come together, pour over the cooled/room temperature cake.


 

Deli Roll

Deli Roll

Ingredients:

1 package puff pastry
⅓ cup mustard (e.g.: yellow, Dijon, deli, etc.) I recommend using a blend of different types.
½ pound white deli meat (e.g.: Turkey, turkey pastrami, etc.)
½ pound dark deli meat (e.g.: corned beef, salami, etc.)
1 egg
Sesame seeds/poppy seeds (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a clean work surface, roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle. Cut off a thin strip of the dough, and set aside. Using a pastry brush, spread out your choice of mustard(s); then lay out the light coloured deli meat. Add another layer of mustard, and then lay out the dark coloured deli meat. Repeat layering mustard and meats, so that you have either about 4 layers, or run out of meat. Taking long side of the dough, roll the pastry into a log. Place the roll onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Using the dough that was set aside, and create a nice pattern on top of the log, such as a vine or flowers. Baste the log with the egg, and then sprinkle on the sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust golden brown. This can be served warm or at room temperature.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah

Simchat Torah

Well, today is a short day for me, one of the benefits of working for an observant Jewish employer, as tonight the 2 day holiday (1 day in Israel) of Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah. What not everyone realizes is that these days are actually a separate holiday from Sukkot. What is so special about this holiday? It is one of pure joy! Even more so than Sukkot, it is characterized by unadulterated joy, with the climax being on Simchas Torah, when we celebrate the conclusion and beginning of the Torah reading cycle.

What better way to celebrate an end and a beginning? How about dessert and an appetizer? You can’t get any more symbolic than that! So remember to be happy, be joyous, and try not to party too much, after all, it’s only 62 days until Chanuka!