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Nourishing and hot

Soup offers comfort in a cup or a bowl

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Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2012 4:30 am

They couldn’t get enough mulligatawny. The soup party wasn’t for another day, but the appetites of the guests for saying the mouthful of mulligatawny couldn’t be satiated.

The “Seinfeld” episode on Kramer’s favorite soup by the Soup Nazi obviously had a lot to do with it, but curiosities and appetites were piqued.

Here was everyone’s chance to try the exotic mulligatawny.

What is it? Where’s it from? What’s in it?

Truth be told, they didn’t really want to know that it’s an Indian soup with curry paste. Those with the biggest appetite for saying mul-li-ga-tawny aren’t adventurous eaters and wouldn’t touch it if they knew what was in it.

But even these professed blandies lined up for a bowlful when a double batch of soup emerged from the kitchen. They finally got a taste of mulligatawny — and they liked it.

Soup is universal. Spice it up, tone it down, keep it simple or load it with ingredients. The results are the same: Warm or cold, it’s comfort in a cup.

It’s delicious and nutritious whether slurped from a cup or savored with a spoon. You could say soup is giving — and forgiving. Throw in anything. Thicken it in so many ways: cornstarch, pureed cooked beans, cooked mashed potatoes, 2 tablespoons of almonds or cashews soaked in hot water and pureed, barley, a flour slurry, with potato starch or semolina flour.

The other wonderful thing about soup is that it swings both ways.

All of these soups can be made with vegetable broth — with meat added after the soup is done. So the newly minted vegetarian at one end of the house and the lifelong meat eater at the other end can both be happy without stressing the cook.

Mighty mulligatawny

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 8½ ounces quality ground beef
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 chilies, deseeded and chopped
  • A small bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Patak’s Madras curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • Sea salt and ground pepper
  • 1 heaped tablespoon HP sauce
  • 5 cups organic beef stock
  • Half a butternut squash (roughly 12 ounces)
  • A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • A couple of pinches of garam masala
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • Plain yogurt, to serve

Directions

  1. Put a large pan on high heat and add a splash of olive oil and the ground beef. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the beef, until it starts to turn golden and caramelize. Stir in the onion, carrot, garlic, red pepper, ginger and most of the chilies, and add a splash more oil, if needed. Cut the top leafy section off the cilantro and put aside in a cup of cold water for later. Finely chop the stalks and add to the pan. Cook and stir for around 10 minutes on a medium heat, or until the veggies have softened.
  2. Stir in the curry paste, tomato puree, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the HP sauce. After a few more minutes, when it smells fantastic, pour in the stock. Leave to blip away with the lid on over a medium heat for 40 minutes; stir occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the butternut squash into ½-inch chunks, getting rid of any seeds and gnarly bits (there’s no need to peel it). Put a smaller pan on a high heat. Add a lug of olive oil and the squash. Stir in the thyme leaves and the garam masala. Pop a lid on the pan and cook for around 10 minutes on a medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until softened and golden. Add a cup of rice to the pan with 2 cups of water and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Replace the lid and cook for around 8 minutes on a medium heat, then turn the heat off and leave to steam for 8 minutes with the lid on.
  4. Fluff up the rice and tip it into the soup. Have a taste, and season if needed. Gently mix together, then divide among your soup bowls with a good dollop of plain yogurt. Scatter over the cilantro leaves and add a sprinkling of fresh chili, if you like.

Serves: 6

— This recipe is from “Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain,” by Jamie Oliver (Hyperion, $35).

Boskos minestrone

Ingredients

  • ½ cup oil (canola or a non-extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 pound yellow onions, cut into
  • ½-inch dice
  • 1 large carrot, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ½ bunch celery, leaves removed, stalks cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 leeks, white part only, cut into
  • ½-inch dice
  • ½ head green cabbage, chopped into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon white pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1½ cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1/8 cup beef base
  • 3 quarts chicken stock or water
  • 1 cup dry (or 2 cups cooked) cannellini beans
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ¾ pound zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ¼ bunch (approximately 1½ cups) fresh Swiss chard or spinach
  • ½ pound shell noodles, uncooked

Directions

  1. Start with a large stockpot over medium-high heat; add oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Once the garlic starts to brown slightly, add the diced onions, diced carrots, diced celery, sliced leeks, and diced cabbage; cook for about 5 minutes, still over medium-high heat. Add the salt, white pepper, pepper flakes, paprika, oregano and basil during this first saute process — adding dry seasonings early helps create layers of flavors in a dish. Be sure all the vegetables become translucent before adding the water or stock. Add tomatoes, beef base, and water or stock to the pot with the vegetables; bring entire mixture to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, if using dry cannellini beans: Cook the cannellini beans in boiling, salted water with a bay leaf until beans are soft (approximately 20 minutes). Once beans are done (or if starting with cooked beans), set half aside. Puree the other half. Add the whole, cooked beans and the pureed beans to the soup.
  3. When the soup comes to a simmer, add the potatoes. Let the soup continue to boil for 5 minutes, then add the zucchini and chard to the pot. Cook mixture for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the shell noodles and cook for a final 5 minutes. Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

Serves: 15; yields approximately 1½ gallons of soup

— This recipe is from “Wine Country Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes From Napa and Sonoma,” (Lyons Press, $24.95).

Oregano flatbread

Ingredients

  • 1 ball fresh pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup prepared pasta sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

Directions

  1. Roll out pizza dough to a free-form oblong shape. Cover bottom of a cookie sheet with olive oil and place dough on top. Spread more olive oil on dough. Spread a light layer of pasta sauce evenly over the dough and top evenly with the cheese, then the oregano. Bake according to package directions on prepared dough or until top is golden brown.

Makes: one flatbread.

— This recipe is from Modesto Bee Scene editor Pat Clark.

Roasted carrot soup

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 large carrots (about 1¾ pounds), peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • 6 cups vegetable stock, or as needed
  • A 1-inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig, plus chopped thyme for garnish
  • ½ large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source and turn on the broiler. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Broil the carrots until they brown and soften, turning them over with a spatula every 5 minutes or so; this should take 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the ginger and sprig of thyme, turn down the heat, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  3. Just before the carrots are done, put the onion in a large saucepan with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, then add the carrots.
  4. Remove the ginger and thyme from the stock and add the stock to the onions and carrots. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the carrots are very soft. Use an immersion or a standard blender to puree the soup until smooth. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock or water and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve garnished with chopped thyme.

Serves: 4

— This recipe is from “The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2: Seasonal Recipes From Our Kitchens to Yours,” by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (William Morrow Cookbooks, $35).

Shrimp stew in yucca and coconut sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 small yucca, about 11 ounces
  • 3 tablespoons dende oil (or vegetable oil)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), chopped
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cups shrimp stock
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound shrimp, uncooked, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. To prepare the yucca, cut off the ends of the yucca root and make 3 to 4 vertical cuts from top to bottom with a paring knife. Peel the two layers of the vegetable: the brown skin and the inner white layer. Cut the yucca in half lengthwise and remove the center woody fiber with a paring knife. Cut the white flesh into 1-inch chunks.
  2. Transfer the yucca to a medium saucepan, cover with fresh cold water by at least an inch, and add a good pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Drain the yucca and, while still hot, pass through a food mill or ricer.
  4. Place the dende oil, onion, peppers, scallions and celery in a large sauté pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic and stir until it gets hot. Add the white wine and reduce by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shrimp stock and coconut milk, then bring the mixture to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and add ½ cup of the mashed yucca and the tomato paste and use a whisk to help dissolve them both into the sauce. The sauce will start to thicken naturally; add up to another ½ cup of the mashed yucca if necessary. Set aside.
  7. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they just start to turn orange, about 1 minute each side.
  8. Transfer the shrimp to the saucepan. Pour in any shrimp juices that stayed in the skillet and braise the shrimp stew over very low heat, covered, for 5 minutes. Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Garnish with the tomatoes and cilantro.

Serves: 6

— This recipe is from “The Brazilian Kitchen: 100 Classic and Contemporary Recipes for the Home Cook,” by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz (Kyle Books, $19.95).

Onion and sun-dried tomato flatbread

Ingredients

  • 1 ball fresh pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon jarred basil pesto
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in skillet and add sliced onions. Caramelize over low heat until golden brown, stirring in the balsamic vinegar toward the end of cook time. Roll out pizza dough to a free-form oblong shape. Cover bottom of a cookie sheet with olive oil and place rolled out dough on top.
  2. Combine ricotta and basil pesto and spread evenly over the dough. Top with the onions and bake according to package directions on prepared dough. Add the sun-dried tomatoes during the last 5 minutes, then continue to cook until top is golden brown. Slice and serve.

Makes: one flatbread

— This recipe is from Modesto Bee Scene editor Pat Clark.

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