Hearty Tortilla Soup

We had a quite a temperature drop overnight and it was cold enough for me to want to make soup. It had to come out of pantry, though, as I wasn’t going anywhere.

My girlfriend had canned tomatoes a couple of years ago and so I used a quart of farmed fresh tomatoes that were put away at the peak of ripeness. If you aren’t so lucky as to have such a handy, crafty gal in your life, use a 32 ounce can of tomatoes. I tossed them in a food processor with a can of Ro-tel to add a little heat and pulsed it a couple of times to make for a smoother soup. Out of the freezer, I got out diced, frozen onion (let the folks at PictSweet Farms do the peeling, chopping and crying) and cubes of frozen garlic and cilantro (I love the Dorot pre-portioned herbs) plus a pint bag of frozen corn. I also opened a can of black beans and hammered away at the bag of tortilla chips until they were well crushed. Also out of the pantry, came a container of chicken stock. Badaboom – after a bit simmering, I had a hearty soup.

I like this soup as it is or you can add 2 cups of cooked chicken after it comes to a simmer. The flavors are complex but very comforting. Exactly what this chilly day called for!

Tortilla Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced (1 generous cup of frozen diced onion)
4 garlic cloves, minced (4 cubes of Dorot garlic)
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (4 of the frozen Dorot cilantro cubes)
1 quart (32 oz) canned tomatoes
1 can (10 oz) Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 cups frozen corn
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
2 cups crushed tortilla chips, plus more to serve
1 quart chicken broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil before adding the onion and sauté, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add in the cumin and cilantro. Cook a minute or two to bloom the spices, stirring constantly. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and Ro-tel, corn, black beans, tortilla chips, chicken broth and the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 30 minutes. Stir and cook for 30 minutes more, uncovered. Soup will have thickened from the corn tortilla chips.

Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Remember, you’re serving it with more tortilla chips so go easy on the salt. To serve, either use tortilla chips as a spoon or ladle the soup over a pile of chips in the bowl.

Lemon, Chicken and Rice Soup

This is a combination of a Greek avgolemono soup with chicken, rice, eggs and lemons and a low country bog (a swampy chicken and rice soup) common to the Carolinas. I like the addition of lemons to clear out the sinuses and, with all the worries about COVID-19, what could be more comforting and healthy than chicken soup?

If you don’t want to hassle with making the chicken stock, buy 10 cups of stock from the store and get a rotisserie chicken from the grocer. Start the recipe with cooking the rice in the stock. A whole chicken usually gives about 3-5 cups of chicken. I reserved the breasts for chicken salad and still had more than 3 cups of chicken to shred for the soup.

The final dish is silky and refreshing while also being immensely comforting.

Chicken and Rice Soup

1 – 4lb whole chicken, rinsed
10 cups water
2 carrots, broken in half
2 stalks celery, broken in half
1 small onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 cups long grain rice
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
⅓ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely chopped
2 large whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk

In a large stock pot, place chicken, carrots, celery, onion and garlic in the water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 60-90 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and water has become a flavorful broth.

Set chicken aside to cool slightly. Strain and discard solids from liquid and return the chicken stock to the pot. Run it through a fat separator if you want to reduce the fat in the final dish. Pick the meat off the cooled chicken, until you have at least 3 cups of chicken. Shred the chicken into bite sized pieces and set aside, discarding skin and bones.

Bring broth back to a boil. Cook rice in the broth with salt and pepper on low heat until soft and tender, about 20 minutes.

Ladle out one cup of the cooked rice and place in a blender with lemon juice and zest and the eggs. Blend until smooth.

Stir shredded chicken into broth. Very slowly, add the warm egg/lemon mixture into the pot, whisking constantly to prevent any clumps from forming. With heat on low, cook for about ten minutes or until thickened. Taste for seasoning.

This soup will continue to thicken when stored, so have about a cup of chicken broth when reheating the soup. As it warms, the liquids will combine and make it the perfect thickness.

Ham Bone Lentil Soup

Making soup with a ham bone is like winning the frugal lottery. Once you’ve had a lovely meal with the ham, now you get an awesome soup with the leftovers. I got this ham bone courtesy of Michelle’s family. There was lots of meat left on, so the soup was extra meaty and delicious.

I make this soup the stock way, meaning I cook the lentils until tender in lots of water with a carrot, some onion and celery. After an hour of simmering, I discard the veggies that have given up their flavor and add in freshly sautéed vegetables and some seasonings to finish the soup for the last 30 minutes of cooking. This way the final dish doesn’t have tired, mushy vegetables and the soup liquid is rich and delicious.

Adding a splash or two of vinegar at the end brightens the dish immensely. I used Steen’s cane vinegar but red wine vinegar is a very good replacement.

The house smells wonderful after the soup has been simmering for a while and the soup itself tastes even better than it smells. Very much the perfect dish after a damp, cold wintery day of Carnival parades (for a complete schedule of Mardi Gras parades, click HERE).

Throw me something, Mister!

Ham Bone Lentil Soup

3 slices streaky bacon, chopped fine
1 ham bone or ham hock – the meatier, the better
1 lb dried lentils, rinsed
8 cups water
small onion, quartered
1 carrot
2 stalks celery
1 large bay leaf

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons good quality vinegar either cane or red wine
salt, to taste

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp.  Place the ham bone in the pot and brown slightly. Pour in 2 quarts water and the rinsed lentils. Place in the pot the quartered onion and a carrot and two celery stalks broken in half. Add in the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes or an hour until the lentils are starting to be tender.

Remove the ham bone and let cool slightly before cutting off the meat. Fish out the onion quarters, carrot and celery and discard.

In a skillet, melt the butter and sauté the onions until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Toss in the carrots and celery and sweat for just a minute or two. Stir in the black pepper and thyme. Scrape the contents into the pot with the lentils along with the meat from off the bone. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are fully cooked. Stir in the vinegar. Taste for seasoning and add salt as necessary.

Serve with bread (I made cornbread – recipe HERE).

White Bean Soup

Last time my parents had a spiral sliced ham, I took the bone and tossed it in the freezer. I pulled it out a couple days ago and put it in a pot with 12 cups of water and a quartered onion, a couple of carrots and stalks of celery. After two hours of simmering, I had enough hambone stock for making soup.

Dry beans last a good long while but the older they are, the longer it takes for them to soften. I knew the package I had was old (which is why I soaked them for a day and a half before starting) but didn’t know just how old mine were until I had simmered them for over five hours before they finally softened. I ended up using 8 cups of stock. With fresher beans, you might need less stock.

By pureeing the veggies and adding them toward the end, their flavor stays bright and they will also thicken the soup broth. If you want an even thicker broth, add a tablespoon of flour to the skillet when sautéing the veggies and cook for 5 minutes to take away the raw flavor, stirring regularly. Splash in a little water or extra stock in to deglaze the pan and then puree the veggies. When added to the soup, it will only take about 10 minutes of simmering to make the flavorful broth, thick and smooth.

White Bean Soup

1 lb dried navy or great northern beans
5 to 8 cups chicken or hambone stock
1 large bay leaf
½  teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup coarsely chopped celery
2 carrots, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste

Pick over beans and soak overnight in water.

Drain and put beans, 4 cups stock, bay leaf, and thyme in a large pot. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until beans get tender and fall apart, usually about 1½ to 2 hours. Add another 2-4 cups of stock if the soup has reduced too much by the end of cooking time.

Meanwhile, place olive oil in a large skillet and sauté onion for five minutes. Add in garlic and sauté until flavorful. Add in celery and carrots and continue to cook until they soften. Scrape into a food processor or blender and puree. Add the puree to the beans when you add the additional stock to the softened beans. Bring back to a simmer and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, if necessary.

Serve immediately with bread for sopping up the juices.

Stepping up the Gazpacho Game

I have a recipe for Simple Gazpacho that I blend up in just a few minutes and which I make several times a summer when the tomatoes are at their peak. However, for something to really knock your socks off, a few additional steps can mean a world of difference.

Roasting the garlic and onion deepens the flavors and takes out any harshness from having them raw. I also added roasted cashews as a thickener and for a hit of protein. You could use almonds instead.

Additionally, I used Aleppo pepper here for a lovely pepper taste without adding much heat but you can use a pinch of cayenne if you’d rather. As the flavor intensifies the longer it rests, don’t add so much seasoning you can’t eat the leftovers!

It is so pretty and oh, so delicious! Summertime never tasted so good!

Roasted Gazpacho

1 small head garlic (about 5-8 cloves)
1 small onion
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 lbs tomatoes – about 4 good sized
1 large cucumber
1 green bell pepper
1 slice bread, torn into chunks
1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup cashews
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 cup V-8 or tomato juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the top off the head of garlic. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle generously with olive oil and seal the foil around the bulb. Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender. Squeeze out the softened garlic and let cool.

Quarter the onion and separate the layers. Toss generously with olive oil and place on a baking sheet in the oven with the garlic. Roast until the garlic is done, flipping layers over once during baking.

Wash the tomatoes and cut small x’s in both ends. Place in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove to an ice water bath. Peel off skin, core and quarter. 

Peel cucumber, scrape the seeds out with a spoon and cut the cucumber into chunks. Core and seed the bell pepper and cut into large pieces.

Soak the bread in the sherry vinegar. While adding the bread isn’t necessary, I find it thickens the soup and mellows the flavors.

Pulse the cashews in a food processor until they become a fine meal.

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and garlic in the food processor with the nuts and pulse several times. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add in the sherry vinegar soaked bread, then drizzle in the remaining olive oil, salt and Aleppo pepper until well combined. Add just enough V-8 or tomato juice until the soup reaches the desired consistency. It should not be thin or watery but neither should it be the consistency of a smoothie, either.

Chill for several hours or overnight. Taste for seasoning before serving. Serve with fresh bread.

Michelle made a gorgeous loaf of crusty bread to go with our soup.

Yummy! I’ll see if she’ll give me the recipe for blogging.

Corn Chowder

It has been quite chilly these past few days, so I decided to make some soup. In my freezer, I had some corn taken off the cobs grown in Michelle’s grandfather’s field. James Earl Clark passed on last summer and his kindness and generosity is greatly missed.

You can make this vegan by eliminating the bacon, using oil instead of the butter and using a vegetable stock. Better yet, consider boiling the corn cobs after you’ve removed the kernels in a large pot to make a corn stock instead. Replace the cow’s milk with soy milk.

For extra rich soup, replace the milk with heavy cream. The soup will need more stirring during the final cook to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Corn Chowder

3 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
4 cups chicken broth (for vegetarians, use corn stock)
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper.
3 tablespoons yellow corn meal
¼ cup water

Add bacon pieces to a large dutch oven and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. They should have rendered their fat but not be crispy. Place in the diced onion and potato and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes, until onion is translucent and potato has softened. Add butter and corn. Stir and cook until butter melts. Pour in chicken broth and milk and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Reduce heat to low. In a a small mixing bowl, combine cornmeal and water. Pour into the chowder. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Ladle 3 cups of the soup (being sure to get lots of the onion, corn and potato) into a blender and puree. Return to soup and stir to combine. Taste for seasonings.

Serve with sourdough bread or another hearty, crusty bread.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Whelp, I seemed to have come down with the cold that has been running amok around here. It means that it is time for some food therapy. I really like the chicken soup I make with dumplings (see recipe HERE), so I started there when making it chicken noodle soup. I’m still into turmeric, so I added a little of that and the bonus is it makes the soup a beautiful color.

Before you say it, I know how easy it is to make egg noodles! I’m sick so cut me a little slack for going for frozen, especially when Reames makes it so easy to just toss ’em in the pot.

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
12 ounces egg noodles (I used Reames Frozen Egg Noodles)
Reserved chicken (about 3 cups of shredded chicken)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a Dutch oven, melt butter and heat oil over medium heat. Add carrot, celery and garlic. Sauté the vegetables until they are soft, a couple of minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Sprinkle in the turmeric. Continue to stir and cook for 5 minutes to remove the starchy taste from the flour. Do not let the roux burn or turn dark brown, lower the heat as necessary. Toss in the bay leaves. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition to remove any lumps. Stir in salt and pepper.

Bring the sauce to a boil and then let simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, this takes around 30 minutes. Fold the reserved shredded chicken and the egg noodles into the sauce. Bring up to a boil and then turn down the heat. Let simmer gently for 30 more minutes.

Taste for seasoning and serve.

Rosemary Bean Soup

We’ve been under a hard freeze here in New Orleans – last night we were even cut off from all sides as bridges and interstates froze. The Causeway, the Bonnet Carre Spillway, the Twinspan, the High Rise were all closed due to winter weather conditions.

As I got up in the night to check that the pipes under my elevated house didn’t freeze, I decided to spend the next day making soup. I pulled from the freezer chicken stock and chopped onions to thaw. This morning, I started a pound of beans to soak and then later warmed my house by caramelizing the onions in the oven. I did wait until mid-afternoon for things to warm up a bit in order to harvest some fresh rosemary, though.

This is a very easy soup to put together and delicious to eat.

I served the soup with cornbread.

Rosemary Bean Soup

1 pound dried white beans (cannellini or great northern beans are both good choices)
3 cups sliced yellow onions (3 onions)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 -4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 quarts chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want to make it vegetarian)
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, cover the beans with water by at least 1-inch and leave them to soak for 6 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, stir together the onions with the olive oil. Cover and put the pot in the oven for 2-3 hours to caramelize the onions, stirring every 15 minutes until the the onions have deepened to the desired color. It took 2.5 hours for mine to reach tawny.

Add the garlic and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the stock pot from the oven and place over medium high heat. Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer for an hour or more, until the beans are very soft.

Remove the rosemary and the bay leaf. Pass the soup through the coarsest blade of a food mill, or place in the bowl of a food processor or immersion blender and pulse until coarsely pureed. Return the soup to the pot to reheat and add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.

Oxtail Mushroom Barley Soup

I recently picked up a copy of the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book that was originally published in 1900. It is still a popular title today with its recipes from New Orleans’ past. I thought this would be a perfect way to the end the year – homage to the past as we step into the future!

I used their recipe for Ox Tail a la Bourgeoise (pg 87) as a jumping off point for my own oxtail mushroom barley soup (I hate peas and turnips, so I left them out while adding things I do like). Needing to do some chores outside, I made it in the slow cooker. Also, I added the wine in too batches as some of the flavor (in addition to the alcohol) cooks out over long simmers. Adding a bit more wine before serving lends a brightness to the dish.


Rich, hearty and delicious!

Oxtail Mushroom Barley Soup

1 lb oxtail, disjointed
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, diced (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with liquid
2 cups red wine, divided (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
4 cups mushroom or beef stock
1 cup pearl barley
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Cajun/Creole seasoning

Brown oxtail pieces in a skillet before transferring to the slow cooker. Sauté onion in the fat remaining in the bottom of the pan until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in the celery, carrots and stir to combine. Use a slotted spoon to place veggies into the slow cooker so as to leave some fat in the pan. Put the mushrooms into the skillet. Cook until some of their moisture has been released. Place them into the slow cooker. Pour tomatoes, 1 cup of the red wine and stock into the slow cooker and stir well. Add in seasonings.

Set the slow cooker on high until it comes to a boil. Turn to low and cook for 4 to 6 hours or until barley is soft and tender. Cut any remaining meat off the oxtail and return the meat to the soup with the remaining cup of red wine. Taste for seasonings. Remove bay leaves and serve with bread – I made a batch of fresh corn cornbread to go with (recipe HERE).

US Senate Bean Soup in the Slow Cooker

It is cold outside (and inside my 130 year old house). That means it is time for making soup. Here is my take on the famous US Senate Bean Soup recipe. I add carrots and a bit of chicken stock for more flavor. Also, if you have the celery leaves at the top of your celery stalks, toss those in and fish them out when you remove the bay leaves. It gives an extra hit of flavor without adding another stalk.


US Senate Bean Soup in the Slow Cooker

1 lb dried navy or great northern beans
1 large ham bone, preferably with bits of meat left on it
1 onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 bay leaf
6 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
1  1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the beans and place in a large bowl.  Add water to cover by at least an inch and let the beans soak overnight.

In a medium sized skillet, sauté the onion in bacon fat or butter until softened. Toss in the chopped celery and carrots and just heat through. Place the veggies into your slow cooker.

Drain the beans and place them in the crockpot along with the ham bone. Pour in the chicken stock and water and stir well. Place your slow cooker on high. Once the contents come to a boil, add salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and the meat is falling off the bone, about 4 hours. Remove the bay leaves and the bone.  Shred the meat and add it back to the soup before serving.

I serve the soup with cornbread. It warms the kitchen and my heart as it is my mom’s recipe. She had no recipe, so when she taught me to make it, I had to continually stop her and measure out her smidges, dashes and dollops.

Oh, and something I learned. Because of holiday baking, I was short on baking powder. You can substitute 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tarter for 1 teaspoon of baking powder.

Mama's Cornbread

Mama’s Cornbread

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup corn meal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten into 1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of Crisco vegetable shortening

8”cast iron skillet

Preheat oven to 425 F with the skillet in the oven, melting the Crisco. Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in a portion of the melted shortening until it is a loose but not runny consistency. Pour the mixture into the skillet, over the remaining shortening.

Cook for 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

For added corn flavor, replace 1/4 cup of the all purpose flour with corn flour.