LENTIL SOUP

DSC050011 16-ounce bag of Lentils

4 smoked ham hocks

8 to 10 cups Chicken stock

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

Celery leaves, chopped

3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

1 15-ounce can of petite cut tomatoes

Basil, Oregano, Parsley

Salt and pepper

 

  1. In a flat dish, sort lentils a handful at a time. Remove anything that is hard or a different color. After sorting lentils, place them in a bowl and add water. Rinse and repeat. Set the drain lentils on the side for later. (Option – I soaked my lentils for an hour in water, then drained them.)
  2. In a deep pot, add olive oil to cover the bottom, about 2 tablespoons. On a medium flame, add chopped onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Saute until tender. Add salt and pepper along with basil, oregano and parsley. Cook a few more minutes.
  3. Add ham hocks and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.  Lower to a simmer and cook 1 hour, until ham hocks become tender.  Stir a few times.
  4. Add lentils and canned tomatoes, continue to cook for another hour.  Serve immediately with bread on the side if desired.  Serves – 8.  Option – garnish with grated parmesan or romano cheese.
  5. ENJOY –  Hearty and Healthy with Lentils a plenty.

 

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Lentil Soup was never a favorite of mine growing up.  Unfortunately for me, my mom loved it and made it all the time.  I have a vivid memory of me sitting with a bowl of lentil soup in front of me at the dinner table after everyone else had finished dinner and left the table.  My unfinished bowl of soup remained in front of me for a very long time, before I was allowed to leave the table.  

Years later, when I was teaching American cooking, the talk of lentil soup came up.  One of the lady’s husband’s had requested her to learn how to make lentil soup for him.  Mom gave me her recipe and I taught the cooking class how to make Lentil soup.  Recently, I asked my husband if he liked Lentil Soup and he said he did.  In honor of the New Year, I decided to make it for him.  Searching high and low through all my recipes, my mother’s lentil soup recipe was nowhere to be found.   I was saddened by the fact that I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call my mom for the recipe.  

My memory is pretty good and I knew the main ingredients, lentils, ham hocks, chicken broth and some vegetables.  For sure, I remembered sorting through the lentils first.  When I first did this many years ago, I would find a few tiny pebbles mixed in with the lentils.  Recently, sorting through the lentils I only came across a few, about 12, discolored lentils that I removed.  It is written right on the back of the bag of lentils – “Sort and clean lentils.”  With another statement boldly printed also – “Lentils are a natural agricultural product. Despite use of modern cleaning equipment, it is not always possible to remove all foreign material.  Sort and rinse lentils before cooking.”  Sorting the lentils for me seems very relaxing and in a way a little bit therapeutic. 

After writing up a rough draft of a lentil recipe, I called my sister-in-law, Susan, who is a great cook, for her opinion and advice.  She whole heartily agreed with me on my lentil soup recipe.  With Susan’s approval I felt confident and ready to cook lentil soup.

 Tom, my husband, enjoyed his 2016 New Year Lentil soup.  Lentils for the New Year symbolize money, prosperity and good luck.  All good things!  Another good thing, I ate two small bowls of Lentil soup, and really enjoyed it.   

I miss my mom every day.  Not finding her recipe made me realize how much I want to talk to her and how frustrated I get because I can’t.  Don’t take your mom for granted.  Give her a call, listen closely to her voice and most of all get her recipes, write them down and keep them in safe.  There is no sound more soothing and comforting as a mother’s voice. 

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Italian Wedding Soup

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1 ounce can of chicken broth (homemade turkey or chicken broth is best if I have it)
1 package of small pasta, cooked (I use Orzo or Ditalia or Tortellini)
1 package of fresh spinach, cooked and drained
1 pound of ground beef, or pork, or turkey
½ cup fresh bread crumbs (or I used stale Italian bread soaked in hot water and squeezed)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ onion, chopped small
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ Romano cheese, grated
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Parmesan cheese for garnish

1. Oven 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl combine the ground beef, pork and veal, bread crumbs, cheeses, garlic, onion, egg and salt and pepper. Mix well. Shape into meatballs about 1 inch size. In a large baking pan, lined with aluminum foil, grease with olive oil. Bake meatballs about 25 minutes or until browned all around. Drain the fat and set aside.
3. In a large pot put chicken soup and add the cooked and drained spinach. Add meatballs. Heat thoroughly. Simmer about 10 minutes.
4. Serve with pasta. Do not put pasta in the soup pot or it will absorb all the
liquid. Put soup in bowl and then add pasta according to the amount you desire.
4. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serves 6 to 8.

ENJOY – It’s a soup and it’s a meal.

Years ago, when I wrote a American food column for a Japanese magazine, my editor called me one day and said she went into an Italian delicatessen and saw this soup. Being very curious, she tried it, liked it and then asked me if I made it. The version she had from the delicatessen was made with escarole instead of the spinach I use.

Let me give you some background as to how this recipe came about for me. I have been making this updated version as long as I can remember. My family would sometimes serve this soup as a first dish on Christmas Eve or Christmas day and I continued the tradition to this day. The recipe that I grew up on had escarole and chicory in the soup with pork or beef meatballs. The chicory and escarole, two different Italian greens, have a very bitter taste. My children didn’t like the bitter taste and neither did I. So, I substituted spinach instead of the escarole. My husband loves the escarole. It is all personal taste.

Where did this name come from? I asked a lot of Italian ladies about the origin of this name. Nobody could help me. The answer was the same; “I don’t know but my mother always made it”. Like a modern woman that I am I turned to the Internet. What I like about the Internet I also hate about the Internet. Do a search on anything and you will be given pages and pages on the subject to scan through and look at. It gives me a headache. I want 3 to 7 choices of web pages to look for something not 307. Anyway, if you put in Italian wedding soup you will be surprised how many places it will show up. The Italian name for this recipe is Minestra Maritata. It means two things go well together, they are maritati, i.e. married. The two ingredients contained in the soup go well together meaning the meat and the greens. No wedding is involved. After reading quite a bit of material on the subject, I know more about Italian wedding soup then I will ever need to know and about 100 different ways to make it. To be honest with you I think the simpler the better is good for a recipe. Make your own choice of how to cook Italian wedding soup, but I choose my recipe for me because it is the easiest!

No need to be married to enjoy Italian wedding soup, just have a hearty appetite.

CORN, BACON AND BAKED POTATO CHOWDER

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½ lb. bacon
4 medium potatoes, baked and cooled
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup flour
4 cups homemade chicken broth
2 cups half and half
1 to 2 – 15 ounce cans of low salt corn, drained

1. Place the bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat, and cook until crisp. Reserving about 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pot, remove and drain bacon on paper towels, when cooled, crumble and set aside.
2. Chop onion and put into the pot with the reserved bacon drippings. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender. Add flour to form a paste while stirring with a wooden spoon. Then slowly pour in chicken broth one cup at a time, thickening the soup as you continue to stir. Soup should end up liquidy after all 4 cups are in. Continue to stir.
3. In the meantime, dice the cooled (skinned or with the skins on) baked potatoes. Put diced potatoes, drained corn and crumbled bacon back in the pot.
4. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and cover pot. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Add the half-and-half to the soup and continue cooking until it bubbles. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
6. Enjoy! – What a trio, bacon, corn and potatoooo!

A lot of us are thinking twice about where our money is going during this challenging economy. I sure do, especially before running to the grocery store. Instead, I’ve resorted to looking into what I already have hiding in my fridge and freezer!

For years, I was used to cooking for a family of five. Now it is just the two of us and I still cook for five. What I’m happily discovering is that there’s always something in the freezer for dinner in an emergency. My number one frozen food is homemade chicken soup. My husband was on a roll for awhile and was baking a whole chicken on the grill about once a week. Every time he baked a chicken, I would make chicken soup – hence, a lot of frozen soup.

So, the other day I came home from work and there was nothing for dinner. I rummaged around in the refrigerator and discovered a half pound of uncooked bacon, half and half, onions and leftover baked potato wedges. I thought about all that homemade chicken broth sitting in the freezer. Next, I poked my head in the closet where I stored canned goods and spied a lonely can of corn. All the ingredients needed for making hearty corn chowder were right at my fingertips. Who knew!! The only thing I would have added to the chowder were was another can of corn, but I didn’t have that second can in the house and there was no stopping me, so I made due with one can. Chowder recipes usually call for raw, peeled potato cubes instead of the cooked baked potatoes I used. However, using the baked potatoes proved to be a smart move because not only did I use up the leftover baked potatoes, but the chowder took even less time to prepare. Adaptation is what it is all about. Sometimes, you just gotta wing it!

Open your freezer and refrigerator right now. What do you see? I see an interesting meal waiting to be created. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination. See beyond the printed recipe and have some fun. Enjoy cooking!

SAUSAGE SOUP

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5 to 7 Sweet Sausage

½ large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery chopped

1 to 2 cans 14 ½ ounce cans of petite cut tomatoes with either onions, celery and peppers or in garlic and oil

¼ cup red wine

6 cups homemade chicken broth or 2 13 ounce cans chicken broth

1 teaspoon basil (more if you like it)

1 box small shaped pasta (orzo, small shells, ditalini), cooked

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

1. Remove sausage from casing and crumble or buy it already out of the casing. Cook in a large soup pot with a little olive oil on the bottom. Cook until the pink is gone from the meat. Drain some fat if necessary, but leave some for the flavor. Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.

2. Add chopped celery and onions and saute till tender. Add tomatoes and continue cooking. Return sausage to pot. Add other ingredients and simmer. Lastly, cook pasta, according to directions, drain and set aside.

3. Serve with some Italian bread and grated Parmesan cheese if you like. Serves 4 to 6.

ENJOY – It’s a soup and it’s a meal.

The weather is changing and so is my cooking.

I shop for food and cook depending on what is on sale. This week I bought the large package of sweet sausages on sale. We usually have sausage and pepper hero sandwiches or sausages and spaghetti for dinner; my favorite recipe to make with sausages is sausage soup. I got this recipe from my friend’s aunt years ago. I use sweet sausage most of the time but you could add hot sausage to spice it up. Another option would be to sprinkle in red pepper flakes. My soup is made only with sweet sausages, because I personally do not like hot sausages. I let my husband add whatever he wants to his own dish to spice it up.

I make a large pot of this whenever I make it. Luckily, I always have homemade chicken soup frozen and ready to use in the freezer. If I run short I just add one can of plain chicken broth. As far as the red wine, it could be merlot or whatever red wine you already have open in your home. The wine just adds that extra flavor.

My husband’s friend, Joe was over the other night, and we both asked him to join us for dinner. Tom, my husband, said we were having sausage soup. “Sausage soup, what’s that?” Joe asked nervously. Since we were serving the soup only as a first course, and steak was the second course, Joe seemed relieved.

Well, Joe loved the sausage soup! For something different for dinner, try sausage soup, you’ll like it too!

PASTA FAGIOLI WITH CREAM

 

1 lb. short pasta, Ditalini

 

6 cups chicken broth

1 can red or white kidney beans

1 onion, chopped

1 stick celery, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 14 ounce can petite cut tomatoes

oregano

basil

salt and pepper

small container heavy cream

 

Parmesan cheese, grated

 

1.      Rinse and drain red/whit kidney beans, leave in colander on side.  Cook pasta according to package, drain with cold water and set aside

2.      In a large pot, add olive oil.  Sauté garlic, celery and onion until tender.  Add tomatoes and cook 15 to 20 minutes.  Add spices and kidney beans along with chicken broth.  Cook an additional ½ hour for everything to be heated thoroughly.

3.      When everything is all cooked thoroughly, at last, add heavy cream according to your personal taste.  I start with about 1 / 4 cup of heavy cream for a full pot of soup.  I just like a touch to make it dark still but with a little cream.  Not pink, then too much cream is added.  Start with 2 to 4 tablespoons of cream.  If not enough add 2 tablespoons at a time.    

4.      Mix together pasta and soup together in soup bowls.  Serve hot and top with grated Parmesan cheese.  Hint:  Do not put pasta in with soup or all the liquid will be absorbed.  

5.      Optional – Soup can be made with sausage, bacon or ham bone as a base for a meatier flavor.  I prefer it without the meat.

6.      ENJOY! –   A hearty soup with a dash of cream, tastes like a dream.…..

 

 

 

 

Pasta Fagioli means Pasta and Beans.  Beans are one of the healthiest proteins you can eat.  This dish can be prepared with white Cannelloni beans or red Kidney beans.  The dish tastes the same to me either way.  My mom always used red kidney beans for her recipe, so naturally, I used them.  Then I switched to the white beans.  I go back and forth.  To me, this recipe is soup, a very thick, rich soup.  The consistency can be made to your personal taste.  If you prefer more of a stew consistency, then add less chicken broth for thickness and add possibly some pasta water.  To have more of a soup consistency, add extra chicken broth.  When talking to different people about their own family Pasta Fagioli recipes, I find a few contain meat in the ingredients.  Meat and beans together is too heavy for my personal taste, but the men love the added meat.  This is not a recipe that has to be followed exactly to the “t”; you can improvise with the ingredients any way you like.  The main ingredients in this recipe are the beans, tomatoes, chicken broth and cream.  Anything else added would make this your own original recipe.

 

Since growing up during the Depression, my mother and father knew what being hungry felt like.  My parents made meals out of the simplest things.  For example, when I buy celery, I do not like the top part with the leaves, so I toss them out.  My mom put a stop to that.  She took them home with her to make celery soup with the celery tops and leaves. 

 

Soup can also be made with various bones and beans.  Ham shanks are used as the base for my mom’s Lentil bean soup recipe.  Lentils are very healthy for you but can be an acquired taste.  As a child, I was a picky eater, and I did not like lentil soup, although I had to eat it or eat nothing.  Many times I chose nothing rather than eat lentil soup.  This was my mom’s favorite soup and she made it often.  When she didn’t cook anymore, she often asked me to buy her lentil soup in the can.  I feel guilty about that.  I have tried to make it for her, but I haven’t been successful, probably because subconsciously I don’t like it, so I didn’t want to make it.

 

A leftover ham bone is a main ingredient for split pea soup.  Beef vegetable soup has pieces of beef and beef bones for flavor.  Turkey soup is very delicious and made a day or two after Thanksgiving from a very large turkey.  The soup is frozen and lasts the whole month of December.  I sometimes make a turkey broth soup with spinach and tiny meatballs for Christmas dinner from the frozen broth.  Soups with a cream base are also great as one-dish meals.  A corn chowder is hardy enough to eat alone and is very filling.    Broccoli cheddar soup is a favorite for my kids, plus they are getting their daily vegetables too.

 

Mmm mmm good, mmm mmm good, that’s what mom’s soups are mmm mmm good!

 

Cream of Broccoli Soup


1 large onion, chopped
3 1 / 2 cup homemade stock, chicken or turkey
3 cups broccoli florets, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons margarine
Bay leaf

3 tablespoons butter
1 / 4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 1 / 2 cups half and half
3 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Grated cheddar cheese

1. In a large pot sauté onions with 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of
margarine. In a food processor, if you have one, chop broccoli florets until
you have 3 cups full of small chopped broccoli pieces. Add broccoli florets to
onions and cook both until everything is tender.
2. Add chicken stock and bay leaf to onions and broccoli, cook for 15 minutes at
a slow simmer. Turn off heat and let sit.
3. In a separate medium size pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add flour and stir
quickly to make a thicken white sauce by adding the half and half first, and
then the milk. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle in salt and pepper
to taste. When the white sauce is slightly thicken, remove from heat and slowly
pour into a big pot with chicken stock and broccoli.
4. Remove bay leaf from the soup. Heat thoroughly the cream of broccoli soup. Add
the sour cream last and stir until well blended into soup. Serve garnished with
grated cheddar cheese on top. (The longer the soup sits the thicker it becomes,
the next day it is even better.)
5. ENJOY – It’s a mean, green, soup tureen kind a soup!

Spring is funny, some days are warm and sunny. But some days are colder than all of the winter months put together, so never put away those winter clothes until the beginning of May! New York weather has a mind of its own. There is no rhyme or reason to it. This is why we are still looking for good, wholesome, warm- me-up recipes to keep us going. This soup is great any time. I decided to make this particular soup because my daughter ate it at a restaurant and loved it. That’s all the motivation I needed to duplicate a recipe that one of my family members loved. I love them; therefore I want to feed them what they love to eat.

Recently, I had plans to meet a friend in the city with my daughter, Mia. My friend would bring her son, and we were going to a show and also lunch. My friend had to cancel the day before, but Mia and I decided to go ourselves anyway. To be honest, I am not a city person on a regular basis. I love it but only go into the city occasionally. Manhattan is the best place on earth, but you need money in your pocket, a lot of money. If you are the way I am, you can get around it by reading the newspapers and paying attention to those tiny little columns about the things you can do in Manhattan at a discount price or for free. Mia and I started our adventure that day with a ride on the railroad, $32.00 for round trip tickets. We ventured into Grand Central Station, which still amazes me every time I walk into the center, and I continue to look in awe at its beauty. Three weeks earlier I had made an appointment for a storyboard interview in Grand Central Station with Mia. I found this information in the newspaper and discovered only a $10.00 donation was required to experience this interview. A copy of the interview would go to the Library of Congress and a copy would go to me for an oral history of our family. Since we have no one left in my family, I asked Mia to interview me. It was totally spontaneous and very emotional for both of us. It was an experience valued at much more than $10.00. Then we went to TKTS booth at 47th Street and waited on line for the 1 /2 price tickets to a Broadway show for that afternoon. By the time we made it to the front of the line (1 to 2 hours of waiting outside in the cold), the pickings were slim. La Cage aux Folles was one of our top 5 choices, and it was still available. I purchased 2 tickets for $75.00, which is a great price for a Broadway comedy musical. We had an hour and a half to kill before show time. No problem, since we were starving and freezing. We ran to a restaurant and had lunch after waiting 20 minutes for a table. Lunch was the only downside to the whole day, costing $43.00 for a very over-priced hockey puck hamburger and gross nachos. The cream of broccoli soup was the only part of the meal that Mia loved. After the show, I suggested we walk about 25 city blocks to see the art work of the “Gates” in Central Park because it would be over soon. This was free and, and we also had plenty of exercise from walking over 50 blocks all together. The total cost for the day was $160.00. This was still expensive considering the discounted prices, but the experiences I shared with my daughter were definitely priceless.

So when we arrived home, I made cream of broccoli soup for my daughter because I wanted to keep the memory going. She ate it, and said she liked the restaurant’s soup better. And that’s okay because I was with her all that day, and we shared the soup in the restaurant, and that is more important to me than my soup being the best one!