Archive for October, 2002

Witch’s Fingers

Now that’s just spooky!

Happy Halloween, dears! What a delightful holiday this is – an abundance of recipes for the “Food Impostors” section. You may remember that “Food Impostors” started out as a showcase for “food that is trying to look like other food”, but too many gems were overlooked by that strict definition, so now it has broadened to “food that tries to look like something else.”

Now while the Soup Lady does not approve of the vulgarities known as “Cat Litter Casserole” or the equally disgusting “Boogers on a Stick”, there’s no harm in having a little holiday fun with some festive seasonal concotions such as Cheese Eyeballs or Witch’s Finger Cookies.


The link for the cookies came from that closet Domestic Goddess known as Michele at a small victory. Who would have guessed? These fingers are the Disney version of Halloween witch fingers.

Here is someone who forces the issue of “is it a trick or a treat?” when she offers up one of these:


The Soup Lady shamefully confesses that she has a horrible fascination with these and cannot stop admiring them. You have my permission to go here for other Halloween Food Impostors, but please, be don’t let me down. Try to make your menu tasteful as well as tasty.

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It must be getting cold in Chicago, because they are thinking about hot soup there. The inimitable Dargie ( whose motto is: “If life gives you lemons, squeeze those suckers hard enough to squirt life in the eye!”) sends us a recipe anyone can follow — Dargie’s Onion Soup.

Dear Soup Lady, This is the way I cook. Measurements are for baking where they matter. Slice up a lot of white and/or yellow onions or a combination thereof (I don’t like red ones in this soup because of the color, and I don’t like very strong ones in my soup either. BTW, for anyone who doesn’t know, the rounder an onion is, the stronger it will be. Flatter onions are sweeter. ) I don’t know how many. What’s a lot for you? Good, that’s how many you slice up.

Throw a nice-size lump of butter into your soup pot, and add some olive oil. When the butter is melted and swirling around, making nice with the oil, throw your onions in and caramelize them. Sprinkle them with a bit of sugar (not much, this isn’t dessert you know. Just a teaspoon or so to help with the caramelization. Don’t hurry this part because it takes time – as much as half an hour – to make the onions beautiful and golden, and to get them to release their sugars.

Once they’ve achieved this pinnacle of onion perfection, fill the pot with stock. How much you use depends on the balance of onion to broth you like. I like a bowl loaded with onions, but you may prefer a bowl of broth with onions as a kind of condiment. Either way, add stock accordingly. I like to use a combination of stocks because I think it adds depth to the soup. Try a combo of beef and chicken. If you’re really daring, a touch of fish stock really is wonderful. Just a touch. This isn’t bouillibaise. Be careful not to make the stock too salty.

Bring to a boil and add a tot of wine. I kind of like port because it’s got some body to it, but any good red or white will do. Again, not a lot, but just enough to add to the complexity. This would be a good time to add a bouquet garni, or a few herbs. Whatever you like. I’m partial to a bit of thyme in this, or a Provencale mix. Reduce heat. Simmer for an hour or so, until the onions are lovely and tender, and all the flavors have had a chance to blend.

While it’s cooking, you want to toast some slices of French or Italian bread, and grate some cheese. A mix is best. I like parmesan and swiss, but I’ve used romano, cheddar or anything that’s been at hand (No, not cottage cheese or Velveeta! Behave yourself.) and it’s all been great. Put a slice or two of bread at the bottom of your bowl. Sprinkle generously with cheese, and ladle the hot soup over it. You could do the whole bowl-under-the-broiler thing if you want a toasted effect, but I like my cheese gooey, so I never bother. If you do broil it, be sure you’ve got your soup in ovenproof bowls, and put the bread and cheese on top of the soup, not under it. Eat it. Stop when you’ve had enough or the soup runs out.
Best regards,

Oh, that Dargie! I do belive this is the first recipe posted here that calls for a tot of wine.

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For this, you don’t even need a bride.

The very best version of this classic soup that I have ever had was made by my friend Joellen, a redhead of the I Love Lucy variety, who claims to be Italian. If this soup could be used as evidence, it must be true. She says the secret is in the broth and often spends 2 or 3 days getting it just right. When she is satisfied, she moves on to the rest.

Italian Wedding Soup

1. The chicken stock:
2 pounds chicken parts
2 large onion s
3 stalks celery, including leaves
3 large carrots
3 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons salt
4 – 5 peppercorns
3 whole cloves
12 cups water

Quarter the onions. Chop scrubbed celery and carrots into 1 inch chunks. Place chicken pieces, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt, and cloves in large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1- 2 hours. Remove chicken and vegetables. Strain stock through cheesecloth to remove solids. Skim fat off the surface.

2. The meatballs:
Combine 1/2 pound lean ground beef, 1 egg (slightly beaten), 4 tablespoons bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons parmesean cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil. Shape into 3/4 inch balls. Drop into boiling water and cook until they float to the top. Drain and set aside.

3. The escarole: In a large pot of boiling water, add 2 heads of escarole which has been cleaned and chopped. Blanch for 3 minutes to remove the bitterness from the greens. Drain. When cooled, squeeze out all extra liquid.

4. Put it all together: Bring stock to a boil; add chopped escarole, 1 1/2 cups acini de pepe, and 3 eggs (slightly beaten) combined with 1 cup of parmesean cheese. Stirring
continuously until the egg is fully cooked and the pasta is al dente. Add the
meatballs, adjust seasoning and heat through.

For those less dedicated to authenticity, canned chicken broth and frozen chopped spinach can be substituted. The acini de pepe floating around gives it the look of the real thing. And looks, as you all know, are half the battle.

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Oh, you poor dears! So chilly now that autumn is here and dampness is in the air! Chilly? Chili? Hey, that’s a good idea … Here is a recipe for White Chicken Chili from Suzi Q, who lives in the north country and knows about cold.

She says: ” I based this on the white chicken chili that they serve at Ruby Tuesday’s, and I use inexact measurements, and lots more veggies, as you can see! I like a lot of peppers – you can use less.You can used dried navy beans if you soak overnight, discard water and then simmer for 1 hour per package directions. Serve with a dollop of FF sour cream and thinly sliced green onions. Tortilla strips are good for garnish, too — but I can hardly find them in MN. Experiment with the seasonings you like the best……….. and a variety of white beans. ENJOY!!”

Low Fat White Chicken Chili
4 or 5 cans of white beanswith their liquid (navy, white, butter,etc)
1 can stewed or chopped tomatoes
1 each red, yellow, and green pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large cans of chicken broth (fat free)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
lots of celery leaves
add chopped jalapenos to taste
Seasoning to taste:
coarsely ground pepper
bay leaf
celery salt or beau monde

Garnish: a dollop of fat free sour cream thinly sliced green onions

In large soup pot, Simmer chicken breasts 15 mins. or until done, in 1 cup of chicken broth and the seasonings you prefer. Remove from liquid, cut into bite sized cubes, and set aside. If you are using frozen chicken breasts, it is easier to cube them prior to cooking. To the liquid in the pan, add the garlic, peppers, and onions. Simmer about 10 – 15 minutes, adding more liquid (chicken broth) if needed. Don’t let them get all mushy — just translucent and juicy. Add the canned or pre-cooked beans, carrots, celery, tomatoes, cubed chicken and remainder of seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 mins. stirring if needed. Remove about 2 cups of mostly beans from the pot and mash them with a fork, then return to the pot and simmer for about 15 more minutes — this thickens the chili. Adjust seasoning to taste.

The Soup Lady can’t help but notice that there is no actual chili in this chili recipe. By great good fortune, I had the
opportunity to have the White Chicken Chil at another mall-linked chain restaurant called Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grille. The White Chicken Chili very, very spicy (maybe it has chili in it!) and quite tasty, too.

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Hello Dears!

My, my, my – the Soup Lady has certainly been busy with other things besides soup. So busy that my little Joy Of Soup has quite fallen apart, hasn’t it? Oh, the places I’ve been and the soup I’ve had!

White Chili Queso in Jillian’s sports Bar in Minneapolis -popcorn afloat on top of it – abomination!
Tom Ka Guy in north Berkeley – whole button mushrooms bobbing about in coconut milk broth,
served just the way I like it from a large tureen at the table.
Cheesy Cream of Spinach Soup in a dark basement cafe in Bucks County. Divinity itself.
Vicchyssoise – served chilled over a sterling silver icer in a former brothel in Florida. The.Very. Best. Ever.
Italian wedding Soup at an actual Italian wedding in Philadelphia – trucked in by the bride’s relatives. It
doesn’t get any better than that.
Pasta e Fagioli made with pancetta right here in my own kitchen! An all around success except with those who rebuke pig in any shape or form (50% of the Panel of Judges. I should have known better!)

So many opportunities to promote soup gone by. Well, not to worry, dears. The weather has turned chilly and everyone will be looking for soup. The Soup Lady will be here for you once again.

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