Archive for April, 2003

Asparagus and Escarole Soup

It’s truly and finally spring here in the Northeast and The Soup Lady is taking full advantage of the lovely sunny days – potting up the petunias and line-drying the towels outdoors. There is no greater pleasant diversion than to attempt to extract the freshness right out of line-dried linens by means of relentless sniffing and so who has time to cook? Here is a light and spring-like recipe that takes only 20 minutes to put together. Make it on a day that you have spent your productive hours goofing around sniffing the tea towels, yet still need to make the proper impression on invited guests or casual passers-by.

Asparagus and Escarole Soup
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot. Add 1 lb. of thin asparagus sliced into 1/2″ pieces and saute for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add 6 cups of chicken broth and bring to a slow boil. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Add 4 cups of loosley packed chopped escarole leaves. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve.

What could be easier? The Soup Lady is always tempted to throw in some ancini de pepe whenever she sees escarole leaves in a stockpot, but really, the flavors of the asparagus and the escarole compliment each other so nicely that you don’t need anything else.

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Papas a la Huancaína

Peruvian Potatoes with Chile-Cheese Sauce

When the Soup Lady was a still-blossoming young sophisticate living in Manhattan but still relatively unexposed to the whole wide world, there was an informal gathering of co-workers. The term “pot-luck” might be applied here, but since this important event became the benchmark by which all cocktail party/dinner party/hostessing events was judged for the next 10 years, I hesitate to apply that common term.

All invited guests were to bring something to eat. We were all single young nurses who worked in the same NYC hospital – transplants from other states who couldn’t resist the lure of the Big City. The hostess was the only native New Yorker – she herself was an exotic and unfamiliar creature to me. She lived with her father, who was recently widowed and needed the kind and caring ministrations of a loving family member (because he was a whiskey-soaked reclusive alcoholic) in an antique filled pre-war apartment in the East 70s. They didn’t always eat dinner, but they made sure they had cocktails together every evening – a lifestyle unimagined by the limited and sheltered Soup Lady, whose entire reference to paternal imbibing was encompassed by her own dear father bending an elbow at local AmVets Hall to lift a shot and a beer.

Everything about that place was a look into another life-style. The cocktail nuts they set out were served in the monogrammed silver porringer that she used as a toddler! There was an oil painting on the wall of her as a child! Mummy’s family silver was brandished about! The place was 10 rooms and had woodwork, fireplaces and maid’s quarters – so unlike the white-walled studios that the young nurses rented. It was all surreall and made a damn big impression on the Soup Lady, I’ll tell you that. I am becoming breathless just trying to recall it all.

Back to the party: one girl brought a fresh pineapple wrapped in a pineapple-patterned dish towel and tied with a real ribbon. Such creative elegance was never seen by the Soup Lady before. All the other girls nodded approvingly and she had to explain to me that the pineapple was the colonial symbol of hospitality. You had better believe that the Soup Lady made sure she showed up with a pineapple any place she went for the next 10 years.

Okay, we’re getting way far off the subject here. Back to the food: one girl (where did she come from? She wasn’t a nurse – she must have been someone’s friend) who was a native of South America brought an appetizer made of cold potato slices with a spicy cream sauce on top. Eveyone oohed over it and pronounced it devine, but the Soup Lady took that opportunity to paw through the porringer to sneak a few extra macadamia nuts while everyone else was distracted. By the time the dust cleared, there was just one small bit of unclaimed potato left.

It was divine. And spicy. There was no time to chat up the cook, as she was off to another engagement. All that could be determined at that time was that the dish was famous in Peru.

And with only that to go on, the Soup Lady has been trying to deduce what it could have been all these long years. How many suburban parties and potlucks could have been turned around if only I had the recipe that made that one night long ago so memorable? And, Lord luv the internet, here it is:

Papas a la Huancaína
Cover 8 whole potatoes with salted water and boil until cooked through. Remove from heat, drain and cool. Peel potatoes when cool and cut into 1/2″ slices.

Puree the 1 cup of grated cheese (mozzarella, feta or muenster) and 1 cup of half and half in a blender till smooth.

Heat 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet over medium flame. Sauté 2 finely diced jalapeño peppers for 1-2 minutes. Add cheese-cream mixture and heat through till smooth and thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Line serving plate with lettuce leaves. Place slices of potatoes on top of the lettuce leaves. Spoon chile-cheese sauce on top of the potatoes. Garnish serving plate with hard-boiled egg quarters and tomato wedges. Sprinkle chopped black olives over the potatoes and serve. Papas a la Huancaína is best served at room temperature.
recipe from

The memory of a slightly pink cast to the sauce leads me to believe there must have been some cayenne pepper or hot sauce in there as well.

And so eventually, the Soup Lady got over her painful and limited past and escaped the bonds of pineapple giving, although any scan of a Tiffany’s catalog where a silver porringer is sighted does make the heart beat faster. And you can bet your ass that anyone who sets foot into La Casa de la Sopa this summer is going to get a face full of spicy papas and a few casually tossed-off references to pre-war apartments and silver porringers.

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(also known as Edible Easter Soup or White Borscht)

An alert soup fan known only as “Jim” felt compelled to let the Soup Lady know that some versions of Easter Soup are not only edible but desirable. Here, he writes in to share with us a delightful recipe that is guaranteed to overcome the more disgusting versions also printed on this site.

Real Deal Easter Soup – Serves 6-8 people.
2 Rings Good Smoked Sausage (about 2lbs)
1 Large Smoked Ham
1lb Farmers Cheese , Cubed
6 Hard Boiled Eggs , Coarsely Chopped
Dark and Light Rye Bread , Cubed
8 ounces sour cream
1 Raw Egg
White Vinegar

Bake the ham according to directions, i.e., 15 minutes per pound. This can be done the night before. Retain the juice from the ham. Best if you cool the juice in frig and skim off the fat the next morning.

Cook sausage for 25-30 inutes in 10-12 cups water. RETAIN water. Add ham juice to sausage water. Just prior to serving stir the egg into the sour cream. Add a ladle of warm broth into sour cream egg mixture. While whisking, add sour cream/egg/broth mixture to the pot of broth. Bring just about to boil. Add about 4 tablespoons of vinegar.

Assembly of soup:
Add cubed ham, sausage, cheese, egg and bread into LARGE soup bowl. Pour broth over all. Add horseradish if desired. Enjoy.

Following day: unclog arteries.

Now the Soup Lady had never heard of Jim before this, but after careful scrutiny of the elements of this soup, she is willing to bet real money that this guy is Lithuanian. All the evidence is there: the pig parts, the vinegar, the sour cream. If that sounds iffy to you, then the real clincher is the horseradish.

The Soup Lady knows one when she sees one.

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The Soup Lady is in high dudgeon today as she gets wind of this: someone else is using the term “PLOG”!

The Soup Lady would like the record to state that she invented the term “plog” on 9/23/2001 – way back when The Soup was still located at blog*spot. Scroll down! There’s the evidence!

Harrumph.Ok – the Soup Lady feels better that this is on the record now, but she feels sheepish that she did not copyright the name. The is the original plog, dammit! Accept no subsitutes!

No hard feelings, but The Soup Lady advises you to be most careful when applying a plog to your Palm Pilot. Make sure you are using the appropriate plog -otherwise you could have one messed up PDA. Or a tasty one, anyway.

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Easter Bread

Not to worry, dears! Did you think the Soup Lady was about to bludgeon you with more recipes for Easter soup? No, no. You deserve something much nicer after putting up with all that and here it is: Easter Bread.

This is a sweet yeast bread flavored with anise and filled with dried fruits and nuts. The colored eggs are baked right into it and the idea is that on Easter morning, you take a thick slice that surrounds an egg and there’s your breakfast.  I found this recipe many years ago in a ladies’ magazine within an advertisement for yeast. every year, I would trot it out and produce a lovely two-ton unrisen bread. It was just a pretty face – dense, heavy, even  difficult to cut. But this year it turned out just as it always should have.


Easter Bread
2 3/4 – 3 1/2cups of flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp. of salt
1 package of dry yeast
2 tablespoons of butter
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup of candied fruit
1/4 cup of chopped almonds
1/2 teaspoon of anise seed
5 raw colored eggs

Combine 1 cup of flour with the sugar, salt and yeast. Heat milk and butter slowly over low heat until liquid is warm and butter is melted. Add to the dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of flour then beat at high speed for 2 more minutes.Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured board and knead for 8-10 minutes. Place into a greased bowl and turn to grease top. Cover, let rise until doubled (about one hour).

Punch down the dough and trun out onto a floured board. Knead in the candied fruits, nuts and anise seeds. Divide in half and roll each slice of dough into a 24" long rope. Twist together loosely and form a ring on a greased baking sheet. Brush with melted butter  and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place the uncooked colored eggs in the spaces of the twist. Cover and let rise until doubles in volume (about one hour.) Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Remove from sheet and cool. Optional: Skip the sesame seeds and frost the ring with one cup of powdered sugar that has had 1 tablespoon of milk added and decorate with colored sprinkles.

Is it not lovely? The eggs cook as the bread does and they will be completely done and safe to eat. The temptation will be great to eat it immediately, but wait until morning and have it with coffee for breakfast. The Soup Lady doesn’t really care for the eggs, and tries to sneak a plain slice when no one else is looking.

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Easter Soup

Easter is right around the corner, dears. If all you are doing to prepare is searching the supermarket fliers to get the best price on two dozen eggs for coloring, well, then – it’s time for you to get busy.

Have you ever heard of Easter Soup? Hearing about it may be quite enough- the Soup Lady is afraid that someone may try to serve it to her within the next few weeks. Here are three versions of Easter Soup. Try to remain brave.

The first recipe is the one that I know from my childhood. Thank goodness most of the old ladies who insisted on serving this as an Easter tradition have gone to a better place. Although the Soup Lady is quite sure that heaven awaits when she shuffles off this mortal coil, it would be a bad surprise if the old ladies are there waiting with pots of Easter soup.

As usual with Polish cooking, this recipe was born of poverty and hunger. The soup started by saving the water that the keilbasa was boiled in and ended by floating the leftover hardboiled eggs around in it. Very economical and the mama got extra points for pulling off that “something special for the holiday” bit.

Polish Easter Soup
Boil up one ring of fresh keilbasa. Take the keilbasa out of the pot but save the water, (about 6- 8 cups). Add 6 peeled and cubed potatoes and the whey from 1 quart of buttermilk (Make the whey by heating up the buttermilk until a cheesey layer forms. Skim off the cheesey part and what you have left is the whey. This must have worked it’s way into the recipe as a leftover from something, too. What purpose it serves in this recipe is unclear.) Cut the keilabsa into slices and add it back to the pot along with 2 cups of cubed cooked ham. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of white horseradish. Thicken the broth with 2 tablespoons of flour that has been mixed with water. Add slowly to the soup and stir. Temper one cup of sour cream in a mixing bowl by slowly adding the hot broth and stirring continuously. Add this back into the soup pot and add salt and pepper to taste. This part is trickier than it seems because it means you have to acutally taste it at this point.

Five minutes before you are ready to serve, add about 8 hard-boiled eggs to the soup pot. They can be whole or sliced – doesn’t make any difference at this point.
Greek Easter Soup
The Greeks are definately testing out the Resurrection thing here, meaning you’ll probably die on the spot if someone tries to make you eat this. I’m only printing this here in the interest of fair and blanced cultural reporting. I do not recommend it. Once again, it springs from using the leftovers of other parts of the meal, in this case, a lamb. Let’s see if you can read past the second line:

The liver, lungs, heart and intestines of a young lamb (intestines are optional) but that is what thickens the broth
Lamb’s feet
1 cup spring onions, finely chopped
1 cup dill, chopped
3-4 lemons
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs

¼ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon fresh thyme, or ¼ teaspoon dried
1 cup dry white wine
To prepare organs, blanch them in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove from boiling water, let the meat cool and cut into very small pieces.
In a large pot, add the extra virgin olive oil. Sauté the lamb’s feet for 3 minutes. Add the small organ pieces and continue to sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add 7 cups of water, cover pot and cook at low temperature for about one hour. Add the onions and dill to the pot. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes until the liquid is reduced to about 5 cups. Turn off the heat and let rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs lightly in a bowl. Add the lemon juice a little at a time, beating continuously. While beating, pour in some of the warm broth from the pot. Add the egg-lemon mixture into the soup, and stir lightly. Turn the stove on to medium-heat and bring soup to a simmer without letting it boil. Taste for salt, pepper and lemon. Serve immediately then keel over. recipe from starchefs.com
Neapolitan Easter Soup
The Italians get into the act by adding their own outsider meat (pig’s tail) and throwing in a salami. Make this one if the keilbasa water in the Polish version is not greasy enough for you.

3/4 pound breast of veal
1 pound beef shank
3/4 pound pig’s tails (substitute lean pork if you prefer)
3/4 pound sausage
1/2 pound salami
Fresh parsley and thyme
A little bit of rosemary
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 medium-sized onion
1.5 quarts water
5 pounds cardoons stripped of their fibrous threads, or 5 pounds leafy vegetables (savoy cabbage, lettuce, beet greens etc.)
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt (to be added at the end)
Pepper or hot pepper to taste
On Easter Eve make broth using the meat and the herbs; begin with cold water to cover and place the herbs in a gauze pouch so you can remove them easily when the broth is done (an hour or somewhat more simmering; taste the liquid and correct seasoning). Remove and discard the herbs. Remove the meat from the broth, pluck it from the bones, and set it in a bowl, with enough broth to cover.
The next day skim the fat from the bowl and the soup pot and stir in the wine. Scrub chop and boil the greens until almost done, drain them well, and finish cooking them in the broth with the meats, seasoning to taste. Serve with slices of toasted bread. recipe from italianfood.about.com
Mercifully, the Soup Lady is done talking about Easter Soup.

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Ham and Tomato soup

The Soup Lady sure has a lot of left-over ham around after last week’s adventure with Chunky Ham and Split Pea Soup. Do you know how hard it is to find a small smoked pork shoulder in the supermarket? Oh my, yes – lots and lots of left-over ham.

What to do with it all but to try and recreate a fabulous Ham and Tomato Soup that was had at a lovely little restaurant where the Soup Lady brunched? I think I made a pretty fair recreation of it:

Ham and Tomato Soup
2 cups of cooked ham, cut into a large dice
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup Del Monte Summer Crisp Vacuum Pack Golden Sweet corn (canned)
1 large can of peeled Italian style whole tomatoes
2 potatoes, peeled &cut into 1″ dice
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Tabasco pepper sauce
3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

Squee-ee-ee-ze the tomatoes between your fingers to shred them into an interesting texture. Resist the temptation to use sliced, cut or crushed tomatoes for this soup – one of the best features of it is the rustic texture.

Another defining element is the corn – the Soup Lady recommends Del Monte Summer Crisp Vacuum Pack Golden Sweet Corn which never gets soggy and retains its corny flavor. What a delightful little pop! is produced as each little kernel meets it’s maker. How do they do it? Better living through chemistry, I guess.

Place all ingredients into a large soup pot and simmer together for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the flavors are blended. The tabasco sauce suffuses throughout the other ingredients to enhance the flavors and create a piquant undertone to the whole thing. Yum.

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