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The Soup Lady is poised – as are we all –  on the brink of another new year. Never one to leave things to chance, the Soup Lady has always believed in stacking the deck as much as possible to ensure that the coming year will be a lucky one.

It seems that every year, a new ritual was added because  although the old year was fairly lucky, who couldn’t use just a little more luck in the year to come? Our list was taken from international customs and nothing was too obscure to be added. We tried mightily to accomplish all this in the 120 seconds between 11:59 of the old year  and 12:01 of the new year:

  • sweeping out the old year, by starting at the back end of the house and headed for the open front door (started at 11:59 and reaching the front door at exactly midnight – best accomplinshed by two synchronized sweepers moving between a double row of cheering party guests)
  • children banging on pots and pans begins now
  • sweeping coins into the house
  • bagpiper commences playing Auld Lang Syne ( some years this is done on the accordian insteead of the bagpipes)
  • "first footer" enters through the front door, carrying butter
  • kissing
  • champaign
  • black-eyed peas, pork, fish and donuts are consumed for good luck (not a good combination, but too  risky  to leave anything out)

Believe it or not, it took a number of years before it became evident that feeding tuna fish and sparkling apple juice to small children who are all riled up from intense pot-banging at mignight was ill-advised. Finding two clean brooms suitable for indoor use was always problematic and the garage broom was pressed into service at the last minute, doing more harm than good, cleanliness-wise. The kids grew up, the accordian player moved away and some of the customs fell away.

One ritual that remains  is eating blackeyed peas at the stroke of midnight. Well not just one – the kissing and the drinking made the cut, too.  Since the weather in New Jersey today is chilling dampness and dreary rain, what could be better than black-eyes peas in a soup? And if one bean is good, nine must be even better.

Here is the way they treat the beans in Houston, courtesy of Dave, long-time Friend of the Soup,  maker of Saurkraut Soup and Squash Geese, and host of Groundhog Day revelry.

9 BEAN SOUP

1/4 cup each of red, pinto, garbanzo, navy, baby lima, black-eyed peas, black, great northern and kidney beans
6 strips bacon, cut into 1" pieces
2 tablespoons of  butter

2 large onions (Texas 1015 or Vidalia)
, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped

1 chile pepper, chopped
4 cans beef consume

2 cans water

salt and pepper to taste.

  • Prepare the beans by soaking beans according to package directions.
  • In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it renders the fat and bacon is slightly crisp.
  • Remove the  bacon pieces and add oil or butter to the pan.
  • Surprise onion, peppers and garlic
    by throwing them into the hot fat. Add 1 tblsp salt, 2 tsps pepper
    simmer for about half an hour until soft and reduced in volume by half
    .
  • In a large stock pot, add beans, consume and water
    along with sauteed vegetables.
  • Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until beans are tender.
  • Correct seasonings. Remove 2 cups of soup, blend and return to pot to thicken.
  • Add tobasco and/or cayenne to taste for last-minute zing.

9_bean_soup

Dave writes:

Dear Soup Lady, This was last night’s dinner. The salad is Romaine and Boston Bibb lettuce with Clementine Tangerines from Spain, chunks of aged stilton cheese, boiled egg white slices and bacon bits in poppyseed dressing.  The bread is rye laced with prosciutto slivers.  The wine is a hearty South African red table wine.
I may have overdone the blending bit on the soup.  I blended 3 cups of the soup instead of two.  It is just a tad thicker than I intended but not pasty.

I’m sure it’s just fine, dear, but if the Soup Lady made this,  2 cups of beef consome would be replaced by chicken stock and there’d be a flurry of  crushed red pepper flakes added. Happy New year!

The first significant snow of the season has fallen upon New Jersey and if that isn’t a call to make a hearty soup, I don’t know what is. As a general rule, the Soup Lady tries to avoid restaurant soup. I know I’m not the only one who thinks that’s how they get rid of yesterday’s leftovers. The one soup in this category that cannot be resisted is Carrabba’s Sausage and Lentil Soup.

The soup is spicy (another tip-off that the ingredients are not quite fresh)  but in this case I chose to ignore that. It’s not hard to reproduce at home – this is my stab at it. A small green salad, some nice bread  and some fresh fruit at the end is all you need to make this a completely satisfying meal.

Sausage and Lentil Soup

1. In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of oil. Add one carrot – diced, two stalks of celery– diced, one large onion– chopped  and two cloves of crushed garlic.  Saute until tender.

2. Remove vegetables from the pan and and add one pound of hot Italian sausage, removed from the casing, to the pan. Brown the drain off fat.

3. In a large stockpot, place eight cups of chicken broth, the sauteed vegetables and the sausage meat.  Open two cans of whole tomatoes, break them up by squeezing them with your hands and add to the soup along with the juice. Add two cups of dried lentils which have been washed according to package directions.

4. Season with one teaspoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds and one bay leaf.

5. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 30-45 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the soup and puree it using an hand-held blender, then return it to the pot. Correct seasonings and remove bay leaf.

The Soup Lady likes it hot, so I added a bit more red pepper. Sometimes I like to add  a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach to the pot, or to serve it with some red wine vinegar floating on top. 

 

Now we find ourselves at the end of Halloween week and more than a few of you are eyeing up the old Jack O’Lantern and thinking what a waste it is to just throw it out.  What with all that wholesome apple harvesting and hay riding going on right now, you might get to thinking that you can turn your decorative pumpkins into pies. It’s not your fault- even the most reluctant cooks can be overcome by the heady scent of cider – who wouldn’t start thinking that?

Do you know any first-time pumpkin converters who had the delusional notion that they could (a) be clever (b) be thrifty (c) be old-fashioned by hacking up their old Jack O’Lanterns before they go moldy and turning them into pies?  Has anyone of them ever reported a different result that "it was all stringy and didn’t tasted awful"?

There’s a reason for that – the pumpkins that are cultivated for appearance and size are not the ones that are cultivated for taste!  Shocking!  Haven’t we already learned this lesson with the Red Delicious Apple and the American Beauty Rose? Composed of one part appearance, one part  extended shelf life , there’s nothing else to recommend them? Form triumphs over function yet again.

This illuminating article about  pumkpin puree informs us that :

"Over the years, Libby’s used agricultural research and selective systems to develop a special variety of pumpkin (a type of squash) ideal for canning and consistent quality. That would be the Dickinson squash with rich, golden-orange color and creamy texture.
These are very different from Halloween field pumpkins; the Dickinsons are smaller, squat, meatier, heavier, sweeter and more dense."

And, my dears – pumpkin is  a superfood.

"Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A … It’s an excellent source of fiber and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals — even if the pumpkin comes right out of a can."

This rich soup comes from the Libby’s web site where other of their corporate brand products are included in every recipe. Less obedient recipe readers might substitute  their own chicken broth and heavy cream. There is no substitue for Libby’s pure-pack pumpkin and that is as it should be.

PUMPKIN  and GORGONZOLA SOUP

1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 1/2 cups water 
2 teaspoons MAGGI Instant Chicken Flavor Bouillon
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 can (12 fl. oz.) CARNATION Evaporated Milk
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 large green onion, finely chopped

Directions:

COOK pumpkin, water, bouillon and sage in large saucepan, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil.

STIR in evaporated milk and cheese. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring frequently, until most of cheese is melted.
SPRINKLE with green onion before serving.
SEASON with ground black pepper.

recipe from VeryBestBaking.com

I read the consumer reviews on the webiste before I made this soup and heeded the warning that the recipe as written delivered a bland result, so I added dried oregano, ground nutmeg, salt and lots of ground black pepper. I also incorporated  two  sliced green onions into the soup as it cooked.

Also, please note that LIBBY’S Pure Canned Pumpkin shares supermarket shelf space with LIBBY’S Canned Pumpkin Pie Mix. The cans are similar in size and heft – read the labels to be sure you are getting what you want – the pure pumpkin puree.

Tang Pie

file under:  I Eat It So You Don’t Have To

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun and the Soup Lady is auditioning old-fashioned crowd pleasers for the big day. Trendy, chi-chi, healthful or even moderately nutritious just won’t do for this biggest of food holidays. No – calories, cholesterol and other modern standards of culinary decency be damned.

Dishes offered on this holiday ideally should be made of a combination of the following attributes: seasonal produce, family tradition, rich & decadent, extravagant presentation, and/or warm and spicy. At the very least, it should a color of the season.  Today’s recipe is pale orange in color and that’s about it.

Ask your self these questions: Am I tired of the 500 Ways to Serve Pumpkin?  Are there too many celebrations of the cranberry? Is your personal creedo No Jello Under Any Circumstances? Are you now or have you ever been enamored of astronauts? If you’ve answered YES to any of these, then here is something just right for you:

Tang Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust, baked.

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 8-oz carton sour cream

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Tang powder. 
1 8-oz tub Cool Whip.

1. Mix the milk, sour cream, and Tang together. 
2. Fold in half of the Cool
Whip.
3. Spoon into the pie shell. 
4. Top with the rest of the Cool Whip.
5. Chill.

(The exceedingly adventurous may substitute any other sort of instant drink powder)

recipe found at Chef Andy’s Jell-O Pages

As the former frat house resident who actually assembled this concoction points out, Tang is about as adventurous as you can get when it comes to instant drink powder as a dessert ingredient. And how was it?

It was heavy in every sense of the word: heavy to lift out of the refrigerator, heavy enough by the forkfull to require a better-than-average grip on the cutlery,  heavy on the stomach after it goes down and heavy on the concience for serving it to your friends and family. It’s also waaaay too sweet and leaves you with unpeasantly sour aftertaste. On the plus side, it was very creamy and had a delightful pale orange color but that is not enough to save it.

Recommendation: leave this one alone or at best, treat this  as an urban myth.  Instead of serving this at the end of a good meal, print out this picture, show it around and speculate about it for a bit of post-prandial entertainment.

Tang_pie_2

The Soup Lady is no home economist so please don’t consider this as official nutritional labeling, but a rough additon of the total calories of the ingredients divided by 8 gives you about 600 calories per serving.  Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya?

The Soup Lady recently had occasion to visit King’s Fish House in California and ordered some White Bean and Salmon soup.

The menu proudly announces that the soups are made fresh daily from scratch. It remains unclear what exactly they were scratching when they made this one because it was a huge disappointment.  Although the chunks of salmon in the bowl were sizable and plentiful, I don’t recall any actual beans in there and the tomato-based broth was quite watery.

Never one to give up at the first skirmish, the Soup Lady continued to think about just how good this  could be. A little internet research turned up a few recipes that were surprisingly different beyond the basic beans and fish ingredients. After a week in the test kitchen, I find that this one is the best of the bunch.

The recipe comes from  Prevention.com so you know it’s got to be good for you, too. The website says:  "The ingredients in this hearty meal not only help prevent cancer and heart disease–they also stave off ulcers."  Stave off more than that, I bet, with its double whammy of cabbage and beans in the same pot. Have mercy!

 

White Bean Soup with Cabbage and Salmon

1 cup navy beans, picked over, rinsed, and soaked overnight
2½ cups water

2 cups chicken broth

6 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
½ pound skinned salmon fillet, cut into 1" chunks
2 ounces (2 thick slices) Canadian bacon, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine the beans, water, broth, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes, or until the beans are very tender. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

2. In a food processor or blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover to keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the cabbage and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for 6 minutes, or until lightly browned and tender.

4. Add to the soup.

5. In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the salmon and bacon. Sprinkle with the thyme.

6. Cook, stirring gently, for 3 minutes, or until the salmon is lightly browned and just opaque.

7. Gently stir the salmon mixture into the soup.         
Makes 4 Servings

21415101_debf13b6d0_o

The Soup Lady is proud to announce that The Soup is now part of the Carnival of New Jersey Bloggers.  Visit  Reihl World View where Chef Dan serves up this week’s menu, with help from the sous chef Mr. Snitch.

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 Huancaina
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.  Saute 2 finely diced jalapeno  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 Huancaina is best served at room temperature.
recipe from
Whats4Eats.com

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.