Category Archives: soup

Smoked Cheddar Gougeres

gougere side view

We stood schmoozing around the kitchen island, savoring pillowy gougeres followed easily with sweet champagne, when it happened. Maybe the threat of the impending winter chill drew us closer together, or perhaps it was our need to tangibly express the deep connections we had formed, but suddenly, each person’s arms encircled the two waists of those standing closest, and we broke into singing the alma mater “Hark the Sound.”

When we completed the song, we were changed. What began as a class of strangers became a family. As I would later tell tour groups of potential students and their parents, that fleeting moment reaffirmed my love for the community I found at UNC.

gougere top view

I suppose that’s what I’ve sought to recreate since I’ve graduated. Wherever I go, I crave those arms around me, and I’ve been lucky enough to find them.

Tomorrow I go into surgery, and already I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received from people both near and far. I’ve realized how much I value community — sometimes one needs a reminder. It’s nice to have lots of arms to fall into.

Once again I find myself in a moment like the one that occurred around my professor’s kitchen island, where everything came together in a moment of delicious clarity. And I thank you, friends and family, for that.

Recipe based of off this one. The best smoked cheddar ever can be ordered online here.

Smoked Cheddar Gougeres
Makes about three dozen

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Large pinch of coarse salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

1) Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms; stir over low heat until it dries out and pulls away from the pan, about 2 minutes.
2) Scrape the dough into a mixing bowl; let cool for 1 minute. (Waiting a bit ensures that the eggs won’t cook and scramble in the dough.) Beat the eggs into the dough, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly between each one. Add the cheese and a pinch each of pepper and nutmeg.
3) Transfer the dough to a large plastic bag and cut about 1/2 inch off the corner diagonally. Pipe tablespoon-size mounds onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 22 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Serve hot, or let cool and refrigerate or freeze. Reheat in a 350° oven until piping hot.

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Spinach & Tomato Tortellini Soup

It’s that time of year. Of life, actually. A point where I must begin to make decisions to secure gainful employment, financial security and a place to live that isn’t with, or funded by, my parents. So far it’s been rather anticlimactic. Moments of Zen-like calm precede 90-minute job-seeking marathons, followed by thoughts like, “Maybe I should just hang out in Europe for a bit.” And then, again, calm–most prevalent and seemingly illogical considering the state of “this economy.” (Cue dark organ music)

I often feel like the New York Times article “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” personified, the question mark perpetually superimposed over everything I see and touch, like those index cards my high school Spanish teacher stuck on every object in her room, identifying their Spanish names. “La television” and “el escritorio.” Except there’s no clear answer this time. I get to fill in the blank.

Impressively and patiently, my parents take it all in stride. Some days, I inundate my dad’s inbox with new plans of jobs and internships, of English-teaching opportunities, of I-want-to-be-Samantha-Brown aspirations. “What do you want to do [with your life] today?” is one of his common greetings.

What I want is an opportunity that will foster, rather than contain, my enthusiasm, cause a snowball effect where I stumble over my words and letters and phrases with the wanting, the craving to get them out fast enough so I can hurry up and do more and see more and say more and have my life be an endless run-on sentence instead of a question mark or, even worse, a period.

Yes, that’s what I want. Lots and lots of doing with only the most promising of punctuation.

So you can see what we’re dealing with here. My mind fluctuates more than spring weather in North Carolina. Speaking of which…

I made this soup when the weather was cold. (By my definition–we’re talking 50 degrees or so.) Now, the weather is warm. Miraculously, this soup is well-suited for both occasions, hearty with its bean backbone and springy with its fresh basil freckles.

This recipe is from The Italian Momma of pizza and pesto fame. It won’t be the last you see of her, not by a long shot.

Spinach & Tomato Tortellini Soup:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces chicken broth
16 ounces of water (use chicken broth container to measure)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
16 ounces frozen tortellini
16 ounces canned, diced tomatoes, with the juice
16 ounces canned cannellini beans
10 ounces spinach, washed and stemmed
10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

1) In a large pot (I used my Dutch oven), saute garlic in oil and butter for about two minutes on medium-low heat.
2) Add broth, water and bouillon cubes to the pot and bring to a boil. Add frozen tortellini and cook for half the directed cooking time written on the package. (Around five minutes.)
3) Add tomatoes and juice, reduce heat to simmer for a few more minutes. Stir in spinach, beans and basil, and simmer for another minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated cheese.

Tuscan Bean Soup

It’s finally fall here.

I mean, I think it’s fall here. I never really know if I’ll wake up to encounter another 80-degree day. I’m taking advantage of the cooler weather to make soup in thematic, autumnal colors. I hope this weather will last, though, ’cause I adore soup.

Also, I’ve been needing to eat more vegetables. My birthday was last week, so I’m still recovering from my ice-cream-and-cupcake-and-chocolate-cake-induced coma. Soup is basically an excuse to throw a bunch of vegetables in a pot and see what happens. It’s as close to a science experiment I’ll get now that I’m solely a humanities girl.

This recipe’s from The Kitchen Bible, which I adore because it has a picture of every single recipe.

Tuscan Bean Soup:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
2 garlic clovers, diced
1 quart (1 liter) vegetable stock
one 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
one 15 oz can white kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
9 oz spinach
salt and black pepper
Italian bread
Parmesan cheese

1) Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots and leek and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the stock, tomatoes and their juices and tomato paste.
2) In a bowl, mash half the beans with a fork and stir into a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
3) Add the remaining beans and spinach and simmer for 30 minutes more.
4) Place a slice of bread in each soup bowl. Ladle in the soup and top with Parmesan cheese.

What fall-inspired recipes do you make when cooler weather arrives?

Chicken Noodle Soup

There is no excuse for this picture. Except that I’m sick and also was hungry at the moment I captured this disgusting photo.

This recipe, however, is not disgusting. It’s really, really delicious. And it used up the rest of my roasted chicken. And it made me feel like my mom was in the next room ready to cater to my next whim. She wasn’t, but at least I didn’t have to eat out of a can.

Chicken Noodle Soup:
For the broth
leftover roasted chicken
1 onion
1 celery stalk

1) In big pot, put in chicken bones and skin, saving the leftover meat. Fill pot 3/4 full with water. Throw in big pieces of onion and celery. Simmer for 5 minutes.
2) Bring to boil, and let boil for 5 to 10 minutes, then simmer for about 2 hours covered, and 30 minutes uncovered.

For the soup
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1 onion
leftover chicken from roasted chicken
thyme

1) To make noodles, combine eggs, salt, baking powder and flour, knead until resembles pie dough. Spread additional flour on rolling pin and counter. Roll dough very thin
2) Dry the dough for 20 minutes, then cut skinny strips with pizza cutter, then cut the strips short, about 1 inch. Let dry again.
3) Meanwhile, heat broth. Add chopped carrots, celery and onion and bring to boil. Cook until tender.
4) Add chicken pieces and thyme, then add noodles. Cook until noodles are soft.