Category: soup

The Best Vegetarian Chili

This is no ordinary, ho-hum watery veggie bean chili. This recipe is smoky, complex, rich in flavor and texture. We made this for a pumpkin party and everyone RAVED, then asked for the recipe and for seconds. I’m on day 3 of leftovers and am still happy to eat this. I recommend serving it with Pumpkin Cornbread and all of the garnishes your heart desires. Really, make this chili. The recipe serves 12-15. It can be halved, as in the original version from from Saveur.

2 cans dark kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
24 cloves garlic, minced (I totally used the pre-minced stuff in a jar)
1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (Chop all the chiles except for 3. Reserve the adobo sauce for extra heat if desired.)
4 bay leaves
1 large white onion, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, minced
16 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
12 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cans canned hominy, drained
1 cup tomato paste
4 TBS. red wine vinegar
4 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. chili powder
1 package sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
Sour cream, to garnish
Minced cilantro, to garnish
Minced red onion, to garnish
Queso fresco, to garnish – Any cheese will work, but this salty, semi-firm option crumbles nicely and looks pretty against the dark colors of the beans and tomatoes.

1.      Put kidney beans and pinto beans into a large pot and cover with 3″ water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Set pot aside.

2.      Heat oil in a VERY large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, chipotle chiles, bay leaves, onions, and jalapenos and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden, 12–15 minutes. This smells awesome.

3.      Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in reserved beans and their cooking liquid, stir to combine.

4.      Add the hominy, tomato paste, vinegar, thyme, oregano, cumin, chili powder, sun-dried tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chili thickens and flavors meld, about 1 hour. Turn off the heat to help thicken, and/or add more tomato paste.

5.      Serve chili topped with sour cream, cilantro, queso fresco and red onions. Prepare for double helpings – and filling tupperwares!

January is Eat-at-Home Month

As usual, I was a bit overzealous in my holiday gift buying, leaving my budget a bit depleted. It’s hard not to buy things that make me think of people! And by extension, not to treat myself along the way. The thought process goes something like this:” Well, they asked for fun socks and it’s a better deal to buy this large pack, so then I can keep several pairs too because I also need socks.”

Fortunately, there are solutions. Like a diet, little decisions to change add up to bigger results. Bar hop after work? Nah. Pick up a $3 hazelnut coffee? I can have free coffee in the office. Running late and tempted to say f– it? I can always pack peanut butter. And despite what Target thinks, I really don’t NEED another pumpkin spice candle, even if it’s on clearance. So this month is eat-in month.

The Plan: At my house we’re alternating being in charge of dinners – flipping chef or sous chef titles – by each selecting 2-3 recipes for the week and purchasing the necessary ingredients.  We also have some flexibility to eat out one lunch a week, and a dinner out with limited beverages. DC martinis cost something ridiculous like $12 each. So far, eat at home month has turned out a couple new standby’s. A few recipes so far:

  • Easy Tomato-Vegetable soup with rosemary crackers and hummus
  • Crock Pot Beef Stew – held the peas and wine, added tomato juice
  • Fun-shaped Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Lemon-rosemary White Bean Dip
  • Pad See-Ew (literally “soy sauce stir-fry“) with Chicken — An eating out splurge, though I do dream of having Thai noodle cooking skills
  • Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers with soy sauce and sesame oil — The  frozen potstickers were so-so, but I am a huge fan of mixing 2 parts soy sauce: 1 part sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or garlic and it’s a party in your mouth.
  • Chicken Gumbo with Sausage soup — canned, with oddly crunchy white rice

On the menu this week:

It’s great being an omnivore, isn’t it? Updates to come! Other simple but tasty dine-in dinner suggestions welcome.

First Fall Soup: Chicken Sausage ‘n Bean

For no particular reason I couldn’t get to sleep last night. I futzed around, watching SVU reruns on TV, replying to emails from people, thinking about my Austria trip on the horizon, and tossing a foil ball up and down the hallway to my cat’s delight. I think I finally tucked in around 1am — which explains why my productivity and energy took a nosedive.

To salvage what’s left of my alert brain, I present my first fall soup recipe: chicken sausage, beans and kale.  It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s healthy and surprisingly flavorful.  The recipe is adapted from an old Real Simple recipe. Aside: I like Real Simple in general, but often find their recipes bland – they’re too simple. Fortunately, this soup is an exception.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cans of beans, any kind, drained – I used butter and white beans this time
  • 13 oz package of precooked sausage, cut into 1/4″  pieces – I favor Al Fresco chicken sausages
  • 16 oz vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes or tomato sauce – If using tomato sauce, you may want to toss in a few halved cherry or grape tomatoes for texture
  • 2 cups + kale, roughly chopped or torn
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Heat oil in soup pot over medium-low. Add the cut sausage and brown them without moving the pieces, 3-4 minutes. Resist the urge to stir! I only halfway succeeded – as evidenced by the photo at right.

2. Flip the sausage pieces and allow other side to brown a bit. Add the garlic.  Now you can stir to your heart’s content.

3. Add the beans, broth, tomatoes and basil to the pot, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to medium and bring the contents to a simmer. Once  simmering, add the chopped kale and stir it in, allowing the leaves to wilt for 3-5 minutes. (I poke the leaves down into the broth to speed up this process. A patient chef I am not.)

4. You’re done! Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and serve with a side of crusty bread or crunchy crackers. Mmmm…warm flavors and colors of fall. And it’s ready in ~20 minutes.

I made this on a Sunday night and had 4 lunch-sized tupperwares of leftovers — after eating probably 2 servings for dinner.  This reheats well too – just be wary of the garlic!

Comfort in a Bowl: Avgolemono Soup

Avgolemono literally means ‘egg lemon’ in Greek.  I don’t remember what inspired sampling this soup at a nearby Greek diner, but I was instantly hooked. Don’t let the idea of eggs in soup turn you off; this is 180 degrees different from egg drop soup. This week I made a jumbo pot of it, consuming 3 bowls without blinking an eye –  and am happy as a clam. It’s like the Greek version of chicken ‘n dumplings. Best of all, for all the smooth creaminess you taste, it’s lactose free!

  • 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken broth – vegetable broth would work too
  • 1 cup orzo (or long grain rice, but I prefer how orzo feels in my mouth)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 10 TBS fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 TBS grated lemon zest – or the zest of about 3 lemons
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh dill, slightly chopped
1. In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil.  Add orzo; cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until orzo is al dente. (If using rice, add another cup of chicken broth. Simmer until grains are tender.) Do not drain; set aside.

2. In a bowl, squeeze lemon juice and zest. Add eggs and whisk until foamy and a bit thick. Gradually add 1/2 cup hot broth from saucepan, whisking constantly. Add two more 1/2 cups of broth, whisking after each addition. Whisk until froth increases and the color looks like light lemon or butter cream. (The orzo should stay in the saucepan with some of the broth).

3. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan and reheat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until egg cooks and soup slightly thickens. Do not boil, or eggs will curdle. The froth will remain on top but settle out as time passes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and top with dill sprig. Serve hot or cold.

As for a wine pairing, I enjoyed a 2009 Vidonya, a Vinho Verde from Portugal apparently. Light and crisp, but not acidic or sweet. (The picture makes the wine look dark as it’s on top of my dark coffee table). I adapted the recipe from Oprah. This recipe serves 8, but can be halved successfully.