Cooking from the Farmers’ Market Back Home

Tomato and Chickpea Soup with Yogurt and Mint 1 3648x2736As soon as we arrived home last week, after a long stay in France, I started stocking our empty fridge and cupboards. Several trips to local supermarkets took care of the basics, but it was at our weekly farmers’ market that I found gorgeous summer vegetables, freshly baked loaves of bread, and locally crafted yogurt.

Honest-to-goodness tomatoes, deep red, juicy, and packed with flavor, were the first thing that caught my eye. They would be perfect to use for a summer tomato and chickpea soup—a dish I had created for my new book, Soup Nights.

The tomatoes need only to be chopped and seeded, then simmered slowly with chickpeas in a cumin-scented broth. Lemon, yogurt, and mint all contribute cooling accents to this soup. I used chicken broth for my version, but vegetarians can sub the quick-and-easy vegetable stock recipe that is also included. Continue reading

Soup and Salad for a Literary Lunch

Last weekend Amherst College hosted a debut literary festival, called LitFest, and invited a roster of notable authors to speak to the college and the community. Lauren Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Angela Flournoy, who wrote Turner House, both 2015 National Book Awards finalists in fiction, discussed how they crafted their books. Stacy Schiff, Putlizer prize- winner, and author most recently of The Witches, and Mark Bowden, who wrote Black Hawk Down, shared their experiences writing nonfiction. Since Stacy was a good friend, we invited her for a quick Saturday lunch during the festival.

I knew the meal had to be simple and made in advance, so I chose a soup and salad menu. As the centerpiece I decided on a cream of celery root soup paired with an arugula salad with lemon and shallot dressing. A dark chocolate hazelnut torte ended our lunch.

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Delicious Chicken Soup for Cool Fall Nights

Creamy Chicken Soup with Autumn Vegetables 1 3648x2736Dear Readers,
No, I have not forgotten about you! I have been writing, re-writing, testing and re-testing recipes for my new book, Soup Nights! The first half of the manuscript was due last Thursday at 5 PM. I hit the “send” button at 4:45! I have a breather now until the next half is due on November 15th, so I wanted to share with all of you a favorite recipe from the batch I just sent off. It’s for delicious Creamy Chicken Soup with Autumn Vegetables.

This is comfort food at its best, perfect to serve as the cool days of fall arrive. Like most cream of chicken soups, it is thickened with a little flour, but the similarities end there. An unexpected addition of fresh autumn produce, including diced butternut squash, sliced Brussels sprouts, and Baby Bella mushrooms enhance this special version, while some half and half enriches it.

For the 2 cups of diced chicken called for, you can use leftover roast chicken. Since I am always in a rush, I rely on a good quality purchased rotisserie bird, a big time saver. If you have extra roast turkey, it would be equally good in this soup. Continue reading

Soup Making with Young Cooks!

Brodo with Spring Peas, Pancetta, and Mint Several days ago two young women, both seniors at Amherst College where my husband teaches, emailed that they had some free time the following week to come and cook with me in my kitchen. Stellar students as well as passionate foodies, they had, during their four years of taking rigorous courses at the college, often found extra hours to cook and, of course, to sample recipes with me. This would be the last time before graduation for us to be in the kitchen together, so I picked some special dishes, including a soup with spring peas, mint, and pancetta.

To prepare the dish we made a rich but quickly assembled broth and then added orecchiette (small ear-shaped pasta), fresh peas, snow peas, and chopped bibb lettuce to the simmering liquid. The brodo was garnished with crispy bits of pancetta, fresh mint, and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. From our first sips, we all adorned this soup with its Continue reading

Winter Soup and a Good Book for Book Club

Winter Tomato and Garlic Soup 1  3648x2736Last week by some miracle (read a blizzard-free night), ten of the thirteen members of my book club braved the freezing temperatures and the snow covered streets and roads of our small New England town to meet at my house for our monthly gathering. Although the menu choices are up to each host, I thought we all needed some comfort food, and decided on a soup supper. A winter tomato and garlic soup garnished with creamy blue cheese bruschette was the centerpiece and a dense chocolate cake the finale. A mixed greens salad tossed with julienned fennel, blood orange segments, and toasted walnuts rounded out the meal. Both the food and the book selection—All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr—got good reviews!All The Light We Cannot See Cover

This delicious tomato soup, vibrantly scented with garlic and unexpectedly with a hint of bracing orange, is a snap to assemble and takes less than half an hour to simmer atop the stove. Although it is pureed, the texture of this rustic soup is still slightly chunky, adding to its charm. You can make this dish several days in advance and reheat it. For the bruschette, toast the baguette slices several hours ahead, then spread them with Gorgonzola and pop them in the oven at serving time. Continue reading

A Comforting Soup for a Cold Night

Fennel and White Bean Soup with Prosciutto 1 2448x2448At the end of last week we had planned to meet a good friend at a new bistro in Paris. But the tragic events that unfolded between Wednesday and Friday were so unsettling that we all agreed a casual dinner at home was a better idea. When I suggested that we gather for a simple soup and salad supper at our small apartment, our pal was on board immediately and offered to bring dessert.

For the main course, I had in mind a rustic soup prepared by sautéing chopped fennel, onion, and carrots and then simmering those vegetables along with white beans in stock. Short on time, I opted for canned beans, rinsing and draining them well before stirring them into the pot, and was delighted with the results. For extra flavor some chopped fresh rosemary and dry white wine balanced the flavors nicely, while crispy julienned prosciutto and golden homemade croutons made fine garnishes. Continue reading

Cooking Smart –A Delicious Soup to Make Ahead

Tomato, Fennel, and Italian Sausage Soup 1 A 3254x2432This fall has seen the coincidental publication of my Sunday Casseroles and When Paris Went Dark—The City of Light During the German Occupation, my husband’s new book. As a consequence, the past two months have been a blur of travel for us. I’ve been to Maine, Boston, and Ohio for book events, and tagged along with my spouse to New York, Washington, and Connecticut for his talks and signings. This chaotic schedule has meant that I’ve had to cook smart, and make plenty of dishes in advance. Soups, it turns out, have been my salvation since they are so easy to do ahead. One of my favorites has been a comforting Italian –style zuppa of tomatoes, fennel, and sausage.

This hearty soup is made by sautéing slices of sweet, fennel-scented Italian sausage along with leeks and then gently simmering the duo in chicken stock and tomatoes. Simple seasonings of basil, red pepper flakes, and garlic round out the robust flavors, while a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano provides a fitting garnish.

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A Warming Soup for Chilly Autumn Nights

Emily's Beans and Greens Soup 1 1824x1368Almost a year ago while visiting my good friend and long-time assistant, Emily Bell, in Columbus, Ohio, I fell hard for a delicious soup she served me. On a cold November night, she sat a shallow bowl in front of me with a mound of brown rice in the middle and a beautiful rust-hued broth with chopped greens and beans ladled over it. A basket of cornbread set near by. One spoonful and I was begging for the recipe.

I couldn’t put my finger on all the flavors, so my host willingly shared the recipe. She had sautéed diced smoked sausage along with onions, carrots, and celery. Next, diced potatoes and minced garlic were added to the soup pot and finally the big flavor makers—chopped collards and kale plus black-eyed peas and field peas. Chicken broth and a can of tomatoes with their juices were the braising liquids for this mélange, which needed to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

A Twist On A Classic

BLT Soup 1  1824x1368I can’t remember a year when the tomato crops have been better. Heirlooms in myriad varieties, red, yellow and orange cherry and grape tomatoes, as well as field tomatoes (or what I call just plain old summer tomatoes) are having a heyday in western New England this summer. They started appearing in August and are still going strong—so strong that I have been using them creatively week after week in recipes like the simple BLT Soup featured here.

After making countless BLT sandwiches, I decided to try the popular trio in a soup and loved the results. Nothing could have been easier. After frying a few bacon slices until crisp, I used a small amount of the drippings to sauté chopped onion, garlic, and fresh tomatoes, and then simmered this mélange in chicken stock and fresh orange juice. Seasonings of basil and cayenne pepper rounded out the flavors. When done, the soup was pureed to a crimson smoothness.

Cooking Indian and Vegetarian–Delicious!

Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables 1I’ve often told my students that I could easily become a vegetarian if I lived in India. I love the way that country’s cooks turn humble ingredients like okra, potatoes, eggplant, spinach, and much more into irresistible temptations. They season vegetables with fragrant spices, combine them with cheeses like paneer, or enrich them with cream, to ensure that they are packed with flavor.

So, I was intrigued while in Paris this January by an article that I spotted in a popular French magazine on Indian dishes made with dahl. The story included basic directions for using red lentils in soups, stews, and side dishes. I tucked the article into my suitcase, and once home, tried some of the recipes. Over the past month I’ve made the red lentil stew with winter squash and cauliflower at least a half dozen times, tweaking it at each try. Continue reading