Soups

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Chicken Matzo Ball Soup: A Passover Favorite

 

I’m not exactly sure why we begin each Passover meal with gefilte fish followed by chicken soup with matzo balls but I have been to enough Sedars to know that this is the unofficial beginning to a long and hearty repast. I love chicken soup year-round and especially when I am feeling the least bit low or sniffly. I am such a chicken soup lover that I always have a quart of this magical potion ready for any emergency stocked in my freezer. Every person who makes it has their own special touch, whether it’s the herbs, vegetables or how they make their matzo balls.

For Passover, however, I like to make my soup up a two or three days ahead to let the flavors mingle. Some of my friends insist on making it a month ahead and freezing it. That works well if you are just going to serve the broth and not the chicken and vegetables. I have made my share of chicken soup recipes. I find that this one, featured in my book Seriously Simple, is my current standby. This recipe gives you a head start because you begin with a good quality store-bought broth which immediately gives the chicken flavoring a headstart.. (Make sure to look for “Kosher for Passover” on the label.)

Skinless bone-in chicken breasts add more chicken flavor. (The bones help to enrich and slightly thicken the soup). The sweet carrot and parsnip flavor are accented by the onion-flavored chopped leeks. For a slight twist, I add tiny cherry or grape tomatoes 0along with chopped fresh mint.

This chicken soup cooks slowly on the stove until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are just tender. The chicken is cut up and returned to the soup awaiting its final pairing with the herbed matzo ball. If you prefer a lighter soup, strain out all the vegetables and chicken and just serve the broth with the matzo balls. (Use the reserved chicken to make chicken salad.

Matzo balls can really get a conversation started. There are those who love floaters and others who love sinkers. I think it has to do with ones early taste memories. I am a light matzo ball appreciator so you will find that these matzo balls are fluffy and floatable. What are my secrets? I use seltzer water to lighten them and I use schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) to enhance the flavor. Chopped fresh parsley and chives add both flavor and color to the pale beige dumpling. You can make up the matzo balls in the morning and keep them at room temperature in a little water until warming them in the chicken soup.

 

Help is on the Way:

 

  • Since the chicken soup begins with chicken broth that usually has some salt in it, salt the soup at the end of cooking
  • Schmaltz can be found in the frozen meat section of many supermarkets. You will also find it at kosher meat markets. Make sure to melt it before using.
  • Use Kosher for Passover oil if you can’t find schmaltz.
  • To lighten the matzo balls even further, separate the eggs andwhip up the egg whites separately. Fold the whites into the matzo ball mixture

 

Quick Chicken Vegetable Soup with Herbed Matzo Balls

 

Serves 6 to 8

 

2 medium whole chicken breasts, halved, skin removed, bone in

8 cups chicken broth

6 cups water

3 medium leeks, light green and white part cleaned, finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 ribs of celery, sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

4 cherry tomatoes, halved

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish

 

Matzo Balls

1/4 cup rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) or vegetable oil

4 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup matzo meal

2 tablespoons fresh parsley plucked and finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup seltzer water, any sparkling water

 

  1. Place the chicken breast, stock and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Skim the soup. Add the onions, carrots, celery, parsnip, mint and tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are just tender. Skim periodically. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

  1. Remove the chicken breasts from the soup and cool slightly. With your hands remove the meat from the bones, making sure to discard any bone or cartilage; tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to the soup. Cover the soup and refrigerate.

 

  1. To make the matzo balls, blend schmaltz or oil and eggs together with a whisk. Add the matzo meal, chopped herbs and salt to the egg mixture and stir together mixing well. Add the seltzer water and blend well. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for half an hour for the mixture to thicken enough to make the matzo balls.

 

  1. Bring enough water in a large wide pot to come up 3/4 of the way to a boil on medium-high heat. Make the balls by rolling them very lightly into 1 1/2-inch balls. (The more you roll them, the tougher and heavier they will become.) Reduce the flame and drop the balls into the barely simmering water. Cover the pot and cook about 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through.

 

  1. When ready to serve, remove the soup from the refrigerator and carefully remove any fat layer from the soup. Reheat the soup on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add the matzo balls at the last minute just until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve in large bowls and garnish with parsley.

 

Advance Preparation: The soup may be made completely ahead up to 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated. The matzo balls can be made up to 4 hours ahead, covered and left at room temperature.

 

Watercress Vichyssoise is a Refreshing Companion to Your Favorite Sandwich

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Chilled soups are the perfect food to eat in the summer’s warm weather. An added bonus is that they should be made ahead which will keep the kitchen cool in the heat of the day. You can make this up 3 days in advance and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cold soups can be a prelude to a lovely meal or be a satisfying companion to a favorite sandwich. I like to serve the soup in small bowls on a large plate to leave room for the sandwich.

Vichyssoise, a pureed cooked vegetable soup, is traditionally served chilled. ““Vish-ee-swaz”, as it is pronounced, usually includes potatoes, leeks and cream. This is a lighter version swapping out chicken broth for the cream. Fresh watercress and basil update this classic summer soup. A finishing dollop of lemon-basil cream gives it a bright, appealing look. If you want a dairy-free version, just garnish with shredded basil instead of the lemon cream. Remember to season the soup just before serving since the flavors become muted when cold.

Here’s a few sandwich combinations to get your creativity going. Don’t forget to seek out artisan breads for best flavor.

  • Cold marinated sliced flank steak and arugula leaves on sourdough rolls spread with spicy mayonnaise
  • Prosciutto, tomatoes, roasted peppers spread with garlic mayonnaise on sesame seed bread
  • Chopped smoked salmon and egg salad on rye bread
  • Cold grilled chicken slices, sliced avocado and tomato Salsa stuffed in a warm sesame pita bread
  • Fresh crumbled goat cheese, marinated sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red and yellow peppers on a sourdough roll spread with garlic mayonnaise

Watercress Basil Vichyssoise with Lemon Cream

Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium leeks, white part only, cleaned and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 pounds white rose potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

¼ cup basil leaves

1 medium bunch watercress, leaves only

8 cups chicken broth

Salt and white pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Lemon cream

1/2 cup sour cream

2    tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1    tablespoon finely chopped basil leaves

  1. In medium soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add potatoes and continue sauteing for about 5 more minutes or until softened. Add watercress and basil and continue sauteing 3 minutes or until wilted.
  1. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  1. Puree soup in blender or puree with an immersion blender right in the pot. Pour into medium bowl. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  1. To make lemon cream: combine all ingredients in small bowl and mix until well blended.
  1. To serve, ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with dollop of lemon cream cream.

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Corn and Tomato Soup

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 5 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped, about 2 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups corn kernels (about 4 ears), cobs reserved and cut in half
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup croutons
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes; cook until slightly softened, 3 minutes. Add the flour; stir until flour dissolves. Cook 2 more minutes.
  2. Add the corn kernels, basil leaves, tomato paste, chicken stock and corncobs. Heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 25 minutes. Remove the corncobs and discard.
  3. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or food processor. Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a large container. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve, garnished with croutons, a dollop of sour cream and a basil sprig.

Makes 4 servings

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into 1/2-inch by 2-inch strips
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Topping:

  • 4 corn tortillas, preferably stale or at least dry, halved crosswise and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 dried chili (such as pasilla), stemmed, seeded, and seeds squeezed out through the top
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic cloves and chopped cilantro, and saute until golden brown, making sure the mixture does not burn, for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a blender or a food processor, combine the vegetables from the pan with the drained tomatoes and blend until smooth.
  3. In the same frying pan heat, over medium-high heat, warm the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the tomato-vegetable mixture and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and darkened, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture into a large saucepan, and add the chicken stock. Simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally or until it is slightly thickened. Add the chicken slices and simmer for another 2-3 minutes or until just cooked through. Taste for seasoning.
  5. While the soup is cooking, prepare the toppings: To toast the tortilla strips and chili: Heat the oven to 400 F. Place the tortilla strips and the dried chili on a baking sheet, spread them evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 7-8 minutes or until crisp and beginning to brown. (Don’t let the chili burn). Let the chili cool and then crumble and set aside. Reserve for the garnish.

To Serve

Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Divide the tortilla strips, crumbled chili, cilantro, avocado, cheese and lime juice evenly among each bowl. Serve immediately.

Tips

  • Try to find fresh, handmade tortillas for a more authentic flavor. Cut them as below and dry them out by leaving them on the counter for an hour before cooking.
  • The tortillas are toasted here to avoid using extra fat. If you wish, you can fry the tortilla strips in vegetable oil for a richer result. To fry the tortillas heat about 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Drop a tortilla strip in the oil and see if it begins to fry. If so, drop handfuls of tortilla strips in the oil and fry, turning with tongs, until crisp and brown, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  • For the cheese, select the traditional queso fresco or shredded Monterey Jack. For an extra kick, try Manchego, with its slightly nutty flavor, or Cotija, a dried, sharp, aged cheese similar to Pecorino Romano, sometimes called “The Parmesan of Mexico.”
  • To make this vegetarian: Substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock, omit the chicken and add some chopped carrots and zucchini to the soup.
  • Choose a dried chili that will add the right amount of heat for you. If you want extra heat, try a chipotle or ancho chile.

 

Makes 4 servings.

Puree of Vegetable Soup

vegetablesoup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, cleaned light green part and white part, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 3 medium (about 1 pound) white Rose potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup cooked, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the leek and saute for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the carrots, zucchini and potatoes and saute for about 3 more minutes or until mixed well and beginning to soften.
  2. Add the tomato paste and chicken stock and simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the garbanzo beans and cook another 3 minutes or until heated through. Add the salt and pepper.
  3. Process the soup with a hand blender in the soup pot until pureed. Add the parsley and taste for seasoning.
  4. To serve: Ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with the parsley and lemon rind.

Tips

To dress this up consider adding a dollop of Basil pesto or Sun-dried tomato pesto to the herb garnish. Cheese croutons would also be a good accompaniment.

Serves 4-6 people.

Puree of Butternut Squash and Chestnut Soup with Chipotle Cream

butternut

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 pound peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 1 (7 or 8) ounce bottle roasted or steamed chestnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Chipotle Cream

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle puree or 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream salt and white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks and sauté for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the squash and chestnuts and cook 3 more minutes or until nicely coated. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add the stock, syrup, salt and pepper, and mix together. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low and, cover and simmer over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, or until the chestnuts are tender. Add the lemon juice.
  2. Meanwhile make the chipotle cream: combine the chipotle puree with creme fraiche in a small bowl and mix to combine. Season with salt and taste for seasoning. Reserve.
  3. Puree the soup in the pan with a hand blender or in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Return the soup to the pot if necessary. Taste for seasoning.
  4. To serve, ladle the soup into heated bowls, swirl in a tablespoon of chipotle cream and garnish with chopped chives.

Advance Preparation

May be prepared up to 3 days in advance, covered and refrigerated. Reheat gently. This soup also freezes well. Adjust the seasonings when you reheat the frozen soup.

Serves 4-6 people.

Cabbage Beef Borscht

cabbage

Ingredients

  • 6 medium beets, cleaned and trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds stewing beef, cut into bite-size pieces, about 1½-inches
  • 2 medium leeks, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes, well drained
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, coarsely shredded
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 sprigs fresh dill weed
  • 5 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar +1 tablespoon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup sour cream, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill weed, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Place the beets in a large saucepan and cover with an inch of water. Place over medium heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until fork tender. Remove the beets from the pan, reserving 2 cups of the beet juice and place them in a colander. Run under cold running water and peel. Cut the beets into ¾ inch pieces and reserve.
  2. In a large soup pot heat 2 tablespoons of the oil on medium-high heat. Brown the meat in batches, making sure not to crowd the meat, for about 5-7 minutes for each batch. Reserve the beef.
  3. Add the remaining oil and saute the leeks and carrots for about 5-7 minutes or until nicely softened and lightly browned.
  4. Add the 2 cups of the beet juice, reserved beef, tomatoes, cabbage, water, tomato paste and dill weed to the vegetables making sure to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, partially covered, over medium heat and cook for 1½ hours or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork.
  5. Add the reserved beets, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper and simmer 5 more minutes. Taste for seasoning. You may need to adjust the sweet and sour flavoring to your taste.
  6. To serve: Ladle borscht into deep soup bowls and garnish with sour cream and a sprig of dill weed.

Tips

To avoid red hands and stained cutting boards, use kitchen gloves and place a piece of plastic wrap or foil on the cutting  board. If you find beet stains on your cutting board, use a little bleach cleanser and the stains will come out.

Serve it with big chunks of warm country bread and soft butter.  You can also steam little potatoes and add them to the soup at the last minute.

Serves 8 to 10 people.