Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wonton Soup With Veggies

Back where I grew up there was a Chinese restaurant down the road that served the best wonton soup. If you ordered a large bowl of it for a meal, it had a ton of veggies in it and was divine. This is my take on that soup.

1/2 # ground pork
1 pkg wonton wrappers
1 small bu. green onions, sliced, green and white parts separated
1 can water chestnuts, drained, rinsed, and halved
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 head of pak or bok choi, washed and chopped - freeze white harder parts for stir fry another time, and save the soft dark green tips for this soup
1 can bean sprouts, drained(I like 2 cans, but we're crazy about sprouts so that's just me)
1 can bamboo shoots, rinsed and chopped
1 can baby corn, rinsed
1/4 # fresh or small package of frozen snow peas, trimmed and cleaned if necessary
2-14.5 oz cartons of chicken stock
1 T miren or sherry
2 T soy sauce
1 t fresh grated ginger root
1 T oyster sauce
1/8 t sesame oil
salt and pepper

In bowl, combine white parts of scallions, ginger, oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper, a pinch of salt, rice wine/sherry, and mix well. Add ground pork and blend, careful not to overwork the meat. Place some wax or parchment paper on a cookie sheet and cover with a damp tea towel. Fill a small glass with water for sealing the wontons. Use another damp tea towel to cover the wonton wrappers once package is opened so they do not dry out, which causes them to tear more easily. Put approximately a teaspoon-2 teaspoons of filling in the center of each wonton, and dipping your finger in the water, moisten the edges. Fold diagonally, pressing closed and pushing any air out from the center of the wontons. Then moisten the two opposing corners and bring them together on the other side of the enclosure. Place under tea towel on cookie sheet, repeating the process until all of the filling is gone. Leaving covered, place wontons in the fridge to chill for approximately 30 minutes to help solidify the sealing so they will be less likely to open during cooking.
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, bring the veggies and chicken stock to a boil, then reduce, cover, and allow to simmer. In a smaller pot, bring water to a boil to cook the wontons. They are not cooked in the main soup pot as they give off quite a bit of starch that makes the soup very cloudy, so they will be par-boiled.
After 30 min of chilling, add the wontons in batches to the boiling water, cooking approximately 6-8 minutes until tender. Add to soup and cook another 10-15 minutes or until well cooked through. Serve garnished with green parts of green onions.

Rec: This soup is especially good when any left over wontons wrappers are sliced into strips, pan fried and used as an additional garnish.

Notes: Excellent when paired with Sprout, Cabbage, and Shrimp Eggrolls

If you are cooking for less than a crowd, then freeze half of your prepared wontons, cut back on the veggies and halve the stock so there's less prep the next time you decide to make this soup.

I recommend keeping the par-boiled wontons separate from the soup if you have reason to believe that you will not be eating it all and there will be leftovers. Add a serving of the wontons to the soup each time you heat it up. If you store the soup with the wontons in the fridge overnight, the wontons will become over-saturated and mushy.

White Bean, Wheat Berry & Escarole Soup

If you're not into "health food", don't let the title of this one put you off - it's so hearty and delicious, you'll forget that it's good for you.

1# Dried lima beans, picked over (sub: navy or any other white bean of choice)
2 smoked ham hocks
8 c. chicken stock
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 c. wheat berries
2 med onions, diced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1# escarole, washed, ribs removed, and chopped (sub: Swiss chard or kale)
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 t dried rosemary, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 t thyme
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
Pecorino Romano cheese(sub: fresh parmesan)

Day before: Soak beans in 8 c water and 3 T of salt overnight.

In soup pot, saute onion, carrot, celery, rosemary, thyme, and bay in EVO with a pinch of salt and pepper until softened. Add ham hocks, beans, garlic and stock, bringing to boil. Turn down to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring and skimming off froth and scum from top occasionally. Add wheat berries, removing ham hocks and setting aside to cool. Let simmer another 1-2 hours, until beans are tender and wheat berries are cooked through. During this time, when ham bones have cooled, remove meat and set aside, discarding gristle, bones, and fat. Make sure any softened marrow left in the bones is removed with a butter knife and added to the soup pot. When beans are ready, add escarole, ham meat, and additional salt and pepper if necessary. Bring to a low boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Right before serving, add the handful of fresh chopped parsley, stirring well.

Garnish: Freshly grated pecorino Romano

Rec: Excellent with foccacia or pieces of crusty Italian bread

Notes: If there isn't very much meat on your ham bones, feel free to add some diced lean ham to the soup for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

You could also make this in the crock pot, just note that you will have to occasionally skim the top of the soup. Make sure you give the greens and ham about an hour to cook on high before serving.

Creamy Squash Soup - Italian Style

In Autumn, squash abound and while this recipe uses pumpkin, you may feel free to substitute any other suitable squash such as butternut or acorn.

2 c. cooked pumpkin(roasted is best, but steamed in the microwave is okay)
2 strips bacon
1 med-large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 - 14.5 oz cans of low-sodium chicken broth
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato or yam, peeled and chopped
1 can evaporated milk(feel free to get the ff one)
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly grated
salt and pepper
1/2 t thyme
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
pinch red pepper flake
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and chopped, or sub 1/4 t dried rosemary leaves, crushed

Garnish: Fresh chopped rosemary or parsley, herbed parm croutons, crumbled bacon, and/or sour cream(reg or ff)

In large soup pot, render bacon then remove the crisp crumbles and set aside when done. Add celery, carrots and onion and cook until tender. Add a bit of EVO if necessary. Add the seasonings, herbs and garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add potatoes, pumpkin and broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covering. Cook approximately 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
Set aside off of the stove and allow soup to cool slightly, then use a traditional or immersion blender to process until smooth. Then return the soup to the pot, adding evaporated milk, allowing to heat through. Check for seasoning and re-season if necessary.
Serve soup garnished with herbs, sour cream, bacon, and or parmesan croutons.

Parmesan Croutons:
Cube stale or older bread and toss in a bowl with a bit of EVO, a pinch of salt, Italian herb blend, and grated parmesan cheese. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 F until lightly browned and toasty.

Rec: Pair with Autumn Spinach Salad.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Use all or any combo of the following:

1/2 # boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1" cubes

1/2 # andouille sausage, halved and slinced

2 slices bacon

1/2 # shrimp, cleaned and tails removed


1-14 oz can of tomatoes, diced, with juice

1 onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced (sub red or yellow if green makes you squeamish)

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 c. fresh or frozen okra, sliced

2 c. chicken stock

1 c. beef stock

1 t dried oregano

2 t dried parsley

2 t Cajun seasoning(cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powder)

1 t cayenne pepper or ancho chilies or powder if you want it less spicy and more smokey

1/2 t dried thyme (sub fresh if you have it!)

2 bay leaves

1/4 t sage

1 t baking soda or sugar to balance out some of the acidity

Garnish with chopped green scallions

Serve over rice of choice or with cornbread, or both

Crank up slow cooker to hot and add bacon, sausage, onion and celery. Let cook until fat is mostly rendered. This can also be done much more quickly in a pan and then just transfer to slow cooker. Add everything else except for shrimp and scallions if you're using them.Stir well. Cook high for 4-5 hours of on low for 6-8 hours. If using shrimp, then turn to high and add, cooking 20-30 minutes or until just cooked through, then serve and enjoy!

If you cook this in a dutch oven or soup pot, then saute bacon until rendered, and remove the meat, leaving the fat. Saute the onions, peppers, and sausage until translucent and starting to brown and crisp. Add other ingredients as before, stirring well. Cover and cook in 350 degree F oven if a dutch oven or bring to a light boil, then turn down to a simmer in a soup pot on the stove top. Stir occasionally, simmering for 2-4 hours, making sure it doesn't burn.

Note: You can just use water and sub no msg/low-sodium chicken, beef, and or ham flavoring instead of stocks if you wish.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The best french onion soup I've ever had.

Tweaked from Cooks Illustrated.

Serves approximately 6-8

(depending on whether it's a large bowl for a meal or a first course, in which case it will serve more)

Takes 2-3 hours and a bit of patience, but is very much so worth it.


1-2 T butter

6 Large yellow onions, halved and sliced

Sea salt(or kosher)

Fresh cracked black pepper

1/2 c Sherry, or 1 c white wine(sub:soft rose')

6c Low sodium chicken broth(I personally use a big carton for both broths/stocks)

6c Low sodium beef broth

6 Sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 t dried, and crushed thyme

2 Bay leaves

1 Large or 2 smaller cloves of garlic, minced(or 4 cloves roasted garlic)

1t Worcestershire sauce

2-3 Fillets of anchovies or 1/2 t anchovy paste(opt)

1 French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices

8 oz Shredded gruyere, swiss, or moz cheese, or a combination of any of these

On a medium heat, swirl some EVOO in the bottom of a large soup pot, and add butter, onions, thyme, bay, and salt.

Let onions carmelize, then stir and scrape up the brown bits. Repeat this process several times in the course of an hour and a half or so, until the onions get brown and cooked down. It's important that they carmelize. Sometimes it takes longer - just remember not to stir too much or they won't carmelize properly. Make sure you keep an eye on them so they don't burn.

When they are good and gorgeous, add the sherry/wine, and cook on medium until most of the liquid cooks off. Add worcestershire, anchovies, and pepper. Let carmelize again, careful not to burn. Add stocks, stirring well. Bring to a boil, then turn down, add lid, and simmer on low for about an hour. During this time, make the toasts.

In 400 F degree oven, place bread slices on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned and turning crispy. If you have french onion oven-safe crocks, then ladle soup in them over two of the toasts, add cheese and broil until golden and bubbly. If you do not have these, then add cheese to the toasts and broil in the oven until golden and bubble. Then add to soup bowls and ladle hot soup over and add a bit of cheese on top to melt.

I love it as a meal with a light salad on the side. Enjoy!

(Note: some recipes will try to shortcut by adding sugar to the onions, and not carmelizing them - it is no where near as good in my opinion and a waste of perfectly good soup! There is plenty of sugars in the onions, they just have to be drawn out. An alternative to standing over a hot stove is using a dutch oven, putting the onions and herbs/seasoning mixture in the middle of a 400 degree oven with the lid slightly ajar and letting it carmelize for an hour and a half that way.)