Fish & Bean Soup

You know the old saying, “Soup Is Good Food”.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s soothing. It’s filling. It warms your belly, and your soul. It cuddles you from the inside out. For me, it really doesn’t matter what time of year it is, I tend to always enjoy a bowl of soup. Naturally, soup fulfills its goals most definitely during the fall and winter months.

Soups can run the gamut from super complicated and time consuming endeavors, all the way to ‘throw it all in a pot and cook’. From thin, clear broths to thick, chunky stew types. From vegetarian to hog filled meat pleasers. No matter what kind you are making, the key is flavor layering. Building up flavor profiles one by one gives depth and makes the soup richer.

Even though I featured this soup with a simple ‘how to’ in my recent blog post Monday Night Dinner, some of you asked for more specifics. So if you ask, I want to deliver. Whatever I can do to make cooking easier, and a pleasure for you. JuanCarlos was the one who made this soup for our guests that evening. I have made versions of this by adding spinach and scallions. You will see that the add on possibilities are vast. Savoy cabbage would be great, or a scoop of rice. But I like to enjoy it like this, clean and pure to let the broth sing and the fish shine.

So, here goes it. This recipe and the steps are so easy you won’t believe that it takes practically no time to cook. The determining factor is the kind of fish used and how they are cut. Shrimp, Calamari (Squid) and Monkfish all cook in the same time, and super fast. I mean, 5 minute FAST!

I would venture to say if you had all your ingredients out and ready to cut, you could make this soup in 20 minutes start to finish.

Get the timer ready!

A few simple ingredients make a fish soup that will be remembered.

A few simple ingredients make a fish soup that will be remembered.

Ingredients

3/4 lb Monkfish, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 lb shrimp, cleaned/deveined, cut into bite sized pieces
2 calamari bodies, cleaned, cut into rings
1 c onion, diced
3-4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 c parsley, chopped
2 qts broth (fish or vegetable)
1/4 t red pepper flakes (add more if you like more heat)
1.5 t salt
1/4 c Olive oil

Instructions

1.Cut the onions, garlic and parsley. Add the onions and garlic to a pot with oil, salt and red pepper flakes and
cook over a medium low heat, softly sautéing them. Then add the parsley, and cook slowly.

The aromatics. This is the beginning of flavor building.

The aromatics. This is the beginning of flavor building.

Build up the flavors and let the onions and garlic flavor the oil.

Build up the flavors and let the onions and garlic flavor the oil.

Then add the parsley and let it do the same.

Then add the parsley and let it do the same.

2. Meanwhile, clean and cut the fish into bite sized pieces.

Monkfish comes in a long strip. I cut in down the middle, then cut small 1” cubes.

Monkfish comes in a long strip. I cut in down the middle, then cut small 1” cubes.

For soups, I usually get a smaller shrimp and then still cut them in 1/3’s so they are small enough to fit on a spoon.

For soups, I usually get a smaller shrimp and then still cut them in 1/3’s so they are small enough to fit on a spoon.

No one should have to take the time to clean squid. Buy it cleaned. Just make sure the inner cartilage is removed. Then slice ringlets.

No one should have to take the time to clean squid. Buy it cleaned. Just make sure the inner cartilage is removed. Then slice ringlets.

All the fish is ready to go while the aromatics are cooking.

All the fish is ready to go while the aromatics are cooking.

3. Once the aromatics have softened (you don’t want caramelization, just a translucent cook through), add the
beans and their liquid. Slowly warm through.

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4. Add the broth. If you only have 1 quart of broth, do as I did and add quart of water. Just make sure that you
taste for seasoning since water isn’t seasoned where I come from. Bring to a boil.

5. Lower heat to a simmer and add all the fish pieces. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes until the fish is tender.
DO NOT cook longer or the fish will get overdone and rubbery.

Monkfish in the pot.

Monkfish in the pot.

Squid next.

Squid next.

Shrimp ahoy.

Shrimp ahoy.

Taste the calamari and make sure it’s cooked through. Also, taste for seasonings.

Look at how beautifully cooked and tender each piece of fish is. A bowl of Good Food.

Look at how beautifully cooked and tender each piece of fish is. A bowl of Good Food.

All that is left is to serve it up immediately, garnish with more parsley and enjoy a warm bowl of clean broth with hearty protein. It will warm your soul, bring a smile to your face, and joy to your heart. Seriously, how much more can one ask from a soup?

Monday Night Dinner - Shared with Friends

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In today’s world of hustle and bustle, technology and device driven social contact, there is one aspect (well, probably many) of our new reality that makes me truly long for days of yore.
Connection. Real, soulful, personal connection.
I miss those times when getting together with loved ones was easy, almost expected on a regular basis. When weekends were spent visiting friends and family, and not traveling in a car for hours to watch a little league, or spent in front of a computer trying to catch up on work. Nowadays, it takes calendars, a team of coordinators, pie charts and graphs and law firm to find a date that matches up for everyone. When I was younger, we had our midday meal at my grandmother’s house every Sunday in Brooklyn. It was known and expected and it was a comfort and joy to gather all together. When we moved out to Long Island, everyone then drove out to us for the day. We were a family, and friends were always welcome to join.

I long for those days. I’m not saying every Sunday but I do yearn for time spent enjoying a meal with people I love in a chill atmosphere just so we can catch up. I fully recognize some of the reasons why this has become difficult. People move further away from one another. Jobs and schedules are more demanding. Kids have extracurricular activities that require more time and attention. But I guess this new paradigm of life is what irks me. We put so much more emphasis on things that cause us stress, and less on carving out time to hang with people we care about. I know I might get some backlash about the kids’ activity portion. It brings joy, etc. But when did sports and violin practice consume 75% of a kids free time? When do they have time to socialize and be kids? Now, that is a whole other topic. But, you all get where I’m going.

 

So given that long diatribe, it completely warmed my heart that when my friend Tecla’s dad was back in NYC visiting from Tuscany, JuanCarlos and I were top of his list to visit. High on the list!! We were tickled Parmesano Reggiano. We made a date for a Monday night and as we were deciding where to meet, it was a no brainer to invite them to our home. Unfortunately, our dear friend Scott, Tecla’s hubby, was unable to join us, and he was missed.

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A simple meal is all that’s needed, since the purpose of the visit was spending time together. We did add an appetizer and soup because we wanted the evening to last longer. More time requires more food. Well, at least that’s my thinking.

Here is what we served, and the elegant, simple table setting we served it on.

Appetizer & Soup

Eggplant rounds with roasted tomato & goat cheese

Sliced eggplant dusted with flour, quick sauté, then placed on a baking. Top each one with a spoonful of roasted tomatoes (sauce), a dollop of goat cheese, some thyme leaves and drizzle of olive oil. Bake until cheese melts.

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Seafood Soup

This is the perfect starter on cold night. A light fish broth chock full of shrimp, monkfish, calamari and beans.

Simply sauté garlic, onions and parsley. Stir in cannellini beans to add a bit heartiness. Then add fish stock and bring to low rolling boil and add the fish. Cover and lower to a simmer until the fish is cooked through.

The same wine we enjoyed with Tecla’s dad in Italy on a visit to the winery. Perfect with the pork and the cake!

The same wine we enjoyed with Tecla’s dad in Italy on a visit to the winery. Perfect with the pork and the cake!

Main Course
Pork Roast
Oven roasted Heirloom Carrots
Oven roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Sage
Quinoa with scallions

 
Photo credit: Tecla Palli-Sandler

Photo credit: Tecla Palli-Sandler

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Roasted Pork
Roasted vegetables & Quinoa
 

Cinque colore salad with oil cured olives

I’ve taken the traditional tri-colore salad and amped it up with a few more colors by way of citrus fruits and oil cured olives. I used both the juices from the grapefruit and oranges then added lemon, lime and zest whisked with olive oil, salt, pepper for the dressing. Fresh, bitter, sweet, sour, peppery. This hit all the right notes.

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Dessert
Gluten Free, Dairy/Egg free chocolate tart. This is not my recipe. Nor did I make it exactly as the recipe stated, but this came out chocolatey, rich and delicious. I made a slightly altered version of Brandi’s Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake. I didn’t have chocolate to shave over top so I created my own decoration with a random almond sliver swirl. I must have been channeling crop circles.

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Table Setting & Decor
It was a Monday night so there was not a ton of time for a formal table setting. It was more of a last minute task. So no time for ironing meant no tablecloth, and a need to display a napkin that no one would notice the wrinkles. Deep green colored velvet placemats kept with a winter warm theme. White dishes and gold charger popped nicely off the deep color mats and made it feel rich and elegant, but not pretentious. Just the right touch to make our guests feel special, yet not a lot work for me.

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The heartiness of my cabbage floral arrangement, plus elements from my Fall themed arrangement lasted long enough for me to arrange them at the end of the table with some candles to warm up the setting.

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Table setting with green velvet placemats, gold chargers, white plates and a soup bowl with gold trim.

Table setting with green velvet placemats, gold chargers, white plates and a soup bowl with gold trim.

There is nothing more satisfying than making a meal that nourishes the body and the soul, and sharing it!

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Tecla and her dad, Paolo serving up food stirred with love.

Tecla and her dad, Paolo serving up food stirred with love.

JuanCarlos talking about the state of… If you want to know, you’ll have to join us for dinner.

JuanCarlos talking about the state of… If you want to know, you’ll have to join us for dinner.

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We had such a great night. We all love food, travel, family, and living life richly. So conversation was a flow as we enjoyed a simple meal together. Cherishing the time we each carved out for one another in our busy schedules, and realizing that anything worth enjoying takes a little effort. I’m glad we all made the effort. And even happier that we were on Paolo’s list during his short visit. Our turn next… in Italy!!

I hope that with all the rush of the holidays you, too, can carve our time in your schedules to share a meal, laughter and love with the people you love. Dig in, fork first!

Paolo, aka Babbo, digging into chocolate heaven.

Paolo, aka Babbo, digging into chocolate heaven.

 

Kale, Potato, Lentil, Cauliflower... Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soup

This is a little story of what happens when I decide to pull everything out of my refrigerator and start cooking.  Yesterday was just such a day, as the chill of autumn has descended upon us, I thought I would make soup.  Since I had cauliflower I was figuring on making my old standby (and very first blog post) Faux Creamy Cauliflower Soup.  Alas, and I will say thankfully,  I opted to go back to my roots of not repeating recipes too often but instead exploring new territories.  

As I've said before, when I go shopping I buy what looks fresh without necessarily having a plan for how to cook them. Such was the case during last week's shop.  As I took these ingredients out and placed them on my board, my first thought was to make separate dishes with each.

Here's what I found: Cauliflower, Kale, French Lentils, Fingerling Potatoes, Red Onion and Garlic

Here's what I found: Cauliflower, Kale, French Lentils, Fingerling Potatoes, Red Onion and Garlic

And because the original plan was individual dishes and use the cauliflower for soup, that soup idea grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let go.  It was just then when the it dawned on me that EVERYTHING I had could indeed be SOUP. Now here's the triple play of culinary delights:  
I didn't have to make separate dishes.
I was still sticking to my original idea of soup.
Plus the big bonus of throwing it all together...  ONE POT!

I had to think this one through to make sure that I cooked this one in the correct stages without having to switch pots.  Also fair warning for this recipe, I won't be giving amounts as this one really harkens back to my something from nothing style.  Use what you have in the quantities you have.

ingredients

Cauliflower
Kale (chopped)
French Lentils
Fingerling Potatoes (cut in bite size pieces)
Red onion (cut in small pieces)
Garlic
Magic 3 (Oil, Salt, Pepper)

Instructions

I started out as if I were making the cauliflower soup (click on the link for recipe reference) but cut the onions small since these were not going to be blended up but in fact be a supporting player in the soup.

When the cauliflower was about cooked about ¾ done, I added the potatoes pieces and lentils. 

Once everything was tender, I pulled out about half of the cauliflower because I didn’t think the soup needed that much cauliflower.  I figured I would blend up the removed portion and still have faux creamy cauliflower soup.   Then I realized that adding some of that back into this soup would add thickness and richness. (But by that time I ate some I only had about 2/3 cup to add to the main soup. Add as much or as little as you want to achieve a 'creaminess' level of your liking.)

 I then added the kale, checked for seasoning and turned the heat off.  The soup is warm enough at this point to wilt the kale.

This came out hearty and earthy and a really lovely blend of a handful of odd and ends from my fridge.  So, let’s recap.  You can follow this recipe as I stated.  Or you can look through your kitchen and create a soup out of what you have.  Here are some ideas for replacement options for the ones I used.

other potential leading characters

Kale = spinach, escarole, mustard greens
Cauliflower =  broccoli, cabbage
Potato = sweet potato, turnip, yucca
Lentil =  chick peas, cannellini beans

Well, you get the idea.  Try my version or play around with any of the above suggestions to make your own version of the “Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soup”.  Falling into the crispness of this season isn’t so bad when you can be warmed by a soup like this.  

Footnote:  As you can see this made a nice big pot of soup which left enough for the next day.  I made jasmine rice and added it to the day old soup.  Yup, it made it even yummier.

Lunch 3 Ways, as performed by Roasted Vegetables

The Stars

The Stars

Yeah, yeah, I know that you know that I LOVE roasting vegetables.  Honestly, it's one of the easiest, most efficient and delicious ways to cook them.  All the work is done for you.  Place 'em on a pan with the magic 3 (oil, salt & pepper), slide into a 400 degree oven and done and done.   

Knowing this, you won't be surprised that I've come up with 3 more ways to serve up roasted vegetables. This was yet another time when we had a handful of unused items from a party that needed to be cooked up. As usual when I looked at these, I wasn't sure what their final use would be, but before they went bad they needed one last curtain call.  

The stars of this day's performance: Introducing the Carrot, The Vine Tomato, The Beet,  The Yellow Pepper and of course, Miss Fennel.

Destined for sweetness by way of roasting.

Destined for sweetness by way of roasting.

Adding the Magic 3, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

Adding the Magic 3, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper

I added potatoes because JC loves these roasted

I added potatoes because JC loves these roasted


Lunch Performance #1 - The Stack 'em Up Sandwich

Place a few of the roasted tomatoes in a small food processor along with crushed garlic, pinch of salt and 2-3 T olive oil. Pulse until you get a chunky paste.

 

Place a few slices of your favorite cheese on one side of the bread and broil it until the cheese is melted. (I used Ojeva Negra, an earthy Spanish sheep's milk cheese.)

Add a smattering of the tomato-garlic 'jam' and begin stacking the veggies onto your sandwich. From here you can begin diving in or take it the next step and panini it.  This earthy, crunchy lunch was for JC since I don't eat bread.  Sucks for me.

The Full Stack

The Full Stack


Lunch Performance #2 - Quinoa Bowl

Cook up your favorite quinoa.  I used an organic multi grain one.  Ready up your roasted veggies and cut into bite sized pieces.

Once quinoa is cooked, arrange in a the bowl, top the quinoa with the tomato 'jam' and dig in.


Lunch Performance  #3 - Pasta Toss

I don't need to tell you that this was my favorite.  I'm such a pasta monster.  You can use whatever type of pasta floats your boat.  Semolina is still my favorite but I can't eat wheat anymore so I cooked up some brown rice elbow macaroni.  

While the pasta was cooking, I sautéed 1/4 c chopped shallots, 2 cloves chopped garlic and some left over grape tomatoes equally about 2/3 cup. (Again, any amount that you have will work, so don't worry so much about amount here.)  Once those were soft, I added all the other roasted vegetables that I chopped into bite sized pieces.

To add a bit more heartiness as well as creaminess, I added a can of baby cannellini beans with their liquid, and a touch more salt & good amount of crushed red pepper.

Then came the star of this show. Can you tell I like pasta?  In went the cooked elbow macaroni. Add whatever shape you like  and gently stir together.  

Plate it up in a nice serving bowl and grate some Locatelli cheese on top.  This was satisfyingly yummy.  Add a glass of red wine, and you'll have a Joie de Vivre lunch, for sure.

I hope you love roasting vegetables as much as I do.  They are so adaptable to so many dishes. Be forewarned, roasted and grilled vegetables will make encore presentations in the future... and often.  Why not, their versatility is not to be reckoned with.  Get your veggie on!

P.S. The roasted potatoes were not called upon for lunches, but did make their appearance as a side dish for dinner.  Plus a few were eaten right out of the oven while making the lunches.  Seriously, who could resist those crunchy bites.

"Faux Creamy" Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower soup with crispy cauliflower florets and drizzle of olive oil

Cauliflower soup with crispy cauliflower florets and drizzle of olive oil

Seriously, this is one of the easiest soups EVER!, yet it continues to ‘ohh and ahh’ our guests, and my mom, too. Whenever they ask how I make it, I almost feel guilty about its simplicity.  Then I notice that they are barely listening because they are too entranced in licking the bowl. 

My Mom, Adrienne.

My Mom, Adrienne.

So even though this is a super easy recipe, I decided to christen this blog with my first post dedicated to my mom, who is one of my culinary inspirations. 

She has been cooking and baking up a storm, inspiring me and guiding me to this day.  She has been begging me for my "creamy" cauliflower soup recipe. But first a little cruciferous family history... 

When I was a kid my mom made cauliflower with an Italian spin to it, but also one that she knew as kids we would eat.  She would trim off all the leaves and take the toughest part of the core out, then boiled the entire head in tact until fork tender.  In a separate small saucepan, she melted butter and stirred in bread crumbs until they were all coated with butter.  Like a mad scientist with a fresh brain (well, as least that’s what it looked like to me as a young budding cook), she took this mixture and jammed it onto the top of the cauliflower head as if giving it a brown derby.  I have to admit, this method was ingenious because we all fought for a hunk; coveting the parts that had the most breadcrumb covering.  It was delicious, and she got us to eat cauliflower!  Brava to my mom.  Then and now, she is my guiding light.

In these health conscious times, some of us look to foods that have less fat and carbs. Which leads me back to the easiest soup ever.  One cold winter day a few years back, I wanted something warm and comforting. Since my husband has eliminated dairy and I eliminated wheat, we needed something that would fit our restrictions. I opened the frig and all I found was cauliflower.  Well, you can certainly make soup with that!

Here’s how it goes.  (I warn you, you will read it and say, ‘Is she kidding? It’s THAT easy.)


                                                            Ingredients:

Ingredients - The very basics

Ingredients - The very basics

  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken up
    just so it fits in pot (size not important)

  • olive oil (approx. ¼ c)

  • 2 medium onions, cut in quarters

  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed

  • salt

  • black pepper

  • red pepper flakes (optional)

 

 

Instructions:

In a medium stock pot pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot.  Add onions and garlic and sauté until lightly caramelized.  Add salt, pepper and cauliflower and stir.  Add enough water to cover most of the cauliflower then cover and lower heat to simmer.  Cook until the cauliflower is super soft.

Sautee onions and garlic

Sautee onions and garlic

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove cauliflower and place in a blender.  You probably won’t be able to get all of it in, so do it in batches, remembering to get all the onions and garlic pieces too.  Add some of the water to get the blender going. Please note: be sure to vent the lid to let the steam escape as you slowly blend.

One of the versatile aspects of this soup is that you can add as much water as you like to reach the consistency you want.  The more water, the more blending the thinner, smoother your soup will be.  If you prefer it chunkier and thicker, less water, less blending.  You get it.  You will definitely not need all the water because that would be way too much and completely water down the soup.  You can reserve it and use it for the base of another soup, or use it as a base for a sauce for pasta. 

Pour and serve!

Pour and serve!

That’s it. Once all the soup is blended to your liking, taste to see if you need more salt or pepper.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.


fancy it up Variations

But there's more. You can enhance it a bunch of different ways with flavorful toppings.

Oh, the possibilities: Grilled shrimp, caramelized shallots, roasted cauliflower, crispy Serrano

Oh, the possibilities: Grilled shrimp, caramelized shallots, roasted cauliflower, crispy Serrano

Vegetarian Toppings:

  • Roasted Cauliflower Florets: Reserve some florets before adding to the stock pot. Roast these with some olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 degrees. Once nice and crispy, drop them on top your soup.

  • Caramelized onions or shallots, a nice topping in the center. I have also used both the onions and roasted cauliflower.

  • Oven Roasted tomatoes: adds a sweet note to the soup

  • Nuts: Toast some pinnoli (pine) nuts and sprinkle on top.

With crispy shallots and a drizzle of olive oil

With crispy shallots and a drizzle of olive oil

For less vegetarian options:

  • Grilled Shrimp: Grill or sautee some shrimp. Cut into bites size pieces and adorn the soup.

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with grilled shrimp and olive oil drizzle

with grilled shrimp and olive oil drizzle

For serious meat lovers:

  • Crispy Ham: Using prosciutto, Serrano ham or bacon. Roast until super crispy. Crumble and sprinkle like you were in hog heaven. If you love Serrano ham, please visit Despaña for an amazing variety of hams, dry cured meats and so much more delicious Spanish fine foods.

Serrano ham to oven roast. You can use prosciutto, too.

Serrano ham to oven roast. You can use prosciutto, too.

Crispy, crunchy goodness

Crispy, crunchy goodness

As you can see, it’s limitless.  Please try this soup. Try your own topping ideas and let me know how it turns out.

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