Tag Archives: soup

Roasted Garlic Soup, Or, The Passive-Aggressive Approach to Being Left Alone

I have a friend from my former job.

Just one.

Not really. I had more than one.

Anyway, we used to joke that Pacific Northwesterners are about the most passive-aggressive group of people you’ll ever meet. In other words, we’re painfully indirect, we never say what we mean, we sigh and shake our heads and complain behind someone’s back rather than confront them about what’s bothering us, and we have a million little ways of showing you know that something’s not okay even when we say it is.

I don’t know why we do this. The group shrug. Maybe it’s rain-induced. A vitamin D deficiency.

But hopefully we all have a few people that we can be painfully honest with, people with whom it’s safe to say what you feel. For me, Nacho Man is one of those lucky people. Take, for example, this recent exchange.

“What’s this?” Nacho Man asked, peering at something in the refrigerator.

“Garlic soup,” I declared forthrightly.

“Hmm,” he said as he closed the door. “Sounds interesting.”

Do you see what he just did?

But that’s his loss. This soup is wonderful. And it’s just the meal for you if:

1. You’re a busy mom with kids hanging on you all day and you don’t have it in you to tell your significant other, “Not tonight, honey.” It’s a safe word you don’t even have to say;

2. You’re so into Twilight that you’re casting paranoid–I mean rightfully suspicious–glances at your neighbors;

3. You’ve ever stared at a pantry that’s barren except for garlic, onions, and chicken stock and walked away, defeated;

4. You love love love garlic.

Check out the recipe at smitten kitchen, then whip up a batch and savor it for lunch for a few days. This soup is warm, earthy, and garlicky without being in your face.

It’s passive-aggressive that way.


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Potato, Kale and Sausage Soup

I’ve been making this meal for Nacho Man almost longer than any other meal…except my spaghetti sauce.

Which he dumped about a quarter bottle of ketchup into the first time I served it to him.

I married him anyway. And continued to cook for him.

We love this soup. It’s perfect for cold, wet weather, it’s got lots of color and texture, and it’s got meat. Meat! This is a big plus for Nacho Man, who won’t eat those pureed squash soups that I love because they remind him of baby food. Which I’d like to point out to him have the same consistency as ketchup.

Take one pound of mild Italian sausage and brown both sides of the casings in a soup pot on medium-high heat. Take them out of the pot and slice them.

They won’t be cooked all the way through. Put the slices back in the pot and brown both sides until they are cooked through. You might have to slice one open and eat it to make sure it’s completely cooked. Just sayin.’

You could remove the sausage from the casings and have crumbled sausage in your soup, but I like the bigger pieces. I think they balance the potato and kale. But to each her own.

These chicken sausages from PCC have only 3 grams of fat per serving. If you’re using a super low-fat sausage, add a little olive oil to the pot to prevent sticking. If you bought yourself some Jabba the Hut sausages, wipe the excess fat out of the pot after you’ve browned the meat. You want some fat for flavor, but you don’t want to feel like you’re swallowing Vaseline.

Gross. Almost as gross as dumping ketchup into homemade spaghetti sauce.

Add 3 cloves of whole, peeled garlic that you’ve mashed up a bit to the pot, along with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Saute each side of the garlic for about one minute.

Then, add 4-6 cups of stock or stock-water combo to suit your taste. If you have a little dry white wine, you can use it to deglaze the pot before adding the stock. Mmmmm.

Add 3 medium red potatoes that you’ve scrubbed well and sliced. Half a teaspoon of dried oregano would be good here, along with some salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.

Meanwhile, take a head of kale and remove the hard stems. Tear or cut the leaves into bite-size pieces, then rinse well. When the potatoes are done, add the kale to the pot.

It’s going to look ridiculous, kale-heavy, totally out of proportion. But it cooks down a lot. All that’s left to do now is stir the pot gently until the kale is blanched and cooked to your liking. Then, see if you can find those hunks o’ garlic, remove them, and serve up some soup.

I like to sprinkle a little more red pepper flakes and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on my soup. Everything’s better with Parmesan cheese.

Like homemade spaghetti sauce.

Potato, Kale and Sausage Soup

serves 4


1 pound pork or chicken mild Italian sausage

3 medium red potatoes, scrubbed well and sliced

1 head of kale, hard stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and gently mashed but still whole

4-6 cups of low-sodium stock or stock-water

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)


1. Brown sausages in a large soup pot. Slice and brown insides. If using low-fat sausages, add olive oil to prevent sticking. Wipe out excess fat, if any.

2. Add garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Saute garlic one minute per side.

3. Add stock or stock-water combination, oregano, salt, pepper, and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

4. Add kale and cook until done to your liking. Remove garlic and serve. Garnish with Parmesan cheese if desired.


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Zoo Stew

Things to love about fall in Seattle:

1. It’s sweater weather.

2. It’s soup weather.

3. Apple pickin.’ More on that later.

4. The Woodland Park Zoo is, for those glorious weeks after the end of summer vacation and the start of field trips, almost entirely ours.

As much as I love sweaters and soup, I’m giddy about Number 4. For us, no trip to the zoo is complete without a lengthy stop at the flamingo hangout, a visit to all the big cats, and a hello to the bears and otters. On our last visit, we happened to hit the Komodo dragon exhibit at feeding time.

We’re as hungry as the Komodo dragons after we come home from the zoo. So we like to have zoo stew.

Zoo stew does not contain zoo meat. Though you can tell your kids it does if that makes it more appealing to them.

The idea is that you throw this in a crock pot and let it do its business while you’re at the zoo. That way, you educate your children and make a healthy, comforting, homemade meal all in the same day. Go you.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute 1 large chicken breast that’s been cubed. When it’s nearly cooked, add half a large onion that you’ve diced and 1 red or orange pepper, also diced. Add 3-4 cloves of minced garlic a few minutes later. This is also a good time to add 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the pan. Stir everything well, and add a little chicken or vegetable stock if your meat and vegetables are sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Then, pour in half a bottle of beer (not that apricot flavored stuff) and 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and marvel at how it deglazes the pan and helps create a delicious sauce.

It’s a shame to let that other half a beer go to waste, but you’re about to load the kids into the car. If you absolutely can’t let it go, then make this dish on the stove top when you get home and treat yourself to a little Happy Hour. You’ll have earned it after your field trip.

Transfer the contents of your skillet to a crock pot. Add 2 Yukon Gold potatoes that you’ve peeled and cubed, 1 cup of dried white beans that you’ve soaked overnight or cooked on the stove top until they’re fork tender (or use canned beans), 1 4-ounce can of roasted chiles, 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes that you’ve drained, and a couple of bay leaves. Cover and set the crock pot to low heat.

Have fun at the zoo.

Right before you’re ready to serve your Zoo Stew, do something that separates the good moms from the fun moms.

Toss in a handful of spinach, kale, or Swiss chard.

If the kids complain, remind them that you took them to the zoo. Or ask them to imitate how a Komodo dragon eats spinach.

(Komodo dragons don’t really eat spinach. We saw what they eat. And it definitely isn’t spinach.)

Zoo Stew

serves 4


1 large chicken breast, cubed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

half a large onion, diced

1 red or orange pepper, diced

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4-1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

half a bottle of beer

1 cup of dried white beans that have been soaked overnight or cooked until they are fork tender

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 4-ounce can of roasted chiles

1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained

2 bay leaves

1 cup spinach, kale, or Swiss chard

salt to taste

pepper to taste


1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then the cubed chicken. Saute for several minutes, stirring often.

2. Add the onion and red or orange pepper. Add the garlic when the onion has become opaque. Add the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Add a little water or stock to the pan to prevent sticking.

3. Add the beer and stock and stir well.

4. Pour contents of skillet into a crock pot. Add potatoes, beans, tomatoes, green chiles, and bay leaf. Simmer on low for several hours, or until beans and potatoes are done. Add the greens and continue cooking until they are wilted.

5. Remove bay leaves before serving soup.

6. Pair with a great zoo book. Here are some of Rue’s favorites: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Class Two at the Zoo, The Dumb Bunnies Go To the Zoo, Life-Size Zoo, Pssst!, Mud City, and Sylvie.

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Chicken Pho, or, How Pho Girl Ate Her Way Into a Nickname

It’s June and the weather looks like this:

Time for comfort food. Mine is pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup that is usually eaten for breakfast in Vietnam.

What a way to start the day.

My family made this soup with beef for years, but my mom and my aunts now opt for a lighter, quicker, but just as tasty version made with chicken, which doesn’t require the overnight simmer that many of us don’t have time for. I’ll get around to learning to make the long-simmering pho, but for now, I’d like to share one that you can actually put on the dinner table tonight.

My sister, Mimi, and I have managed to get out of cooking this soup for years. We’d show up at Mom’s whenever we had a hankering. Or even better, she’d drop off a huge, steaming pot on my doorstep. She spoiled us rotten.

But with Mom getting busier, and Mimi and I more than old enough to stand on our own two feet, it was time to learn…or eat this as an alternative:

This soup feeds a large group (10-12 adults) and only takes a couple of hours to cook–comparable to homemade chicken soup that many of us crave when we’re sick. Many of these ingredients are most easily found at an Asian or international foods market, but you can probably find them at supermarkets as well. Stock up on the spices–they’ll last a long time–and fresh pho noodles freeze really well, as does the broth.

The key is to find fresh ingredients and let the broth simmer slowly, on very low heat.

Put an enormous pot on on the stove and fill it to half way with 10 quarts (that’s 40 cups!) of water if you’re not going to cut it this recipe half, and bring it to a boil.

Shake the innards out of your 2 chickens (about 8-9 pounds). That’s what I do because I’m too chicken to stick my hand in a chicken. Rinse the chickens, then trim as much skin and fat from them as possible. Remove the breasts, thighs, and wings from the carcasses. Set all of it aside.

Toast one large onion and a piece of ginger big enough to fit in your palm. The oven broiler is perfect for this; just turn on your exhaust fan. Flip them once, and keep an eye on them. When the onion skin is charred, it’s time to remove them from the oven.

Peel 3/4 of a pound of daikon radish and cut it into fourths. This was actually leftover from the Banh Mi recipe I’d made several days earlier–it keeps very well in the refrigerator and I like finding multiple uses for ingredients I don’t normally have on hand, so they don’t go to waste.

This is a two-pound jicama. You want to remove the tough outer skin.

It’ll look like this. Cut it into eighths.

When the onion looks like this, it’s time to remove it and the ginger from the oven. Peel the charred skin off the onion and trim the ends.

Smash the ginger with a mallet…

And slice it in half lengthwise.

Now take the mallet to the lemongrass. Cut off the ends. Cut the remainder into large slices.

When the water comes to a boil, add all the chicken pieces (breasts on top so you can easily fish them out as they’ll finish cooking first), daikon radish, jicama, onion, ginger, and lemongrass.

It’ll take time for the water to return to a boil. Until then, regularly skim the pot to remove that unsightly residue.

Yup, that unsightly residue.

When the water comes to a boil, turn the heat way down to medium low. You want to see tiny bubbles occasionally rise to the surface. Anything more exciting than that, and you need to turn down the heat even more. Leave it be for awhile, except for the skimming.

Set a medium-sized pan over medium heat. When the pan warms up, add 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 whole cardamom, and 4 star anise. Toast them until they’re warm to the touch.

Add 30 whole cloves, 1/2 cup whole coriander, and 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel to the pan. Pour 2 cups of water into the pan and let the spices simmer for about 15 minutes.

Your kitchen will fill with the wonderful, warm, aromatic smell of the spices. When time’s up, pour the contents of the pan into a sieve over a measuring cup or bowl. Save that liquid.

By now, the chicken breasts are definitely done cooking. Remove them and shred the meat. Do the same with the dark meat when it’s done cooking. Leave the carcasses in the pot.

Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the stock pot. When it has completely dissolved, add 1/4 cup of salt. My mom says it’s critical that you add the sugar first, then the salt. She made me write it 100 times.

Once the salt has dissolved, taste the broth, and add more salt if needed.

Add 1/2 cup of fish sauce to the stock pot.

The contents of your stock pot won’t be very exciting to look at, until you add the liquid from the spices:

Congratulations! You’ve labored long and hard (actually, not all that long or hard) and made a pot of pho! All that’s left to do is to boil some noodles according to the package directions, put them in an obscenely large bowl, add some chicken meat, ladle in plenty of broth, and garnish with a squirt of lime juice, hoisin sauce, chili paste, Thai basil, thinly sliced scallion, bean sprouts, and cilantro.


2 medium chickens (to total 8-9 pounds)

3/4 pound of daikon radish

2 pounds jicama–avoid ones with mottled, cracked skins

piece of ginger large enough to fit in your palm

1 large yellow onion

1 stalk lemongrass

3 cinnamon sticks

3 whole cardamom

4 star anise

30 whole cloves

1/2 cup whole coriander

1 1/2 tablespoons fennel

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup salt

1/2 cup fish sauce

3 bags fresh pho noodles (dried are fine if fresh are unavailable)


Hoisin sauce

Chili paste

Thai basil

Chopped cilantro

Chopped green onion

Lime wedges

Bean sprouts


1. Fill a large stock pot with 10 quarts (40 cups) of water and bring to a boil (this fills half of my stock pot).

2. As the water is coming to a boil, trim as much skin from the chickens as possible. Wash the carcasses and separate the meat from the carcass–the breasts, wings, drumsticks, and thighs. Set all of this aside.

3. Toast the onion (skin on) and ginger using the broiler of your oven. You can move forward in the instructions, but when the onion skin is dark brown and crispy on the outside, remove the onion and ginger from the oven. Peel the onion skin and trim the ends. Pound the ginger with a mallet and cut it in half lengthwise.

4. Peel the daikon radish and cut into fourths.

5. Peel the jicama and cut into eights. (Note: jicama skin is pretty thick. If your peeler won’t go through it, use a knife to peel.)

6. Pound the lemongrass with a mallet. Cut off the ends and discard. Slice the remainder and add to the pot.

7. When the water comes to a boil, add the chicken (breasts on top so you can fish them out when they’re finished cooking), jicama, daikon, roasted, trimmed onion, ginger, and the lemongrass.

8. Regularly skim the top of the pot to remove residue.

9. When the water returns to a full boil, reduce heat to medium-low. You want to see small bubbles in the pot, as this indicates a slow simmer. Turn the heat down if the stock is bubbling too much. Allow the pot to simmer for 30-45 minutes.

10. Set a medium-sized pan over medium heat. When the pan is warm, add the 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 whole cardamom, and 4 star anise. Toast until they are warm to the touch. Turn off the heat and add the 30 cloves, 1/2 cup coriander, and 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel. Add 2 cups water to the pan and turn the burner back to high heat. When the water boils, turn the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve liquid.

11. Remove the chicken pieces when they are cooked through. Shred the chicken breasts and some of the dark meat. We usually leave the meat on the drumsticks and serve them whole.

12. Add 1/2 cup sugar to the chicken stock.

13. When the sugar has dissolved, add 1/4 cup salt. IMPORTANT: Add the sugar before the salt.

14. Taste the broth and adjust the salt accordingly.

15. Add 1/2 cup fish sauce to the stock.

16. Add the reserved liquid from the spices to the pot.

Congratulations! You’ve just made homemade pho.

17. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add approximately 1 1/2 cups of pho noodles to the water, stir around for about 30 seconds, and drain immediately. Repeat for each additional serving.

18. Place the noodles, then some shredded chicken meat or a whole drumstick in a large bowl. Ladle enough broth to more than cover the noodles. Garnish with hoisin sauce, chili paste, Thai basil, green onion, cilantro, and bean sprouts to taste.


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