Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

Beat the cold with hot soup

My brother called from Rapid City, SD, the other day to ask me how Mom used to make her vegetable soup. I told him that she screwed an old-fashioned, hand grinder, that she had inherited from our grandmother, onto the edge of the kitchen table and cranked the handle to grind potatoes, onions, carrots and cabbage into a big pot. Then she added water and a beef bone with a lot of meat still on the bone and boiled it all for a long time (probably destroying a ton of nutrients) to make a thick, hearty, tasty soup. Sometimes she included turnips or kohlrabi. The only flavoring she used was salt and pepper. It sure did taste good when we⤪d walked six blocks against a strong north wind and it was twenty below zero. By the time we got home the scarf the teacher had tied around our faces was stiff with ice around our nose and mouths. I guess the soup thawed us out.

Hot soup and a cold day were made for each other. Mom⤪s repertory was limited but yours doesn⤪t have to be. Soups come in an infinite variety and it is a strange man who doesn⤪t love to dip a spoon into a bowl of soup so hot that it makes you reach for a handkerchief.

Potato & Fennel Soup with Blue Cheese Croutons

Can be made ahead and reheated in a microwave or on the range (as is true with most soups).

2 heads fennel
1 pound potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons cooking oil
6 cups chicken broth

1/4 pound French bread
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Soup: Preheat oven to 450 F. Trim fennel stalks off heads. Rinse feather green leaves and chop enough to make about l/2 cup; discard remaining leaves and the stalks. Trim and discard root ends and bruised areas from fennel heads. Rinse heads and cut each crosswise into l/2- to 3/4-inch slices. Cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Put fennel slices and potatoes in a pan and mix with oil. Bake until fennel is well browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Turn as needed to brown evenly. In blender or food processor, whirl vegetables a portion at a time with enough broth to puree easily, until smooth. Measure puree and pour into a kettle; add enough broth to make 8 cups. Stir often over medium heat until steaming. Blue Cheese Croutons: Cut bread crosswise into equal slices. Spread blue cheese equally onto 1 side of each piece and set bread, cheese side up, in a pan. Bake in 350 F. oven until croutons are crisp and cheese is lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Use hot or cool on a rack. Serve soup in bowls; sprinkle with chopped fennel leaves. Float a crouton or 2 on each; pass the rest. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Oyster Stew

You don⤪t have to live where the oysters are fresh from the ocean to make a good oyster stew in 10 minutes.

2 jars (10 to 12 ounces each) shucked oysters
6 tablespoons butter
4 cups heavy cream
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Pour oysters and juices into pan. With scissors snip oysters into 1-inch chunks. Add butter, cream and broth. Stir often over medium-high heat until steaming. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Mushroom (or any) Soup with Pastry Hats

This is so impressive and so easy to make using purchased puffed pastry shells. You can make mushroom bisque a day ahead or buy a prepared soup. Put the pastry over the soup in bowls, brush with egg and let stand about 15 minutes to dry. Chill until ready to pop into the oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes before calling guests to the table.

1 1/2 pounds common mushrooms, or any other kind
1 slice bacon, chopped
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup cognac or brandy
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
Salt and pepper

Pastry Hats
1 package frozen puff pastry shells, thawed
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Sherry-shallot butter, optional (recipe follows)

Soup: Trim mushrooms and remove any dirt under running water. Coarsely chop mushrooms. Cook bacon until fat begins to render. Add onion, celery and garlic; stir until onion is limp, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir often until their liquid is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add cognac and stir to scrape up browned bits from pan bottom and sides. Add wine and boil until most of the liquid has evaporated; add broth and return to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat. In a blender, holding down lid, whirl mixture, a portion at a time, until smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in cream, then season to taste. Spoon soup into 6 round, ovenproof bowls or soufflé dishes.

Pastry: Preheat oven to 375 F. On a lightly floured board, roll each puff pastry shell into a round 1- to 1 1/2-inches wider than top of dishes. Brush egg in a 1/2-inch border around the bottom edge (unscored side) of each pastry round. Carefully drape each round, egg side down, over a dish so that it doesn⤪t touch soup; press edges firmly around sides of dish. Brush more egg lightly over pastry tops and sides. Set dishes at least 1-inch apart in a baking pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at once and have guests break through the crisp crust and stir a nugget of sherry-shallot butter into soup. Makes 6 servings.

These are not the kind of soups that Mom used to make!


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