In the chill of January and February, comfort foods are more than just a welcome respite on the table. For a soul-warming winter dish, I often make soup. And there is one soup that I make that combines several of my favorite flavor profiles: Chicken soup (read: Ashkenazi all the way) with leeks (read: French- and Sephardic-influenced), albondigas, or little meatballs (read: Arab- and Mediterranean-influenced) with quinoa (read: healthy and Latino-influenced).
Quinoa has been a culinary darling for a number of years, but this Peruvian–Bolivian grain is worthy of the attention it gets. It’s packed with protein and gluten free. Oh yes, and it’s kosher for Passover too. The key to quinoa is to rinse it well and let it drain before using, and cook it until the little white circles—those cute curlicues—lift away from the center of the each grain.
In the U.S., leeks, unlike quinoa, are still living in the shadow of other foods—largely by other members of the allium family, like onions. But leeks have a wonderfully gentle flavor that has always been loved in many other areas of the world. Now, they are a bit messy to deal with since soil is embedded between those big leaves.But you can buy them already nice and clean, all cut up, in well-stocked grocery stores, either in the produce aisle or freezer case.
Albondigas means meatballs in Spanish, though they aren’t Spanish at all – they originate from the Middle East. And just about every culture in every country has come up with their own meatballs, based on what they had available and their favorite herbs and spices. For Latino countries, that often meant onions, a bread-style binder, eggs, and fresh, local herbs such as flat-leaf parsley, Mexican oregano, mint, and epazote (another Mexican herb). In Mexico and Central America the most common way to eat little meatballs is in soups.
This chicken soup is an amalgam of flavor profiles, with a distinct emphasis on Latin flavors. Enjoy it—and make it your own; the recipe is as much a formula as a template for your favorite flavors. So reach for what you like best, and have fun with comfort foods from around the world.
To clean leeks, remove the tough green outer leaves and root ends. Cut them in half lengthwise and slice crosswise in half-circles. Fill a bowl with water, place the leeks into it and wash well, separating the interior layers with your fingertips. Leeks absorb huge amounts of dirt and sand as they grow, so keep washing until they are perfectly clean; the dirt should fall to the bottom of the bowl while the leeks float to the surface. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and set aside. (Don’t drain by pouring the water out of the bowl over them or you will be pouring the dirt back onto them.) Rinse the bowl thoroughly, fill with water, return the leeks to the bowl, and soak until you are ready to use them.
Pimenton, a sweet smoked paprika is Spain’s favorite seasoning. It imparts both sweetness and smokiness to recipes and is beloved throughout the Mediterranean region.
Masa harina is a traditional Mexican cornmeal flour. Dried corn is processed in a mixture of lime and water, which makes it easier to hull and also makes its nutrients more accessible. The wet, processed corn is ground into a dough called masa. When the processed corn is dried and ground into flour, it is called masa harina.
For the soup:
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 medium (about 4½ pounds) leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and soaked in cold water (see note above)
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely, divided
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut into ½-inch dice
2 large red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into ½-inch dice
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (see Kitchen Tips)
2 bay leaves
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed twice and drained
For the albóndigas (little meatballs)
1 lb ground chicken
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green center discarded
2 tsp pimenton or sweet smoked paprika
½ tsp ground cumin
4 to 5 sprigs fresh mint, minced
⅓ cup masa harina or fine cornmeal (see notes above)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp freshly ground white pepper, plus more to taste
Prepare the soup: In a large saucepan or Dutch oven set over high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers.
Add the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes, until they begin to wilt and become transparent.
Reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons of the parsley in a small bowl for garnish.
Add the carrots, celery, peppers, oregano, corn, bay leaves, and parsley and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for about 7 minutes, until the vegetables wilt and become transparent.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Partially cover by placing a lid on the pot, so that about an inch or more of the surface of the soup is exposed. Continue to cook as you prepare the meatballs.
Prepare the meatballs: In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, eggs, garlic, paprika, cumin, mint, masa harina or cornmeal, salt, and white pepper. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
With slightly wet hands, form the mixture into meatballs (about ½ inch in diameter), dropping them directly into the broth as you go. Wet your hands again when the meatballs begin to stick. You should have about 75 little meatballs.
Once all the meatballs are in the broth, increase the heat to a low boil and add the quinoa. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through (the inside will no longer be pink) and the quinoa is tender and a white ring appears around each seed. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with the reserved parsley.
When you think of pumpkin and spices, your mind likely jumps to pumpkin pie spices like ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. But did you know that pumpkin and curry also pair perfectly?
A quick google search for pumpkin curry will reveal an array of recipes such as pumpkin curry empanadas (does someone want to make these for me?), pumpkin curry with chickpeas and slow cooker vegan pumpkin curry.
And welcome to the scene my curry pumpkin corn soup. I dreamed up this soup while trying to recreate one of my favorite lunchtime soups I enjoy at a midtown NYC eatery called Dishes. They always have a creamy, pumpkin corn bisque this time of year, and so I wanted to recreate it, but with a bit of my own spin. I added some curry to the mix, and swapped out heavy cream for coconut milk and voila: a nondairy pumpkin curry soup perfect for a Shabbat starter, light lunch or even a dish for Thanksgiving dinner.
If you have never cooked with curry before, this is a great introduction, since it really combines the familiar flavors of pumpkin and corn with the slightly exotic taste of curry. You will wonder why it’s taken you so long to combine these delicious flavors.
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
3 cups pumpkin puree (fresh preferably, but canned is fine too)
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
salt and pepper
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion and corn and saute until onions are translucent, and corn looks plump and yellow. Add curry powder and garlic and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes, until curry is toasted and fragrant.
De-glaze the pot with 1/2 cup vegetable broth, scraping bottom of pan until all bits have been cleaned off. Add pumpkin puree and continue to stir until smooth and heated through. Add vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste.
It’s that time of year when soup reigns supreme. Fall vegetables really lend themselves to being roasted, pureed and blended with stock. Soup is warming, comforting and an easy meal that is perfect for lunch or dinner and even better as leftovers the next day. Not to mention, my daughter loves soup lately, which she calls “soupy.” So of course a Jewish mother is inclined to feed her kid whatever they ask for, within reason.
Last year I put together 9 satisfying soups, but I wanted to expand the list this year to give you even more delicious ideas for your fall soup consumption. Add your favorite recipes below!
Parsnip and Carrot Soup with Tarragon from The New York Times
Cream of Carrot Soup with Roasted Jalapeno from Meredith Keltz
Pumpkin Red Pepper Soup with Challah Croutons from Leora Kimmel Greene
Hearty Lentil Soup from Liz Rueven
Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup from Martha Stewart
Curried Cauliflower Soup from Food52
Roasted Potato and Leek Soup with Jalapeno Oil from Whitney Fisch
Vegetarian Chicken Soup from Leah Koenig
Cuban Matzo Ball Soup from Jennifer Stempel
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I’m having a love/hate relationship with food lately. By “love,” I mean, you know, I want to eat yummy food all the time. By “hate,” I mean I don’t have the energy for it any more. And this isn’t just a post-high holiday thing. This is all about trying to find the time and energy to feed a two year-old every. single. day. And I only have one child – I don’t know how the moms with multiple kids balance everything!
For those just joining me in this weird journey, I’m currently living a life of temporary single parenthood. It’s important to note that this set up of mine is, in fact, temporary. I have the privilege of having a supportive and loving husband. We call each other, he offers me emotional support and he comes to visit every so often (more on why I’m in this situation here). The parts of this temporary single parent status that I expected to stink (time has become my most sought after currency. I got up at 5:30am PST just to finish writing this post) but the part of this situation that I didn’t expect is the effect this has had on our meal times.
We used to have family dinners. We’d eat together, the three of us, at least 3 nights a week plus Shabbat. The husband and I committed to that when we had a child. As a social worker and school counselor, I am well aware of the statistics that go along with shared family meals (35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight, Hammons & Fiese, 2011). Plus the fact that family mealtime offers uninterrupted time for us to spend time together. Or so I’m told. I have a toddler. Regardless, family mealtime combines my two favorite things: my family and food!
But now that it’s just me and the kiddo, the aspects of managing our day-to-day life of work/school/family has driven me to want to collapse when she’s in bed at 8:00 pm. And so, I’ve developed a habit of cooking just for her at around 5:30 and then settling in with a salad and TV for myself after she goes to bed. That salad, of course, consists of things like pre-washed kale, shredded carrots, shredded cheese (neither of which I shred myself, yikes.) Its not as sad as it sounds. OK, it’s a little bit as sad as it sounds. That being said, I realized things had drastically changed when I went from making Shabbat meals with multiple courses to one pot of veggie quinoa soup for the kid and myself and calling it a day. So after roughly the 12th night of the same salad, I decided I needed a change of pace. The kid and I needed to get back to family dinners and I needed to get creative with my meals again. A few tricks that are helping me reach my goal:
- Batch cooking – Each Sunday I make big batches of something, i.e. roasted vegetables, sauce, rice or quinoa, that I can use in various recipes for the remainder of the week
- Remix – Since I have to make my own lunch, I did myself a favor and bought into the kiddo’s kosher school lunch plan. They always send home leftovers (and there is always leftovers), which I remix into something else for her dinner (read: stir fry!)
- The kid stays in the picture – Now that she’s a little over 2, she actually can help me cook, which has been very fun and exciting. She’s officially in charge of all seasoning and can sprinkle cheese on a homemade pizza like nobody’s business. Getting her involved has made cooking fun again and has even forced me to get creative with meal planning.
- Soup – The kid loves soup. I love soup. Soup is always a great way for us to get our vegetables in us. Therefore, I’ve started making a soup that we might both love but dressing it up for me. The perfect example of that is this roasted potato and leek soup recipe. I dress it down for her, though she does get a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. I dress it up for myself by sprinkling cheese on it AND drizzling the jalapeno oil. It’s a win/win!
The kid and I are surviving and at times, we’re even thriving. She’s at that amazing age where she’s starting to have conversations so sitting down together isn’t just about me making sure she’s actually eating, like back in the days of her infancy. Rather, mealtime has become this magical time of actually getting to know the person she’s becoming and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to slow down and listen.
For the potato soup:
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (4 leeks)
5 cloves garlic (4 whole cloves and 1 minced)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
3 - 4 cups of vegetable stock
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
For the jalapeno oil:
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, thickly sliced
1 large jalapeno, thickly sliced
coarse salt, optional
To make the soup:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the garlic cloves, potatoes, and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender.
Towards the last 10 minutes of roasting, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent. Add 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp of thyme, 1 tsp of kosher salt and ½ tsp of black pepper and saute for another 2 minutes. Once vegetables are done roasting, add them to the stockpot of onions and garlic. Stir and let cook for a few minutes. You may need to add another tbsp of oil to accommodate the addition of the roasted vegetables.
Once everything has sauted together for a couple of minutes, add vegetable broth to the stock pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. After the simmering, check to ensure that the potatoes have begun to soften. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the remaining 1 cup of stock to thicken the soup. If it still isn’t thick enough, add the final cup a little at a time until desired thickness. Add the cream, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and check the seasonings.
To make the oil:
Heat the oil in a saucepan, over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium and add in the jalapeno, garlic and salt.
Stir slowly and constantly, and after a minute or so, lower the heat to low so that you do not burn the garlic. Continue slowly stirring until the garlic begins to brown, remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so.
Remove the jalapeno and garlic, and once cooled, store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
We made it through the first set of the holidays. Congrats to all of us. Of course we look forward to and enjoy the holidays with out families, but they are also exhausting.
And what’s next? Another holiday of course. It’s time for Sukkot.
By the time it’s Sukkot I am ready for lighter meals, which is why a delicious soup with a salad, cheese and crackers is my ideal menu. It’s satisfying, but a little lightened up after the past few weeks of meal-laden celebrating.
Sukkot also coincides with the fall, and my obsession for all things pumpkin. Cakes and pies, grilled and roasted: you name it I have done it or will be doing it. This soup is amazing because when you are roasting the pumpkin and red pepper with the sage you entire house will smell like the warming flavors of fall.
Note: I prefer to roast the red peppers the day before making the soup. The skin comes off more easily with plenty of time for cooling.
2 sugar pumpkins
3 red peppers
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
20 sage leaves
2 medium yukon potato, cubed
½ cup olive oil plus olive oil for brushing the pumpkin
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups water
1 tsp of maple syrup
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried sage
leftover challah, cut into cubes
Split the pumpkins in half, rub inside with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the maple syrup. Place 16 sage leaves inside and roast on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hours until inside of pumpkin is tender.
When there is a half an hour left, place the whole red peppers in the oven. Peppers should roast until the skin is crisp and a little black.
Once the pumpkin is out of the oven, discard the sage. Place the roasted red peppers in a paper bag. After the peppers have cooled, peel the skin, remove seeds and cut into pieces.
Scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin using a large spoon. Discard the skin.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the
Add potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the roasted red pepper, the pumpkin flesh, and the remaining sage leaves. Sauté all veggies for another 5 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
Add the liquid and bring to a boil. Once boiled turn down to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can puree in batches in a food processor or regular blender.
Spread the challah cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with dried sage and minced garlic.
Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from baking sheet and allow to cool.
Serve soup with challah croutons and sage as garnish if desired.
Gazpacho is a perfect summer appetizer: it uses up some of those super fresh summer vegetables and won’t keep you indoors slaving away at a hot stove. But I know that cold soups are a bit of an acquired taste for some people. Even my husband, who likes almost everything, is not such a fan of gazpacho.
But this gazpacho is for even those people that swear they don’t like it. And yes, since it is called “bloody mary gazpacho” it really does have vodka. It is a perfect starter for any summer meal, served in martini glasses and garnished just like the beloved brunch cocktail.
Don’t want to include vodka? Just leave it out. Like yours super spicy? Add some more hot sauce and horseradish. This recipe can be altered in several ways depending on your taste.
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1.5 lbs plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1.5 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1.5 cups all-natural tomato juice
1-2 Tbsp horseradish
2-3 tsp hot sauce (or more if you prefer it very spicy)
salt and pepper
1 cup vodka (optional)
8 celery stalks, sliced for garnish (optional)
Cornichon or other pickles for garnish (optional)
Place tomatoes, cucumber, onion and bell pepper in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. You can add a few Tbsp of tomato juice to aid the processor. Pulse until desired smoothness, but do not overprocess.
Add mixture to a large bowl. Add garlic, sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, horeseradish, hot sauce and salt and pepper.
Add vodka to taste if desired.
Garnish with celery and pickles.
Most weeks it’s hard to find a crumb of challah leftover after Shabbat, especially since my husband and I love hosting our friends for Shabbat dinner whenever we can.
But every few weeks or so we like to enjoy a quiet Shabbat just the three of us, and when this happens, there is inevitably part of a challah loaf leftover.
Of course, I make French toast. I make croutons, bread crumbs and even bread pudding. But sometimes a gal just wants to try something new.
I found this recipe from the Inventive Vegetarian and knew I wanted to use up some of my challah to finish off a rich bowl of French Onion Soup. Topped with bubbling, melted munster cheese and you have a Jewish version of this iconic soup. The onions make the soup sweet, and the richness of both the eggy challah and gooey munster cheese make each bite practically sinful
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
½ tsp sugar
1 ½ Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ cup white wine
6 cups vegetable stock
1-2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
6 pieces leftover challah
6 pieces sliced munster cheese
Special equipment: individual ramekins
Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.
Add onions and allow to cook for 12-15 minutes. Don’t worry about fussing with them too much right now, you will be stirring later.
After 15 minutes, add the sugar and stir. Allow the onions to caramelize for the next 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently. If the onions are getting crispy make sure to lower the heat.
After the onions are fully caramelized, sprinkle the flour over them and cook for about three minutes, continuing to stir.
Next, add the wine, deglazing the bottom of the pan as you stir.
Add the stock and the water, continuing to stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a simmer and allow to cook another 30 minutes.
Add several ladles full of soup to each individual ramekin.
Toast your challah pieces and place on top of soup. Add a slice of Munster on top of challah round and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and just beginning to brown.
For me, February is prime comfort food month, so this Shabbat I’m thinking about yummy comfort foods I can serve to my guests.
And then for dessert, these Dark Chocolate Brownies with Raspberry Goat Cheese Swirl have stolen my heart, and I don’t think I’ll be able to recover until I make them and wallow in them for a nice long time. Amiright?
Here are a few recipe ideas to warm up your Shabbat dinner this week!
One of my very own, Tunisian Spice Butternut Squash Soup has just enough spice to make it a little more special than your average butternut squash bisque.
Shabbat Shalom, and happy cooking!
I’m at the tail end of a bad cold. I have a bottle of Dayquil sitting next to me on my desk, and earlier this week I had to restock my tissue supply both at work and at home. And through this sickness I have been slurping soups like there’s no tomorrow. Lentil soup, cabbage soup, pumpkin soup, and of course, matzah ball soup (made without chicken, because I’m a vegetarian).
I’m finally at a point where I can contemplate dairy without being grossed out, and where real substantial food looks good. Still, I don’t want to overdo it with something that will make me feel awful afterwards. In these situations, I always end up back with basic Jewish foods. Most of the time I try to be an innovative cook who tries lots of new things and isn’t afraid to patchke. But on the tail end of a cold, I want challah and hummus, yerushalmi kugel, and something made with cooked carrots (which usually gross me out but somehow seem delicious when I’m sick).
What about you? Are there any Jewish foods you need when you’re recovering from a cold or the flu? Is it all chicken soup all the time, or do you have other favorites?