Quick Lentil Soup

In preparation for our big move, I’ve started to clean out the fridge. Perhaps it’s a bit hasty since we are here in Seattle for about 6 more weeks, but I’m getting excited! In the fridge I found a package of Trader Joe’s cooked lentils and a half eaten container of red pepper hummus, these got me thinking about my favorite curried lentil soup recipe by Molly Wizenberg. She adds pureed chick peas to the cooked lentil mixture right before serving, it’s a fantastic soup, I’ve included a link at the bottom of this post. So using her recipe as inspiration I made a quick lunch.

2C Cooked lentils

1/2C Hummus  (I used a red pepper hummus, but I bet most flavors would work well)

1 1/2 -2C Vegetable broth

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, stir together lentils, hummus and 1 1/2 C vegetable broth. Add more broth if you like a thinner soup. Season with pepper.

Optional: serve with lemon wedges and pita bread or chips.

Serves 2-3

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/12/curried_lentil_soup

Homemade Chicken Broth/Butchering a Chicken

Few things smell as good as chicken broth simmering away on the stove. And few things are so easy! Throw a few carcasses in a pot, add cold water to cover, a pinch of salt and simmer until the bones are soft (about 4 hours). You could add a bay leaf, herbs and a few vegetables if you want; but it’s not essential.

I get the bones from either leftover roasted chicken or from butchering a whole bird. After eating the roasted chicken, I place the leftovers in a plastic bag and put in the freezer until I’m ready to make stock. I do the same with carrot, onion and celery ends too. I like to use a combination of raw and roasted bones for stock. The raw bones will give the stock more body and texture, but the roasted bones will give a deeper flavor.

Breaking down, or butchering a chicken isn’t that hard with practice and a sharp knife. I’m sure there are plenty of sites and cookbooks that have detailed descriptions with pictures of  butchering a chicken. But here, I’ll just briefly describe how I break down a chicken.

1. Run your knife down a honing steel a few times.

2.Take one of the breasts off by cutting alongside the keel bone (the breast bone) and then down the ribs bones. Repeat on the other side.

3.This step is going to sound a little gruesome-sorry.Grab both of the thighs with your hands and bend them back until the hip joint comes out of its socket. Wash your hands and then use your knife to cut between the joints.

Usually buying whole chickens is cheaper than buying the pieces, plus you get the useful bones. After making the stock, I strain and cool it. Then I pour it into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, I pop them out into a bag and store them in the freezer. Each cube is about 2 Tablespoons, easy for measuring or for thawing if you are using a lot.

Homemade stock will make any soup, sauce or stew taste amazingly better than using store bought. The taste and texture is much richer and deeper; plus you can control the sodium level.

Butternut Squash Soup with Spicy Pepitas

An easy  fall soup that can be made with just about any winter squash you can find. The entire soup can be made in under an hour, or even faster if you use frozen squash.

3 Shallots, diced
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Butternut squash*; peeled, cored and diced
½ teaspoon Cumin
3-4 Cups Chicken stock

¾ Cup pumpkin seeds
3 Tablespoons Powdered sugar
½ teaspoon Cumin
½ teaspoon Cayenne

1 Lime

In a large pot sweat the shallots in butter. Add the diced squash, cumin and 3 Cups of chicken stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. While the soup is simmering prepare the pumpkin seeds. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat; add the seeds, cumin, sugar, cayenne and a pinch of salt. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Pour onto a plate to cool. When the squash is soft puree and adjust consistency with chicken stock if needed, and taste for seasoning.  Serve the soup with a few pepitas and a little lime zest.

*You could substitute frozen pureed squash, about 2#, for a super fast meal!

Watermelon Gazpacho

This recipe may be a little out of season, but it’s something I’ve been experimenting with. The watermelon in the soup adds an interesting sweetness and a beautiful color.

Many grocery stores sell pre-cut watermelon, which makes this recipe super easy, and you don’t need to worry about what to do with a whole watermelon. But if you do buy a whole watermelon and you have leftover pieces that you just can’t finish, put them in the freezer. I’ll post a recipe for a drink called the Fresh Prince that uses watermelon and gin once I get the amounts figured out.

4C Watermelon pieces
1 1/4 C* Fresh salsa (I like using a roasted tomato salsa)
1/2 Lime, juiced
1/4 C Cilantro
1/2 C Croutons

Place watermelon, 3/4C of the salsa, cilantro and lime juice in a blender and puree. Taste and see if you want more salsa-add more if needed and puree. Season to taste with salt. Chill before serving. Garnish with croutons.

Serves 4

* the amount of salsa is variable depending on the flavor of the salsa, and how spicy or sweet you like your gazpacho. Some people like a more tomatoey soup and other really like the sweetness of the watermelon to be the focus. So be creative and play around a bit with amount of salsa.

Potato Leek Soup

If you know me, this is a very strange recipe to start my blog off with. I don’t like potatoes. But this is what I have in my fridge right now, and it fits my theme of recipes that can be made in a small kitchen with few pots,pans or appliances.

3 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Leeks white part only, washed and sliced
6 Cups chicken broth
2tsp Salt
1/2 Cup half-n-half
1 Tablespoon sherry (optional)

In a large pot combine: potatoes, leeks, chicken broth and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, and stir in the half-n-half. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the smooth soup back into the large pot. Heat over low until hot, add the sherry (if using) and add salt to taste.

Serves 4Potato leek soup