Soup’s on!

April 13, 2011

Winter Is a time for hot soup, crusty bread and blankets to help keep us warm. The blanket is easy….pick your favorite one. Baguette or boule…the bread is pretty easy too. The soup, that gets a little trickier. There are vegetable soups, bean soups, bisques, chowders and stews. Which to make? What’s the difference?
We will start with consistency……consomme to stew, soups increase in thickness and heartiness based on ingredients. Thickening can come from a roux (flour and fat) a bean, legume or potato in the soup itself or by pureeing the soup. Here are the basics of soup, from thinnest to thickest:

1. Consommé is basically flavored broth, often served as a starter course in fancy restaurants. Beef is the most common flavor.
2. Broth based soups – think chicken noodle, egg drop, and onion soup. These are soups that have a thin broth, vegetables and small pieces of meet added for texture, but lots of juice.
3. Bisque and chowdas РBisque is a thick, creamy soup made from pur̩ed seafood (lobster) or vegetables and Chowders are typically cream or milk based, and often contain potatoes (clam, corn).
4. Pureed soups -think butternut squash, carrot, tomato or other root vegetable soups. Ingredients are cooked in broth, then pureed to smooth consistency and thicker texture.
5. Beans/legumes – think black bean, split pea and lentil soups. These soups are thickened by the ingredients breaking down and softening in the cooking process. Healthier than the cream soups, but very filling and great “for dinner” soups.
6. Stew is a very hearty version of a soup with broth that has been cooked down, in an effort to braise and tenderize the meat used in the stew itself. Stew can be eaten with a fork, but best with a spoon.
7. Unique or other – Cheese soups can be thick or thin. Fruit soups are great in the summer and can be served as dessert. Gazpacho is almost salsa, but would fall in the “cold stew” catagory…..but not really. Thick, chunky and some juice.

Whatever your preference, soup is a great addition to any meal or as a meal itself and is seasonal, easy, and delicious. What is your favorite?

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Fish stew international

June 21, 2010

Cooking can be very intimidating to many people for a variety of reasons. When it comes to international fare, that stress level can rise. When traveling, as I have been blessed to have had the chance to do quite a bit in my lifetime, I found a lot of common ground across the lands. Today, I will share fish stews with you.

In San Fransisco, Cioppino is the local favorite made with shellfish, whitefish, tomatoes and oregano, thyme and or basil. Sometimes wine is added for depth, and served with a nice crusty sourdough on the side.

The French have Bouillabaisse – mixed whitefish, shellfish (typically of Mediterranean descent) with tomatoes, onion, fennel and saffron. They serve their stew with croutons.
In Italy Zuppa di Pesce is a favorite with variations region to region. Once again shellfish, whitefish and tomatoes take center stage. A little white wine, parsley (Italian of course) and a side of crusty Italian bread finishes this meal.

The spanish have Zarzuela de Mariscos – tomatoes, bell peppers saffron, herbs and mixed shellfish with almonds to thicken. Puerto Rico has Asopa de Mariscos with the same ingredients, but no almonds. The Portuguese have Cataplana, named for the copper cooking vessels used to cook the stew. Tomatoes, saffron, bell pepper and mixed seafood with a touch of cream all go into the pot.

Brazilians have Moqueca with whitefish, tomatoes, and coconut milk. They also add Piri Piri sauce – with lot’s of garlic and olive oil. Head to the South, and gumbo takes center stage – bell peppers, tomatoes thyme, basil and a little celery. Of course a little andouille sausage for flavor – it is the south after all – and okra, shrimp, scallops and crab. Sometimes it is just shrimp – depending on the chef.

So you see – we all eat our seafood in delicious tomato baths, with a nice crispy bread to soak up those juices. Well all of us outside of New England……even Manhattan does a tomato based clam chowder!

So go enjoy the local seafood – and keep watching as I compare another favorite dish that spans the globe!

Bon appetit!