Archive for the ‘Soup and Chili’ Category

I have four or five different chili recipes I routinely use.  Like the perfect pair of shoes, each recipe has just the right “chili attributes” for different occasions.  A reliable weeknight chili recipe that takes less than thirty minutes to prepare reminds me of my beloved J Crew flip-flops, always conveniently located and ready to slip on.  My cute collegiate loafers remind me of the five-way Cincinnati chili-mac recipe I use for tailgating at football games.  I have a rather sophisticated chili recipe made with braised prime rib and exotic spices which reminds me of my sleek kitten heel pumps.

Today’s chili reminds me of my broken in, all scuffed up, wear all day leather riding boots.  My boots make me feel all snugly and warm and are so comfortable I forget I have them on.  Like being home.  This chili is for crisp, fall harvest Saturdays.  The kind of day where you don’t mind investing a few extra minutes cooking, knowing the reward will be a dish with a nuanced and layered depth of flavor.

Once assembled, put the pot of chili on the back burner and let it gently bubble away while you are out at the kid’s football games, hiking in the woods or grabbing a pumpkin at the farmer’s market.  It will fill the house with the most enticing aromas while you are away.  It makes enough for a big crowd and tastes great served with a dollop of sour cream and crispy tortilla chips.

Big Bold Chili

(serves 8-10 but, may be chilled and reheated)

inspired from Sarah Leah Chase’s Cold Weather Cooking


1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 can white navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 pound bacon, diced

3 medium white onions, diced

4-6 cloves fresh garlic, minced

3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced

3 TBSP ground cumin

3 TBSP paprika

3 TBSP really good chili powder

1/2 to 1 tsp red cayenne pepper (more cayenne = hotter spicy heat)

1 (or more) tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes (optional to increase the spicy heat factor)

3 TBSP dried oregano

2 28 oz cans tomato purée

2-3 cups beef broth

1 pound ground beef

1 pound hot Italian sausage

1 bottle dark, yeasty beer

salt to taste

Serving condiments such as shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, diced onion, fresh cilantro and warm tortilla chips.


Drain and rinse the cans of red kidney, black, white navy and garbanzo beans

Fry the diced bacon until crisp in a large dutch oven.  Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels, set aside. (Save the bacon fat)

Add the diced onion, jalapeno and garlic to the bacon fat.  Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent, about ten minutes.  Drain off the remaining bacon fat.

Toasting the dried spices helps unleash their maximum depth of flavor.  Place the cumin, paprika, chili powder and cayenne  in a dry skillet and toast over medium low heat for two minutes.  Be sure to swirl the pan continuously so the spices do not burn.  Add the fragrant toasted spices to the vegetable mixture.  Add the cans tomato purée, oregano and beef broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile in a separate pan sauté the beef and hot Italian sausage together, breaking it apart with the back of a wooden spoon.  Cook until crumbly and brown.  Drain off excess fat.  Pour the dark beer into the meat to de-glaze.  Add the meat mixture, rinsed beans and cooked bacon to the chili.  Simmer on extremely low heat for an hour or two.  If the mixture gets too thick, thin it by adding extra beer, beef stock or water.  Adjusted any seasoning to taste.  Spoon into crocks and serve piping hot with the condiments.  Enjoy!


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This classic rustic Tuscan tomato soup is called pappa al pomodoro in Italy.  Bright, acidic tomatoes are combined with onions, garlic and basil, thickened with leftover bread and finished off with freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.  It smells heavenly and tastes even better.

I’ve made this soup many times before, but just recently stumbled across a wonderful toasted bread and basil topping to sprinkle over the top.  The topping adds another punch to an already great tasting soup.  Thanks to Ina Garten – I am including the topping too.

I’m just back from a glorious week in Tuscany.  The weather was perfect.  The wine sublime.  The food rustic, simple and delicious.  The villa stunning.  All shared with cherished friends.  About as close to perfect you can get this side of heaven.

Oh…in case anyone is worried the tractor barreling down the lane toward us in this picture stopped just in time.  No  one was injured.  Have you ever tried to photo-shop a tractor out?!?  I’ve decided it adds some “interest” to our picture.

I know if given the opportunity to shop in Italy, most of us would swoon over the fine leather handbags and shoes available in Florence.  However, my passions lie elsewhere:

  Two whole liters of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil bought straight from a charming and delightful heritage farmer.  He let us wander through the grounds of his villa and olive grove.  He proudly explained his organic growing methods and also the artisinal extraction approach he uses involving a centuries old stone wheel which produces hands down the best oil I’ve ever tasted.  Liquid gold.  A little tricky to get back to the states, but well worth it.

I used my newly acquired Italian olive oil to make this batch of soup….oh my it was good!  My post today celebrates all I love about Italy.  Simple food prepared using the freshest ingredients and shared with friends and family.  Wines that compliment and match the flavors of the food.  A little candlelight, a little laughter….perfect.

Tuscan Tomato Soup  pappa al pomodoro

this makes 3-4 servings but can easily be doubled


1/4 cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2-3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (try to get an Italian imported tomato like the San Marzano)

2 cups diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

2 cups chicken stock.

splash of Italian red wine (about 1/4 cup)

freshly grated parmigiano-regianno

For the topping:

another 2 cups of diced rustic Italian bread cubes, about 1 inch each

10-15 fresh basil leaves

sea salt

3-4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil


Toss two cups rustic Italian bread cubes with 10-15 fresh basil leaves and layer on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with 3-4 TBSPS extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.

It will look like this when you pull it out.  The basil will get dark but still tastes delicious.  Set aside to sprinkle on the top of the soup right before you serve it.

  Meanwhile heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pan.  Saute the onions, carrots and garlic for about 10 minutes until tender.

Add the 2 cups diced Italian bread and saute for another 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and red wine.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook it for 30 minutes.  Stir in freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and sprinkle the toasted bread crumb and basil mixture on top.


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Back in the day, I was very smug in my academic knowledge of the culinary category of cold soup-dom.  Let me set the stage – my downstate hometown was a wonderful place to grow up, but we didn’t have much occasion to eat cold soup like gazpacho or vichyssoise for that matter.  We liked our soup like our women….hot.

As a little girl I remember coming across an article about cold soup in one of the Good Housekeeping or Ladies Home Journal or Redbook magazines at my dentist office.  Completely intrigued, I researched the whole topic (how did we do that pre-Google?).  Gazpacho is a Spanish based, cold, raw soup with a tomato base and loads of fresh vegetables.  Sounded sophisticated and wonderful!  Couldn’t wait to try it.

Vichyssoise – cold potato soup?  Not so much.

Fast forward many years to my first big girl business lunch at my first post college job in big, scary downtown Chicago.  I had on my pumps and my requisite white button down with a silk bow tied at the neck.  Just a wee bit intimidated (really scared shit-less) trying to navigate the menu, participate in the conversation with my elders and make sure I knew which of the three forks to use for what.

That’s when I spotted gazpacho on the menu.  I could finally try it!  All the other stuff fell away, I was transported back to that dentist’s office as a little girl and I quickly ordered.  One of the elders was not familiar with gazpacho so I regaled him with my extensive knowledge, never admitting that I had yet to try it.

The first bite was incredible but surprising.  This was not sophisticated after all, just fresh and acidic and oh-so-tasty.  Homey and comfortable.  I could taste the tomato and the cucumber and the bell peppers separately but then all the flavors came together to create something bigger and better and delicious. Definitely worth the wait.


inspired by Ina Garten and also Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal or Redbook (can’t remember which one).


6-8 plum tomatoes, cut in half, remove seeds (keep the pulp though) and cut into one inch cubes

2 cucumbers, skin on, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and cut into one inch cubes

3 yellow bell peppers, remove stems and seeds and cut in one inch cubes

1 red onion, cut into one inch cubes

4-6 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

6 cups tomato juice

salt and pepper to taste


The trick to keeping each vegetable flavor separate and not muddling the flavors is to process each vegetable separately in the food processor.  Put the one inch cubes of each vegetable in the food processor one at a time and pulse 8-10 times to roughly chop the vegetable.  Once processed, add to a big bowl.  Don’t over process or you will have a boring, baby food mess!

The tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers and red onion each in one inch cubes and in bowl of food processor.

The same, roughly chopped by pulsing the food processor 8-10 times.

Add all the rough chopped vegetables to a big bowl along with 6-8 cloves fresh minced garlic.

Stir all together and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk together olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Pour over vegetables and stir.  Let all the vegetables have a minute to soak up the great flavors in the vinegar and oil.  Add the tomato juice.  Stir again.  Refrigerate until time to serve. I love serving gazpacho with mini melted cheese toasts.  Enjoy!!

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Over the last twenty years I’ve made White Lightning Chicken Chili countless times following a recipe originally published in Southern Living magazine in the early 90’s.  The recipe calls for 2 cans of chopped green chiles.  It is fine, not great.  Utilitarian of sorts, but not anything I’d tout in my blog.  Just recently I came across another white chili recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook (the Cook’s Illustrated folks).  This recipe uses fresh chili peppers (poblano, anaheim, jalapeno) instead of canned.  The fresh peppers made an astounding difference in the chili.  It gave it a freshness pop and depth of flavor I had been missing all these years.  Here is the rendition to tout!

White Lightning Chicken Chili
(adapted from Southern Living and America’s Test Kitchen)

3 jalapeño chile peppers: stemmed, seeded and cut into pieces
3 poblano chile peppers: stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chile peppers: stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces (if hard to find use extra jalapeno and poblano)
2 medium onions , papery skin off and cut into large pieces (about 2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 TBSP olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp white pepper

3 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini or great northern beans , drained and rinsed
6 cups chicken stock
4 cups roasted chicken, bones and skin removed and shredded
(I roast my own whole chicken or bone in chicken breasts but in a pinch use a store bought rotisserie chicken)
Finish with (if desired)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions , white and light green parts sliced thin
Serve with

tortilla chips
shredded cheese
dollop of sour cream

3 each Poblano, anaheim and jalapeno chili peppers, 2 medium onions, 1 head of garlic

Into the Cuisinart: chili peppers stemmed, seeded and cut into large pieces.  Onions skinned and cut into large pieces.   Head of garlic crunched then six individual cloves of peeled garlic added.

Pulse 10-15 times until minced.  (Don’t  wash the food processor bowl and blade yet.  We will use it again in a few minutes.)

I had to show this cute picture!  My friend Iwona gave me fresh cumin and coriander seeds for a Christmas present.  I crushed them in a spice mill to use in the chili.  Of course you can use already crushed store bought spices in this recipe.

Add 2 TBSP olive oil to Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the  minced chile-onion garlic mixture from the food processor bowl along with the spices (cumin, coriander, ground cloves and white pepper).  Salt to taste.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

open 3 cans of white beans, rinse and drain

open 2 boxes of chicken stock (or broth is fine).  Each box is 4 cups so you will use 1.5 boxes

Now here is a trick to make scrumptious chili and soups.  Transfer 1 cup of the cooked vegetable mixture to the now empty food processor bowl.  Add 1 cup of the beans and 1 cup of the stock.  Process until smooth, about 20 seconds.

When added back to the dutch oven this puree will add extra flavor, depth and texture to the chili.  It will also help thicken it.

Add the pureed vegetable-bean mixture, the remaining 5 cups broth, and rest of beans back into the Dutch oven.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour.  This gives a chance for all the flavors to develop.  Feel free to add a few dashes of hot sauce if you want it spicier.  Salt to taste.  The chili will get thicker and the flavors will intensify as it simmers.  For even thicker chili feel free to take more of the chili from the dutch oven, puree it in the food processor and add it back.  About ten minutes before it’s time to eat add the shredded cooked chicken.  (If you add the chicken too soon it will get overcooked and tough).  Once off heat finish with fresh cilantro, lime juice and scallions if desired.  Enjoy!!

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