soup

As I mentioned over Instagram the other day, our youngest son recently came down with a fever, the first of his life (he’s only 11 months old, but still, I like saying that). Four airplane rides over the course of seven days will do that (we traveled to my home state of Washington for Thanksgiving last week). No problem regarding the fever, though – chicken soup to the rescue, and he was back to his usual, trouble-making self the following day.

I think the Instant Pot pressure cooker craze has reached a fever pitch this year; in fact, it was on heavilty discounted during both Black Friday and Cyber Monday this past week on Amazon (I mentioned the sale in my periodic newsletter – which you’re signed up for, right?). So it seems right to share a simple pressure-cooker chicken soup recipe with you folks today.

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Like I mentioned last week, I’m on travel for work – right now I’m enjoying sunny (but a little chilly) Naples, Italy. And just like last week, I’m using today’s post as an opportunity to share a favorite recipe from one of my cookbooks; this time I’m sharing one from my debut, The Ancestral Table. From the book:

Borscht (Борщ) is a hearty soup most commonly associated with Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. Its name likely comes from the Slavic name for hogweed (Borschevik), which was often used to flavor soups. Although potatoes were a later addition, the foundation of borscht as we know it today dates back at least to the 9th century. This recipe is the popular Russian version, which is served hot and with meat. To cut down on the cooking time, you could make this soup with premade broth, or even make it vegetarian by using just water. Instructions for each variation are provided below.

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It’s been a couple months since my last soup post, so this one is long overdue. Soups are a vital part of my diet; they are versatile, easy to prepare, and a seamless way to integrate more homemade broth into my eating routine. Today’s lettuce soup is a nice change of pace, and a unique way to avoid the incessant crunching and chewing that comes from eating a plateful of lettuce.

There are two main cuisines with a history of enjoying lettuce in their soup. In Chinese cuisine, it is added as a finishing vegetable, much in the same way you’d add herbs like cilantro or scallions; for example, our local Vietnamese restaurant serves its Chinese-inspired Hu Tieu soup with lettuce on top. Today’s recipe favors the French preparation of lettuce soup, which is often blended (or run through a sieve) and flavored with cream.

Any lettuce will do for this recipe, with the exception of iceberg, because it probably won’t add much flavor. This dish is served both cold and hot, and we prefered the hot version. Lettuce soup has a flavor that’s hard to describe – earthy but not dirty, sharp but not biting. I’ve found that cooking down a leek in the chicken broth enriches and balances the soup; adding a few sprigs of parsley and some lemon zest help brighten its top notes as well.

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We’re in the thick of tomato season (June to September in the US), which means it’s time to share one of my favorite simple soups.

Tomato soup is a common comfort food here in the US, and has a similar association in many western countries; Poland, I’ve found, is particularly fond of the soup, as it is the first thing young chefs learn to make (a quick Google search of “Zupa Pomidorowa” yields 1.5 million results).

Tomatoes are relatively new to the Western palate; first imported from Mexico to Europe by Spanish explorers, they were initially considered poisonous and used as ornamentals. In 1789, Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the United States – he was Secretary of State at the time, which leads one to wish all Secretaries of State were judged by the deliciousness of foods imported during their tenure. In the US, tomatoes were not commonly eaten until the 1830s, and the first record of tomato soup was written by famous American author Maria Parloa in 1872. Joseph Campbell’s condensed tomato soup cemented its comfort-food status in 1897.

The English word tomato is on loan from the Spanish tomate, which was lifted from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word tomatl. The first tomatoes were probably yellow, which makes sense when considering the other common word for the savory fruit, derived from the Italian pomodoro – a pairing of pomo ‎(“apple”) +‎ d’oro ‎(“golden”).

This soup takes about an hour to make with fresh tomatoes, slightly faster when using canned tomatoes, and significantly quicker with the help of my favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (instructions for each method below).

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Nakji Jeongol (낙지전골) is a Korean octopus stew that deserves a bit of primer, since the world of Korean soups and stews can be pretty intimidating. In Korea, most meals are accompanied with some form of soup, categorized into two main categories: soups like guk or tang, and stews like jjigae or jeongol.

Soups are typically thin, simple, and simmered for extended periods. In general, guk are meatless, and a little watery; last year I posted a recipe for the popular Gul Guk (Oyster Soup). Tang are, you guess it, made with meat (a favorite of mine, Gamjatang, is made with pork neck and potatoes – it appears in my first cookbook, The Ancestral Table).

Stews are more ornate, adorned with fresh vegetables, and served in large, family-style dishes. Jjigae are typically made with a single defining ingredient; Kimchi Jjigae and Sundubu Jjigae, the latter made with curdled tofu, are the most popular. Jeongol contain a variety of ingredients, and are a little more elaborate; historically, jeongol were served for members of the royal court, while jjigae were for commoners.

Today’s Nakji Jeongol has a fair amount of add-ins, but the basic recipe is very simple: marinate the octopus, prepare the soup base, throw it all together. There is no single set of add-ins, so feel free to throw in whatever you have available to you (for example, I used cilantro because the more traditional herb, perilla, is hard to find where I live). Frozen packages of pre-cleaned octopus can be found in most Asian markets, or you can get some fresh (and likely cleaned, but here’s a quick video if needed) from your local fishmonger.

One fairly uncommon ingredient in the soup base is doenjang, which is the Korean version of miso paste; if you’re not able to find it locally, it is sold online, or red miso paste will work in a pinch. If you’re curious as to my thoughts on fermented soy, here is something I wrote earlier this year (spoiler alert: I think fermented soy is fine).

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You know, I really thought I was done with soup for a while. The weather has been nice and warm down here in the Florida panhandle, balmy in just the right way – never so cold that a light jacket won’t do the trick, and never too hot for pants. But then last week I visited my old stomping grounds in Maryland, and the weather was distinctly cooler; in other words, it was soup weather.

Garbure is a peasant’s soup originally from the Aquitaine (southwest) region of France; its defining ingredients include cabbage, meat (typically ham or duck), and seasonal vegetables like beans or peas. The consistency of the soup varies – some are nice and thick thanks to copious beans or chunks of bread (a good Garbure, I’ve read, should allow to spoon to stick up on its own), while others let cabbage provide the soup’s body.

My recipe takes cues from the second idea of Garbure, partly because I don’t typically cook with beans or chunks of delicious French bread (yep, there are definitely drawbacks to a Paleo-minded lifestyle), but also because I really enjoy cabbage soup.

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I’m traveling this week, and feeling a little under the weather. These two events frequently coincide; that is just the price one pays for seeing new places and shaking new hands. So this week seems like an appropriate time to share one of my favorite chicken soups.

Cock-A-Leekie (sometimes spelled Cockie Leekie) is a Scottish soup likely derived from French chicken and onion soup during the Middle Ages. It was later adapted to Scottish regional ingredients (namely, leeks), and sometime down the line prunes were an added element of the dish – probably to increase the dish’s flavor and nutritional profile. The soup is often thickened with cooked rice or barley, or enjoyed plain, as in this recipe.

Fun fact: this soup is one of two items on the menu the day the Titanic sank.

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My parents-in-law recently visited from Hawaii over the holidays, to help around the house as we adjusted to having a new baby in our family. It was great spending the holidays with them, but it also made me realize how much I miss living in Hawaii. I lived there from ages 21 to 28, and many of the events that shaped who I am today – from meeting and marrying my wife, to honing my skills as a home chef, to suffering the worst of my health adventures – came while living in view of the Honolulu skyline. For a few of those years, Janey and I lived with her parents, whom we affectionately called our “roommates”.

When we left the island in 2008, it genuinely felt like I was leaving home; time has caused that sentiment to wane a bit, but in the end, Hawaii has a special place in my heart. And within that special place in my heart there is another, perhaps specialer place in my heart, which is where Hawaii’s Chinese-style oxtail soup resides.

The title for Hawaii’s best oxtail soup is hotly contested. I’ve heard everything from Kapiolani Coffee Shop to Aiea Bowl. Somewhat surprisingly, restaurants attached to bowling alleys are generally known for having good oxtail soup – even the famous Kapiolani Coffee Shop oxtail soup got its start at Kam Bowl, which closed in 2007 but re-opened just last month.

I like to think that preparing an authentic dish from Hawaii makes the sting of not living there hurt a little less, and you really can’t go wrong with a Chinese-inspired creation that’s equal parts rich and comforting. So we’re going to recreate it today for those of us who can’t just drive to our local bowling alley to buy a bowl of soup. Included below are stovetop and electric pressure cooker variations of the recipe, whatever floats your boat.

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It’s a New Year, which means many folks are just starting (or restarting) a new healthy eating adventure. One of the more popular eating challenges is the Whole30 (heck, it’s the #6 book on Amazon as of this morning). It’s been a few years since I’ve done a Whole30, which is a 30-day program with explicit guidelines. It doesn’t stray far from the way I eat anyway, other than the fact that it’s more stringent on honey, alcohol, dairy, and rice than my typical diet.

One thing I remember from my last Whole30 (in 2012, if memory serves me) was that I had a hard time keeping up my carb intake – at the time, the only carb-heavy foods allowed were sweet potatoes, beets, and plantains, which grew tiresome after a month of eating them. Luckily, the folks behind Whole30 remedied that in 2014, when they added white potatoes to their list of allowed foods. Hopefully this recipe – which includes two starchy vegetables – will make this month’s Whole30 a bit easier for everyone (also, don’t forget about this guide which transforms 94% of the 250+ recipes in Paleo Takeout to be Whole3o-compliant).

The turnip is one of the first cultivated vegetables, with some records dating back 17,000 years. Turnip roots aren’t as popular in the US as their greens, which are similar to mustard greens in taste. This soup is one of my favorite ways to prepare turnips, as it accentuates the natural creaminess of the root; serve this to your guests, and they won’t believe you that it’s dairy-free. Adding potatoes to the soup adds more body and heft to the dish, warming the belly on these cold winter evenings.

Fun fact: the rutabaga, another common root vegetable, was originally a cross-cultivation of the turnip and cabbage. It is also referred to as “neep” in some countries, likely a carryover from the Old English word næp (and before that, the Latin word napus), which meant “turnip”. Rutabagas and turnips are often confused for one another, with a common misconception that rutabagas are just large turnips.

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Local friends: I’ll be having a talk, cooking demo, and book signing in a couple weeks – for more info, see the bottom of this post.

This little soup has made quite a journey over its lifetime. It was traditionally a sauce served over rice in its native India, but British colonials returning to England from travels abroad in the 19th century sought to recreate the dish at home. It eventually evolved into a mildly-flavored soup and spread as far as Australia, and there are now hundreds of variations of the dish.

While coconut milk was likely the original ingredient used to add richness to the soup, cream eventually took over in the UK. Personally, I like the exotic notes that coconut milk provides, so I reverted this dish back to its roots. This soup is typically thickened by adding rice and blending it with the other ingredients, but if you’re rice-free, don’t worry about it, the soup will still have a fairly hearty thickness to it thanks to the soup’s blended sweet potato.

One of my favorite aspects of this dish is that it imparts a slightly exotic flavor while using common ingredients (much like another favorite, Sukuma Wiki). Lastly, one fun fact: the name mulligatawny is derived from the Tamil (Southern Indian) words மிளகு தண்ணீர் (mullaga and thanni), which translate to “pepper water”.

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