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Citrus Gazpacho A trip to the American Southwest and blistering hot days prompt me to explore the world of chilled soups. After eating at Cafe Pasqual’s, a James Beard America’s Regional Cooking Classics award winner, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I left a few pounds heavier. Not only did I eat every bit of food that was placed before me, I also toted home two of Cafe Pasqual’s cookbooks in my suitcase. In one of the books, Chef Katharine Kagel shares a much-requested recipe for a refreshing citrus-flavored gazpacho.

Citrus Gazpacho
Recipe from Cooking with Cafe Pasqual’s

INGREDIENTS
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest and fruit of 1 orange
Zest of 1/2 and fruit of 1 pink grapefruit
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS
1. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the tomatoes. Place over high heat and bring to a full boil. While the water is heating, use the tip of a sharp paring knife to score a small X on the bottom of each tomato, just piercing the skin.

2. Put the tomatoes into the boiling water for 20 seconds. Use tongs to transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl filled with ice and water. (This will stop further cooking.) Allow the tomatoes to cool for a few minutes, remove them from the water, and peel their skins with either a paring knife or your fingers, starting at the scored end. Discard the peel.

3. Core and dice one tomato and reserve it. Slice the other tomatoes in half crosswise, and squeeze out the seeds. Remove the cores. Put the tomatoes into the container of a blender.

4. Place the garlic, vinegar, orange juice, and orange and grapefruit zests into the blender with the tomatoes and whirl. Transfer the puree to a serving pitcher or a serving bowl and add the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, and olive oil.

5. To prepare the fruit, use a paring knife on a cutting board to cut off both ends of the grapefruit and orange so that the fruit can securely stand on end for cutting. Starting from the top of the citrus, slice off all the peel and pith, following the contour. All the fruit will now be exposed. Cradle the fruit in the palm of your hand you aren’t using for slicing, and use the paring knife to cut loose each fruit segment from the inner side of the membrane. Angle the long side of the blade between the fruit and the membrane toward the center of each segment, cutting in a V configuration. No membrane should be attached to the fruit segments.

6. Add the fruit segments to the gazpacho mixture and stir.

7. Add the salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.

8. Chill well before serving.

Makes 6 cups

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I couldn’t find pink grapefruit at my local market, so I used a red grapefruit instead.
2. The recipe didn’t indicate when to add the reserved diced tomatoes, so I added them in with the cucumbers, bell pepper, and red onions.
3. I added 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
4. Chef Kagel notes in her recipe, “The trick to this recipe is to cut all the diced ingredients into uniform dimensions.”

Enjoy!

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Hearty Lentil Soup “Can you stay for dinner?” an elementary schoolmate asked me decades ago. “We’re having lentil soup, she said. “What are lentils?” I asked. Being of Asian descent, lentils had never passed through my lips before. To my delight, I found her family’s lentil soup to be rich in flavor and texture and I will forever associate lentils with her.

Lentils, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and low in fat. But unlike other legumes, there’s no need to presoak lentils and they take less time to cook. The dominant flavors in this robust soup come from the earthiness of the lentils and the fresh vegetables, but the subtle undertones come from two surprising ingredients: Dijon mustard and vinegar. This soup is hostess-friendly, too, because it can be made a day in advance and it tastes even better when served the second day!

Hearty Lentil Soup
Recipe from the Sacramento Bee

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion
3 large garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1½ cups French green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Chopped celery leaves and parsley, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to color around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mince or pound the garlic in a mortar with 1 teaspoon salt.

3. Work the tomato paste into the onion, then add the garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaves and parsley and cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add the lentils, 2 quarts of water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 24 to 35 minutes.

5. Stir in the mustard and vinegar. Taste and add more of either as needed.

6. Check the salt, season with plenty of pepper, remove the bay leaves and serve, garnished with the celery leaves and parsley.

7. The longer the soup sits before serving, the better it will taste.

Serves 4 to 6

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I use Italian parsley when I make this soup.

2. Because I like the way French green lentils hold their shape, I prefer using them in this soup over brown lentils.

3. The second time I made this soup, I used vegetable broth in place of the water. I can honestly say that there was no noticeable improvement in flavor using the broth, so I don’t recommend spending extra money on vegetable broth. This is not to say, though, that homemade vegetable stock wouldn’t have added a richness to the soup.

ENJOY!

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Cinnamon Beef Noodles Ribbons of fat noodles soak up a spicy and aromatic broth while tender chunks of beef and green spinach leaves float by. How’s that for comfort food on a cold night? The use of cinnamon in a beef and noodle recipe may leave some people wondering. Wonder no more. For without a doubt, the cinnamon, together with the ginger, aniseed, and hot chile paste, undeniably adds a lovely complexity to the flavors in this simple and appealing dish.

Cinnamon Beef Noodles
Nina Simonds Asian Noodles Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon safflower or corn oil

Chile-Cinnamon Seasonings:
6 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1½-inch sections, and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed lightly with flat side of a cleaver, and thinly sliced

4 slices fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter), smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

1½ teaspoons hot chile paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon aniseed

Remaining Ingredients:
8½ cups water

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 pounds chuck or beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and gristle, and cut into 1½-inch cubes

10-ounces spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and drained

1/2 pound flat Chinese wheat-flour noodles, udon, or other flat noodles, such as fettuccine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water, and drained

3 tablespoons minced scallions

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat a large pot or casserole over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the chile-cinnamon seasonings and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

2. Add the water and the soy sauce and bring to a boil.

3. Add the beef and bring back to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours, or until the beef is very tender. Skim the surface to remove any impurities or fat.

5. Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon sticks and discard.

6. Add the spinach and bring to a boil.

7. Divide the noodles among six soup bowls. Ladle the meat, spinach, and broth over the noodles and sprinkle with scallions. Serve.

6 Servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used half low-sodium soy and half regular soy, because I was concerned about the broth being too salty. It was just right. No additional salt was needed.

2. Because I had 3 pounds of meat, I added an additional stick of cinnamon to the pot.

3. Adding chunks of red pepper will contrast the spinach nicely and give the dish a little bit more color.

4. In her recipe Ms. Simonds states, “The flavor gets better and better every time you reheat it.” Don’t you love food that gets better with time!

ENJOY!

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Zucchini Soup While waiting for a clerk at a used book store to sort through my bags of audio books, I casually walked up and down the aisles. A magnetic force, of some kind, pulled me to a bookcase in the far corner. That’s where my husband found me — sitting on the floor with a pile of cookbooks. He looked at me and said nothing. I could tell he was thinking, “Great, that’s all she needs is another cookbook.” I looked back at him and quickly said, “Don’t worry, I’m not buying all of these! I’m going to narrow it down to just one.” And I did. Susan Branch’s cookbook, with its tried and true recipes, lovely watercolor illustrations, handwritten pages, and a terrific price tag of $2.99, proved to be “the one” for me. It was serendipitous, as freshly harvested zucchini sat on my kitchen counter, waiting to be the stars in a delicately-flavored zucchini soup recipe from my new cookbook.

Zucchini Soup
From Heart of the Home by Susan Branch

Ingredients:
4 cups sliced zucchini
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup water
1 10 ounce can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
1 cup half & half
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Sauté onion in butter several minutes.
2. Add zucchini and water. Simmer 30 minutes.
3. Remove from heat; cool slightly.
4. Blend in blender at high speed until puréed.
5. Return to saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients and heat to simmering. Serve.

Serves 4

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Because the zucchini from my garden were large and because I didn’t want to waste half a zucchini, I ended up using 5 cups. The next time I make this soup, I will use five cups of zucchini again.
2. I used fat-free half & half with perfect results.
3. Because condensed soup contains a fair amount of sodium, I added very little additional salt.
4. Since zucchini and basil are both summer produce, I will try adding fresh basil to the soup the next time I make it. The equivalent of dried herbs to fresh herbs is usually 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh.

Enjoy!

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split pea and spinach soup

A sip of hearty soup and a bite of freshly baked cornbread takes the chill out of a chilly evening. But better than that, when this thick and flavorful soup is paired up with cornbread, which is a complimentary protein, a complete protein is formed. How comforting to know that the comfort food you’re eating is not only delicious, but good for you, too!

Split Pea and Spinach Soup
Recipe from Linnell’s old recipe box, original source unknown

Ingredients:
2 cups chopped onions (about 2 large ones)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb. or 2 cups yellow or green split peas, picked over and rinsed
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven and add onions. Sauté the onions (and the pork, if using*) in oil until tender.
2. Add peas, water, bay leaves, and basil.
3. Cover and simmer for approximately one hour or until the peas are tender.
4. Add the spinach, cover, and simmer, while stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes longer.
5. Season with salt, pepper, and cloves.
6. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and a crusty loaf of pumpernickel bread.

Serves 4 or makes 10 cups.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. *I add either diced salt pork, ham, or 2 smoked ham hocks for additional flavor. Obviously if you’d like to make this a vegetarian soup, you will omit the meat.
2. Taste soup before adding the salt, especially if you’re adding a cured meat.
3. As the recipe suggests, pumpernickel bread is a good accompaniment, but my family would revolt if I did not serve this with cornbread.

ENJOY!

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I never knew what the big deal was about butternut squash soup until I tasted some at a Zagat-rated restaurant. It was thick and creamy like most squash soups are, but what made this one stand out was the surprising taste of apple in it. As soon as I got home from dinner that night, I searched the Internet for a similar soup recipe. None of the recipes I found was exactly what I was looking for and I was disappointed. Then at the end of a long day of Christmas shopping, I came across a cookbook for soups and stews that contained a recipe for a butternut and apple soup. Although, I was supposed to be buying gifts for others, I quickly snatched up the cookbook and bought a gift for myself!

Winter Squash and Apple Bisque
Recipe from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook Soup & Stew

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 Pippin, Granny Smith, or other tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 butternut squash, about 2 lb, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus whole leaves for garnish
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, plus whole leaves for garnish
1/2 cup half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:
1. In a soup pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Sauté the onion and shallots until softened, about five minutes.

2. Add the apples and squash and cook until nicely coated, about 3 minutes longer.

3. Add the stock and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme.

4. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.

5. Remove from the heat. Using a handheld or standing blender, purée the soup until smooth.

6. Stir in the half-and-half and season with salt and pepper.

7. Reheat gently over medium-low heat.

8. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the sour cream and rosemary and thyme leaves.

Makes 6-8 servings

Linnell’ Notes:
1. Just a reminder, butternut squash are easier to peel if you microwave them on high for two minutes first.

2. I would have liked this soup even more if it had a more pronounced apple flavor. The next time I make this soup, I will add one more apple. Also, I think I will experiment with different varieties of apples to see which one gives the soup the best flavor.

3. Other dense, orange-fleshed winter squash could be substituted for the butternut squash.

Enjoy!

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