He strode over to our brightly lit booth and asked if he could take our photo. He was a photojournalist snapping pics for a book called “A Day in the life of America”. The date was May 2, 1986 – the time, 3:40 a.m. Dressed in black with heavy eyeliner, we would erroneously be called “goth” today, but actually we were paying homage to Steve Strange and bands like Visage. “Of course,” we said. “Who wouldn’t want to take our photo,” we thought. We were young and invincible, a stylish knot of fashionable alternative kids huddled in Canter’s Deli slurping matzo ball soup in the wee hours before dawn. For us, it was truly just another Friday night – a ritual of underground clubs followed by a nosh at Canter’s. At that time of the morning, it was always an eclectic mix in their dining room – clubbers, rockers, blue collar workers, and the local older Jewish community unable to sleep – all there for a bowl of their rich chicken soup surrounding one humongous Jewish dumpling. Comfort in an unbreakable melamine cafeteria bowl.
For me, even 30 years later, matzo ball soup still conjures those early mornings spent at Canter’s. The book came out several months later – our photo disappointingly left on the cutting room floor. This recipe is dedicated to those kids in 1986 – intoxicated by life, in love with late L.A. nights and shimmering with uncontainable youth.
I prefer to make my matzo balls smaller and serve two per bowl rather than the classic single humongous dumpling.
4 large eggs, well beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
1 cup matzo meal (such as Manischewitz)
2 carrots, cut into ½” rounds
2 celery ribs, cut ½” thick
1 small onion cut into ½” cubes
2 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups shredded chicken
Salt and white pepper to taste
To make matzo balls, beat together eggs, oil, stock, parsley, zest, salt and pepper until combined. Fold in matzo meal and stir until fully combined. Cover and chill mixture.
Meanwhile, in a medium soup pot or Dutch oven (not too big – stock will need to be 4” deep to cook matzo balls), sauté carrot, celery and onion until softened but not brown. Add garlic, parsley, bay leaves, and thyme and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.
Remove the matzo mixture from the refrigerator. Moisten your hands with cold water and quickly shape the mixture into 8 smooth balls. As you form each ball, drop it into the simmering soup. Cover soup and cook for about 30 minutes longer, turning matzo balls over half-way through cooking. Cook until carrots are tender and matzo balls are fully cooked.
Remove garlic cloves, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. Add shredded chicken and season well with salt and white pepper. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, divide matzo balls evenly.
There’s no comfort food quite as quintessential as grilled cheese and tomato soup, but, let’s face it, without the toasty, gooey sandwich, you’re left with a bowl of “not much going on” – the bridesmaid rather than the bride. I love the flavor of tomato soup and this recipe below is my attempt to give it a makeover, make it a bit heartier, give it enough oomph to take the spotlight, rather than stay the eternal sidekick. Artichoke hearts and plump spinach tortellini as well as a few handfuls of extra-sharp white cheddar turn this soup into ultimate comfort fare; you won’t even miss the sandwich.
A soup classic pimped out with artichoke hearts, tortellini and cheddar cheese to make a hearty one-bowl meal.
½ onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup white wine
28 oz. canned whole tomatoes in puree, broken in smaller pieces with your hands
2 cups chicken stock
1 9-oz. bag frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and roughly chopped
1 10 oz. package refrigerated tortellini (spinach or cheese flavor)
1 ½ cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
In a soup pot or Dutch oven, sauté onions on high heat in a bit of oil until softened. Add crushed garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and flour and stir until tomato paste and flour darken and stick to the bottom of the pot, making a lovely fond (those browned bits on the bottom of the pot). Add white wine and scrape up all the browned bits. Add tomatoes in puree and chicken stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
Carefully purée soup, in batches, in a blender until smooth. Return to pot and rewarm over medium heat. Add artichoke hearts and heat through for about 5 minutes. Add tortellini and cook through, another 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat, stir in white cheddar cheese and cream until cheese has melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with additional cheese for garnish. Turn your back on the grilled cheese and enjoy.
I’m sweating as I shuttle food styling materials from kitchen to photo studio (AKA The backyard shed). “Soup Weather” in Southern California has morphed into sun-drenched 72 degree days. So much for those hearty soups I’ve been stirring up the past two weeks. This weather requires lighter fare for these temperate days. This mouthwatering Thai carrot soup laced with creamy coconut milk and piquant red curry is just what the Channel 7 weatherman ordered.
Simple carrot soup is elevated with the addition of Thai flavors, turning an everyday vegetable into something rather special.
1 lb. carrots, sliced into coins
1 onion, sliced
3 cups chicken broth
4 Tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
⅓ cup chopped cilantro
Salt and white pepper, to taste
sliced green onions, cilantro sprigs, or sriracha (optional, for garnish)
In a soup pot or Dutch oven, sauté carrots and onions in oil until onions have softened. Add broth, red curry paste, brown sugar and fish sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are fully cooked.
Remove from heat, add coconut milk and cilantro. Using a blender, blend soup in batches until smooth. Return to pot; season to taste with salt and white pepper. Garnish bowls with green onions, cilantro sprigs or sriracha.
In a tradition dating back to Roman times, some Italians eat a bowl of lentils on January 1 to ensure their wealth, luck and prosperity throughout the New Year because the flat legumes are believed to resemble coins.
My severance pay is coming to an end in a handful of weeks, which means I need to either hope for some of that luck and prosperity or, sadly, start looking for a new job. I’m not sure I’m ready to head back to corporate life. Although on some quiet days I’ve been bored, I’ve relished these six months of keeping my own schedule (which means staying up until 4 a.m. and sleeping until noon), working on projects (with a dozen more on my ‘to do’ list), being a tourist in my own town (museums, hiking and beach time), and having ample time to play in the kitchen. A two-day weekend doesn’t provide near the same freedom (or time!).
Ugh, well, if needs must, but perhaps I’ll start the job search next week. Today, I’ll go the easier route and test the Italian method while I update my resume. And while the tradition may be Italian, I realize this recipe is decidedly not.
A hearty soup chock full of lentils, sausage and healthy chard.
4 oz. hot Italian sausage (you can also use mild if you’re not a fan of heat)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 ¼ cup dried lentils
5 cups chicken stock*
3 big handfuls roughly chopped chard leaves, stems reserved for another use
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Greek yogurt (for garnish)
In a stock pot or Dutch oven, sauté sausage in oil until just beginning to brown. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté until onions soften and become translucent. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until garlic becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bay leaves, curry powder, and cumin and sauté briefly. Stir in lentils. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Add chard and continue simmering about 5 minutes until chard is bright green and tender. Add cilantro and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve bowls of soup garnished with big dollops of Greek yogurt.
* I use 4 cups of stock (1 container) and 1 cup water rather than open a second container of stock and have leftovers.
January is National Soup Month and I’m in the thick of it. I’ve managed to cook (and eat!) Four pots full of soup in two weeks. In the recipe below, I’ve taken one of my favorite soup flavors, lemony Greek avgolemono, and turned it into hearty winter fare with the addition of chewy farro, healthy zucchini, and shredded chicken. The only words out of my mouth while I was enjoying a big o’ bowl were, “god, that’s good!”
What a way to brighten up a gloomy winter with this satisfying version of lemony avgolemono soup.
3 medium zucchini, shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup quick-cooking farro (I used Trader Joe’s)
5 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 T. lemon zest
Salt and white pepper
In a Dutch oven or soup pot, sauté zucchini in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add farro and sauté 1-2 minutes. Add stock, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes until farro is tender. Add chicken to pot and heat through. Remove soup from heat.
Meanwhile, place the eggs in a small bowl, Whisk the eggs while adding the lemon juice. Whisk in the Parmesan cheese, parsley and lemon zest. Whisking continuously, slowly pour a ladleful of the hot stock into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Then, while whisking the soup in the pot, slowly pour in the egg mixture. The soup will slightly thicken. Season with salt and white pepper.