Faux Pho Soup

Meaty beef short ribs and beef shank ensure a rich broth, the star of this Pho Soup. Simmering cinnamon and star anise ensure a wonderfully scented house.

A bowl of Pho Soup garnished with mint, cilantro and lime
…the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.”
                                                         – Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem

No riot of color or chilling air, October’s subtlety in LA is lost to anyone not labeled “native.” Feigning Hollywood starlet ennui, tanned summer leaves serenely suicide from weary trees, “Too hot,” they lament, “I cannot stay a moment longer.” Stifling Santa Ana winds unfurl scents of burning sagebrush with feelings of prickly dread and stopped time. “Earthquake weather,” we proclaim. Porch lights flicker awake by 6:00 pm, lighting barefoot children pedaling bikes in dusty cul-de-sacs. LA quietly shifts into autumn, leaving paroxysms of sunset hues to the other coast.

Coincidentally, this soup popped up on my Facebook memories for today – I first made this recipe exactly seven years ago.


Faux Pho Soup

Meaty beef short ribs and beef shank ensure a rich broth in the Pho Soup. Simmering cinnamon and star anise ensure a wonderfully scented house.


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
  • 1 ½ lbs. beef shank, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1-inch piece ginger, smashed
  • 1 bunch scallions, white parts smashed and greens chopped and reserved
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • Fresh red chili or serrano chili, stemmed and halved
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 oz. dried flat Asian rice noodles
  • Mint sprigs, roughly torn
  • Cilantro leaves, roughly torn
  • Lime wedges
  • salt and white pepper

Directions

  1. Brown meat in batches in a large soup pot with a bit of oil. Set meat aside. Saute onion, ginger, white parts of scallions, garlic cloves, and chili until onion begins to brown.
  2. Add water, soy sauce, star anise, and cinnamon. Return meat and any accumulated juices to pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 ½ hours.
  3. Transfer meat to cutting board. Discard bones and membrane and shred meat into small pieces.
  4. Strain broth through a sieve lined with cheese cloth and skim fat. Add meat back into broth and season with salt and white pepper.
  5. Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to package directions. Place noodles in individual bowls, add scallion greens, torn mint springs and torn cilantro leaves. Ladle hot soup over noodles and finish with a squeeze of lime juice.

Moroccan Berber Soup

This highly-flavored soup relies on an exotic mix of spices to provide its complexity.

A bowl of Moroccan Berber Soup

Last Monday, she was surprised to discover a long weekend punctuating the end of her week. Her weekend plans were already set – big plans – plans to simmer soups and trim gangly backyard bushes; plans to kick her blogging back in gear and plans for uninterrupted hours of reading. Plans to nest and regroup, really. Once she realized the calendar was gifting her today as a bonus (Columbus Day, really?), her mind turned instead to great escapes, her grand plans easily slipping away – the simmering, the trimming, the blogging, the nesting. Her mind has been on a roller coaster of late and, even more than her kitchen, miles of asphalt between her and her problems pacify troubled thoughts. Her first idea was a hotel and mineral springs nestled in an oasis of desert palms about 90 minutes from home – tranquility and a lobotomy brought to you by three days of pruney soaks. Sadly, her budget and their rates did not align. Her next solution, further afield, was a rustic riverside cabin sheltered within a shaded grove of pines. Sold out. Disheartened, she resigned herself to stay home, with soup and bushes and blog and books, wishing to be somewhere else entirely.

Flashing back to 2009, I developed this Moroccan-inspired soup as part of my culinary school final. Unique spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric result in an exotically complex flavor that won over Chef as well as the other students.


Moroccan Berber Soup

This highly-flavored soup relies on an exotic mix of spices to provide its complexity.


Ingredients

  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 28 oz. whole canned San Marzano tomatoes with juice, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 7 oz. fideo pasta (found in Hispanic section of well-stocked markets) or capellini
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • Plain yogurt, for garish

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot, sauté onion, celery and carrot in a bit of oil until softened. Add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper and sauté until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes with juice and chicken stock. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until carrot is soft.
  2. Add fideo pasta and simmer for 10 minutes. Add cilantro, parsley, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with plain yogurt and serve.

Shiksa’s Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup Recipe
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.


Shiksa’s Matzo Ball Soup

I prefer to make my matzo balls smaller and serve two per bowl rather than the classic single humongous dumpling.

Ingredients

    Matzo Balls
  • 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)
  • Soup
  • 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

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Creamy Tomato Artichoke Soup with Tortellini

Creamy tomato Soup
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.


Creamy Tomato Artichoke Soup with Tortellini

A soup classic pimped out with artichoke hearts, tortellini and cheddar cheese to make a hearty one-bowl meal.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Thai Carrot Soup

Simple carrot soup is elevated with the addition of Thai flavors, turning an everyday vegetable into something rather special in this Thai Carrot Soup.

Healthy Carrot Soup
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.


Thai Carrot Soup

Simple carrot soup is elevated with the addition of Thai flavors, turning an everyday vegetable into something rather special.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.