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.

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.

Curried Lentil and Chard Soup

Indian Lentil Soup
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.


Curried Lentil and Chard Soup

  • Servings: 6 entrée size servings
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A hearty soup chock full of lentils, sausage and healthy chard.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup with Farro

hearty avgolemono soup
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!”


Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup with Farro

  • Servings: 6 main course servings
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What a way to brighten up a gloomy winter with this satisfying version of lemony avgolemono soup.

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • Salt and white pepper

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.