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October/November 2012

SOUPS ON!

            I remember Sunday nights many years ago when I often had a sleep-over at my great-aunt Belle. When a cold front rambled through, I remember the rain splattering on the frosty windows and the wind howling through the pecan and oak trees in her backyard. We were warm and toasty in her cozy kitchen, and there was always a big pot of soup simmering on the stove. We often sipped on hot chocolate tinged with a spoonful of strong coffee and I loved the marshmallows that melted in the hot cup.
            Aunt Belle had a repertoire of homemade soups—hearty beef and vegetable, simple oyster and milk, creamy split pea, and a marvelous white soup with bits of ham and sausage. Oh what fun we had putting the soups together, then retiring to the kitchen table to play cards, work on a jig-saw puzzle, or playing “I Spy.” When our pot of soup was done, we made cornbread or biscuits on which we spread lots of fig preserves or Steen’s cane syrup to go with our meal.
            Every now and then when the winter weather sets in, I invite a couple of my great nieces to join me for a bowl of soup on Sunday evenings. It’s a great time to visit with them AND to show them how to make a simple meal of a good soup. I think you’ll enjoy my repertoire of cold-weather soups.


OLD FASHIONED VEGETABLE SOUP
Makes about 6 quarts
2 pounds soup meat or brisket, cut into 2-inch cubes
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
3 bay leaves
3 quarts beef broth
1 cup chopped onions
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 cup cut green beans (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 cup baby lima beans (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 medium turnip, peeled and chopped
3 cans whole tomatoes, crushed with their liquid
6 ounces curly vermicelli (optional)
            Season the meat generously with salt, black pepper and cayenne.  Put it, the basil, bay leaves and beef broth in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about one hour, or until the meat is tender.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, beans, turnip, and tomatoes.  Simmer, uncovered, for one hour.  If the mixture becomes too thick, add a little more beef broth or water.  Add the vermicelli if using, and cook for about five minutes.  Adjust the seasonings and skim off any fat that rises to the surface.  Remove the bay leaves before serving.


SPLIT PEA SOUP
Makes 8 to 10 servings
1 pound dried split peas
1 ham bone, or 2 cups cubed ham
3 quarts chicken broth
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch or two of cayenne
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry sherry
            Combine all of the ingredients, except the sherry, in a large Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about two hours, stirring occasionally.  If it becomes too thick for your taste, add more broth.  Add the sherry and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves.  Adjust the seasonings if necessary and serve hot.


OYSTER SOUP
Makes 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions
1 quart boiling water (or if you prefer a heartier soup use 1 quart warm milk)
4 dozen freshly shucked oysters, drained and oyster liquor reserved
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
            Combine the oil and the flour in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Stirring slowly and constantly, make a light brown roux.  Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.  Combine the water (or milk) with the reserved oyster liquor and add slowly to the roux mixture, stirring constantly.   The mixture will thicken slightly.  Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the oysters, parsley, and butter and simmer until the edges of the oysters curl.  Remove from the heat. 
            Serve warm with crackers or hot French bread.


QUICK AND HEARTY WHITE BEAN SOUP
Makes about 10 servings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 pound salt meat or ham pieces, chopped
1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
4 slices bacon, chopped (optional)
3 cans white beans (I prefer the Trappey’s beans that are creamy)
3 cans water or chicken broth
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste    
            Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, celery, salt meat or ham, sausage and bacon, if using, and cook, stirring, for about five minutes, or until the onions are soft and golden.
            Add the beans, water or chicken broth, and the tomatoes.  Stir to blend.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt, black pepper and cayenne, but be aware that the salt meat, sausage, and bacon and the tomatoes are salty and peppery.  
            Skim off any oil that has risen to the surface then serve hot. 


CORNBREAD
            Crackers and hot French bread are fine to serve with soup, but you might want to make cornbread to offer for a Sunday night soup dinner.


CHEDDAR CHEESE CORNBREAD
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup corn oil
3 eggs
1 ½ cups white cornmeal
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 (12-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
3 tablespoons half-and-half
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
            Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.  Mix together the first three ingredients in a large bowl.
            Combine the cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and add to the buttermilk mixture. 
            Stir together the corn and half-and-half and add to the batter.  Mix in the onion, bell pepper and sugar.  Pour half of the batter into the baking pan.  Top with the cheese.  Pour in the remaining batter.  Bake until browned and springy to the touch, about 40 minutes.


MEXICAN CORNBREAD
Makes 6 to 8 servings in the skillet, or 12 muffins
1 cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup chopped ham or tasso (optional)
2 large eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon baking soda stirred into ¾ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 (16-ounce) can creamed corn
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced pimentos
            Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a large iron skillet (or a muffin tin). 
            Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Pour into the skillet (or muffin tin) and bake until lightly golden, about 40 minutes.


SKILLET CORN BREAD
Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
            Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
            Combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, and the baking powder in a large mixing bowl.  Add the egg and milk and mix well, but do not beat.  Heat the shortening in a 10-inch cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking.  Pour in the batter and cook until the edges begin to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes before serving. 


Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Recipes

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