lighter chicken and dumplings

Aargh, I hate when I choose a recipe specifically because of one step that I find interesting, and then I screw up that step! In this chicken and dumplings recipe, Cooks Illustrated uses chicken wings to thicken the broth, instead of starch. I’m always fascinated by how homemade stock is gelatinous when it’s cold, so I was eager to try out the idea of thickening a broth with natural collagen.

But then I didn’t quite buy chicken wings. Drummettes were more easily available, and they’re from wings, so I figured it was close enough. Too late, I read the recipe description closer and saw that they specifically refer to the joints in wings as having a lot of collagen. D’oh! My little drummettes didn’t have joints.

So much for that trick. I ended up dissolving about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in about ¼ cup of water and stirring that into the broth near the end of cooking. That worked fine, although it wasn’t as fun.

Regardless, the resulting chicken and dumplings were really delicious. I particularly liked the idea of putting a kitchen towel under the lid of the pot while the dumplings cook, so that they’re tops don’t get soggy. I also like that it only has a bit of fat in it, so this meal is light enough to make again soon – correctly this time.

One year ago: Chopped Salad
Two years ago: Oatmeal

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Lighter Chicken and Dumplings (from Cooks Illustrated)


6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat
table salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 small onions, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 medium celery rib, chopped fine (about ½ cup)
¼ cup dry sherry
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 pound chicken wings
¼ chopped fresh parsley leaves

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
¾ cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg white

1. For the stew: Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook until skin is crisp and well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, 5 to 7 minutes longer; transfer to large plate. Discard all but 1 teaspoon fat from pot.

2. Add onions, carrots, and celery to now-empty pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in broth and thyme. Return chicken thighs, with any accumulated juices, to pot and add chicken wings. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until thigh meat offers no resistance when poked with tip of paring knife but still clings to bones, 45 to 55 minutes.

3. Remove pot from heat and transfer chicken to cutting board. Allow broth to settle 5 minutes, then skim fat from surface using wide spoon or ladle. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin from chicken. Using fingers or fork, pull meat from chicken thighs (and wings, if desired) and cut into 1-inch pieces. Return meat to pot.

4. For the dumplings: Whisk flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps; whisk in egg white. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl.

5. Return stew to simmer; stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Using greased tablespoon measure (or #60 portion scoop), scoop level amount of batter and drop over top of stew, spacing about ¼ inch apart (you should have about 24 dumplings). Wrap lid of Dutch oven with clean kitchen towel (keeping towel away from heat source) and cover pot. Simmer gently until dumplings have doubled in size and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 13 to 16 minutes. Serve immediately.

asian-style chicken noodle soup

I don’t get sick very often, which I chalk up mostly to luck (or I guess good genes). It probably also helps that I try to eat bunches of fruits and vegetables, drink a lot of water, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly.

Of course, over the holidays, I tend to grab a cookie instead of a piece of fruit for a snack, and I sleep less, and I drink wine instead of water, and I spend a lot of time indoors, and…blah, this year, I got the Cold From Hell right after Christmas. I spent the better part of three days sitting on the couch with a book, a mug of tea, and a blanket (which sounds nice, yet wasn’t). I did, however, find enough energy to make chicken soup.

I wasn’t in the mood for a traditional version, which just seemed too hearty for how I was feeling. I wanted a gently flavored broth with ginger and leeks instead of more assertive aromatics like onions and carrots. Mushrooms were a light addition and Japanese soba noodles made the soup into a balanced meal.

It definitely hit the spot, which was good because we didn’t eat much besides this and tomato soup for a few days. It seems to have worked, because this morning – finally! – I’m breathing through my nose. I forgot how wonderful that feels.

Two years ago: Pad Thai
One year ago: Pasta with Broccoli, Sausage, and Roasted Red Peppers

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Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

6 main dish servings (probably 12 first-course servings)

My small-town grocery store didn’t have shiitakes, which was very sad, so I used oyster mushrooms. You can use really any type of mushroom, including white button.

2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, 12 to 16 ounces each
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
8 ounces soba noodles, broken in half
12 ounces shiitakes, stemmed discarded, caps sliced thin
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, chopped

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 450 degrees. Heat the oil in 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat; swirl to coat the pot evenly with oil. Brown the chicken breasts skin side down until deep golden, 3 to 4 minutes; turn the chicken breasts and brown until they’re golden on the second side, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Place the pot with the chicken in the oven; roast until the thickest part of a breast registers 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside until it’s cool enough to handle, then shred it, discarding the bones and skin.

2. Discard all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat in the Dutch oven. Without rinsing the pot, sauté the leeks, ginger and garlic over medium heat until the leeks are softened, 3-4 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the water and broth; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms, chicken, and soba to the broth mixture and simmer for about 6 minutes, until the noodles are tender. Stir in the rice vinegar, soy sauce, chile oil, sesame oil, cilantro and scallions. Serve.

thai-style chicken soup (tom kha gai)

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Cooking and eating, I think I manage to do ambitiously. I just really like food, and I want to enjoy it as much as absolutely possible. That means I need to eat whatever is offered to me with an open mind. My desire to try new foods is driven by curiosity, but my desire to cook new recipes is about challenging myself. How much can I learn? How good can I be?

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But I have a weakness when it comes to food, and that is in the shopping. I go to the store with a plan and a list. Occasionally the store will have some seasonal item – long beans, meyer lemons, kaffir lime leaves – but I never buy it. Because what would I make with it? What other ingredients would I need to use it? I never know, and I’m not willing to make more grocery store trips than necessary, so I miss a lot of opportunities to try new ingredients.

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Finally I decided there was at least one produce item that there was no excuse not to try, and that is galangal. It’s often compared to ginger. Ginger has a long shelf life, so I assumed that galangal did too. I could buy it one of those rare times when it was available and ignore it for a week or two until I found a recipe to use it in.

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In the end, I used it in a recipe that doesn’t even require galangal. Cooks Illustrated’s Thai-style chicken soup (their version of tom kha gai) bypasses the need for ingredients that are difficult to find – like galangal – by designing the recipe around readily available prepared red curry paste.

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The curry paste already has galangal in it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to sweat fresh galangal with the lemongrass, cilantro, shallots and fish sauce. Coconut milk and chicken broth are steeped in the vegetables, and then they’re strained out, leaving you with a sweet, deeply flavored coconut broth, in which thinly sliced mushrooms and chicken are briefly cooked.

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I’ve made this soup for years, and it is good. Really, exceptionally good. The kind of good where I spend the whole meal saying “oh my gosh this is so good!” (which I’m sure is just as annoying as you’d expect). I don’t think adding fresh galangal made a significant difference in the end product, but that’s okay – I got to play around with a new ingredient, and that makes me almost as happy as this soup does.

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Thai-Style Chicken Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

6-8 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course

I like to skip the serrano chile garnish (and a rarely bother with the scallion and lime garnishes) and add just one chile to the vegetables in step 1. It makes the soup a bit spicy.

This is great as a first course with pad Thai served afterward, or as a simple main dish served over rice.

Cooks Illustrated recommends Chaokoh coconut milk, which is what I’ve always used. For a lighter option, they like A Taste of Thai’s Lite Coconut Milk, but I’ve never been able to find it.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 stalks lemon grass, tough outer leaves removed, bottom 5 inches halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise
3 large shallots, chopped
8 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves, chopped coarse
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk, well-shaken
1 tablespoon sugar
½ pound white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and sliced on bias into ⅛-inch-thick pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 teaspoons red curry paste (Thai)

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 serrano chiles, sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced thin on bias
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the lemon grass, shallots, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon fish sauce; cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just softened, 2 to 5 minutes (vegetables should not brown). Stir in the chicken broth and 1 can of the coconut milk; bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the flavors have blended, 10 minutes. Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids in the strainer. Rinse the saucepan and return the broth mixture to the pan.

2. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Stir the remaining can of coconut milk and sugar into the broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, add mushrooms, and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until no longer pink, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove soup from heat.

3. Combine lime juice, curry paste, and remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce in small bowl; stir into soup. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, chiles, and scallions. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

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pumpkin and mushroom soup

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Cooking déjà vu: When you start to make a recipe and then think, “Wait a minute…this seems familiar…have I made this before?!” Generally not a great sign because if you don’t remember it, perhaps it wasn’t worth remembering.

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I actually found pictures of this soup from last year, when I’d apparently made it and decided it wasn’t worth sharing. But I didn’t understand how a recipe like this could be anything but good – mushrooms and squash seem like a great match that can only get better with the addition of fall herbs and spices.

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I don’t think I did too much differently this time – cooked the vegetables longer until they were nice and browned maybe, and this time I stirred in some pureed pumpkin at the end, whereas before I’d just used diced squash at the beginning.

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The pureed squash made a huge difference in texture, thickening the soup so much it resembled stew. It was so hearty and delicious, and you’d never guess that there’s no meat in it, especially with that deep brown color. I was right to try this recipe again, because the woodsy mushrooms and the earthy squash are an unbeatable combination.

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One year ago: Sugar Cookies (for decorating)

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Pumpkin and Mushroom Soup (adapted quite a bit from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home)

Serves 4

I kind of feel like this should be called “Squash and Mushroom Soup” because it seems like other types of squash are used more in savory recipes than pumpkin is. You can really use any type of squash you want, as long as it has a similar texture. The same goes for the fresh mushrooms – I used maitake, but cremini, shiitake, button, whatever, they all work.

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
salt and ground black pepper
1 small pie pumpkin, peeled and diced
12 ounces mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sage leaves, minced
pinch nutmeg
¼ cup Marsala or dry sherry
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup cooked pureed pumpkin (like the stuff from a can)

1. Place the dried mushrooms in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately turn off the heat. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven (not nonstick) over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown at the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the squash, mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper and continue cooking and occasionally stirring until the mushrooms release their liquid, it evaporates, and the vegetables brown, about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, use a fork to lift the rehydrated porcini mushrooms from the liquid and finely chop them. Save the liquid.

4. Add the porcini, garlic, herbs, and nutmeg and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the wine and cook until it nearly evaporates, scraping the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits.

5. Add the broth, pumpkin, and mushroom soaking liquid (either strain it through a coffee filter or just be careful to leave the grit behind with a bit of liquid) and bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Adjust the seasonings and serve.

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tortellini soup with carrots, peas and leeks

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It turns out that pea-picking is way more fun than strawberry picking. For one thing, it isn’t nearly as crowded. Shocking, I know, that strawberries are more popular than peas. There’s also nothing squishy lurking under the foliage, and the peas are plentiful and just demanding to be picked. And pick we did, far more than we needed for this soup.

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I know, it’s July, and you’re not interested in soup. Rest assured that I tried it both ways, and it’s just as good with frozen peas, so you’re free to wait until the weather cools down a bit. Either way, it takes all of 15 minutes to make. Even better, it covers all of your nutritional bases, making side dishes unnecessary, although we found that a chunk of crusty bread is a welcome addition.

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It comes together like any soup, starting with sautéing aromatics, adding broth, then tortellini, and finally the peas near the end. Pour it into bowls, top with some parmesan, and enjoy an assortment of light, spring flavors.

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One year ago: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas and Leeks (from Fine Cooking, November 2006)

I doubled, or maybe even quadrupled the carrot. Also, the second time I made it (when I took photos), I didn’t have leeks, so I had to use red onion instead.

2 medium leeks (12 ounces untrimmed)
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
½ medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (2 tablespoons)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 cups low-salt canned chicken broth
8 ounces frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup frozen peas
¼ cup (½ ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

1. Trim the roots and dark green leaves from the leeks. Slice the white and light green part in half lengthwise and then slice the halves thinly crosswise. Rinse well and drain.

2. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, leeks, and carrot. Season with a couple pinches of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. (It’s fine if the vegetables brown lightly.) Stir in ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook for about 20 seconds, then add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the peas. Continue to simmer until the tortellini are cooked, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Portion the soup into warm bowls, top each with some of the cheese, and serve.

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crockpot chicken broth

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Once I started to get a reputation as someone who was into cooking, I realized that there were certain basics that I’d better master. The first step was chocolate chip cookies, and although it took me a while, I eventually learned how to consistently make them how I like them. (This was before I muddied the waters.) Chicken broth is a savory basic that, until now, I hadn’t quite figured out.

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I had specific requirements for the chicken broth recipe I would eventually settle on. Most importantly, it had to be easy. I don’t want to be hacking at raw chicken bones or fussing over the stove. And not just easy, but flexible. It also had to be cheap. Obviously, it needed to taste good.

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I’ve played around with a few recipes before this, and while the results of those didn’t get me excited, I did learn enough to be pretty sure that this would work.

All I did was buy the cheapest cut of chicken my store sells, dump the pieces straight from the package into the crockpot insert with an onion, a bay leaf, and salt, then fill the pot with as much water as would fit. I turned the crockpot onto high for a couple hours, to get the chicken through the bacteria-friendly temperature range as quickly as possible, then reduced the heat to low and let the mixture simmer away for a day or so. The whole process took about 10 minutes of effort and cost $4.

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The more time-consuming part is packaging the broth up for storage once it’s made. This might be easier for me if I had a bigger strainer and more space, but usually straining liquid ends up being a mess for me. I simplified it by removing the chicken legs from the liquid first and setting them aside, then straining the smaller particles out with a fine-mesh strainer.

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One of the trickiest parts of making stock is something you might not think about, but you definitely should – cooling it through the “danger zone” of bacteria growth (40-140F) as quickly as possible. If you simply took your bowl of freshly-strained hot stock and put it in the refrigerator, it will take hours to cool, plus it will heat up everything else in the fridge. Instead, I actually let it set, unstrained, still in the slowcooker insert, for several hours after turning the heat off. The temperature had cooled from about 200F to 160F (still significantly hotter than bacteria prefer) when I started the straining process. Then, I strained the liquid straight until a bowl that I’d previously added 2 cups of water to and then frozen – so not only was I adding ice, but the container was plenty cold. The liquid cooled to approximately room temperature in about 5 minutes, and I was happy to let the fridge do the rest.

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So putting it together was super simple. Straining it and packaging it was relatively easy. It’s flexible – that 24 hours could easily be extended to 36 hours, and I think any chicken part would work. I avoided the main “danger zone” issues. As an unexpected bonus, the meat on the chicken legs was still fairly tasty, so I shredded that and stored it in the freezer. And, most importantly, the stock was great! Storebought chicken broth tastes like chicken broth, which is a flavor I like, but this homemade chicken stock tastes like chicken, which is pretty nice too!

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One year ago: Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese

Crockpot Chicken Stock

Makes about 2 quarts (8 cups)

If leaving the slow-cooker on high for a couple hours in the beginning is inconvenient, start with boiling water, then just cook on low for about 24 hours.

Okay, so I don’t really remember how much water I used initially. I have a 5-qt slowcooker, and I filled it just about to the brim with water. My estimate of 6 cups could be totally off. I’m sorry.

4 pounds chicken legs, bone-in, skin-on
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
6 cups water (or as much as fits in your slow-cooker)
2 cups water, frozen

1. Combine everything except the ice in a slow-cooker insert. Turn the slow-cooker onto high for 1-2 hours (the longer end of that range is better) or until the liquid starts to simmer, then turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 24 hours or so.

2. After about 24 hours, turn the slow-cooker off and remove the chicken legs. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl, and strain the remaining stock into the bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the ice to the liquid. Refrigerate for several hours, until the fat hardens at the top of the liquid. Use a spoon to remove the fat.

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basic lentil soup


I recently had a friend visit, and somehow, her week-long trip turned into a wine and cheese fest. The wine part of the trip started immediately. We didn’t start hitting the cheese until the third day, but once we’d started, it quickly escalated. On her last night, for a grand finale, we made macaroni and cheese for dinner. We had cheese and crackers for an appetizer. We had chocolate fondue for dessert, and one of the dippers was cheesecake. We also had a lot of wine. It was glorious.


The next day, however, not so much. Poor Ramie was stuck on planes all day, but after dropping her off at the airport, I came home and immediately worked out. Then I considered what to make for dinner – something healthy(!) and easy that didn’t require a trip to the store. I didn’t have salad ingredients and the weather was rainy and cold, so lentil soup was exactly what I wanted.


Mark Bittman has a simple recipe in his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian that calls for lentils, carrots and celery to be cooked in broth. An onion is supposed to be sautéed separately and then stirred into the cooked lentils. What is that about? Why am I using an extra dish, skipping any sort of caramelization of the carrots and celery, and denying my broth of soaking up onion flavor as it simmers? With no explanation for such an unusual method, I chose to cook this in a more traditional order, sautéing all of the aromatics together before adding the broth and lentils. I also decreased the oil and increased the amount of vegetables, because, you know, the cheese and wine detox.


The soup was just perfect. It was simple, it was filling, it was healthy, and it was delicious. The lentils were tender but not mushy, and the broth was perfect with some rustic whole wheat bread. It goes to show that healthy food can be just as tasty as something more indulgent. Of course, the next day we had pizza for dinner. I don’t want to go too crazy with taking a break from cheese.


One year ago: Florida Pie

Basic Lentil Soup (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

Obviously, Bittman calls for vegetable broth (or water) in his Vegetarian cookbook, but since I’m not actually a vegetarian, I usually use chicken broth. How much salt you need to add will depend a lot on your broth.

2-3 main dish servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, diced small
1 celery stalks, diced small
1 onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup lentils, washed and picked over
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook until just brown around the edges, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the lentils, broth, bay leaf, and black pepper, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the soup at a simmer.

2. Once the lentils are tender, remove the bay leaf and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Serve. The soup can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated.


pot roast

Dave and I don’t eat a lot of beef; in fact, this is only the fourth beef recipe on my site. To us, there are environmental factors to consider with eating beef, as well as humanitarian, health, and cost issues. Plus we just plain like vegetarian food. So when we had pot roast in some form or another for dinner three out of four days last week, Dave was starting to question me. I blamed Kevin, who not only made a delicious-looking pot roast recently, but then made sandwiches and soup out of the leftovers, both of which I wanted to try.


I got the pot roast recipe from Cooks Illustrated. I hadn’t made one of their recipes in a while, and I found that I missed pulling out their huge cookbook and turning the pictureless pages full of recipes that promise to teach me something as well as taste wonderful.


For their pot roast, they brown the meat in a very hot Dutch oven, then sauté some vegetables and use broth to deglaze the pan. Then everything is cooked in the oven for four hours. They mention in their discussion about the development of the recipe that they tried adding red wine with the broth and found that it was good, but it wasn’t really pot roast. True – it’s beef in Barolo (or it would be if you were to use Barolo, which I never would because it’s too expensive), which I happen to love. So I added some red wine with the broth. When the roast is so soft it’s falling apart, it’s removed from the pot and the remaining liquid is boiled down to a sauce.


Oh my gosh, it was so good. I served it with boiled new potatoes and glazed carrots, and it was a meal that I couldn’t get enough of. Two days later, I put the meat and some sauce on pain a l’ancienne with swiss cheese and horseradish to make great sandwiches. The day after that, I added it, along with the rest of the sauce and some diluted chicken broth, to a pan of sautéed onions and mushrooms for a really good pot roast soup.

Because we don’t eat beef often, when we do, we like it to be a treat. This certainly was.


One year ago: Salmon Pesto Pasta

Pot Roast (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 6-8

Cooks Illustrated recommends a chuck-eye roast, which is what I used. I’ve found that it can be difficult to find though.

I added about 1/4 cup red wine with the broths.

1 boneless chuck roast (about 3½ pounds)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 small celery rib, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup canned low sodium beef broth
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
¼ cup dry red wine

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 300F. Thoroughly pat the roast dry with paper towels; sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Brown roast thoroughly on all sides, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the roast to a large plate; set aside.

3. Reduce the heat to medium; add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and sugar; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken and beef broths and thyme, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Return the roast and any accumulated juices to the pot; add enough water to come halfway up the sides of the roast. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat, then cover tightly and transfer the pot to oven.

4. Cook, turning the roast every 30 minutes, until fully tender and a meat fork slips in and out of meat very easily (3½-4 hours). Transfer the roast to a carving board and tent with foil to keep warm.

5. Allow the liquid in the pot to settle about 5 minutes, then use a wide spoon to skim fat off the surface; discard thyme sprig. Boil over high heat until reduced to about 1½ cups, about 8 minutes. Add the red wine and reduce again to 1½ cups, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. Cut the meat into ½-inch slices, or pull apart in pieces; transfer the meat to a warmed serving platter and pour about ½ cup sauce over the meat. Serve, passing remaining sauce.



While everyone else has been getting excited about fall, publishing recipes with pumpkin and apples and cranberries, I’ve been desperately holding on to summer. Not only do I just plain like being warm, but I didn’t get my fill of summer produce this year. I only ate corn on the cob one time – just one! I’m a disgrace. And I can never get enough of flavorful seasonal tomatoes.

Gazpacho, to me, is the quintessential summer dish, putting the spotlight on tomatoes, with cucumbers and peppers singing backup. I served this gazpacho to a friend of mine from Spain, and he said that it was as good as any gazpacho he’d had over there. This is good stuff.

I’ve always been a big fan of traditional hot tomato soup, and I didn’t understand the allure of gazpacho when I was young – cold tomato soup? Yuck. But gazpacho made correctly isn’t anything like a smooth tomato soup. I like gazpacho to have more in common with salad than soup. That means that the vegetables have to be chopped by hand instead of in the food processor. It takes more time, but it’s worth it to eat real gazpacho instead of the vegetable smoothie that you’d end up with if you used the food processor.

Another great aspect of gazpacho is that it lasts for several days in the fridge. And it’s absolutely healthy, so it makes a really good snack. I love to keep some around for when I get home from work and I’m starving and dinner won’t be ready for a while.

Right after I finished dicing the vegetables for this, I inhaled deeply – it was pure summer. I felt better about letting the season go and moving into fall once I had made a batch of gazpacho. But don’t expect to see pumpkin recipes here for a while!

Gazpacho (from Cooks Illustrated)

CI note: Welch’s and Fresh Samantha’s are our favorite brands of tomato juice for this recipe — not too thick, with a bright, lively flavor. This recipe makes a large quantity because the leftovers are so good, but it can be halved if you prefer. Traditionally, diners garnish their gazpacho with more of the same diced vegetables that are in the soup, so cut some extra vegetables when you prepare those called for in the recipe. Additional garnish possibilities include simple garlic croutons, chopped pitted black olives, chopped hard-cooked eggs, and finely diced avocados. For a finishing touch, serve in chilled bowls.

Bridget note: I’ve found that the brand of tomato juice is extremely important. I’m never been able to find Welch’s or Samantha’s tomato juice, but Campbell’s works fine. And I never use ice cubes, I just add 1 cup of cold water.

Makes about 3 quarts, serving 8 to 10

3 ripe medium beefsteak tomatoes (about 1½ pounds), cored and cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 medium red bell peppers (about 1 pound), cored, seeded, and cut into slices, then into ¼-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 small cucumbers (about 1 pound), one peeled and the other with skin on, both seeded and cut into ¼-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
½ small sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla) or 2 large shallots, peeled and minced (about ½ cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons table salt
⅓ cup sherry vinegar
ground black pepper
5 cups tomato juice
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
8 ice cubes
extra-virgin olive oil for serving

1. Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, salt, vinegar, and pepper in a large (at least 4-quart) nonreactive bowl. Let stand until the vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice, hot pepper sauce, if using, and ice cubes. Cover tightly and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

2. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper and remove and discard any unmelted ice cubes. Serve cold, drizzling each portion with about 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and topping with the desired garnishes, (see top note).

four soups


I have backlog of soups to be blogged, so I’m going to throw them all into one soupfest entry.

First up is lentil soup, which I was excited about because I found the fancy French lentils, but it seems like I’m cursed to never quite have all the right ingredients for this soup. The first time I made it, I was entrenched in step 3, after the vegetables are softened and the lentils are darkened, adding the wine, and running out of wine. Eh. I played around with some other acidic ingredients, and ended up with a delicious but teensy bit vinegary soup. This time it was chicken broth that I ran out of. Chicken broth! I never run out of chicken broth! I carefully monitor my Better Than Bouillon supply because I loooove Better Than Bouillon. Bummer. I substituted some vegetable (not better than) bouillon. Still a damn good soup. And healthy! The only non-healthy item in the whole thing is a few slices of bacon. That’s nothing.


Next up is white chicken chili. This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, and I seem to remember liking it more the first time. It was far from bad this time – look at all that flavory goodness, how could it be bad?


I just didn’t feel excited about it. Maybe it would have been as simple as adding salt. Another possibility is that adding 50% more beans than the recipe called for made the soup a little bland. I will make it again, but it’s on trial.


Poor cream of mushroom soup. It’s been relegated to nothing more than an ingredient in bad casseroles, so when I saw a recipe for the real deal, I did a double take. People actually eat mushroom soup? Unheard of! Dave and I are both big mushroom fans, so I was excited about this soup. Unfortunately, it just didn’t deliver. It wasn’t bad, it was just so dominated by pureed mushrooms. It was a little intense, even for mushroom lovers like us. Maybe because I used all cremini mushrooms instead of the button mushrooms that the recipe calls for? Whatever, next time I’ll be trying this highly recommended recipe.


And finally, we have my favorite of these four soups. I served this hot and sour soup with the potstickers, which we’re a little crazy about, so this soup had a tough job standing up to that. But it holds it’s own, oh yes. I loved the moo shu I made a few weeks ago, and this has most of the same ingredients, but in soup form. I also really like when tofu is used in recipes where it’s actually the original ingredient, instead of covering for some maligned but more flavorful meat. Mmm, and black vinegar. This is good stuff. And I’m all about the texture that the cornstarch gives the soup. It doesn’t thicken it to a paste, it just provides a little body. The soup has so many strong and contrasting flavors, I just love it. And, it’s healthy! In fact, it’s so light, that I don’t know if I can recommend serving it as a meal on its own. I made the full recipe, we ate it with potstickers for two meals, and then we snacked on it throughout the week. I wasn’t complaining about having hot and sour soup around all week!

So there you have it – a January’s worth of soups. Yum!

Hearty Lentil Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

Lentils du Puy, sometimes called French green lentils, are our first choice for this recipe, but brown, black, or regular green lentils are fine, too. Note that cooking times will vary depending on the type of lentils used. Lentils lose flavor with age, and because most packaged lentils do not have expiration dates, try to buy them from a store that specializes in natural foods and grains. Before use, rinse and then carefully sort through the lentils to remove small stones and pebbles. The soup can be made in advance. After adding the vinegar in step 2, cool the soup to room temperature and refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 2 days. To serve, heat it over medium-low until hot, then stir in the parsley.

Makes about 2 quarts, serving 4 to 6

3 slices bacon (about 3 ounces), cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup lentils (7 ounces), rinsed and picked over
1 teaspoon table salt
ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
4½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ cups water
1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Fry bacon in large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in lentils, salt, and pepper to taste; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vegetables are softened and lentils have darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high, add wine, and bring to simmer. Add chicken broth and water; bring to boil, cover partially, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30 to 35 minutes; discard bay leaf.

2. Puree 3 cups soup in blender until smooth, then return to pot; stir in vinegar and heat soup over medium-low until hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with some of remaining parsley.

White Chicken Chili (from Cooks Illustrated)

Adjust the heat in this dish by adding the minced ribs and seeds from the jalapeño as directed in step 6. If Anaheim chiles cannot be found, add an additional poblano and jalapeño to the chili. This dish can also be successfully made by substituting chicken thighs for the chicken breasts. If using thighs, increase the cooking time in step 4 to about 40 minutes. Serve chili with sour cream, tortilla chips, and lime wedges.

Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat and skin
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chile peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions, cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin
1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños; mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs) on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (see note above), and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

Per Serving:
Cal 370; Fat 6 g; Sat fat 1 g; Chol 115 mg; Carb 25 g; Protein 52 g; Fiber 7 g; Sodium 710 mg

Creamy Mushroom Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

To make sure that the soup has a fine, velvety texture, puree it hot off the stove, but do not fill the blender jar more than halfway, as the hot liquid may cause the lid to pop off the jar.

Makes 8 cups, serving 6 to 8

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large shallots, minced (about 3/4 cup)
2 small cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, freshly grated
2 pounds white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3½ cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups hot water
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed well
1/3 cup dry sherry or Madeira
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
Table salt and ground black pepper

Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms or chanterelle, oyster, or cremini mushrooms, stems
trimmed and discarded, mushrooms wiped clean and sliced thin
Table salt and ground black pepper

1. Melt butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-low heat; when foaming subsides, add shallots and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and nutmeg; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Increase heat to medium; add sliced mushrooms and stir to coat with butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release liquid, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and mushrooms have released all liquid, about 20 minutes. Add chicken stock, water, and porcini mushrooms; cover and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer until mushrooms are fully tender, about 20 minutes longer.

2. Pour soup into a large bowl. Rinse and dry Dutch oven. Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth, filling blender jar only halfway for each batch. Return soup to Dutch oven; stir in Madeira and cream and bring to simmer over low heat. Add lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with sauteed mushroom garnish, if desired. (Can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated up to 4 days.) If making ahead, add cream at serving time.

3. For the Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional): Heat butter in medium skillet over low heat; when foam subsides, add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 10 minutes for shiitakes and chanterelles, about 5 minutes for oysters, and about 9 minutes for cremini. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid released by mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 2 minutes for shiitakes, about 3 minutes for chanterelles, and about 2 minutes for oysters and cremini. Sprinkle a portion of mushrooms over individual bowls of soup and serve.

Hot and Sour Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

To make slicing the pork chop easier, freeze it for 15 minutes. We prefer the distinctive flavor of Chinese black vinegar; look for it in Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find it, a combination of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar approximates its flavor. This soup is very spicy. For a less spicy soup, omit the chili oil altogether or add only 1 teaspoon.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer

7 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch, plus an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 boneless, center-cut, pork loin chop (1/2 inch thick, about 6 ounces), trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch by 1/8-inch matchsticks
3 tablespoons cold water, plus 1 additional teaspoon
1 large egg
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup bamboo shoots (from one 5-ounce can), sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick strips
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 cup)
5 tablespoons black Chinese vinegar or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (see note above)
2 teaspoons chili oil (see note above)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 medium scallions, sliced thin

1. Place tofu in pie plate and set heavy plate on top. Weight with 2 heavy cans; let stand at least 15 minutes (tofu should release about ½ cup liquid). Whisk 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in medium bowl; toss pork with marinade and set aside for at least 10 minutes (but no more than 30 minutes).

2. Combine 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water in small bowl and mix thoroughly; set aside, leaving spoon in bowl. Mix remaining ½ teaspoon cornstarch with remaining 1 teaspoon water in small bowl; add egg and beat with fork until combined. Set aside.

3. Bring broth to boil in large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; add bamboo shoots and mushrooms and simmer until mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes. While broth simmers, dice tofu into ½-inch cubes. Add tofu and pork, including marinade, to soup, stirring to separate any pieces of pork that stick together. Continue to simmer until pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir cornstarch mixture to recombine. Add to soup and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens and turns translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, chili oil, pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce; turn off heat.

5. Without stirring soup, use soupspoon to slowly drizzle very thin streams of egg mixture into pot in circular motion. Let soup sit 1 minute, then return saucepan to medium-high heat. Bring soup to gentle boil, then immediately remove from heat. Gently stir soup once to evenly distribute egg; ladle into bowls and top with scallions.

Per Serving:
Cal 120; Fat 5 g; Sat fat 1 g; Chol 12 mg; Carb 12 g; Protein 8 g; Fiber 1 g; Sodium 1110 mg