The Seasonal Chef

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According to two veteran cookbook authors, Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds, “Soup is comfort in a bowl, love on a spoon, satisfaction simmering on the stove.”

Their well-timed cookbook, “300 Sensational Soups” (Robert Rose, Philadelphia, PA, 2008, $24.95), gives readers new ideas for the perfect antidote to cold weather. Included in the all-occasions book are some fascinating dessert soups along with some fresh ideas for chilled summertime offerings.

During the holidays, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a big bowl of piping hot, hearty soup for supper after a stressful day at work or frantic shopping expedition. For most soups, the flavor improves markedly some 24 hours after the soup is made. So choose a soup, double the recipe, and store the extra in quart containers in the freezer. For fast food from your own kitchen; add hot crusty bread and a salad to complete the meal.

My vegetarian friends loved coconut curried chickpea soup, and even my carnivore friend was delighted.

Caramelized glazed onions give the beef and balsamic roasted onion soup a depth of flavor that is unforgettable and will have your family and friends asking for second and third helpings: definitely double the recipe for this one.

You can confidently serve the Sicilian fish soup and all the garnishes to your most important dinner guests. And if the aioli seems daunting as a garnish, this soup is also delicious without it. Bon appetit!

Coconut Curried Chickpea Soup

(Serves 6)2 tablespoons olive oil1 large onion, finely chopped2 cloves garlic, minced1 tablespoon curry powder1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed or to taste1 pound small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed, cut into ½-inch dice4 cups good quality vegetable stock (or chicken broth)1 cup unsweetened coconut milk1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to tasteTwo (14- to 19-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed1 medium zucchini, cut into half-inch dice1 tablespoon light brown sugar (optional)1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice2 cups packed baby spinach leavesSea salt and freshly ground black pepper to tasteAbout 1/2 cup toasted shredded coconut for garnishTo prepare:

Coat with olive oil the bottom of a large soup pot over medium heat.

Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Add garlic and briefly sauté. Stir in curry powder and red pepper flakes, sauté until aromatic, about 2 minutes.

Add potatoes and sauté until they glisten. Add stock and coconut milk, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Add chickpeas and zucchini and cook until the potatoes and zucchini are tender, about 10 minutes longer.

Stir in lime juice and sugar (if using) then add spinach and stir until wilted.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed soup bowls and garnish with coconut.

Beef and Balsamic 
Roasted Onion Soup

(Serves 6)1 pound boneless beef for stew, trimmed and cut into 1½- to 2-inch chunksSea salt and freshly ground black pepper3 tablespoons olive oil1½ cups dry red wine6 cups beef stock1/2 teaspoon dried thyme6 large onions cut into 1/4-inch slices1/4 cup balsamic vinegar3/4 cup heavy creamGarlic croutons for garnishTo prepare:

Season beef with salt and pepper to taste.

Coat with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil the bottom of a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and sauté in batches until browned on all sides, and remove to a warm plate.

Add wine to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot.

Reduce the heat to medium, return the beef and the accumulated juices on the plate, add beef stock and thyme, and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer covered until the beef is tender, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400.

Lightly coat a large baking sheet with oil, then combine the onions, remaining oil, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat and spread in a single layer. Roast, stirring once or twice during the process, until deeply browned, about 40 minutes.

Drizzle with three tablespoons of the vinegar and roast, stirring occasionally, until the onions are dark brown and glazed, about 10 minutes longer.

Remove the beef from the pot with a slotted spoon and, using two forks, pull apart into bite-size shreds. Discard any fat and gristle.

Return the meat to the pot, add roasted onions, taste and correct the seasonings. Can be done up to this point and then brought to room temperature and refrigerated or frozen.

To serve, bring the soup to a simmer, stir in the cream and remaining vinegar. Simmer over very low flame, about 5 minutes, but do not boil.

Taste and correct the seasonings. Ladle into heated bowls and garnish with croutons.

Sicilian Fish Soup

(Serves 6)2 tablespoons olive oil1 large onion, chopped3 cloves garlic, chopped18 green olives, pitted and quartered3 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped with their juices3 cups fish or chicken stock1/2 cup dry white wine3/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley2 tablespoons drained capers1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes2½ pounds mixed fresh fish fillets (snapper, cod, sea bass, halibut, or swordfish) cubedSea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste12 toasted baguette slices1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, for garnish1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, for garnishFor the aioli:5 large cloves garlic2 egg yolks1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice1 tablespoon water1/4 teaspoon sea salt1 cup olive oilFreshly ground black pepper to tasteTo prepare:

Coat with oil the bottom of a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes.

Add garlic and sauté until aromatic, 1 minute.

Add olives, tomatoes, stock, wine, parsley, capers and pepper flakes, bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the fish, cover and simmer until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Using a fork, break fish into bite-size pieces.

While the soup simmers, make the aioli in the food processor with chopping blade: Add the garlic and chop fine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add egg yolks, lemon juice, water and salt and process until smooth.

Slowly add the oil in a thin stream through the feeding tube, and process until thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the baguette slices with aioli.

Ladle soup into heated bowls, garnish with mint and pine nuts and serve with baguette slices on the side. Pass remaining aioli at the table.

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