Sunday, June 27, 2010

Greek Manestra (Tomato & Orzo Soup) for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

For this week's soup, we travel to Greece for a hearty bowl of Manestra--a simple tomato soup or Greek comfort food, often made when money was tight and something nourishing was needed. This recipe comes from one of my favorite Greek cookbooks, "The Olive and the Caper" by Susanna Hoffman. If you are interested at all in Greek cooking, this collection of delicious recipes, the history behind the food, pictures, and side notes on all things Greek, will make you want to plan an immediate trip. If you can't do that, enjoying a bowl of this simple, yet full-of-flavor soup will at least make sure your taste buds get there.

Hoffman says, "On the Cycladic islands, manestra is the name of their version of tomato soup, which in other parts of Greece might be called "domatosoupa." Manestra is the prime example of Greece's remarkably flavorful soups made purely from a vegetable base. The ingredients are ridiculously few. The liquid is plain water. The depth is derived simply from sauteing onions, garlic and crimson tomatoes in lush olive oil. Yet the soup sings with startling character and requires little preparation time. In Greece manestra is sometimes served with cheese sprinkled over the top, which gives the very tomatoey mixture a pleasant milky, contrasting bite."

"The Olive and the Caper" by Susanna Hoffman
(Serves 6)

1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 tsp dried
2 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 quarts water
1/3 cup orzo or other small pasta
1/3 cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large heavy nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and oregano and saute until the onion wilts, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and saute until they collapse, about 10 minutes.

Add the salt and water, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the tomatoes are very soft and the liquid is deep brownish red, about 40 minutes. Add the orzo and simmer until it is tender, about 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Sprinkle on a generous spoonful of cheese and serve right away.

Variation: Occasionally the Greek cook will stir in one or two favorite "myrodies"--a double-pronged word meaning both "flavor" and "perfume." When simmering the soup, add 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon. And if desired, just before serving, swirl in 1 Tbsp shredded fresh mint leaves.

Notes/Results: Really good--simple ingredients but amazingly lots of flavor. I pretty much followed the recipe as written (I did sub in whole wheat orzo), and I also added the variation of cinnamon and stirring in the mint leaves at the end, which added a nice complexity. I used fresh, ripe, local tomatoes, sweet Maui onions and fresh oregano. This soup smelled really good while simmering. My broth, even after 45 minutes, never looked what I would call deep brownish red, (more of a bright, golden red-orange color), but it tasted great. The grated cheese on top is a must, as is serving it with some warm pita bread. I would make this again.

I'm sending this to the wonderful Joanne from Eats Well With Others host of Regional Recipes, featuring Greece this month. Joanne will be rounding up all the recipes (including my Greek Parsley Salad with Tahini Dressing (and homemade tahini) from earlier in the week) at the end of the month, so you can check out all the delicious dishes then.

Speaking of delicious dishes, let's take a look in the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here this week and what they made.

First up is Carla from Recipe Addict with a summertime Zucchini and Dill Soup. Carla says, "I used the white wine and herb stock and I added some fresh dill to the soup while simmering for an enhanced flavor. I also saved a 2 inch piece of zucchini and cubed it, then sauteed it in a little oil. I used this to 'set' the sour cream dollop on and then poured in some of the pureed soup around it. I find this soup best served at room temperature, and I think it might even be a good chilled soup."

A big welcome to Jennifer from Cook, eat, play, repeat. who joins us for the first time this week with a gorgeous Corn and Lobster Bisque. She says, "Remember the Losterfest I posted about a while ago? Well we had another Lobsterfest at a friends house :) And we ended up with a left over lobster. We also had left over corn on the cob as well. So I decided it was time to make a bisque! I wanted something simple and also a little on the healthier side. The bisque turned out very creamy, a bit spicy and overall very tasty. I really loved soaking it up with some crusty bread :)" Nice to have you at Souper Sundays Jennifer!

Joanne from Eats Well With Others is here with a hearty Sweet Corn and Wild Mushroom Soup. She says, "This soup is a Michael Symon recipe (surprise surprise). And what is interesting about it is that he has you first cut the kernels off the corn and then make a stock with the stalks. Then, once you have your corn stock, you simmer that with the corn kernels for almost an hour. Puree it, mix it up with some sauteed mushrooms (LOCALLY GROWN). And CRUSH some bacon over the top. Maybe I just got some especially good ears of corn (also LOCAL), but their sweetness mixed with the saltiness of the bacon. Was really good."

Welcome to Yasmeen from Health Nut, joining us a Souper Sundays with this economical Broccoli Stalks Cold Soup. She says, "Its either ignorance or abundance that leads to good food go waste. Out of my sheer inexperience,just the florets were utilized and the nutritious broccoli stalks trashed. Fresh broccoli is not cheap,a head of broccoli costs about $2.25 per lb.And to let more than half of it go waste,is not just careless loss at nutrition but also to the wallet. Thanks to a this brilliant recipe,the stalks are now devoured in entirety. The broccoli stalks can be sliced or shred ,cooked or used raw in salad,in any recipe were broccoli is used."

Here with a fun and filling Chili Mac Soup is Reeni from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice. Reeni says, "A main dish recipe for a thick and hearty Chili Macaroni Soup that combines not two but three of my favorites: chili, soup and pasta! And yes, I know it’s summer (for most of my readers). But I for one can’t imagine going the entire summer without eating soup or chili. This is the type of food I love and crave. I always find me way back to it after eating my fill of the foods we associate with summer like salads and burgers. Anytime is a good time for comfort food like this. So crank up your air conditioner and make it!"

Spencer from Live2EatEat2Live says, "Our menu is often dictated by what I find at the market. This week, at our Japanese wholesale market, they had beef shanks that were marked down (the expiration date was the next day). If at all possible, we try to use meat as soon as possible (especially if we purchase it marked down). I decided to make what The Cat calls Russian” Soup. The basics for The Cat’s “Russian” soup is beef stock and tomatoes. Optional additions include carrots, onions, potatoes, and head cabbage. The Cat rated the soup as four paws (excellent!)."

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes is back with a beautiful version of a classic, this Caprese Salad. She says, "There are as many versions of Caprese salad as there are grains of sand. Actually, I have no idea if that is true, but I was feeling all zen like after my yoga practice and tend to use phrases like “grains of sand” when I’m in the zen zone. So, anyway, my Caprese salad is just fresh from the garden tomatoes (a must), fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it. I slice the tomatoes, layer them all fancy with the cheese and the basil. Drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper."

Janet from The Taste Space was ambitious and made two salads to share this week. The first is an Avocado Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing. Janet says, "Whiz together a couple of ingredients in your food processor or blender and you have a silky, spicy, creamy, zesty and salty dressing in one. Use it to top lettuce and avocado for a wholesome, delicious, complex veggie treat prior to your main meal."

Next she has a Raw Rhubarb, Cucumber and Mint Salad and says that, "A bit of salt is added to temper the rhubarb and within ten minutes, you have a savoury salad ingredient – not at all tart! The rhubarb is mixed with thinly sliced cucumber, baby arugula and spinach, squirted with lemon juice and topped with shredded mint leaves. It is a wonderfully delicious, simply refreshing salad."

Kim from Stirring the Pot made a Green Bean Salad with Charred Onions from her Mom's garden this week. She says, "Every summer, my Mom plants green beans and we eat them like crazy all through the month of June. Last week was the third picking and we were looking for a new way to serve them up. I decided to get out Mario Batali's new book, Molto Gusto, and quickly found a great recipe for a green bean salad that can be served either warm or at room temperature. The green beans grew even more flavorful as they were allowed to soak up some of the tangy, orange-flavored dressing."

Here with a flavorful pasta salad is Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. She says, "One of my favourite summer veggies is the red pepper. Green peppers have their place but the sweetness of the ripe red pepper brings summery happiness to my heart. Between the baskets of fresh summer peppers and the giant jars of roasted red peppers, I am never without. This Pasta with Red Pepper Hummus, which can be served warm but is also perfect for a summer meal on the patio, at room temperature."

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina has a Sandwich Omelette with Aromatic Herbs that her mother harvested herbs for and made to share this week. She says, "The other garlic-like herb that she harvested was the weird garlic: it was chives garlic (nira), an aromatic herb similar to chives, but that can be harvested throughout the year. She used it with parsley in this peculiar recipe: a sandwich with two omelettes instead of bread slices." Who needs bread?!

girlichef is ready for a picnic with these Turkey and Pear Wraps with Curried Aioli from Mark Bittman. She says, "OH! And fair'll have some major breath after eating these. But they're soooo worth it! Especially if you use really good turkey. The pungeant heat of the aioli is cooled by the slices of pear and lettuce. The onion adds more punch and the turkey rounds it out perfectly. I definitely hope you take one of these wraps at the picnic."

Wow--what a great turnout this week--so many different and fantastic dishes! Thanks to all who joined in. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich recipe that you would like to share, click on the Souper Sunday logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a great week!


  1. Yum, Yum and more YUM!! Everything looks awesome this week. But I totally want some of your Manestra...with the pita bread it's a big, delicious comforting meal!

  2. great soup love Greek food and your tea is in the mail

    love Rebecca

  3. It was a great turnout this week! I liked the cheese on the maestra. The lobster bisque sounds amazing, and the broccoli stalk soup is such a great idea.

  4. Wow. Everything looks delicious!

  5. Great roundup! Some seriously good eats here!

  6. Love the round-up, Deb. Your soup looks really delicious and I can't wait to try it once I have really fresh tomatoes.

  7. Delish! Great soup, I always learn so much from you.
    I have bookmarked that book - Greek food is a favourite of mine.
    Thanks so much for the round-up!

  8. Great round-up, it's morning and now I'm craving for lunch!

  9. That manestra looks so incredibly hearty...I love the texture of it! Thanks so much for submitting it.

    This is SOME round up. It's funny how much soup we bloggers produce even in the summer heat.

  10. Love your your Manestra recipe!

  11. Wonderful roundup! Hope to be coming back often :D

  12. Your soup looks wonderful and the round-up is terrific. Everything looks delicious. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  13. What a great line up! I'm making so many salads right now and posting about them. What is wrong with my brain that I can't remember to send them over????

  14. Your simple tomato soup sounds delicious Deb! Very homey and comforting. Love that cinnamon touch. And the round-up is looking good too, as always! Thanks for including me. And congrats on being in the top 9 today!

  15. The olive and caper cookbook looks like a good one and so does this soup! A little pita bread, some of this soup and I would be a very happy camper:)

    Thanks for another tasty roundup!

    P.S. When I went to record tonight's DDD I saw that there was a back to back episode where he goes to Hawaii also. My DVR is set for both!!

  16. I love your tomato manestra. Now that I know how much I love tomato soups I'm excited about experimenting with different variations.

    Thanks for sharing everyone's great recipes again this week :)


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