Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lemon Chicken Soup with Fideos: Simple Noodly Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

Giada's Lemon Chicken Soup is simple, relatively quick to make and full of bright lemony flavor, making it an easy choice for many circumstances.
  • Like when you are feeling slightly "cloggy" and a bit under the weather
  • When you just made a big batch of organic chicken bone broth and have plenty of leftover chicken meat
  • After an afternoon spent over-indulging at the Hawai'i Chocolate Festival and enjoying a burger and fries afterword and you feel the need to eat some light, healthier food for the next few days
  • When it's Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and you got busy and waited until Saturday night to cook a Giada recipe and oh yeah--you still need to make soup for Souper Sundays and need an easy recipe for both
  • Or maybe it's all of the above!
In any case lemony chicken soup with plenty of chicken and noodles is always a good thing!

You can find the recipe in "Giada at Home" on page 55 or an adaptation can be found at the Food Network here.

Lemon Chicken Soup with Spaghetti
Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 4-6 Servings)

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces, *see Cook's Note
2 cups diced cooked rotisserie chicken, preferably breast meat
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large stockpot, bring the chicken broth, lemon juice and bay leaf to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture simmers and cook until the vegetables are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Add the chicken and heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the cheese and the parsley. Season with salt, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

*Cook's Note: You can use any short pasta from your pantry as a substitute for spaghetti.

Notes/Results: Simple, tasty goodness. The homemade stock added so much flavor when combined with the lemon juice and the 3 cloves of garlic I added (I needs me some garlic in my chicken soup). I used not quite double the noodles--using up a package of of fideos noodles from the Latin mercantile (short, very thin vermicelli-like noodles) instead of broken spaghetti. Extra noodles soak up even more of the broth but I was craving a very noodly bowl and I don't mind adding a little extra stock when reheating the leftovers. Keeping it on the lighter side, I felt no need for the added cheese called for in the recipe but I am sure it would be delicious with it. A good, basic make-again chicken soup that hit the spot.

You can check out what the other IHCC participants chose as their Potluck dishes by going to the post here and following the links.

Now lets check out the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here this week.

Kim from Liv Life is here with a hearty Black Bean Stew with Butternut Squash and says, "Filled with vibrant butternut squash the stew was visually a sight for cold eyes. Chipotle chiles and a slightly spicy chili powder brought a warmth other than the actual physical heat of the dish, and the cilantro and pepper jack cheese brought a Mexican Chili-like flair to the steaming bowl of goodness. Pearl barley added a healthy fiber to the flavorful mix and the tender chunks of grass fed beef made the husband's spirits soar."

Rather than wasting it, Julie from Little Bit of Everything made the most a red pepper close to the end of its shelf life with this Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder and says, "I love the flavor of roasted red peppers, especially in soup. The original recipe called for 2 cups of roasted red peppers and 2 cans of creamed corn. I really don't like creamed corn, so I chose to just use the frozen corn. The texture of this soup was more of a broth and less of a cream soup. The red pepper gives this soup a wonderful rich flavor."

My friends Nat and Annie from House of Annie are back visiting Hawaii from Malaysia and managed to fit me in for lunch and make this healthy Chicken and Kale Soup--talk about multi-tasking. ;-) Nate says, "Annie and I love to cook with all kinds of vegetables, but kale is one that we hadn’t yet tried out yet. We found bunches of kale for sale at the KCC Farmers’ Market, and Mom bought them, along with some Swiss chard and red beets. Mom had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge, so we decided to make a broth with the chicken and add the kale to it – “simply hantam” style. We all clamored for seconds."

Roz from la bella vita made a big batch of her Favorite Spicy Hot Chili to share and says, "This chili recipe is a combination of a variety of recipes that I have married together throughout the years. It is though, fairly spicy in heat and includes three varieties of beans plus some corn. We just love it and I hope that you enjoy it too.Garnish with sour cream, Mexican cheese, and chopped green onion stems. Serve with fresh cornbread and/or tortilla chips."

After a day of outdoor fun, my friend and fellow Cook the Books host Rachel, The Crispy Cook made a satisfying Hearty, Smoky Vegetarian Pea Soup and says, "Most pea soup recipes traditionally include a ham bone or bits of chopped ham, but I added a touch of olive oil and smoked paprika for my vegetarian version, full of chunky bits of other veggies. It was satisfying and restorative; just the thing for apres-tubing on a cold winter's night. And did I mention that Split Pea Soup is Cheap Eats? I figure it cost $3 or $4 to make this pot of soup, and we have enough for 8-10 mug servings."

Spencer (aka The Mouse) of LivetoEatEat2Live Blog visited the factory that makes his favorite childhood Chinese egg noodles and stocked up. He says, "I had to restrain myself before I got carried away. I bought one cake of e-mein, one dozen buns, and one dozen dumplings. Don’t worry, we won’t eat them all at once (we’d be in a carbohydrate coma). ;-) For dinner I used up the rest of the mushrooms (see cream of mushroom soup post), and added Napa cabbage to a shiitake dashi with the e-mein to make a Noodle Soup. The Cat was happily surprised. Slurp."

Joanne of Eats Well With Others went exotic with this African Curry Coconut Soup with Chickpeas. She says, "I found that I was craving curry. Shocking because I'm always craving curry. So I flipped through my copy of the Tropical Vegan Kitchen and somehow became enraptured by this curry coconut soup with chickpeas. And then when I looked it up on epicurious and found that it had gotten five stars and was loved by the better part of a hundred commenters, I was sold. I should warn you that I didn't make the recipe as is. It was a little meager, especially for those of us who had to run 14 miles the morning after eating it, so I bulked it up a bit with some extra beans, millet in place of brown rice, and a whole lot of greens. End result - craving satisfied."

Please join me in welcoming Ana of Sweet Almond Tree joining us for the first time this week from Philadelphia with Chickpea Soup or Greek Revithosoupa. Ana says, "Revithia is the Greek word for chickpeas or garbanzo beans. I made revithosoupa for dinner today, and it was about time! We hadn't had it in a while, so it was good to eat a simple, meatless, warm bowl of soup. Revithosoupa is a filling Greek soup that is a standard in the Greek cooking repertoire. Some versions are kind of plain, others like mine are well flavored. Plain or spiced up this soup is good. It's the chickpeas that give it a lot of favor."

We have one salad this week, this colorful Orzo with Vegetables and Chicken pasta salad from Shri at Tiffin Carrier Antic/que's! Shri says, "Brunch on Sundays is usually an Indian vegetarian -breakfast dish, but today we went with Orzo, two ways. A vegetarian version with plenty of vegetables and another one with a simple Chicken cooked with garlic, onions,black pepper and a touch of red wine and basil. ... Garnish with Parmesan/ Peccorino Romano Cheese and fresh chopped parsley."

And one sandwich, a Proscuitto and Cheese from Janet at The Taste Space. She says, "Armed with a loaf of “rustic” fig bread (slightly sweet from the figs), 18-month-aged prosciutto (nicely flavoured), and taleggio (a mild cow’s milk creamy, soft cheese), we had the fixins for a super sandwich. With a limited number of ingredients, quality is the defining factor of your sandwich. I found the flavours worked really well, with the slightly sweet bread topped with the silky artichoke dip. Next, we topped it with overflowing arugula, laid a slice or two of prosciutto and lastly added a few pieces of silky, melt-in-your-mouth taleggio cheese."

Some wonderful dishes again this week. Thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fruity-Refreshing Passion Fruit Batidas Inspired by the Food 'n Flix Pick: "Woman on Top"

The current Food 'n Flix feature pick is the romantic comedy "Woman on Top" starring Penelope Cruz. Cruz plays Isabella who has suffered from motion sickness since childhood. Because she was sick, instead of playing with the other children Isabella stayed at home learning to cook and became a well regarded chef in her fishing village in Brazil. As an adult, Isabella can only control her motion sickness by being in control of her motion and this need for control, such as being on top during sex, frustrates her husband Toninho and he has an affair. Isabella leaves Toninho and goes to San Francisco where she becomes a cooking instructor and then a television cooking show host and tries to put Toninho out of her mind for good. I won't go into the whole plot, but if you like food and romantic chick flicks, you will likely enjoy this movie.

I had seen this movie ages ago when it came out but needed a refresher, so I was happy to find it on the "Watch Instantly" list on Netflix--although it took me all month to actually get around to watching it. Since I was squeezing a dish inspired by the movie in under the wire, I looked for something quick and easy with ingredients I already had on hand. I was thinking of something with shrimp but when I looked up Brazilian recipes on the Food Network I found these delicious-sounding Passion Fruit Batidas from Emeril and knew I had to make them. I recently bought a bottle of cachaca (Brazilian liquor made from fermented sugarcane) to experiment with and I had some fresh lilikoi (passion fruit) puree in the fridge from a bag of the fruit I bought at the farmers market so having everything I needed, it was fate.

Batidas are Brazilian cocktail made with fresh fruit juice and cachaca. In Portuguese batida means shaken or milkshake or in other context can refer to crash like a car crash (or maybe the crash one would have after too many of these fruity tropical drinks!?). Sometimes variations are made with coconut milk or sweetened condensed milk but I think this simple version, with its sweet tart passion fruit juice captures the sexy, passionate, fun feeling of "Woman on Top."

You can find the recipe at Food Network here.

Passion Fruit Batida
Courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 cup Passion Fruit Puree, recipe follows
1 cup cachaca
4 cups chipped ice

Place all the ingredients in a tall shaker and pour into 4 (8-ounce) glasses to serve.

For the Passion Fruit Puree:
8 passion fruits
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve and place in a small, nonreactive bowl with a lid until ready to use.

Yield: 1 cup

Notes/Results: Fruity and not too sweet, this is a refreshing and tasty cocktail--perfect for a warm afternoon or when you want a little tropical escape. I used my homemade lilikoi puree which I sweeten with just a bit of agave nectar instead of sugar--so it is slightly more tart and less sweet that the passion fruit purees you can buy--which is how I like it. It paired well with the cachaca and the batida makes a nice mellower, fruity alternative to the better known Brazilian Caipirinha (cachaca, sugar and lime). Batidas would be a great drink to make a pitcher (or six) of to serve at a party and fun to try with different fruits. I will make them again.


You can check out the other dishes inspired by "Woman on Top" by going to the Food 'n Flix site (here) at the end of February where girlichef will be rounding them up.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gettin' Cheesy With It--A Trio of Grilled Cheese Sammies & a Review of "Grilled Cheese, Please!" By Laura Werlin

Say cheese! Grilled cheese that is. I have been consuming a lot of warm cheesy sandwiches lately with my visits to the local Melt Grilled Cheese Truck and then a review copy of "Grilled Cheese, Please!: 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes" by Laura Werlin showed up at my door. Talk about drool-inducing! This little (6 x 7 3/4-inch) book is full of ooey, gooey, melted cheese sammies in all their glory.

Author Laura Werlin is a highly respected authority on cheese, a cookbook author (4 books, including the award-winning "Great Grilled Cheese"), and a proponent of American cheeses so she knows her stuff--not only providing 50 innovative recipes, but also giving a primer on making the perfect grilled cheese. The book's introduction features information on choosing the best bread and cheeses for your sandwich, tips (like the importance taking the extra step of grating the cheese instead of slicing for better meltability), the best pans and methods for cooking, and the proper steps to achieving grilled cheese nirvana.

Recipes are broken down into 8 chapters--Just Cheese, Meat and Cheese, Anything Goes, Veggies and Cheese, Global Grilled Cheese, Grilled Cheese on the Go, Regional American Grilled Cheese and Old Favorites and Modern Sides. So many sandwiches, so little time--I managed to "road test" three different and unique sandwiches and one easy side dish for my review.

Here in Hawaii you can open a refrigerator and usually you will find a jar or container of kim chee, Korean spicy fermented cabbage--pungent with garlic. You'll see it often on menus here too--Kim Chee burgers, Kim Chee fried rice, and even on the occasional sandwich, so I had to try Werlin's Smokey Kim Cheese. (Love that name!) I liked the fact that she paired the spicy cabbage mix with one of my cheese favorites--smoked Gouda, and then added sliced ham because she likes the pairing of smokey foods with spicy kim chee.

This sandwich is made on a mini baguette or sub roll with a slightly hollowed out center to hold the cabbage. It was amazing--the combination of spicy and smokey really does work here and I have made this sandwich three times already and foresee myself making it a lot more. Served with a little extra kim chee on the side (or the Pickled Cucumbers below), it's delicious.

After deciding to make the pimento cheese for my review of "Quick Fix Southern" last week and creating my masterpiece Meatloaf and Pimento Cheese Sandwich, I got to wondering if there would be a recipe for Pimento Grilled Cheese in this book. Yep--it's the first recipe in the Regional American Grilled Cheese chapter so of course I had to try it.

Werlin provides her favorite pimento cheese recipe in the book but my hips did not need another batch of pimento cheese sitting about so I used the one I had already made. Here the pimento cheese is mixed with chopped celery (a nod to the fact it is often served with celery), and it is sandwiched in brioche, challah or egg bread. Unfortunately none of the three grocery stores near me had any of those breads, so I went with a ciabatta roll. Still it was very good with the pimento cheese mixture melting nicely and contrasted by the crunch of the celery. I still like my Meatloaf & Pimento Cheese a little better but I may have to combine the ideas and try the M&PC grilled, just for research purposes of course. ;-)

I don't think you could review this book without trying the unique Chips and Guacamole Grilled Cheese. I mean come on--sourdough slathered with tortilla chip compound butter, housing a mix of Colby, Monterey Jack & goat cheese, crisp bacon and creamy guacamole?!? What's not to love?!? This is the most labor intensive of the three sandwiches I made and it is somewhat messy to eat but just grab a few napkins and let the tortilla crumbs fall where they may--trust me, you won't care once you take a bite. I made my guacamole on the zesty side--with a little jalapeno thrown in and it was genius--so many flavors and textures wrapped up in one cheesy bundle of love. Another make-again recipe for me.

Since you REALLY need to try this one for yourself here's the recipe. It can also be found here at the Andrews McMeel website.

Chips and Guacamole Grilled Cheese
From "Grilled Cheese Please!" --Andrews McMeel Publishing
(Makes 4 Sandwiches)

"In this recipe, tortilla chips are on the outside of the bread to give the sandwich its corn-like flavor and to give you the ability to enjoy all the flavors—guacamole, bacon, cheeses, and corn chips—all at once."

8 slices bacon
8 large tortilla chips (about 2 ounces)
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
8 slices sourdough bread
½ cup guacamole (recipe follows; or use purchased, preferably one with tomato in it)
2 tablespoons peeled, seeded, diced Roma tomato (see Note)
4 ounces Colby cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces goat cheese

Line a plate with paper towels. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until very crisp. Drain the bacon on the paper towels.

Remove the bacon fat from the pan and wipe the pan with a paper towel, but do not wash it. Set aside.

To make the tortilla chip butter: Put the chips in the bowl of a food processor and process until the texture is very fine, similar to sand. Alternatively, place the chips in a sturdy plastic bag. Using a meat mallet or other heavy object, pound the chips until they are the texture of sand. Put the butter in a medium bowl and add the ground chips. Using a fork, work the chip “sand” and butter together until well mixed. The mixture will be somewhat stiff.

To assemble: Spread the butter mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Place 4 slices, butter-chip mixture side down, on your work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons of the guacamole on each slice of bread. Sprinkle the tomato on top of the guacamole. Follow with the colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. Dot with small pieces of the goat cheese. Finish by placing 2 bacon pieces on each sandwich. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered side up.

For stovetop method: Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Put the sandwiches into the pan, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the undersides are golden brown. Watch carefully because the chips in the butter can burn easily. Turn the sandwiches, pressing each one firmly with a spatula to compress the filling slightly. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the undersides are well browned. Turn the sandwiches once more, press firmly with the spatula again, cook for 1 minute, and remove from the pan. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut in half and serve.

For sandwich maker method: Use your sandwich maker for this sandwich only if it has variable heat settings. Otherwise, it will cook too hot and burn the chips on the bread without melting the cheese. To use your sandwich maker, follow directions for assembly above. Cook according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: There’s no need to use the tomato if your guacamole already has tomato in it.

I tried a quick batch of the Pickled Cucumbers, one of the handful of side dishes in the book. A basic recipe, the cucumbers are marinated in cider vinegar, water, sugar, salt and dill. They are great to snack on and as Werlin pints out--they are refreshing and cut the richness of a grilled cheese. I have been happily munching on these--liking their sweet/salty flavor.

Excuse the bad blurry photo--I took about 10 and for some reason they were all burry
but I was too lazy to go back and take more. :-)

As you can see these are not your standard grilled cheese sandwiches--they are modern, unique and as the title of the book claims "scrumptiously cheesy" too. With so many delicious sounding recipes like Spinach, Egg and Manchego, Mozzarella with Crispy Prosciutto and Broccoli Rabe, Cheese and Cherries a la Lynne, Pizza Grilled Cheese, Artichoke Dip Grilled Cheese, The Greek, Harvest Melt, and Erika's PB & Cheese, there is a little something here for everyone. The recipes I tried were all very tasty, the recipes were easy to follow, with some great tips and the book has quite a few gorgeous pictures (far better than mine!) of many of the sandwiches that make you want to jump up and get cooking.

"Grilled Cheese, Please!" would be a great gift combined with a pan, or some gourmet cheese and bread for your favorite cheese lover, foodie, college student, etc. Since my visits to the Melt Truck cost me roughly $7-$9 for the sandwich, plus soup, (yikes!) you can bet that I'll take the tricks and tips learned from Werlin and do more of my occasional cheese indulging at home! A fun book to add to the cookbook shelf.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: I was sent "Grilled Cheese, Please!" by the publisher free, to review if I chose to, but I was not compensated for my review and of course as always my thoughts, cooking experiences with the book and opinions are entirely my own.

So what's your favorite grilled cheese addition/ingredient?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Healthy, Nourishing Spiced Breakfast Bulgur with Fruit and Almonds

I must confess that I am not naturally a breakfast eater. Give me a late brunch that someone else makes and I am happy, but getting up early and eating is not my thing. I do recognize the many benefits of starting the day with something filling and nutritious though so I make it a point to have something healthy to start my day. Sometimes it's a smoothie---made with berries and greens tossed in, other times it is fruit and yogurt, or a piece of toast with nut butter, or a power bar. Some days it is leftovers, pasta or soup (BTW: Sunday's delicious Beans, Bacon & Boursin Soup makes a fabulous morning meal). ;-) I have never been a fan of oatmeal or any of it's cousins like cream of wheat, or other warm mushy cereals--it's a texture thing. A while back I tried Mark Bittman's Breakfast Bulgur from his Food Matters book and liked the chewy, nutty texture.

Flipping through what is fast becoming one of my favorite cookbooks, Bittman's follow-up, "The Food Matters Cookbook" I saw his recipe for Spiced Breakfast Bulgur. I liked the fact that it cooks up in orange and spiced water to add extra flavor. I used cinnamon sticks, cracked cardamom pods, and a few cloves to flavor my bulgur. Bittman suggests topping it with fresh fruit and I did a combination of the leftover orange, plus banana, and some mixed dried berries (blueberries, cherries and cranberries) from Trader Joe's. Adding the dried berries in at the last few minutes of cooking the bulgur makes them soft, plump and flavorful. Topped with sliced almonds and drizzled with local honey, it is a healthy, easy breakfast that even I can look forward too.

The recipe can be found on pages 275-276

Bittman says, "Wheat is a classic breakfast cereal, and bulgur is the fastest-cooking wheat there is. Simmering the grains with citrus and spices is a wonderful way to add distinctive but not overpowering flavor. For a more assertive flavor, stir in another pinch of ground spices just before serving."

Spiced Breakfast Bulgur with Fruit and Almonds
"The Food Matters Cookbook" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 4 Servings)
Time: 25 minutes

1 orange, halved
any one or a combination of the following: 2 cinnamon sticks. 1 whole nutmeg, 2 tsp whole allspice berries, 2 tsp cardamom pods (I used cinnamon, cardamom, & cloves)
1 cup bulgur
2 cups sliced fresh fruit of choice (I used bananas. leftover orange & dried mixed berries)
1 cup nuts, toasted if you like, optional (I used sliced almonds)
honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar for serving, optional (I used local honey, drizzled)

Squeeze the juice from the orange into a medium saucepan and toss in the peels along with whatever spices you're using. Add 2 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil. Fish out the orange peels and spices with a small strainer or slotted spoon.

Stir in the bulgur and a pinch of salt and adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently. Cook, without stirring, until the bulgur is tender but still a little chewy, 5 to 10 minutes; add a little water if the mixture starts to dry out. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for at least 5 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Serve hot or at room temperature, topped with the fresh fruit, nuts and honey if you like.

Adaptation: Herbed Breakfast Bulgur: This is terrific with berries. Substitute a lemon for the orange and a sprig of rosemary, thyme, lavender, or tarragon for the spices. proceed with recipe.

Notes/Results: Total hug-in-a-bowl breakfast, it's warm, sweet, filling, and nourishing, really what more could you ask for? The cooking of the bulgur in the orange and spiced water added great flavor and makes me want to experiment with other juices or spices (I like Bittman's adaptation idea to do an herbed version, maybe with lavender). It also reheats well. I added a splash of vanilla coconut milk when I heated it up and it was fabulous, so you can cook up extra for quick breakfasts during the week. I will definitely be making this again.

Do you eat breakfast regularly? If so, what do you like to eat?


I am sending this healthy bowl of goodness to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, hosted by some great bloggers--girlichef, A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, Frugality and Crunchiness with Christy and Alternative Health and Nutrition. Check out their new "hub" and see all the links to some fabulous dishes and posts.

And I am also sending it to Roz at la bella vita for her Fresh, Clean & Pure Friday. Check out the links for some wonderful ideas, recipes and posts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beans, Bacon & Boursin Soup: Delicious Homey Comfort for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It was another busy week. Saturday morning had me up bright and early and headed across the island to make oat-fruit pancakes and berry-green smoothies at a cooking demo for a Kidney Foundation education workshop. My volunteer or "pro bono" work as I like to think of it, it's always entertaining, but a little tiring trying to convince a (usually) older local generation used to spam, Portuguese sausage, fried rice and a myriad of high sodium, high sugar, fried foods to realize it is just as easy and tasty to cook some healthier options. The drive back, several errands and an afternoon nap with Max (see aforementioned busy week remark--I needed it and Max is always willing to catnap), had me finally prowling the kitchen at 4:30 PM, still needing to make a soup for this week.

I had various veggies and some bacon that needed to be used--a challenge with nitrate and preservative-free bacon is that you have to use it quickly. My thoughts then turned to beans, as I needed to do a little paring down of my canned bean collection in the pantry, and a bean soup with bacon sounded good. I picked out three cans--cannellini beans, garbanzo beans, and black-eyed peas. Beans...Bacon... my love of alliteration lead me to the package of Boursin (my favorite black pepper variety) cheese in the fridge and the idea that it would be a fabulous topping to jazz up a simple soup.

And thus about 45 minutes later, Beans, Bacon & Boursin Soup was born, consumed with great gusto and enjoyment and all was right with the world. ;-)

Bean, Bacon & Boursin Soup
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes About 8 Servings)

6 slices bacon, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped finely
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped finely
1/2 cup white wine
8 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken stock
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
2 cups cabbage, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
black pepper Boursin or other cheese of choice for garnish

Heat a large soup or stockpot over medium high heat. Add chopped bacon and cook until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon, drain on paper towel and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to bacon fat in ban and heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened about 7 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add white wine and deglaze pan, scraping up any browned bits.

Add chicken stock, beans and cabbage and bring to a boil. cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until cabbage is cooked and flavors meld. Add about 3/4 of the bacon to the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with a tablespoon of Boursin and some of the remaining bacon. Serve with grilled bread.

Notes/Results: For a thrown-together-relatively-quickly soup, this was pretty perfect. Lots of good flavor from the bacon, fresh herbs and white wine. It is delicious on it's own but then there is another layer of creaminess and added flavor from the tablespoon of Boursin on top. The cheese melts into the soup (there is a moment or two when it just isn't pretty but just stir gently and go with it--it will all dissolve), and it adds that little zip that elevates this from a simple "peasant" soup to something special. The mixture of the three beans adds some different textures to the bowl with contrast of the creamier cannellini beans and the firmer black-eyed peas and garbanzos. The cabbage and other veggies are slightly soft but not mushy--the way I like them. With the bacon and Boursin, it is a little indulgent but there is plenty of good fiber and vitamins packed in too. Homey, comforting, perfect with some lightly grilled bread and worthy of a second serving that night. I am happy I made a big batch of this soup to enjoy and I will make this again.

Let's take a look into the Souper Sunday kitchen and see who is here and of course what they brought with them.

My soup-loving pal Heather, girlichef has two wonderful soups to share this week. This classic favorite Good 'Ol Chicken Noodle Soup that she says "will put a bounce back into anyone's step" and "...I'm pretty confident that my own chitlins will think of their mama's chicken noodle soup when they're older and on their own and feeling sick or down. And then I can pass the recipe and the tradition on to them. That is enough to put a satisfied smile on my lips and keep me making it. Well. That and the fact that I love it. Eating it. Making it. Sharing it."

girlichef also made Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew), inspired by the movie Woman on Top (Food N' Flix current pick). She says, "I wanted to make something bursting with color and flavor! With sunshine and passion! This pot of Moqueca is a layered fish stew that consists of colorful vegetables, milky-white fish, salty-briny shrimp, and delicate coconut milk that are laced with a hit of spice. It's far too easy to close your eyes, take a bite, and imagine you're on a sunny beach. Just what I needed in the depths of winter."

It's nice to have an old friend back this week, Lea Ann from Mangos, Chili and Z brought a zesty Zuppa Salsiccia (Italian Sausage Soup) and says, "Zuppa Salsiccia simply translates to Sausage Soup, which seems like such a modest description for this incredibly flavorful dish. This soup, hands down, is our favorite in my database. I’ve had this recipe for many years and every time we make it we comment about why we don’t have it more often. Alongside a beautiful green salad dressed with your favorite vinaigrette and a chunk of crusty bread, this is elegant enough to serve as a main course at a dinner party."

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a veggie-drawer clearing Vegetarian Tofu Stew-Like Soup that she says is "Satisfying for winter dinner after a heavy lunch" and "Apologies for the unappealing-looking dish. I cooked this in the midst of clearing out the fridge the other day. I was also in need of a one-dish dinner that stays light (yet nutritious) because we had too much for lunch buffet. So, dinner was a simple tofu stew-like soup, in which the tofu - the protein, double-up as the "carbs" (adds bulk and substance)"

It's nice to have Chaya from Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog back this week with a creamy Cheddar Potato Soup. Chaya says, "Does the name give its goodness away? That cheddar cheese gave it life. Before that, it was a decent potato soup but adding the cheddar transformed it. Although, I did shred the cheese with a grater, work could have been saved by using a knife and cutting thin pieces. It would melt just as well in the hot soup. I find grating to be relaxing which is why I did it. For me, this is a great way, to sit down and take a break, while watching the cheese pile up in beautiful shreds of cheese."

A warm Souper Sunday welcome to Sweet & Savory from Bizzy B. Bakes, joining us for the first time this week and here with her Super Soup. She says, "Tonight was one of those unusual nights that despite my intentions to make tomato soup with goat cheese plus rice squares, I couldn't settle down and do it. I had a craving for potatoes and I wanted soup so I turned everything around and made a veggie type soup with tons of potatoes, well only four. Considering, I was making soup for two, I made a hefty quantity which we finished.We ended up eating a nourishing and filling meal with lots of good vegetables and a creamy, soothing potato base."

Lovely Reeni from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice made a comforting bowl of chili and says, "White Chicken Chili is a warm and cozy combination of chicken, white beans, roasted red peppers and chile peppers swimming around in a sea of creamy chicken broth. The "white" in the name comes from the broth, which, unlike a more traditional chili, doesn't include tomatoes but a combination of chicken broth and half & half. The white theme is continued with the tender pieces of chicken and creamy cannellini beans. Truth be told, it eats more like a soup than a chili."

My friend Kat from Our Adventures in Japan recreated a warming Ginger Potato Soup and says, "I got the idea for this soup when I ate an instant version. Knorr Japan has a creamy ginger potage which we tried and when I looked at the ingredients, I thought, "I could make this". The weather is starting to slowly warm up during the daytime, but the nights are still cold, so I wanted to try making this soup before the weather totally warms up. The potatoes really help thicken up the soup."

Roz from la bella vita is here with a bright and healthy Thai Chicken Salad and says, "I'm lovin' this Thai Chicken Salad (often called "Laab" or "Larb") and will pack whatever is left over for my lunch tomorrow at the office! Your taste buds will surely sing "Wow" too! The fresh lime, pungent ginger, sharp cilantro, spicy, garlic-y Thai seasoning are blended with the mild, buttery nuttiness of cashews and the sweetness of natural honey to balance those powerful playing ingredients! Like all Thai recipes, it's all about a balance of contrasts and this recipe has it all."

Shri from Tiffin Carrier Antic/que's! is back with us this week and with a Rice Salad with Vegetables. She says, "Rice with Sauteed and Tempered Vegetables Who is to stop you from calling it a Rice Salad? :-) Vegetable Upperi: Carrots, Beetroot ...These vegetables could also accompany a simple Dal, or it could be a very satisfying Rice Salad! These simple stir-fry's, if you please, is a quick and commonly used dry-vegetable dish in Kerala. It can be made in several ways, including finely diced onions, a touch of garlic, a generous garnish of grated coconut, a paste of coconut-cumin and chillies, maybe garlic and always a tempering of mustard seeds, broken red chillies and fresh curry leaves in coconut oil."

Finally, Graizana from Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs) has a sandwich on homemade bread and packed with all kinds of good things to share this week, her Focaccia with Mackerel, Thyme and Nigella. She says, "My father gave me some delicious homemade mackerel in oil that he prepared. I used it this quick focaccia, paired with the thyme, always perfect on fish, and the fruity and spicy nigella."

Some terrific soups, a couple of healthy salads and a hearty sandwich this week. Thanks to all my friends who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my side bar for the guidelines and details.

Have a great week!