All-day Tomato Bisque

It was almost unbelievable to me, when I walked out toward our shriveled-up raised bed garden to begin breaking down the zucchini trellis and found—get this—new tomatoes!!!

It’s true that Southern summers tend to run a bit longer than some other regions, but I didn’t expect a tomato comeback, especially in the last days of September and given that our nighttime temperatures are sinking into the 40s. Mother Nature is something else though, isn’t she?


In addition to the lemon boy heirlooms (ripe and otherwise), we also had a bumper crop of a handful of Romas and though they didn’t look as pretty as the ones we enjoyed earlier in the summer, they were perfectly ripe and had a great flavor. I knew they’d be an excellent ingredient for homemade tomato bisque, which happens to be my husband’s favorite.

To be clear, you don’t literally need all day to make this bisque; I just needed something to do over the weekend, when our area was awash with the remnants of Hurricane Ian. Rather than making soup to freeze for a rainy day, I spent an entire rainy day making the soup we’d enjoy later. If you have half an hour, and don’t need to cook down fresh tomatoes, you could whip up this soup and use the simmering time to make a grilled cheese sandwich (our favorite side for this soup).

This is what a bowlful of comfort looks like.

My plan for the bisque came together in seconds: I’d blanch and shock the tomatoes for easy peeling, then chop them up and add them to my soup pot along with sauteed onions and garlic, plus a large can of Italian tomatoes (San Marzano, of course) and give the mixture a nice, long simmer to marry the flavors.


For a flavor boost, I swished out the tomato can with a few tablespoons of dry vermouth (the same spirit I put in my favorite martini) and dropped into the pot a dried bay leaf, which is always a good bet for a dish that is going in for a long simmer. Two hours later, I removed the bay leaf and brought out the immersion blender to puree the soup into the creamy texture that my hubby loves.


The resulting soup was really good, and I could taste the freshness that my surprise Romas contributed to the pot. It needed a little more depth, though, and definitely a little more color. Maybe you have noticed, as I have, that a homemade tomato soup or sauce tends to come out more orange than red, and it turns out there is a good (and scientific) reason for that, as I learned a few days ago in this article in my news feed. A little bit of tomato paste deepened the color and intensified the tomato flavor, a slight spoonful of sugar balanced the acidity, and a generous splash of cream made it bisque-y.


This was a great use of my encore tomatoes, though this easy homemade soup would be delicious with only canned tomatoes, which are usually packed at their peak of freshness. You might replace my fresh tomatoes with an extra, 15-ounce can, or simply reduce the other ingredients a bit for a smaller batch.

As for us, we are glad for a little extra, as a warm homemade soup will be most welcome at the end of today’s Yom Kippur service (that’s the Jewish holiday that has a 24-hour complete food-and-water fast), and we will undoubtedly devour our leftovers!

All-day Tomato Bisque

  • Servings: 8 cups or 6 bowls
  • Difficulty: Average
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Of course, you don't really need to spend all day making this soup, but the long simmer time makes a world of difference in flavor, especially when using fresh garden tomatoes.


Ingredients

  • 8 fresh, small plum tomatoes (or substitute a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes)
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, depending on taste
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes (San Marzano or another type that is packed in puree)
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth (or dry white wine, such as pinot grigio)
  • 1 whole dried bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (use less or substitute half and half for reduced fat)

Directions

  1. Put on a pot of water to boil for blanching the fresh tomatoes. Wash and score the bottom (blossom end) with an X for easy peeling. Carefully immerse the tomatoes into the boiling water for a minute or two, just long enough for the skins to split. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water, then peel and chop them.
  2. While water is boiling, heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and sprinkle with salt. Cook until softened and slightly transparent. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Add the fresh, chopped tomatoes to the pot and stir to heat through. Add the large can of tomatoes (juice and all, but remove basil sprigs) and break them up with your cooking utensil. If you wish, you can squeeze the whole tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot, and I would recommend this if you’re in a hurry. For long, slow simmering, the heat will break them up just fine.
  4. Add vermouth (or wine) to the tomato can and swirl it to rinse out the leavings. Add this to the soup and bring the pot to a slight boil, then cover and reduce heat. Add the bay leaf and simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours. Check the soup occasionally and stir to keep it from burning on the bottom.
  5. When tomatoes break easily under pressure from your utensil, use an immersion blender to puree it as smooth as you like. Be sure to remove the bay leaf first! If you don’t have an immersion blender, allow the soup to cool and puree it in batches in a regular blender. Keep the vent cap open for safety.
  6. Stir in tomato paste and sugar (if using), and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cream just before serving.



White Borscht

Like many of you, I have been filled with agony over Russia’s violent aggression against Ukraine, disgusted by the flippant and cavalier attitudes presented by deniers and Putin sympathizers, and worried that there is little I can do to make a tangible difference in the lives of the Ukrainian people. And yet I feel a kinship with them and want to do something, anything, to show my support.

One of the primary reasons I started Comfort du Jour was to build community with others who, like me, feel deeply connected to the world through food. It is the most universal need of humanity, yet very personal because of the customs and traditions woven into our individual and collective heritage.

Last week, a message from Sam Sifton, the founding editor of New York Times Cooking, arrived in my email inbox and it confirmed that I am not alone in this desire to use food to demonstrate solidarity. Sifton described being inundated with reader requests for recipes for borscht, a traditional sour soup that is common across all of Eastern Europe, most notably with Ukraine. I could not resist digging into the variety of recipes he offered in response to his readers, and this one in particular caught my eye.

Most borscht recipes are based on red beets, and though I adore their earthy flavor, my husband (whose Hungarian mother used to make beet borscht for herself) does not. This version, named “white borscht” by chef and author Gabrielle Hamilton, features potatoes and kielbasa, and seemed more in line with my husband’s palate. The original recipe suggests using real pork kielbasa, but I have substituted a lower fat turkey kielbasa. I also cut the butter amount in half and stirred in a little sour cream at the end rather than the crème fraiche suggested by the recipe’s author.

The sour cream and dill add a touch of freshness to this hearty, humble soup.

As always, my exploration into other cultures’ cuisine has taught me some lessons, and one thing about this soup surprised me. I have long assumed that Eastern European soups are “sour” because of fermentation or added vinegar (and sometimes they are), but this soup is both soured and thickened with a hefty chunk of sourdough bread, which I always happen to have on hand. This method of soaking and pureeing the bread was a genius move by the author, as it gave the soup a sturdy, almost creamy, texture, as well as a distinctive sour flavor. Always more to learn in the world of food, isn’t there?

My only regret is that I cannot make an enormous vessel of this soup to feed and comfort all of Ukraine, but I hope that somehow, sharing this experience will ripple across time and space to ensure the courageous people of that nation that they do not stand alone. 🇺🇦


Adapted from https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1021711-white-borscht

Note: The original recipe linked above is only available to paid subscribers of New York Times Cooking (which I am), but my adaptation is very close to the original, except for the aforementioned substitutions and the fact that I halved the recipe for our family of two.


Ingredients

1 lb. smoked turkey kielbasa, cut into three or four pieces

6 cups filtered water

2 dried bay leaves

4 Tbsp. salted butter, divided

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced

1 large leek, cleaned and cut into thin half-moon slices

Kosher salt and about 1 tsp. ground black pepper

A large piece of dense sourdough bread*, crusts trimmed (see notes)

1 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled

About 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth*

Sour cream and fresh dill for serving


*Notes

Note that real sourdough bread is made from a sourdough starter. Some grocery bakeries take a shortcut that embellishes yeast bread with citric acid, and it is not the same. If you don’t have sourdough bread, consider picking up a loaf from an authentic bakery or use a (seedless) rye. I confess that the sourdough loaf I had on hand was dotted with pumpkin seeds, but after pureeing, this did not have a bad effect on the finished borscht.

The recipe that inspired me did not call for broth, other than the one created by simmering the kielbasa, but in my first-attempt jitters, I accidentally simmered my soup longer than I should have and needed more liquid to keep it from becoming mashed potatoes. It isn’t a bad idea to have some broth at the ready for this purpose. I used a version of vegetable broth called “No-Chicken” broth, and it was perfect for making up the difference in liquid without affecting flavor.


Instructions

  1. Place the kielbasa chunks in a large soup pot and cover it with the filtered water. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
  2. Prep the potatoes by cutting off the sides and ends, creating mostly flat sides on the potato. Keep the potato scraps in one pile and cube up the rest into a separate pile.
  3. After simmering, the kielbasa should be noticeably swollen, and small droplets of fat from the kielbasa will be swirled throughout the broth. Use tongs to transfer the kielbasa to a cutting board. Pour the broth into a large bowl or measuring pitcher.
  4. Into the same pot, melt two tablespoons of the butter and sauté the yellow onions and garlic with salt and pepper for about five minutes, until tender. Add the remaining butter and leeks to the pot and sauté two more minutes, until those are also tender.
  5. Add the scraps of potato and the large chunks of sourdough bread to the pot. Pour about 2/3 of the reserved broth into the pot and simmer until the bread looks completely bloated, about 10 minutes. Use a large, slotted spoon or tongs to pull out the sopping bread into the measuring pitcher with the remaining reserved broth. It’s OK if some of the leeks and onions tag along. Set the pitcher aside to cool for a few minutes.
  6. Add the potato cubes to the pot, along with enough broth or water to just cover them. Heat to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes until potatoes are slightly tender. While that simmers, use an immersion blender to puree the sopping sourdough with the liquid in the bowl or pitcher.
  7. Stir the puree mixture back into the pot, along with the kielbasa. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Simmer just until heated through, as continued cooking will cause the potatoes to turn mushy.
  8. Serve the white borscht with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill.



Easy, Creamy Potato Soup

As far as I am concerned, the best thing about winter is the soup. When the weather is cold, damp or just generally crummy, a piping hot mug of soup is like a reset button for my winter-weary soul. And you know what makes soup even better? An easy recipe that doesn’t take all day, uses the simplest of ingredients (so I don’t have to run to the store to make it), and can be customized with almost any extra flavors one could imagine. This creamy potato soup is ticking all those boxes for me.

Soup is one of my favorite comfort foods ever, and that probably dates back to days that I stayed home sick from school. On those rare occasions, I would get dropped off at my grandmother’s house, where I’d spend the day napping to the soothing sound of her cuckoo clock, sipping some variety of last-minute, homemade soup and watching TV under a soft afghan from the big, upholstered wing-back chair in her den. My Gram could whip up a soup from thin air, it seemed, and to this day, a “what’s-in-the-fridge” soup is my favorite kind. Is it possible that I may have feigned illness on occasion, just to enjoy that kind of day? Why, yes, that is certainly possible. Sometimes a kid just needs a little extra comfort—the kind only a grandma and a warm cup of soup can deliver.

I have outgrown the days of pretending to be sick, but I still yearn for the cozy comfort of a warm mug of soup, especially when gloomy weather has me down. I’ll take any kind of soup; chowders, stews, bisques, broth with noodles, minestrone—they are all on equal footing for me. My husband loves soup, too, but his preference is specifically for cream-style soups, so this one was a double win at our house.

Sour cream, shredded cheddar, bacon and chives makes this easy soup a satisfying meal!

We had fun dressing up our creamy potato soup like a loaded baked potato—with sour cream, chives, cheddar cheese and crispy bacon pieces on top. But it would be very easy to keep the base of the soup and swap in different enhancers, such as roasted broccoli florets, sautéed mushrooms, frozen corn, cubes of ham or whatever else takes you to your happy place.

This potato soup is very easy to make, and despite the ultra-creamy, silky appearance, it has no heavy cream whatsoever. Buttery Yukon gold potatoes were the key element for my recipe, but you could use any combination of gold, red or russet potatoes, as long as some of them will hold their shape after simmering. Peel or don’t—whatever works for you. I thickened the soup with a slight amount of roux, made from the drippings I had from crisping up the bacon (but you could swap in butter or olive oil), and a combination of low-sodium vegetable broth and milk, then I used my trusty immersion blender to puree it halfway. It was every bit as luxurious and comforting as a cream-based soup, but with far less guilt!

We still have almost four weeks ’til the official arrival of Spring. As luck would have it, there is at least a pound of potatoes remaining in the kitchen, so I’m pretty sure this one will be on the menu again by the weekend, just in time for another round of colder temperatures.


This recipe makes 4 entrée servings or 6 appetizer servings

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. bacon drippings, butter or olive oil

1/2 large onion (about 1 cup), chopped

3 ribs celery hearts, trimmed and chopped

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (gluten-free 1:1 flour works for this also)

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth* (see notes)

2 cups milk*

About 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

About 1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (peel if you wish)

Toppings and stir-ins of your choice


*Notes

Vegetable broths vary widely in ingredients; for best results, choose a broth that does not contain tomatoes. The brand I like for this is Imagine vegetarian “no-chicken” broth. It has a rich golden color and seasonings that are very reminiscent of chicken broth.


I used a combination of whole milk and canned evaporated milk in my recipe, primarily because I only had 1 1/2 cups of fresh milk. Feel free to substitute 2% or skim milk if you’d like; the flavor will be less rich overall, but the roux will still give the soup a thick and creamy consistency, and you can also achieve creaminess with the immersion blender technique.


Instructions

Step up to the stove with me and I’ll walk you through this easy recipe. Keep scrolling for a downloadable recipe that you can save or print for a rainy, gloomy day. 🙂

Old Man Winter, you are no match for this soup.


Quick & Easy Refried Bean Soup

This recipe was shared with me many years ago by a friend who had the craziest schedule I’d ever witnessed. When she wasn’t running full speed ahead with her two middle-schoolers—to dance classes, soccer practice, music lessons, birthday parties, etc.—she was leading a high school youth group, teaching aerobics classes, volunteering at church and befriending every newcomer to the neighborhood. Her door was always open to visitors, even during the hectic holidays, and she always seemed to have something tasty to nibble on when someone appeared unexpectedly.

She didn’t have what I would call a passion for cooking, and certainly not much time, but she was incredibly skilled at getting a healthful and satisfying meal on the table in no time flat. This soup is one example, and when I pulled it out of my old recipe box the other day, I thought, “of course.” This is not an all-day-simmer kind of soup; rather, it leverages the already developed flavors of two key ingredients—jarred salsa and canned refried beans. Add some fresh onions and bell pepper, some veggie broth and your choice of chili beans and dinner is served.

There’s plenty of hearty comfort in the bowl, with beans, onions and peppers. And your favorite salsa lends a flavor that defies the quickness of the recipe.

The soup is every bit as comforting as any other homemade soup, but only takes 20 minutes, start to finish, which just happens to be the exact amount of time you need to throw a batch of Jiffy corn muffins into the oven (they’re perfect on the side).

What could be easier after a hectic day of shopping and errands during the busy holiday season?


Simple pantry ingredients and a few easy things from the fridge.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 bell pepper (any color), chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Cumin, salt and pepper

1 cup prepared salsa from a jar* (see notes)

2 cans beans (mix and match; pinto, black, kidney, navy are all good here)

2 cups low-sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth

1 can refried beans

Corn muffins for serving (optional, but yummy)


*Notes

Any kind of savory salsa will work here. It can be mild or spicy, green or red, thick or runny. If you have a can of Rotel tomatoes on hand, you could also substitute with that.


Instructions

  1. Get your corn muffins in the oven, if you’re making them. This soup can be made while they are baking.
  2. Drain and rinse the canned beans.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Saute onion and pepper until softened. Add garlic and saute another minute or two. Season with cumin, salt and pepper.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high. Add canned beans, salsa and broth, and stir to combine. When mixture begins to boil, reduce heat to medium. Stir in the can of refried beans, taking time to swirl and blend it into the broth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer until ready to serve.


Turning Les’s Chili into “Kitchen-less” Chili

The first dish I cooked from scratch happened in fall 1981, my first semester out of college, living in Southern California. It was sometime after the appearance of the annual TV Guide Season Preview edition. We all of a certain age remember those, right?

This thick edition featured previews of all the new shows, updates on returning shows and, seasoned amid all that, some unique features. The 1981 edition had a clip-out thing with the actor Vic Tayback, in all his “Alice” glory (rolled-up white hat, white t-shirt), sharing the recipe for Mel’s chili. Curious thing is that I didn’t watch “Alice.” Ever. But I wanted to make that chili, and it came out great. Of course, at the tender age of 22, saying something came out great means it was edible.

Vic Tayback as Mel Sharples. Gruff, but likable. And everyone loved his chili.

My chili has grown considerably in depth of ingredients and flavor over the years, and I no longer need to refer back to Mel’s recipe as I did for at least 10 years, but the baseline recipe still has some “Mel” in it. Namely, I still typically use some type of ground meat, onions, garlic, tomato paste and red kidney beans. I remember my very first modification, probably the second time I made the chili, was adding diced green peppers. Diced red pepper followed shortly after.

Soon enough, my chili became the regular main dish at the annual Gura household Super Bowl party, and I tried to do something different with it just about every year. So, among the additions (which sometimes also required deletions), were diced tomatoes (I now use Rotel hot diced tomatoes), roasted garlic, cocoa powder, various types of chili powders and seasonings rather than the packets of chili seasoning the recipe called for, canned green chiles, and diced jalapeno. A breakthrough ingredient some 15 years ago (I think I have to credit chef Steven Raichlen for this) was dark beer, as substitute for the water needed with the tomato paste. I’ve used ground bison. Used ground venison. Used smoked brisket (that might have been my best chili ever, Super Bowl party 2017).

Now comes a new challenge. Making chili without a kitchen, which became my mission one recent weekend while Terrie was taking a trip to West Virginia to buy colorful new Fiesta dishes for our soon-be-be completed kitchen. Fortunately, in our current state of kitchen-lessness, Terrie and I have two useful things for making chili. A multi-purpose slow cooker and a toaster oven; the former was the star of the day for the new batch.

I’m not going to bore you all with the details. Suffice to say, while I roasted a bulb of garlic in the toaster oven, I diced up peppers and onions and lined up the other key ingredients (Guinness Foreign Extra Stout was the beer). I browned the bison in the slow cooker and flavored it with a taco skillet sauce, then removed the bison to sauté the vegetables. Eventually, everything went back  into the slow cooker and I left it on low for 2½ hours. With the jalapeno pepper flakes and ground chipotle that I added, this chili came out, to quote Jim Carrey in Masked, “ssssmokin!”


Ingredients (makes about 8 portions)

Counter space and lighting is even worse in the dining room than in the old kitchen, but I like to get “mise en place!” Everything ready, including a frosty beer for myself.

1 pound ground bison* (notes below)

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 each green and red peppers, diced

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 bulb garlic

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes (I used the “hot” variety)*

2 small cans of chopped green chiles*

1 10-ounce can tomato paste

1 12-ounce beer*

1 packet Frontera brand taco skillet sauce (you will need less than half the packet)

2 cans red pinto beans (for this I used dark red; normally I mix dark and light red beans), drained

1-2 Tbsp. ground chipotle*

A pinch or two of dried jalapeno flakes

1 Tbsp. cocoa powder

Salt and pepper


Tools

Slow cooker and toaster oven for cooking*


Toppings/Extras

Shredded cheese*

Sour cream

Scallions

Tortilla chips


Notes

  • Bison can be substituted with ground beef, ground turkey or other favored protein; chili also works great with different kinds of stewed or smoked meats cut into small chunks.
  • Rotel makes three varieties of diced tomatoes; use whichever suits your heat preference.
  • I used Ortega’s fire-roasted, mild chopped green chiles for this batch, but any will do.
  • I like to use a dark beer; for this batch it was Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which Terrie thought was too bold but it was the only bottle of dark beer in the “downstairs” fridge.
  • Ground chipotle can be substituted with other types of seasoning such as ancho chili powder or a seasoning packet mix or a combination of seasonings, all based on heat preference and desired flavor profile. And another thought on seasoning: add in whatever you like on a given day. Chili never comes out exactly the same, at least in our kitchen. And that’s OK.
  • If you don’t have a multipurpose slow cooker, you could brown the beef and sauté the vegetables in a fry pan, then add all other ingredients into a cast-iron pot.
  • Needless to say, garlic can be roasted in a regular oven. Unless you’re remodeling your kitchen.
  • I like to use a block of cheese rather than pre-shredded. Because this batch came out spicy, I used a Colby-jack blend. If your chili’s heat factor is low, Trader Joe’s makes a habanero pepper jack that works great and you can make your own bowl as spicy as you want.

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat toaster oven to 400° F. Cut off head of garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Cook 1 to 1½ hours until the bulb is soft and golden brown.
  2. Brown ground bison in multipurpose slow cooker on brown setting, adding in small batches to avoid steaming. After initial browning, add skillet sauce to coat bison, then remove from slow cooker.
  3. Add olive oil and sauté the vegetables about 5 minutes until soft and translucent.
  4. Change setting to slow cook on low, return ground bison to the slow cooker, and then add in Rotel diced tomatoes, beer and tomato paste. Add seasonings. Mix all ingredients well. If mixture appears too thin, gradually add more tomato paste; if too thick, add water.
  5. After cooking about 90 minutes, add kidney beans and heat through.

In Terrie’s new Fiesta ware, the leftover chili looks like a party in a bowl.


Slow Cooker Turkey Chili Soup

Can someone please explain to me how time works? Because it has only been nine days since my last post, but it feels like 29. Some of the days have been a blur, as we have had non-stop activity in the kitchen during the demolition of the old and especially the arrival and installation of the new. And then, other days it has been so quiet it seems that even the crickets are on vacation. This morning, I literally had to ask my husband, “what day is today?” because amid the ruckus, I couldn’t quite remember. Only one week down and at least five to go—oy, vey!

It would be premature at this point to show you the progress of our remodel, given that we don’t yet have a countertop and the floor is covered in protective cardboard and there is new and ongoing discussion about how much we can configure our backsplash for a couple of design features I’ve been desperate to have. Well, OK, maybe just a few quick photos, but I want to save some for the big reveal!


There is much more to be done, and some of the details our contractor is working through are special enough to be considered “fussy,” so we are fine with some intermittent slowdowns. As far as we know, and barring any future catastrophes, things are still on track for us to be back in the kitchen by mid-November!

The biggest challenges have been exactly as expected—keeping the pets calm and cared for, which has been manageable so far because the weather is nice enough for our cat to chill outside (which she loves anyway) and our next-door neighbor has generously invited me and the dog over for some peace and quiet whenever things get wild over here. The other obvious challenge has been cooking without a kitchen, and today I’m sharing the first real, “cooked” recipe I’ve made since we started the remodel project. Breakfast doesn’t count because we are mainly just using the toaster. And until Friday of last week, we had relied on take-out and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. And (of course) cocktails for me, but that will be another post. 😉

Our first real meal could not have been more perfect for the fall season, and it also could not have been simpler to make, despite the fact that I did not have a stove, a microwave, a sink or a countertop. How did I pull it off?

It’s my multi-purpose friend, the slow cooker!

Say hello again to our multi-purpose slow cooker, the same one I used for our final “Chopped” challenge when Les tricked me into cooking all that kielbasa. The “browning” setting on this 7-in-1 appliance saved the day for my new adventure of “cooking without a kitchen.” I browned the ground turkey and onions, then added all the other ingredients, switched it to the slow cook setting, and let it simmer until Les walked in the door at the end of his workday. I was so excited to have actually cooked, and there was something very comforting about having the aromas of that chili soup filling the house. We needed a good, home-cooked meal at the end of such a crazy, noisy week. And, because it all came together in one pot, even the cleanup was easy.

This original recipe is one of my favorites, and it conjures warm and fuzzy memories for me. A few years ago, on a gloomy February day during another crazy time in my life, I’d scrambled through the cabinets for something to make that did not require a trip to the grocery store. I didn’t have a whole can of tomatoes, but I did have a small can of salsa, plus some roasted green chiles, half a bag of frozen corn, a can of beans and a carton of chicken broth. When I settled in with a bowl of this delicious concoction, which is not quite chili and not quite soup, I loved it so much, I took time to write it all down, and I’m glad I did because it was just right for such a crazy time as this. And there’s another benefit to it—easy leftovers!

Of course, you don’t need to have a special slow cooker to make it. Feel free to use a soup pot or Dutch oven. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll do next time—you know, when I have a shiny new kitchen!

If I had an oven this week, I would have made a batch of cornbread to accompany this tasty chili soup!

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 small sweet onion, chopped

1 lb. ground turkey (or turkey breast, if you prefer leaner meat)

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. sweet Spanish paprika

1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder

Salt and pepper

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken broth (this is equal to 1 large carton)

7 oz. can roasted green chiles, chopped

1 small can Herdez salsa (about 8 oz.)

1 1/2 cups frozen roasted corn

1 can black beans, drained

Tortilla chips for serving


Instructions


  1. Add olive oil to the slow cooker (or pot), on a medium heat setting. Saute the onions until they are soft and translucent, then push them to the outside of the pot.
  2. Add the ground turkey, about half at a time, breaking it up into bits with your fingers as you go. When you brown ground meat, it’s a good idea to cook a small amount at a time to maintain a steady heat. Otherwise, the meat will just steam. When all the turkey is browned, add the chopped garlic and the spices, plus salt and pepper, and cook about one minute until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Sprinkle the flour over the ground meat mixture and stir it around to evenly coat all the meat. It should seem a little dry on the surface of the meat; add a touch more flour if needed to get this appearance. Cook the mixture two minutes, add the green chiles and cook two more minutes.
  4. Add the chicken broth to the pot all at once. Stir gently to mix the broth with the roux-covered meat mixture and cook until it reaches a slight boil, then reduce the heat and simmer about one hour. At this point, I switched the slow cooker setting from “browning,” which is essentially the same as cooking on a stove top, to “high slow cook.”
  5.  Add the roasted corn, black beans and salsa and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer on low setting for two hours or more, until you’re ready to serve.

For our first “cooking without a kitchen” meal, I served this comforting turkey chili soup with tortilla chips, but it’s really delicious with a fresh batch of skillet cornbread.



Bean & Bacon Soup

Nothing makes me crave soup more than a snow day, or as is usually the case in North Carolina, an “ice day.” Like much of the U.S., we have been under threat of severe winter weather this week, and it finally arrived overnight in the shape of freezing rain. Bleh. Rather than stare out the window at the ice accumulating on the trees behind our home (beautiful, but dangerous), I’ve decided that I will make soup, and I am thankful once again to be cooking with gas. Power outages be damned, we will have a comforting bowl of something to eat. I wish I had a pot large enough to feed all of Texas this week.

Soup is a very forgiving meal, allowing you to use whatever you already have in the fridge and pantry, and this one is very true to that. A few cans of beans, some stock from a carton, basic vegetables and thick-sliced bacon comes together to create hearty, soul-warming goodness.


Ingredients

A few slices of thick-cut bacon, cubed (measuring about 1½ cups)

1 medium onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

Several carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)

Salt and pepper

3 cans (15 oz.) white beans (cannellini, great northern or navy)

1 carton low-sodium vegetable broth

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 or 2 bay leaves


Instructions


  1. Heat a medium-size soup pot over medium heat. Toss the bacon cubes in the pot until all edges are crispy and fat is mostly rendered. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined bowl and drain off excess grease, keeping about two tablespoons of it in the pot. You’ll return the bacon to the soup after it is simmered and pureed.
  2. Add the mirepoix (onion-celery-carrot) to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until onions are translucent and carrots are just tender.
  3. Drain and rinse the canned beans and add them to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add vegetable broth, tomato paste and bay leaves. Stir to combine and bring soup to a low boil, then reduce heat, cover pot and simmer an hour or two.
  5. Remove bay leaves and puree some of the soup, using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor. If the power is out and you’re cooking in the dark, use a potato masher. Blend as much or as little as you like; for me, this is usually about 2/3 smooth with chunks of bean and vegetable throughout.
  6. Return crisped bacon to the pot and continue to simmer about an hour, until bacon is softened and its smoky flavor has infused the soup.


Want to make this comforting soup?