Turnip Soup with Turnip Greens
I like to eat this soup chilled on a hot day. If you want to serve it warm, take care not to boil the green soup as it will discolor if it’s cooked longer than a moment or two.
You can find the original recipe for Vellutata di Rape Bianche e Rapini in Zuppe by Mona Talbott. Mona suggests sautéing the leaves separately and swirling them into the white base. I’m a glutton for olive oil and will find any excuse to use it abundantly in recipes. Here I blanch the greens and blend them with olive oil, creating two soups that I serve alongside each other in one bowl. A visual stunner, and a fun soup to eat since you get to swirl them together and paint an edible canvass with a soup spoon.
- 2 bunches turnips, with an abundance of green tops
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 branches thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Juice from ½ lemon
To prepare the turnips: Separate the turnips from their leaves. Wash the turnips well. No need to peel them unless they are older and the skins are tough. Thinly slice the turnips. Strip the turnip greens from their stems and wash in multiple changes of water until they’re free of dirt. You don’t need to dry the greens since you’ll be blanching them.
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, add 3T olive oil and the onions. Sweat gently with a large pinch of salt until softened. Add the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Cook for another minute, then add the turnips, a big pinch of salt, bay leaves, and enough water to cover. Cook over medium heat until the turnips are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water generously and blanch the turnip greens until softened, 1-2 minutes. Spread out on a sheet tray and set aside to cool completely.
Remove the thyme springs and bay leaves from the soup. Add the lemon juice and puree the soup in a blender to smooth. Taste for salt and acid, adding more salt and lemon juice as needed. Chill well.
Rinse and dry the blender. Roughly chop the cooled blanched greens. Add a ¼ cup olive oil to the base, then add the greens and any liquid collected on the sheet tray. Blend to a bright green puree. Taste for salt and add more as needed. Chill well.
To serve the soup, simultaneously pour the white base and the green base into the serving vessel from opposite ends to create two distinct half-moon shapes. Drizzle with olive oil and a crack of black pepper.
Aromatic Chicken Soup
This broth could be repurposed in a number of ways. Use it to make risotto, or sip it as is and fold the picked chicken with some diced celery, mayonnaise, and some minced tarragon for a quick chicken salad.
- 1 organic whole chicken, rinsed
- 2 stalks celery, thick slices
- 1 onion, thick slices, w/ the skins
- 1 carrot, thick slices
- 2” piece of ginger, thick slices
- 1t black peppercorns
- 1T dark soy sauce (omit if you don’t have on hand)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3T kosher salt
- Filtered water to cover
Veggies for soup:
- 2 leek, white part only small dice
- 3 celery ribs, small dice
- ½ fennel, small dice
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1” knob ginger, minced or grated on Microplane
- 4T extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ¼ C white rice
- 1 lemon, juiced
For the broth: rinse the chicken well, taking care to remove any bits of organ meat hidden underneath the rib cage area. Split the chicken in half using kitchen shears. This makes it easier to fit the chicken snugly in the pot. Place the chicken in a large soup pot. Add the rest of the ingredients along with 1 cup of ice. Cover with cold water. Bring the liquid up to a strong simmer, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim off the scum that rises to the top with a ladle and cook for about an hour.
Once the meat starts to pull away from the bone of the drumsticks, remove the chicken with tongs and set on a sheet tray to cool slightly. Once it’s cool enough to handle, pick the chicken meat, keeping the breast and thigh meat separate. Strain the broth into a large bowl or another large pot using a fine-mesh strainer. Set aside.
For the vegetables: Wash the pot you used to cook the broth. Add 2T extra virgin olive oil and sweat the leek, celery, and fennel to soften, about 10 minutes, adding a large pinch of salt after 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sweat for another 2-3 minutes. Add 1T olive oil and the rice toast in the oil, stirring periodically until the pot smells toasty, 3-5 minutes. Add half the broth back into the pot and cook the rice, about 10 minutes.
To finish the soup, fold the dark meat into the soup. I prefer to save the white meat for another preparation (see quick chicken salad in the recipe intro). This is a personal preference; add whatever mixture of meat you like. Add enough broth to keep the soup loose and broth-y. Depending on how much water you started with, you may end up adding all the broth. Save whatever’s leftover; it freezes beautifully.
Season the soup with lemon juice and more kosher salt. Since the broth is mostly unseasoned, you’ll need to add at least a couple more large pinches of salt. Once it’s tasty, chill the soup. There will be some residual fat that rises to the top of the container and congeals. Scrap that off once the soup is fully chilled and save for another use – such as frying an egg, folding into fried rice, or finishing a pasta.
Pasta e Fagioli
The thermometer reads 9 degrees, but Yahoo weather’s telling me it feels like -8 with the wind chill. Getting out of bed this morning was a Herculean task. This is where winter begins to feel like a contact sport, and I’m tempted to paint thick, dark lines under my eyes before braving the subzero temperatures.
As winter runs its course, I find no shortage of weather-related items to lament. The simple act of walking the dogs becomes a perilous endeavor crossing sheets of corrugated ice and unevenly shoveled sidewalks. Daylight is fleeting and leaving the house for anything besides employment obligations feels impossible.
I spent a couple years living in Texas and bypassing this season entirely. Right around this time of year, I was swapping my running shorts and tank tops for capri pants and t-shirts. I retired my winter jackets and lived my life ignorant of polar vortexes and massive ice sheets wreaking havoc for my neighbors to the north.
While it was nice to run in shorts in January, I desperately missed the innate rhythm of the seasons. Prior to moving to Texas, I hadn’t given any thought to way they grounded me to time and place. Not having the months of snow and bitter cold as a touchstone left me feeling oddly unmoored, like a rowboat whose slip knot had come undone, leaving it floating aimlessly in the middle of the water, directionless and puzzled as to its current circumstances.
This is the part of the year to turn inward, and I know this instinctively because I’m no longer beckoned to venture outdoors. There’s nowhere else to go, no more energy to exert. Stillness reigns. That simple truth brings me great comfort.
Even the sadness I feel around shorter, darker days is somehow comforting. After all, who can stand to be up all the time? A little sadness serves to ground us in the reality of a human experience that expands and contracts like the ocean, constantly ebbing and flowing, adjusting and readjusting to the elements.
When it’s this cold out, I can’t stand to eat cold food. My cooking leans heavily on the tenets that govern the all-mighty stew. Holding a warm bowl of it in my hands after a long, exhausting day braving the elements serves as a spiritual salve. My cold hands tingle as they grip the warm bowl, and the ice that’s encased my chest all day slowly begins to thaw. Just like that, spring doesn’t seem quite so far away.
This recipe is a stroke of culinary genius. The base is a simple soffritto of onions, carrots, celery, garlic, chili and rosemary that’s married with some rendered pancetta then stained with a hearty spoonful of tomato paste. Add to that some cooked white beans, some of their cooking liquid, and some small blanched pasta and some of its cooking liquid, and you get a heavenly bowl of Italian comfort food. A big hunk of crusty bread and some warm tea to wash it all down and you’ll forget all about the artic freeze bearing down on the landscape on the other side of your windows.
*Note that you can use canned chickpeas for this but the result will be duller and less robust. That’s because some of the bean cooking liquid (a flavor explosion all its own) is added to the stew and imparts a tremendous amount of flavor. That being said, if time is of the essence, go with canned beans. Just remember to rinse them thoroughly as the canning liquid can impart an off flavor.
Pasta e fagioli (Pasta and beans)
- 6 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 springs rosemary, chopped
- 2 t pepperoncino
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 14-ounce can San Marzano tomato, gently crushed by hand
- 1 cup small-shaped pasta (such as ditalini)
- 1 large piece of Parmesan rind
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup dry white beans
- 1 head garlic head, cut in half across its equator
- Several sprigs of aromatics (thyme sprigs, parsley stems, rosemary, and/or sage)
- Olive oil
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain, place in a pot and cover with at least two inches of cold water. Bring to boil then turn down to a simmer. Skim the surface of any scum. Add the halved garlic head, the aromatics and a large glug of olive oil. Simmer until the beans are tender with a slight bite in the center, 45 minutes to an hour depending on the type and age of the bean.
Put another large pot of water on to boil the pasta (don’t forget to add a liberal amount of salt to your pasta water).
Meanwhile, in a 4-qt soup pot, add a small glug of olive oil and the pancetta. Cook on medium heat until the fat is rendered and the pieces start to crisp. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and sweat the vegetables on medium-low heat until softened, about 15 minutes. Make a small well in the center of the pot, add a little more olive oil and to that add the garlic, rosemary, and pepperoncino. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the canned tomato and Parmesan rind. Season with salt and pepper. Once the beans are finished cooking, add them to the stew along with about 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid (you want the stew to be fairly loose at this stage as the addition of the pasta starch will thicken it slightly).
Now add your pasta to the boiling water and cook for half the time that the package indicates for al dente (you will finish cooking the pasta in the stew). Drain and save 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid.
Add the par-cooked pasta to the bean and soffritto mix and cook on medium heat for another 10 to 15 minutes to finish cooking the pasta and bring the flavors together. Adjust the thickness of the stew with pasta water and/or more bean liquid as needed.
Serve with a generous glug of fruity olive oil and a couple spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese. Chili oil is also a delight – and cleans out the sinuses!
The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the bus in Seville was the color. The blood red writing on the advertisement for an upcoming bull fight. The walls of bars and cafes painted canary yellow housing myriad bottles of sherry. A cloudless cerulean sky in January.
Seville is a city of color. It’s bright and loud, the people warm and effusive. I lived there during a semester in college and was immediately swept away in the city’s vibrancy and verve.
I was fortunate enough to live with a Spanish family. My host mother, Nani, and her three grown kids took me under their wing and helped me become fluent in Spanish. They educated me on the intricacies of dialect, patiently explained the history of the Spanish civil war and the ensuing decades-long dictatorship, and taught me how to eat like a Spaniard.
That brief stretch of time marked my first extended foray into a culture that wasn’t my own, and I relished being able to go undercover and discover a whole new set of mores and customs that weren’t my own. I happily adopted caffe con leche into my morning routine and ate huge lunches followed by long, lazy siestas. I stayed out absurdly late at flamenco shows and discotecas, sweaty, buzzed and alive.
Unsurprisingly, the food was my favorite aspect of Spanish culture. Gazpacho and tortilla espanola was my favorite lunch during the late spring and summer months. The ice-cold tomato-based soup punctuated with the sharp zing of raw garlic and sherry vinegar was the perfect antidote to the inescapable heat.
Spanish tortilla is a confusing name for a very thick omelette, usually with onion and potato. Gazpacho has many different iterations, but Nani’s remains my favorite. Her’s was a stripped down version, basically just ripe tomatoes pureed with a few other vegetables, a healthy dose of sherry vinegar, and an abundance of olive oil. Served with tortilla espanola and crusty bread, gazpacho has an almost Proustian power over me; it sends me right back to scorching late spring evenings circa 2006.
The Best Gazpacho
Adapted from The New York Times
- 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 mild pepper, such as cubanelle or Anaheim peppers, cut into chunks
- 1 cucumber, cut into chunks
- 1 small mild onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 T sherry vinegar
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup extra virgin oil olive
Puree the vegetables with the vinegar and couple large pinches of salt. Stream the oil in as the motor runs to emulsify the oil into the mixture. Add the oil until you start to see the soup change color and it coats the roof of your mouth pleasantly when you taste it. You may need to add more salt and vinegar; taste and judge accordingly. Serve with another drizzle of good olive oil and lot’s of crusty bread.
Note that as this sits in the fridge, it will start to separate. Stir well or blitz it with an immersion blender to re-emulsify before serving. A VitaMix works well for this recipe to attain that velvety smooth consistency, but an immersion blender or regular blender will work in a pinch.