Soup & Chili

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

The first cold front of the year just blew in, or as we Texans call it – 70 degrees. That might not seem too cool to you, but compared to 100 degree September days, it's down right chilly, and has the Starving Artist in a soup kind of mood. Granted, it's still not officially soup weather, but practice makes perfect, and this Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons is as close to perfection as you can get. I wish I could say that about my life.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 & 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 4 slices rustic white bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
  • Neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, beginning to brown, and very tender – about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.
  3. Next, add the basil, salt, and balsamic vinegar, then remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula or ladle; discard the solids. Taste the soup, andseason to tastewith additional salt and vinegar as needed.
  5. Now on to the croutons. Brush melted butter on one side of each slice of bread, making certain to cover the entire surface. Turn the slices over, and pile Gruyère on two of the slices, the close up your sandwiches with the other slices.
  6. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat, barely coat the pan with a drizzle of neutral oil, and cook the grilled cheese sandwiches for about 2 minutes per side, or until the cheese has melted and the bread is crusty and deep golden brown. For the best results, press down on the sandwiches with a second cast-iron skillet to mimic a panini press while they cook.
  7. Allow the sandwiches to rest for a minute or two, and then cut into square crouton-sized pieces. Reheat the soup as necessary, ladle into bowls, and garnish with achiffonade of basil, grilled cheese croutons, and freshly cracked black pepper.

Broccoli & White Bean Soup

Fall is finally here, and for me, Fall means soup. When the temperature starts dropping, I look for something easy, warm, and comfortable. Outside of a good grilled cheese sandwich, nothing is more cozy – and mood boosting – than a big hot bowl of soup. Introducing Fall's first big bowl. Broccoli & White Bean Soup.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large head of broccoli (about 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups spinach
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Crema Fresca

Directions

  1. In a large pan, sauté the olive oil and onions over low heat for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium, and toss in the garlic. Stir and cook for about 1 minute more, then pour in the white wine and scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a few minutes until the wine is mostly evaporated.
  3. Add in the broth, beans, broccoli and parsley. Cover and simmer until the broccoli is bright green and tender throughout, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add in the spinach, cover, and simmer for 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a blender puree the soup until smooth. Garnish with a little Crema Fresca and herbs of your choosing.

Spiced Zucchini Soup

What a lousy week. Seven straight days of endless rain. After two days, the starving artist was solidly mired in a full-blown battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder and soaking wet dogs. The only thing that kept me sane was the distant promise of sun, and this amazingly simple and delicious Spiced Zucchini Soup. It's a little bowl of sunshine. At least that's what I told myself.

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeño, chopped, seeds, stems, and ribs removed
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds zucchini, chopped (5-6 cups)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups chopped day-old bread
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed, then chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed, then chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalapeño, sauté for 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent – but not browned – then add the garlic and zucchini. Sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Next, add the bread, broth, water, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Now, add the mint and cilantro. Purée in a blender or food processor until smooth, working in batches if necessary. An immersion blender works nicely as well.
  4. Return the soup to the pot, then add the lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, garnish with a little julienned zucchini if you have the energy, and serve hot. Keeps for a week or so in the refrigerator.

Simple Hangover Noodles

Has anyone ever turned 50 and not found themselves shocked by the sunlight and nursing a hangover the next morning? If so, why didn't you tip me off to your approach before I overdid everything on my 50th? And by "overdid", I mean too much wine, too much food, too much art, and yet sadly, not a redhead in sight to whisper sweet lies and tell me everything will be OK. Thankfully, I found a simple solution. My soon to be world famous Hangover Noodles. Sure, I'm 50, alone, and my head is still pounding, but at least I have these noodles. And my art.

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Ingredients

  • 1 & 1/2 to 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped green onion
  • 1 serving Japanese somen or ramen noodles (use angel hair pasta in a pinch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • (Optional) vegetable of choice (I like bok choy)
  • (Optional) 1 poached egg

Directions

  1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, and green onion in the bowl you plan to eat from, then set it aside.
  2. Next, heat the chicken stock in a small pot until boiling. At the same time, bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook your noodles according to the instructions.
  3. (Optional) If you want to add additional greens or an egg to your noodles, you can quickly blanch the vegetables and poach the egg in the chicken stock while the noodles cook.
  4. Finally, pour the chicken stock (with the vegetables if you've added them) into your bowl. Stir to mix well, then transfer the noodles to your bowl, and top with the egg if you've gone that route.
  5. To serve, drizzle with sesame oil, then dig in.

Oxtail Stew

So, the starving artist/blogger/trainwreck more popularly know as Ed survived this year's string of Christmas and Holiday parties, along with the seemingly endless supply of chit chat, sweets, and finger foods that came with them. That said, if I see or taste another tiny triangular sandwich, ornament shaped sugar cookie, or slice of pie any time soon, my sanity will be in serious jeopardy. I need some quiet studio time, accompanied by a solid dose of real, hearty, flavorful food. Sounds like the perfect excuse for Oxtail Stew. And a bottle or two of wine.

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Ingredients

  • 1 & 1/2 - 2 pounds of oxtail
  • 1/2 medium sized yellow onion, diced large
  • 1/2 medium sized red onion, diced large
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 medium sized potato, diced
  • 4-5 cups beef broth
  • 12 ounces of Guinness Stout beer
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, sliced in half
  • Salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Begin by heavily seasoning the oxtails with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot, and cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Next, add in the garlic and potato, and continue to cook to soften the garlic, about another 3-5 minutes. If the pan seems to get dry, add drizzle of olive oil.
  4. Now, deglaze the pan by pouring in 1 cup of broth, and using a wooden spoon, scrap up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Place the oxtail back into the pot, add in the beer, then add enough broth to cover all the vegetables and meat.
  5. Cover the pan and let the stew simmer for 4-6 hours. When the meat falls off the bone, it's ready. Remove the oxtail from the stew, carefully peel off the meat into chucks, then place the meat back in the stew.
  6. Simmer the stew with the lid off for 20 minutes to thicken the stew, then add in the green beans and cook for another 5-10. Taste for seasoning, add in more salt and pepper as needed.