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La Belle Cuisine
"Only the pure of heart can make a good soup."
"The first Mrs. Astor,
the Mrs. Astor, was a true eccentric. . . Mrs. Astor made herself
famous in social circles and infamous in culinary circles by putting
great masterpiece of the dining art - soup.
Mrs. Astor didn't serve
soup at her famous dinners. . . she even said,
'Why would anyone want to put
their dinner on top of a lake?'
Well, all I can say about Mrs. Astor is, what
did she know about
having married for money? Soup is a
civilization. It is a
creative synthesis of flavors and textures, served in a com-
or as a precise and perfectly elegant begin-
ning to the
shape of things to come. . . free-lancers of every stripe cannot
it. By that I mean writers,
artists, inventors and confined
housewives. Lives have been saved by soup....."
~ Liz Smith, from the foreword to Lee Bailey's
"There is nothing like soup... To
feel safe and warm on a cold,
all you really need is soup."
~ Laurie Colwin
Amen, Sisters! I simply cannot imagine a world without soup. God
Best Black Bean Soup (So Far)
June in Germany is more like October in Oshkosh. It was
just such a
chilly, rainy weekend in Bad Homburg (quite some years
now) that I
stumbled upon a truly fine soup. Actually,
plan was to prepare a feast of steamed white
asparagus, a warm
new potatoes and scallions in pesto dressing, and sautéed veal scallops.
Sort of a
could be more suitable for spring
on its way
to becoming summer?
Alas. The day dawned cold and gloomy.
And wet. Again. Since
do anything toward selling everything we owned and moving to
at that very moment, I decided to accept my fate and regroup.
Regroup to what,
in search of comfort and consolation than ideas, I curled up on
with my second cup of coffee and my cherished well-worn
copies of Home Cooking and
More Home Cooking
, absolute jewels
the late, inimitable Laurie Colwin. As fate would have it, I
Home Cooking" to her “Black
Beans” article. After
reading a bit, I was so
inspired that nothing would do but a big pot of
could possibly be more consoling,
more soothing, more good-for-what-ails-you, than a steaming-hot
serving of homemade soup? And
not only that,
but according to
Laurie, “Black beans are the
That did it!
a quick check for ingredients, I found that I would
somewhat from Laurie’s recipe. I
began to thumb
and was astounded to find no
fewer than twelve
black bean soup
Good grief! After considerable
decided on a combination of
Craig Claiborne’s recipe, Laurie’s, one
from a very old back
Gourmet, and a twist of my own…
pound dried black beans
8 cups good beef or chicken stock
2 cups chopped onion
2 medium carrots, diced
2 large stalks celery, cut in half
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Bouquet Garni: 2 bay leaves,
10 cracked peppercorns,
4 whole cloves,
1 large sprig fresh basil
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup peeled, seeded, diced tomatoes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh coriander
Juice of 1 lime
Dry Sherry (optional)
your favorite soup pot, cover the beans, rinsed and picked over,
water. Bring to the boil, remove pan from heat and let the beans
partially covered, for 1 hour. (Obviously, I could not soak the
overnight, as I had not been planning to make bean soup!) Drain
place them into the saucepan and add the stock. (Are you one
enviable cooks who always has homemade stock in the freezer?
I salute you! No?
Then do the best you can. You
may have to resort to
bouillon or canned broth. I rely
quite heavily on 'Maggi Klare Suppe mit Suppengrün', a quite superior
German version of the
cube. It makes the world’s best broth/stock not make
I do tend to digress. As
I was saying, place the drained beans back
into your soup pot, add the
stock/broth, 2 cups chopped onion, carrots, celery, 3 chopped garlic
cloves, and the bouquet garni. I
also threw in a generous pinch of a “Cajun seasoning” herb blend. Important note: You
would not really need the bouquet garni if you were using good home-
stock. But, the addition of the bouquet garni is a good way of
people! In a good way,
the stock/broth to a boil, then lower the heat and and simmer,
partially covered, for 2
to 2 1/2 hours, or until the beans are
tender. Discard the celery
stalks and the bouquet garni.
a blender or food processor, purée the mixture coarsely, in batches.
if you are fortunate enough to have one of those
blenders, by all means use it. I swear by mine. Great
the purée to a large saucepan and place it over very
You may need to add more liquid at this point, depending on how
you like your soup.
like mine very soupy.
a heavy medium-size skillet place the olive oil, bell pepper, 1 1/2 cups
chopped onion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, and the cumin. Cook, stirring,
until the onions are wilted. Add the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.
we are making here is sort of an Italian-style soffrito.
Let this luscious
mixture simmer over very low heat about 10
This is where is gets really good. Add
the tomato mixture to the
soup along with the minced coriander (which I
did not have, so I substi-
tuted flat-leaf parsley). Stir in the lime juice
(or lemon, like I did, since
limes were not so plentiful in Germany). Taste and adjust the seasoning
this point I added several sprinkles of a favorite standby of mine:
Chachere’s Famous Creole Seasoning. If you happen to have dry Sherry on hand
(which I did not), a tablespoon or so added to each serving
If you can manage it, serve this excellent soup with a freshly-baked loaf
of crusty French or Italian bread and plenty of sweet butter.
For sure. But more to the point, you may find that a weary, stress-ridden
soul can actually take refuge in a warm cozy kitchen with
pot of soup
simmering on the stove. The
of bread baking will enhance the experience
the way, ole what’s-his-face, the German guy I used to be married
swore this was absolutely, positively THE BEST bean soup he had
tasted. But please. By all means, do not take his word for it. Give
it a try and decide
Leek and Barley Soup
A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin, 1993, HarperPerennial
is one soup I make all winter long which has the double virtue of
scrumptious and effortless. It is full of good things. You make it in
morning and eat it in the evening. All you have to do is skim the fat
off the top. The second day you can add to it to change it, if you have
meat for this soup is short ribs. There is nothing like it for soup,
but it is fatty; shin makes a good enough substitute. Trim as much fat
can from the short ribs, which can be kept in one piece or cut
up by the
1. Trim two big, meaty short ribs and put them on the bottom of your
2. Add 1/2 cup of barley, three big cloves of garlic chopped up, two
chopped onions, and three big leeks cut lengthwise – both the white
the green parts. You can also add mushrooms and any other
might like. Grind in a little black pepper.
3. Add about eight cups of filtered water or beef stock and let simmer
on the back burner for at least three hours while you go about your
(You can add lima
beans, cubed potatoes, peas, corn, string
beans, and chopped tomatoes. I
myself would not put any kind of
squash into this
soup, and I am not fond
Before serving, skim off the fat, take the meat off the bones, chop
it and put it back in the soup.
sort of soup makes a meal, and if you are not feeding intimidating
company, you can serve it as the meal. A little dish of pasta, followed by
soup, bread and cheese and a salad makes a very heartwarming dinner,
grapes and chocolate cookies for dessert.
has come to symbolize the ultimate in comfort and safety. Many
when I was about fifteen, I saw someone served a cup of
soup, and this
vision, which had all the sentimental charm of a painting
by Sir Edwin Landseer, is indelibly imprinted on my mind.
was a cold, rainy autumn night, and some grubby teenagers had gathered
a friend’s rather splendid house. We heard the crunch of a car on
A taxi pulled up and into the wet night stepped the friend’s
who was coming home from college for the weekend. She was
nineteen but she looked like the picture of sophistication. She
wore brown pumps, a green tweed suit, pearl earrings and her hair was
pulled back in
a French twist.
took off her wet coat, sat down in front of the fire and her mother
brought her a large, ornamental bone china cup of soup. She warmed
hands on the cup and then she set it on its saucer, balanced it on her
lap and ate the soup with a bouillon spoon. The dog, a Weimaraner,
lay dozing at her feet. Outside the rain clattered. Inside that pretty
all was safe.
course you need not have a Weimaraner or a fire or anyone coming
college. To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night, all you
More Home Cooking:
A Writer Returns to the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin, 1995, HarperPerennial
“In all your life
you will be hard-pressed to find something as simple, soothing, and
forgiving, as consoling as lentil soup. You can take things
out of it or
put things into it. It can be fancy or plain, and it will never
are two ways to make it: healthy and unhealthy. Amazingly
enough, both are
delicious. Furthermore you can purée it or leave it
alone, and you
eat it hot or cold.
unhealthy way is made with slab bacon, preferably double-smoked,
dice and sautéed with onion and garlic. Or made with short ribs,
have a sublime flavor and tons of fat, most of which is happily
by the lentils and then passed right into your bloodstream. You
in some delicious, high-calorie, and very indigestible sausage.
these will produce a delicious soup.
you can poach your lentils gently in a very rich, defatted
beef stock, then pour the result in a blender with a spike of brandy (or
and some cayenne pepper and serve this very velvety potion to
can simmer your soup with tomatoes and red peppers, or you can
alone in some water with a few vegetables. Even this abstem-
preparation tastes fine. The fact is, lentils always taste fine, and if
hate soup you can poach them, drain them, and
turn them into
it is soup that concerns us here for a number of reasons:
It is warming,
comforting, good for you, and most important, it is easy.
easy, and it has a quality loved by all pressed cooks – it
does the work
Lentils are friendly – the Miss Congeniality of the bean world. They
to almost anything. But let us start from scratch.
The most minimal
lentil soup calls for a cup of lentils; a quart of
water or stock of any
kind; one sliced carrot; one or two cloves
of garlic, minced; one small
diced onion; and there you are.
This makes a nice plain soup to which
no hungry person can object.
next step is to
add to this one potato, diced up (I love lentil soup
in it), one rib of celery, one bay leaf, a sprig of thyme,
clove of garlic, and you have a more varied potage that is
a vegetable soup with lentils.
one step further, string beans and lentil soup seem to call out to
other. You can add this to your vegetable soup with lentils or simply
lentil and string bean soup with garlic and onions. A tablespoon of
paste goes well with any of these combinations.
purée of lentil soup with chopped spinach is heaven, spiked with a little
cream or yogurt. And a piping hot lentil soup with some long-cooked, very
tender broccoli di rape mixed in is divine (for those who adore broccoli
di rape, which is pungent, bitter, and full of wonderful flavor). The
all this is that, aside from a little vegetable chopping, there is almost
cook this gently on the stove. You will have soup in an hour. You
have a better soup if you wait a little longer. You will have a slightly
different soup if you add some cut-up tomatoes, tomato paste, or some
leftover canned tomatoes. The point is, you can’t mess it up. Lentil
soup comes through for you. With a loaf of bread, a salad, and some
and something or other for dessert, you have your midday or
meal without much trouble on your part.
what if you want a nice, rich, slightly unhealthy soup? Or you would
to take a lot of trouble?
the first case you can dice up some double-smoked bacon, sauté with
vegetables, and add a few veal bones. Add the lentils and cook for a
long time. If you want to go the distance, use veal bones and a short rib,
sawed into pieces by the butcher. Make sure the veal bones have lots
marrow. This produces a rich, thick, velvety soup but nothing you want
give vegetarians or people on fat-free diets. Still, once a year it is a
Some of our favorite soup recipes:
Corn Chowder, Southern Style
Gigi's Potage St. Germain
(Split Pea Soup)
Lentil and Brown Rice Soup
Michele's Mushroom Soup with Pasta
Michele's Potage d'Hiver
Minestrone with Sweet Sausage and Tortellini
New Orleans Navy Bean Soup
Oodles of Onion Soup Recipes
Potato Soup, Grandmother's, with "Riffles"
Rainy Tuesday in Huntsville Soup
Union Square Cafe Soups
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