As winter prepares a blustery return — temps are forecast in the 40s this weekend — it’s a good time to make what most of us probably hope will be one last batch of cold-weather soup. We’ve done the chili, the chicken noodle, the potato and creamy mushroom.
Now it’s time for some variations on the theme and a little seasonal serendipity — cioppino, butternut bisque, hot and sour and more.
Some of our inspiration came from a trio of San Francisco-area chefs who agreed to whip up one more hearty soup before their thoughts turn to spring peas, slender asparagus and other farmers market delights.
Eric Berg of Wente Vineyards went for creamy butternut, with its cheery color and comforting flavor. Add some interesting garnishes — Berg uses toasted pumpkin seeds, finely diced tart apples and creme fraiche — and it’s ready for a special occasion.
Of course, French onion soup, with its melted cheese-topped crouton, is the ultimate example of a garnish that makes the dish. David Bastide serves the classic at San Jose, Calif.’s Left Bank Brasserie all winter long, garnished with baguette slices — toasted with olive oil and salt — and caramelized Emmenthal cheese that slowly melts into the soup.
For Andrea Froncillo, executive chef of The Dead Fish in Crockett, Calif., savory cioppino — rich with seafood, tomatoes, wine, garlic and winter fennel — warms the heart. To Froncillo, who grew up on the Amalfi Coast, it’s the seafood dish his grandmother always made, using whatever came in on the fishing boats. It’s a simple dish, filled with flavor.
Cioppino can be served in individual bowls with wedges of lemon and sliced green onions. But Froncillo’s happiest memories are of the times his grandmother served the stew family-style, over soft polenta or orzo.
“It’s very, very special,” he says. “It didn’t matter what was in there, big fish, little fish. It made you feel like whoever’s at the table was part of the family and important to you.”
Winter Cioppino With Fennel
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup chopped fennel
3 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons minced shallots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz. fresh mussels or clams
8 oz. sea scallops, cut into chunks
8 oz. halibut, cod or tilapia, cut into chunks
8 oz. large shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
Fennel fronds to garnish
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped fennel, onion, shallots and garlic; saute 4-5 minutes, until golden brown.
Stir in wine, then tomatoes, parsley, red pepper flakes, clam juice and water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes. Add butter; stir to melt, then remove from heat.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Toss in the mussels and clams; cook for 4 minutes. As the mussels and clams begin to open, add fish, scallops and shrimp, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute 2-3 minutes, until shrimp turn pink. Discard unopened mussels or clams.
Add 1 cup tomato mixture to seafood; simmer 5 minutes. Then pour the seafood mixture into the large saucepan, and simmer 2-3 minutes more.
Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with basil, and garnish with fennel fronds. Serve with toasted French or Italian bread slices for dipping. Makes 6 servings.
Adapted from Andrea Froncillo, executive chef, The Dead Fish, Crockett, Calif.
--- The Wichita Eagle—02/23/11
Left Bank French Onion Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 lb. pound butter (1 stick)
8 yellow onions, cut in half, then sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup white wine
1 cup sherry
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon peppercorns
4 cups chicken stock
8 cups beef stock
Emmenthal cheese, shredded, to garnish
Chives, minced, to garnish
Heat butter and oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized.
Add white wine and sherry. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half.
Tie the thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns in a square of cheesecloth to make a sachet. Add, along with stocks; simmer for 1 hour. Remove sachet from soup. Season to taste.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush baguette slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake until crispy, 5-10 minutes.
To serve, fill warm soup bowls with onion soup, float two baguette croutons on top and add a generous sprinkling of cheese. Slide under the broiler and cook until the cheese melts and caramelizes. Garnish with chives. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
From David Bastide, executive chef, Left Bank Brasserie, San Jose, Calif.
-- The Wichita Eagle—02/23/11
Butternut Squash Soup
1 large yellow onion, julienne
1/2 clove garlic, cut in slivers
1 stick butter
3 white peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
1 oz. piece fresh ginger
1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/3 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt, white pepper
Granny Smith apples, creme fraiche, toasted pumpkin seeds, garnish
Saute onions and garlic in butter until translucent.
Place the peppercorns, bay, thyme and ginger on a square of cheesecloth, and tie it into a sachet. Add, along with the squash, chicken stock and water, to the onion. Bring to a simmer and cook 20-25 minutes. Remove sachet.
In a blender, puree soup with cream and cayenne. Season with salt and ground white pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with diced apples, creme fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds. Makes 6 servings.
From Eric Berg, executive chef, Wente Vineyards, Livermore, Calif.
-- The Wichita Eagle—02/23/11
Tortellini and Spinach Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 pkg. (9 oz.) fresh tortellini, stuffed with chicken and prosciutto, or your choice of filling
1 bunch baby spinach
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 sprigs fresh oregano or basil, optional
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic; cook until golden, 1-2 minutes. Pour in wine; heat to a boil. Cook until the wine is slightly syrupy, about 6 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth; heat to a boil. Add the tortellini; cook according to manufacturer's directions.
About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, stir in the spinach; cook until the spinach wilts slightly. Season with pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with oregano. Makes 2 servings.
-- The Wichita Eagle—02/22/11
Hot and Sour Soup
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water, divided
1 teaspoon minced gingerroot
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
6 oz. reduced-fat firm tofu, drained well and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 green onions, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Combine chicken broth, 1 3/4 cups water, ginger and garlic in Dutch oven over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Add mushrooms and reduce heat to a simmer; cook 5 minutes.
Add tofu, vinegar, red pepper flakes and soy sauce. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup water with cornstarch; blend well. Stir cornstarch mixture into soup and simmer3 minutes or until soup thickens. Slowly pour egg whites into broth, stirring constantly. Add green onions and sesame oil. Heat through and ladle into serving bowls. Makes 6 servings.
-- The Wichita Eagle—02/23/11