The Butcher's Turkey Vegetable Soup


So far this season, we've enjoyed an incredibly mild winter in Frederick County, Maryland — here and there a night of snowfall, maybe freezing rain and ice on a few mornings. On the whole it's been mostly sunny, with temps in the 40s and even 50s throughout December and January. Of course, this is after we had that freak snowstorm in October!

But today the sky is the color of slate, our high will be right at freezing, and it's snowing — not the pretty powder snow we've seen so far this winter, but heavy leaden flakes. And they're blowing horizontally! Winds are gusting about 45mph according to my Weatherbug app, but I think they really must be over 55mph — did I mention the snow is flying horizontally?! OK. So it's snowing, big deal. Punxsutawney Phil did predict 6 more weeks of winter, after all. And if you can't trust a groundhog to predict the weather, who can you trust?

So why am I whining about the weather? Maybe because the daffodils are beating out the crocuses in blooming this year; maybe because I've been stealth-purchasing seeds for herbs and greens already; maybe because my Pacific Rim roots are yearning for an ocean breeze. Whatever the reason, I'm in serious need of some comfort food. So I pulled open the freezer and found some turkey necks that I stocked up after Thanksgiving. Ah, yes… turkey vegetable soup. Simple, light, and loaded with vegetables. What could be better on a day like today?

I learned about using turkey necks to make soup when I was a student in the 80s (ahem… stop doing math in your head, please) from a kindly butcher at the Safeway supermarket near my school in Santa Clara, California. I was staring at the packaged necks in the display case and wondering to myself what on earth one would use turkey necks for, when the butcher came out to re-stock the meat display and saw me staring. "Soup," he said, reading my mind. "They make the best soup. Lots of bone and a little skin for flavor. And you'd be surprised how much meat is on them if you care to take the meat off the bones. Everybody loves chicken soup, but I think turkey makes the better broth. Do you make soup?" At that point in my life, I had never really made soup from scratch before. So he gave me a quick rundown of the basics of homemade broth, and sent me on my way armed with a pack of turkey necks. I've never looked back.

The biggest difference in the way my broth-making has evolved from the butcher's instructions is that I almost always include ginger in my broths, whether it's turkey, chicken, beef or pork. Ginger not only adds a nice flavor note, but it is a "warm" spice that many traditional medicinal practices (including TCM and Ayurveda) recognize as stimulating — heating the body from the inside out and supporting or even boosting the immune system. Could be just what the doctor orders when the mercury starts to head south...

Thank you, Mr. Butcher, whoever you are, for a lifetime of homemade soups that started with your generous and helpful suggestions that early winter morning in 1987.

Serves 4-5 people

So many folks are intimidated by the idea of making soup from scratch. No need! Soups are a great way to make hearty and heart-healthy meals from the toughest cuts of meat — or even better, bones! While it does take some time to extract the most flavor from bones and meat for a broth, much of the cooking time can be done on a back burner or even in a slow-cooker while you do other things. Or if you're very clever and set up a slow-cooker before you go to bed, while you're asleep! And while I often chill chicken, pork and beef broths so the fats solidify and are easy to remove, that step isn't necessary for this broth because turkey necks have very little skin and therefore almost no fat.

You'll notice that the soup has few seasonings other than onion and ginger in the broth, and sea salt, black pepper and chervil in the finished soup. Most of the rich flavor comes from the vegetables. Frozen vegetables are fine, but use as many fresh vegetables as you can since they will give the greatest depth and sweetness to the soup. In the soup pictured here, the zucchini, carrots, mushrooms and beans were fresh; the peas and corn were frozen.

3-4lbs. (about 1.3-1.8kg) turkey necks
1 large onion, halved and papery skin removed
3-4 fingers of ginger, sliced (to peel or not to peel is up to you)
1-2 bay leaves (optional, the butcher recommended this, but I usually don't use it for turkey broth anymore)

Place turkey necks, onion and ginger in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by an inch. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Once it starts to boil, turn heat down to medium low. As impurities rise and form a frothy scum, skim them off and discard. Once the broth is cleared of impurities, you can cover the pot, turn the heat down to low and attend to other things in the kitchen (prep the veggies for the soup, or maybe bake a loaf of bread) while time works its magic on the broth, about 4-5 hours.

If doing this in a slow-cooker, set the temperature to LOW and just ignore the whole thing for 8 hours.

Strain the broth, setting aside the necks and discarding the onion and ginger pieces. Remove as much meat from the bones as you can. Rough chop the meat and keep aside.

To Finish:
3-4 lbs (about 1.3-1.8kg) of fresh vegetables of your choice
(In the soup pictured here, we used 1lb. of zucchini/courgettes, ½lb. cremini mushrooms, ½lb. green beans, ¼lb. peas, 1lb. carrots and ½lb. corn niblets. If we had any broccoli or potatoes in the house today, I would have added them in too, and less of some of the other vegetables. Other veggies you might use: sweet potatoes, collard greens, kale, butternut squash, leeks, celery, cooked garbanzo or navy beans [any bean, really], parsnips, spinach, whatever vegetables you have on hand)
1 tsp. chervil (my choice),
or ½ tsp. oregano + 1 tsp. basil (the butcher's choice)
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Return strained broth and chopped meat to the pot, add vegetables and seasonings, and bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the soup is boiling, turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and correct seasoning.

Serve hot with slabs of a nice hearty bread like this is sourdough multi-grain (next post).
Nutty cheeses round out the meal — goat Gouda and raw milk Emmentaler from Trader Joe's.

More soup ideas?
German-style Green & White Beans Soup,
Potato, Leek & Rainbow Chard Soup,
Chicken Soup for the Soul,
Creamy Sweet Corn & Shrimp Soup,
Snert (Dutch Split Pea Soup),
Portuguese Bean Soup (it's really Hawaiian),
Krautsuppe (Orange-scented Sauerkraut Soup)


Food as Medicine: Black Silkie Chicken Broth


If one of your New Year's resolutions is to eat healthier this year or to try new and exotic foods, here's a bird that might help you satisfy either or both resolutions!

This grey/black-skinned chicken is called a Black Silkie. Its feathers are said to be more like fur than feather — it does look like a fowl version of a terrier, doesn't it? (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Shull, who raises Black Silkies and other interesting critters at Moonlight Valley Farms, Pennsylvania)

Available fresh or frozen in well-stocked Chinese groceries, the Black Silkie is prized for its distinctive flavor, and its elegant broth is purported to have restorative qualities. Even its flesh is dark grey laced with black streaks, and is supposed to be very stringy and gamey — most soup recipes recommend discarding the entire carcass and drinking only the broth. Since it often costs almost twice as much as other soup hens, I've hesitated experimenting with this chicken. But on a visit to our area's newest Chinese supermarket on New Year's Day, the moment felt propitious and warranted an adventurous purchase.

Once home, a search on the interwebs for soup recipes, yielded a few ingredients common to most: ginseng root, jujubes and dried Chinese yam (Dioscorea opposita). The ginseng and jujubes were easy enough to find without having to trek back 40 miles to the nearest Chinese grocer. But the Chinese yam — which I knew to be as thin-slices of a dried white tuber used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tonics — was not readily available in the Korean markets that were closer to home. As I searched again for recipes, I came across one from a TCM college that used cubes of fresh Chinese yam, also called shan yao. A cross search of "shan yao" yielded a surprising result: I knew this yam! But I knew it by its Japanese name, yamaimo (literally, "mountain yam/potato"). Hurray! I could find all the ingredients at the Korean market (a mere 22 miles away).
In addition to the core ingredients of ginseng, jujubes and Chinese yam, the final "recipe" I concocted also included a couple of ingredients that appeared in a few soup recipes, and that we happened to have on hand: ginger and wolfberries. Everything went into a pot with enough water to cover and cooked together for about 5 hours. We really wanted to taste the chicken so I opted to leave out any other flavoring agents, such as rice wine or orange peel.

After straining out all the solids, we were left with a very dark and slightly unctuous broth. It was surprisingly mild, given its deep color, and light on the palate. And it definitely did not "taste like chicken." The broth was uniquely meaty-tasting — in the same way a mushroom broth can be described as "meaty" — but I really couldn't tell you what kind of meat it tasted like. Most importantly, the broth was incredibly warming, leaving a spreading sensation of warmth in the chest and abdomen long after the soup was finished. I understand why this soup is prescribed as a "pick-me-up" for women recovering from child birth and for anyone feeling under the weather.

We did sample some of the breast meat from the Black Silkie, and did find it as stringy as promised, but not really gamey. To be honest, it did not have much flavor at all, and we can only guess that it had lent all its soulful flavor to the broth.

As a first course, the broth provided a pleasing and unique start to our multi-course meal which included homemade char siu pork and Chinese broccoli with fresh baby corn and black mushrooms. An auspicious start to what we hope is a healthy and happy new year.

Happy New Year, Everyone!



One for the Cold: White & Green Beans Soup

Lucky for us, when the power went out yesterday this über-hearty two bean soup was already keeping warm in the oven. It was meant to be for dinner, but since it was already hot we had our first bowl for lunch before we sat down to our card game. Thick with potatoes, starchy great northern white beans, fresh green beans, sweet parsnips and carrots, as well as thick chunks of ham hocks, this is a meal-in-a-bowl guaranteed to chase winter (or autumn!) chill from the inside out.

Not sure when it finally stopped snowing last night — it was still snowing when I went to bed at 8:30. This morning the sky is clear as a bell and bright blue, though it's still below freezing. Surprisingly, there is little snow accumulation considering it snowed over 12 hours yesterday. All there is now is an icy mess. So, still no raking or leaf-bagging today… darn…. See how many leaves are still on the trees? There's at least another month-of-weekends worth of raking and bagging in those trees. Oh, well, it'll all have to wait for another day.

This soup is based on a recipe I first tried about a dozen years ago when we lived in Germany. Both the ingredients and method have evolved over time, but one thing that remains intact is the defining contrast of the 2 different beans and the incomparable flavor of marjoram. Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is not an herb that is widely used here in the U.S. so it is something that I still associate with German cuisine. Though a close relative of oregano, marjoram has a sharper, almost pine resin, flavor that makes it quite distinctive. If you must substitute, go ahead and use oregano — your soup will taste good, but will lack the character that belies its European heritage.

For most of the last 3 years we lived in Germany, we used to have mutual language-improvement meetings with a German friend every week. In addition to helping each other with our pronunciations in the other's language, we were also free to share cultural highlights and dispel myths. One evening, I served this soup to our friend. He was surprised by how much it tasted like a soup his mother used to make, and declared it quite authentic. He used the Pfälzisch (local dialect from the Palatinate region) name for the soup, Brockelbohnensuppe. And that's still how I think of it when I make this soup.

Guten Appetit!

Inspired by a recipe from The New German Cookbook, by Jean Anderson and Hedy Würz
Serves 8-10 persons

1 lb (450g) great northern beans
2.5 qt/L cold water

Rinse and pick through beans. Soak in cold water overnight.

(If you need the beans in a hurry, place them in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water, set pan over medium high heat and bring to boil. As soon as the water reaches a boil, remove from heat, cover and set aside for one hour to rehydrate.)

For the broth:
1 large fistful of flat-leaf parsley
2 smoked ham hocks or 1 large smoked shank
4 qts/L water
2 bay leaves
1 onion, cut in half
3 stalks celery
2 carrots, scrubbed well

Pick off leaves from parsley stems, and reserve for soup. Put parsley stems and all other ingredients in a 6 qt/L slow-cooker. Set on HIGH and leave for at least 6 hours (I usually leave it overnight while the beans are soaking, and finish the soup in the morning).

Continue Soup:
¼ lb salt pork, cut into ½-inch pieces
3-4 medium, or 2 large leeks (about 1lb/450g), sliced and rinsed well
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 lb (450g) green beans, snipped and cut into 1" pieces
½ lb (225g) red potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 tsp dried thyme, or 4-5 sprigs fresh
1 TBL dried marjoram
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper

Remove ham hocks/shank from broth, strain broth, and return broth to slow-cooker. Separate meat from bones and return meat to broth.

Drain beans, and add to broth. Add remaining ingredients, and set slow-cooker to LOW for 6-8 hours, or HIGH for about 3-4 hours, or until beans soften and are creamy when pressed with a fork. Alternatively, you can do this part on the stove: place all ingredients in a large Dutch oven (8qt/L or more) or stock pot and bring to boil over high heat, then lower heat to simmer and cover for 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the roux.

To Finish:
4 TBL unsalted butter
4 TBL flour
parsley leaves reserved from making the broth, above

Met butter in heavy-bottomed pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add flour, and stir well to absorb butter. Turn heat down to low and cook gently, stirring often, until the roux is the color of peanut butter. This will take about 1 hour if the heat is low enough. Keep aside until needed.

When the beans test ready, remove fresh thyme stems (if using), then add roux to soup. To get every bit of the roux, you can use hot soup broth to clean the roux pan. Roughly chop parsley leaves and add to soup. Stir well to combine, and cook together 5-8 minutes to thicken soup. Taste and correct for seasoning.

Serve immediately, alone or with your favorite bread for the perfect cool weather warm-up. I think a nice hard cider is best with this — Strongbow from the U.K. if we can find it, but Hornsby's Amber is more readily available. Of course, you can't go wrong with your favorite local brew either!


Soup's On: Potato, Leek & Rainbow Chard

Well here we are, more than half way through National Soup Month and this is only the first soup we've posted! Truth to tell, I didn't even remember January was set aside to honor soup until my SIL sent me a head's up about it yesterday. (Thanks, Tra!)

As yours probably does too, our soup consumption climbs as the thermometer starts to dip. And we've been near or below freezing for awhile in our corner of Maryland. Therefore, lots of soup.

And for some reason, we've had more than our usual share of potato-based soups lately. Maybe because these potato soup recipes usually don't require a lot of long-simmering stock and can be ready from knife to table in under an hour. Maybe because potatoes are both plentiful and filling in the winter. Maybe because we love potatoes. Probably all of the above.

When first snow, then ice kept this island girl indoors and away from driving last week, by Friday I was really eager to re-stock fresh greens in our larder. I spotted this bunch of rainbow chard from across the crowded produce department of our nearest Korean market, glimpsed in snatches between a shuffling mass of bundled shoppers (transported in 4 buses from a nearby retirement community) all jostling for the best produce. But the chard's bright colors were a technicolor beacon: Buy Me, it called. And I knew I would.

So now it's starring in this potato-based soup which I've dubbed Rainbow Soup, named for the colorful chard stalks that double as a healthy, low-cal "crouton" garnish. In addition to potatoes, there is a healthy helping of leeks and a whisper of cream. Hmmmm, you're saying to yourself, this sounds suspiciously like vichyssoise. And you're right! That is one of our favorite soups — chilled or not — so we're building on that flavor profile. The inspiration for throwing in the greens comes from another hearty favorite, Caldo Verde, the Portuguese-style potato and kale soup.

The rainbow inspiration also comes from waxing nostalgic about living on Oahu while putting on 3 layers of clothing every morning — and that's if I'm just staying home! (Did I mention I grew up on an island?) Hawaii is nicknamed the Rainbow State, for obvious reasons, and the vibrant color and crunch from these chard stems are a welcome splash of Aloha against the monotone in both the skies and our soup bowls. (Though I would prefer my Aloha-in-a-bowl in the form of a Loco-Moco, but that's another story...)

And since we're taking this 4800 mile segue anyway, I've been meaning to give a shout out to the folks at Hawaii's public radio station, KIPO, and one of our favorite local programs there, Aloha Shortsa weekly program hosted by Cedric Yamanka of short stories written by local authors and read before a live studio audience by local actors and story tellers. The best way to get your weekly dose of island flavor, short of the 12-hour flight from the East Coast! Aloha Shorts has long been available for live-streaming from the KIPO website, but for those of us who are not awake at midnight (EST) to catch the show live, Aloha Shorts is now available as a podcast from Bamboo Ridge Press on the iTunes store! As of this writing, there are 15 weeks worth of readings awaiting your listening pleasure. But there's a limited window of time during which each new episode is available, so get them while you can. You can also subscribe to the podcast so you won't miss any new shows. Unlike other podcasts, these aren't deleted from my iTunes library after the first listen-to so whenever I really need a dose of island sunshine it's as close as my computer or iPod.
(UPDATE 01/22/2011: I received a comment from one of the producers of Aloha Shorts with the happy news that you can find ALL of the shows episodes on the Bamboo Ridge Press website! You won't be able to download them from here, but you can stream any show on demand. In her own words:

"Please let your readers know that all the past episodes are available at  Just go to "Broadcast Archives" and click on "Show More."  We're happy to warming the hearts of those on the East Coast and around the world with the humor, memories, and wisdom of Hawaii's local literature.  We're also on Facebook at  Hau'oli Makahiki Hou.  ~  Phyllis Look"

Thank you for the info, Phyllis. And a great big Aloha to all the folks on the show!
So to recap, a rainbow in your soup bowl and tales of living Aloha in your earbuds... See, winter doesn't have to be so gray.

Happy National Soup Month, Tracey! Hope the soup's on in your home, too!

What's your favorite soup? Speaking of all things Aloha, this is mine.

Serves 4 persons

1 bunch of rainbow swiss chard
3 large leeks, sliced and washed well
4 TBL unsalted butter
2 TBL olive oil
4 large Russet potatoes, about 1½ lbs (680g), peeled and sliced thinly
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups (1L) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth, or water
¼ cup (60ml) dry sherry or dry white wine, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc
2 TBL light cream (optional)
3 TBL grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish

Wash chard well in a mixture of 2 qt/L of cool water and 2 TBL of distilled white vinegar. Rinse under cold running water and drain in a colander. Separate the stalks from the greens and trim, then dice. Reserve a small handful of diced stalk (I chose some of each color) for garnish. Shred the chard greens.

In a large Dutch oven or small soup pot, saute leeks in butter and oil over medium heat. When leeks have softened, about 10 minutes, add chard stalks, potatoes, salt, pepper and broth. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are completely soft.

Using a hand blender or potato masher (depending on whether you want a pureed soup or a more rustic version), blend the potatoes into the broth. Add sherry, Parmesan and chard greens, and simmer 10 minutes longer. Remove from heat and add cream, if using, and correct seasoning.

Ladle in individual bowls and garnish with reserved diced chard stalks and Parmesan.

This is very filling, and we skipped the breads we would usually have with soup.
A little ironic, given my current obsession with bread-baking...


Dining In: Chilled Buttermilk Corn Soup

There’s still time to take advantage of sweet summer corn. Fresh steamed or grilled corn on the cob is hard to beat — and I admit I’ve had my fair share of the cob this summer.

But when I overheard a fellow volunteer at Food & Friends describing a corn soup she had served at her Fourth of July get-together, something caught my ear and imagination. Buttermilk. Buttermilk, she swore, was the key ingredient in her favorite chilled soups, including this corn one she devised for this party. Unlike other dairy products used in chilled soups — yogurt or sour cream, for instance, buttermilk, she told me, adds body without coating the palate. I had never used buttermilk in a chilled soup before so this was too intriguing to pass up. I begged the recipe from Dyane, which she generously shared, along with all her hints for tweaking the recipe.

This soup calls for 2 pounds (about 1kg) of corn, and I intended to use all fresh corn off the cob. Events conspired against me when we had a guest in town and I had to prepare the soup in advance but did not yet have fresh corn on hand. Instead I took Dyane’s cue to use frozen corn, namely Trader Joe’s Super Sweet Corn, for the base, which I cooked and pureed with the buttermilk, and chilled overnight. I added fresh corn off the cob and the reserved buttermilk (per Dyane’s tip) before serving — the tender kernels added texture and an extra touch of freshness to the finished soup.

We loved this soup, as did our visitor from Cyprus. Dyane was right about how buttermilk adds depth and creaminess without heaviness in texture or taste. I would like to make this soup again while fresh corn is in season, and try it with all fresh kernels. To be honest, though, the TJ’s frozen corn was pretty darn good in this soup and left no gummy kernel skins, which is what I was afraid frozen corn would do. Another nice note was the jalapeno — de-seeded, it added little heat, but really seemed to lift and highlight the buttermilk in a symbiotic way. Don’t leave it out even if you don’t like spicy foods — it really accents more than adds spiciness.

Best of all, this was easy enough I could do it in our tiny hotel kitchenette. So if I could do it here, you can definitely do this!

Thanks, Dyane, for sharing your wonderful recipe with us, and now everyone else!

Serves 6 persons
Except where noted, the rest of this post will be in Dyane’s voice, as I am reprinting her recipe (with her kind permission) as she sent it to me, with minor changes for syntax and to include metric measurements.

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium size onion coarsely chopped
½ lb (226g) tomatillos, husked, rinsed , and quartered
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
(I like a lot of garlic)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3-1/2 cups (28oz/830ml) chicken stock (or vegetable stock would work)
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus a pinch for garnish
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro, plus some for garnish
1 cup (236ml) buttermilk
(I increase the buttermilk by another 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60-120ml) depending on soup consistency while blending)
Kosher salt and finely ground pepper
2 16 ounce (1kg) frozen bags  of corn which were unthawed,
you could you fresh, can, whatever combination to make up to 28-32 ounces
Lime, lime juice
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onions being to brown (you don't want any brown color in this soup)

2. Add the tomatillos, garlic, and jalapeno and cook for 5 minutes. Add the corn cook for 3-5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high, add the chicken stock, cumin, cilantro, and cook 5-7 minutes more. Remove from heat and cool.
3. Pour the mixture into a bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. (Note from 3T: I used a hand, or stick blender) Add the buttermilk, salt and peeper and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and cumin.
When blending I did it in batches: 3/4 of the soup was blended with the buttermilk, 1/4 was not blended with the buttermilk and this was added to the end to not have the jalapeno diluted/cooled too much by the buttermilk. Also, because I like a little more heat I increased the jalapenos and increase the cilantro per my taste.  Adjust salt and pepper.Serve this chilled. Before you do hit it with a shot of lime juice to brighten the taste. Have lime also on the side so your guests can adjust accordingly.

Back to 3T:
More recipes with corn:
Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp
Okra & Corn Stew with Jerk Salmon

Dutch Split Pea Soup

You might not guess it at first, but these are dried peas. Don’t they look inviting... Promising loads of nutrients and sweetness packed into their compact dehydrated form?

No? Is that just me?... Well, be that as it may, I’ve been remiss not to post this sooner. Our area has been repeatedly deluged with snow. Historic quantities, they say. We haven’t lived here long, but it does seem to be quite a lot. And we’ve been spending an unnatural amount of time in this cold, wet stuff while house-hunting every weekend in nearby Fredrick County. It’s hard work but someone has to help stimulate the economy by buying a house, right? Why not us.

So while doing our part for the economy (“You’re welcome.”), we often come home cold and hungry. What you really want when you feel this way is something waiting for you at home that’s hearty, and hot. Some rib-sticking goodness that warms you up from the inside out. One of our favorites is from the New York Cookbook by Molly O’Neill — a Dutch-style split pea soup with the astounding name of Snert. I’ve adapted this recipe to be prepared in a slow-cooker in two parts, first to make the broth, then to make the soup. Remember that ham bone from the guava-glazed ham we had for Christmas? It’s been biding its time in the freezer until now, waiting to provide its supporting role in this soup.

So let’s get cooking...

(adapted from New York Cookbook by Molly O’Neill)
Serves 6-8 persons

For the broth:
1 ham bone
2 smoked ham hocks
4 ribs of celery, or half of a medium celery root, aka celeriac
1 large onion studded with 3 spice cloves
2 large bay leaves
2 large carrots
6-10 whole black peppercorns
2 blades of mace
4 quarts/liters cold water (Note: if you’re not finishing the soup in a slow-cooker, use 3 qts/L water. I’ve learned to start with more water when making dried pulses and beans in a slow-cooker because I usually use the slow-cooker when I DON’T want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen (I know, but it happens) and bean/pulse soups have a way of thickening when you’re not paying attention)
Place all broth ingredients in 6qt/L slow-cooker. Turn on LOW for 8-10 hours. Skim surface of broth to remove impurities as they rise.

Remove ham bone and hocks, separate meat from bones. Strain broth into clean non-reactive container, return meat to broth and cool completely. (You can start this process the night before and in the morning strain the broth and add the dried peas directly into the still warm broth. This will reduce your cooking time by a couple of hours.)

Finish the Soup:
1 lb/455g dried green split peas, washed well and picked over to remove small pebbles
other half of celery root, if using (optional)
sea salt to taste
1-1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 lb/455g smoked sausage such as kielbasa
1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, minced (about 1 cup)

Return broth to slow-cooker. Taste for seasoning and add sea salt as needed, and pepper. Add split peas, stir well, and set on LOW for 7-8 hours, or on HIGH for 4 hours if you want soup sooner.

Meanwhile, slice kielbasa into rounds and pan-fry until nicely browned and cooked through. Set aside until needed.

Check soup consistency about three-quarters of the way through cooking time — it should be thick but loose, not a dense mash. If it is thickening more quickly than expected, you can add a half cup of boiling water to the pot to keep it going for a little longer. Or if you’re ready to dine, go ahead and turn the cooker off. Stir in the parsley, and taste for seasoning. Add most of the kielbasa (I reserve a few pieces to garnish the soup).

Serve with your favorite bread, ours is Bruschetta, of course. And yes, that’s olive oil drizzled over the top, too... just because. Does this look like something that would make you forget even something being billed as “Snowpocalypse”? Here’s what we could see...

This was T. taking on the Sisyphean task of keeping up with the falling snow
in the middle of the first storm we got in December,
which was record-breaking for its time...

The next morning, still more shovelling!...

Now fast forward to February, and earlier this month: more snow.
Lots more. It kept coming all night and day.

And when it stopped, it really stopped. For good. We hope.
(The fence is almost 4 ft. high)


Okinawan Pig's Feet Soup (Ashitibichi)

Here's a soup that may not be for everyone. Ashitibichi (AHSH-teh-BEE-chee), or Okinawan Pig's Feet Soup, definitely warms the bones as the weather gets cooler. Having said that, I'm reminded that ashitibichi is also one of the most popular offerings at Honolulu's annual Okinawan Heritage Festival, and it's not exactly cool on Oahu, even in September when the Festival is usually held. I guess this is for the hard-core pork lovers! *Guilty!*

In ashitibichi, whole or sliced pig's feet, or trotters, are simmered with ginger to produce an incredibly savory and gelationous broth. Large cut vegetables are added to create a final dish that is more a stew than soup from a Western point of view. Either way, you will either love it or you won't even try it, depending on where you stand on the "odd meat-parts" divide of carnivorous dining. If you happen to fall on the other side of the divide, that's okay — more for the rest of us! *smile*

This is a dish that my mother did not make at home when we were growing up. I'm not sure why, because she enjoyed eating it whenever she came across it, I just don't remember seeing her make it. Ashitibichi is considerably more time-consuming to make than oden-style
Kombu, so that may be one reason. For this recipe I had to consult my trusty, well-worn copy of "Okinawan Cookery and Culture" produced by the Okinawan women's group of Hawaii called Hui O Laulima. (Here is another version prepared by Pomai at Tasty Island — he may not be Okinawan, but he's a fan, too!)

As with many Okinawan specialties, ashitibichi features kombu, or kelp, as well as pork. The type of kombu needed for this dish is the long dried strips which may be labelled "nishime kombu," "hayani kombu" or "ma kombu" — any one of these will work with this preparation. Preparing the kombu before it is added to the soup takes a bit of prep work and is not intuitive to anyone not accustomed to using kombu, so here's a quick guideline.


First, soak the dried kombu in cold water, using a container large enough that you don't have to bend the dried strips — bending the strips can cause them to snap and cut your kombu before you can knot it. Soak for 30-40 minutes, or until the strips become pliable. Don't soak too long (2 or more hours) or the kombu will start to become mushy and unworkable.

Reserve 2 cups of the soaking water. (You can use excess kombu water as the foundation for a vegetarian stock or to cook dried beans — the kombu water is said to make the beans easier to digest, I haven't tried this yet but will. I also water planted vegetables and shrubs with this mineral-rich water, if I don't have an immediate use for it in the kitchen.)

Knot each strip of kombu 4-5 times, depending on the length of the vegetable. If you leave about 5 inches, or one fist-length (see photo above), between the knots, you will leave just enough room to cut between them and leave an adequate "tail" on either side of the knot. The kombu will continue to expand as it cooks and if you cut too close to the knot, it will unravel as the vegetable cooks and become an unattractive blob of seaweed. Beware the Blob — leave a tail on both sides of the knot!

(Mrs. Yukihide Kohatsu's and Mrs. Fumiko Miyasato's recipes in "Okinawan Cookery and Culture" were the starting points for this version, although the method is my own. Photo here is from the 2007 Okinawan Heritage Festival in Kapiolani Park, Oahu)

Begin at least one day before you plan to serve, since broth is cooled overnight.

For the Broth
3.5-4 lbs/1.6-1.8kg pig's feet, whole or sliced lengthwise
2 large fingers of ginger, scrubbed well and sliced lengthwise (leave skin on)
Enough water to cover meat by 1-2 inches

Place meat and ginger in large (6 qt/L, or larger) crockpot. Set on HIGH setting for 2 hours. Skim top of broth to remove impurities as they rise to surface.

After 2 hours, set to LOW and allow to simmer for 5 hours for sliced feet, 6-7 hours for whole trotters. Meat should be tender and move around the joints easily.

Remove meat to separate container for cooling and storage. Discard ginger, and strain broth. Cool completely and store overnight separately from meat.

To Finish Soup:
2-3 strips of dried kombu strips, soaked and knotted (see Preparing Kombu, above)
2 cups reserved kombu soaking water above
2-3 TBL
awamori or sake
1 medium
daikon, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch thick slices
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch thick slices
8-10 dried
shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
1 packet
dashinomoto, dried powdered fish stock
1-2 TBL sea salt
2 TBL soy sauce

If desired, remove fat layer from broth. Place broth in large soup pot or Dutch oven, and bring to hard boil over high heat. Add reserved kombu water and return to boil.

Add kombu knots, awamori or sake, and daikon, and bring to boil. Once broth is bubbling, lower heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cooked meat, carrots, rehydrated shiitake, dashi packet, salt and soy sauce. Continue simmering for another 30-45 minutes.

Test kombu knots: if a pointed chopstick easily pierces the center of the knots, the soup is ready. If kombu is not ready, remove carrots and daikon if you don't want these vegetables to get too mushy, and continue simmering additional 20-30 minutes. Different brands and grades of kombu will cook slower or faster, so cooking times will vary, and are dictated on when the kombu reaches the desired consistency. Consistency of the cooked kombu is also a matter of personal preference — texture can range from slightly firm (
al dente) to meltingly tender. I prefer the latter, but that's just me.

Serve in individual bowls, with a separate bowl of rice, pickles, and a dipping dish of grated ginger or hot mustard. Maa-san!

Happy Birthday, Mom...

More Okinawan dishes on this site:
Kombu, Rafute, Abura Miso, Yakisoba, Okayu with Yomogi

More dishes with Kelp and other Sea Vegetables:
Kombu, Hijiki no Nimono, Namasu, Crispy Nori-Wrapped Walu & Shrimp with Papaya Coulis, Curry-Glazed Cod with Wasabi-Sea Salad Soba, and Kajiki with Pomegranate Ogo


Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp

(Click on logo to learn more about the Buy Local campaign on the CTAHR site)

When you hear the words “fresh corn,” do you picture flat miles and miles of dark green stands of cornstalks in Iowa or Nebraska? I know we did, before we came to Hawaii. Now when someone mentions fresh corn, my mind immediately jumps to Ewa sweet corn, grown right down the road in the fertile Ewa Plains.

Corn in Hawaii? I know, this was a complete surprise to us too. But your first taste of these tender sweet kernels will make you a believer too. And yes, the corn is grown by the same folks at Aloun Farms who also grow those wonderful sweet onions and melons we’ve looked at earlier. If you can believe it, there is a second corn grower on this small island — in Kahuku, on Oahu’s North Shore (of surfing fame). Kahuku corn are also tender and sweet and, most importantly for Oahu, local fresh!

When produce is this sweet and fresh, we don’t usually mess with it too much — steam it or grill it, and eat it. They don’t even need butter or salt. The key with sweet corn is that it must be cooked or frozen as soon as you get it home. A corn grower in California once told me that the sugars in corn begin to convert to starch as soon as they are picked from the stalk. Sugar = tender and sweet; Starch = chewy and kind of bland.

At home, remove the husks and silk, then soak the corn cobs in a vinegar-water solution (2 TBL white vinegar for every 1 liter/quart of water), and rinse. Actually, for grilling you may want to keep some of the husks intact to use as protection from the flames (instead of wrapping in aluminum foil) or as a handle to pick up the corn. Just peel back the outer layers of the jusk (like peeling a banana) and leave them attached at the stem end. Remove the interior husks and the silks, then wash and rinse corn in their husks. Pull husks back over the corn (you can season the corn before re-husking), and they’re ready for the grill!

An alternative method, popular in Japan and here in the Islands, is to grill the corn directly over the flame, seasoning with salt, pepper and a brush of soy sauce in the last minute of grilling. Delicious! You get sweet smoke with that hint of salty shoyu. This is a favorite festival food, but easy to recreate at home, too!

We are fortunate to have more than one season for fresh corn on Oahu, and one of those seasons is going on now. With our fourth or fifth bag of corn this season, I finally decided to make something other than grilled or steamed corn. This is a thick and creamy soup that has no cream or milk — I really wanted the sweet flavor of the corn to be the star here. Its co-star is an equally sweet shrimp from a Neighbor Island — their flavors complemented each other perfectly.

Fellow blogger Pomai at Tasty Island commented on an earlier post that the use of place names (e.g., Ewa cantaloupe) not only promotes the freshness of the produce, but also increases the cachet of the final recipe to either impress one’s guests or (if you’re in the business) charge a fortune! He’s absolutely right, of course. Wouldn’t you pay $30 for that Linguine with Ewa Cantaloupe Sauce in a Waikiki hotel?!

So what did we do with the corn? Here I present you with Creamy Ewa Sweet Corn Soup with Kauai Shrimp (more on the shrimp in a later post). That should fetch at least $20 as a first course, don’t you think? The sea salad adds texture and another ocean element to the soup — we liked it a lot. The only thing I would say is next time I would cut the greens into smaller spoon-size pieces before garnishing.

Don’t miss any vegetable or fruit season in the Islands — download a month-by-moth seasonal availability chart from the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, one of the sponsors of the Buy Local campaign.

Serves 4 as a first course

6 ears Ewa (or Kahuku) sweet corn, washed as outlined above, some husk kept intact

Peel husk back from cleaned corn to use as a handle when cutting kernels from cob. Place top of corn ear into a deep wide bowl to catch the kernels. Using a sharp knife, cut down and away from you, into the bowl. Turn ear and continue cutting until all kernels are cut from cob. Remove husks and place in large dutch oven. Repeat with all cobs. Reserve kernels (you should have 5-6 cups kernels).

Cover cobs with water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes, and allow to cool completely.

(Optional step: I was taught to extract as much flavor from my ingedients as possible, but some people will omit this step.) When cobs are cool enough to handle, remove from water. Place one cob end in water and using the BLUNT end of a knife, press down along the length of the cob into the water to release the last bits of corn. Repeat over the whole cob, and repeat for each cob. Pour “broth” into a measuring cup, and add water to measure 8 cups of liquid. Reserve corn broth/water.

To finish soup:
2 TBL. olive oil or butter (use butter if corn is frozen or starchy)
1 small onion, minced
1/2 tsp. dried chervil
1/4 cup mirin or sake
sea salt, to taste
ground white pepper, to taste
1 lb. Kauai (or Kahuku) sweet shrimp, peeled and chopped (optional - reserve 1 tail per serving for garnish)
sea salad (chopped) or marinated sea asparagus for garnish

Melt butter in dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add corn kernels and stir to coat with butter. Cover and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add chervil, mirin, salt and white pepper, and stir through. Cook together 10 minutes. Remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the kernels (depending on how chunky you want the final soup to be — or leave them all in if you want a smooth soup).

Add corn broth/water, and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes (add reserved shrimp tails to soup in the last 5 minutes, if using, and remove to separate plate to cool before blending soup). Taste and correct seasoning before pureeing.

Use an immersion blender to puree soup. If you have to use a countertop blender, first cool the soup, then puree, and re-heat. HOT FOODS in a covered blender can “explode” from accumulated steam and heat. I don’t recommend using a covered blender for any hot foods or drink.

Return reserved kernels to soup and return to boil. Add chopped shrimp, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 2-3 minues, or until all shrimp turn pink and firm. Ladle into serving bowls, garnish with purchased sea salad and reserved shrimp tails.

Other Island Fresh produce on this site: Melons, Watercress, Mustard Cabbage, Warabi, Daikon, Eggplant, Beef and Choi Sum


Game Day: Portuguese Bean Soup

Rainy days on Oahu

The weather is quite dreary here this weekend and will remain so into the middle of next week, if you believe the weather guy. Our poor hibiscus looks quite weighed down by the heavy rains we got yesterday, doesn’t she?

Nevertheless, there’s a big game today at Aloha Stadium — the undefeated (11-0) University of Hawaii Warriors face off against the Washington Huskies in the last game of the regular season. The excitement on Oahu is palpable and infectious, even sweeping in sometimes-sports fans like yours truly. We casually tuned in to last week’s televised game against Boise State and then sat glued to the TV to the end. Luckily we still had Thanksgiving leftovers (ala tetrazzini) then because I was too into the game to cook.

(You can listen to today's game via the UH website here or watch on ESPN2)

This week we’re prepared with the perfect Hawaiian TV football-watching food: the venerable Portuguese bean soup. And judging by the empty Portuguese sausage shelf and dearth of ham hocks and shanks at my local supermarket yesterday, I’m guessing there are lots of soup pots bubbling away right now. This ultra-hearty spicy island classic rivals American style chili con carne in its variations and plain down-home comfort. For me the key ingredient is Hawaiian style Portuguese sausage, it’s quite distinct from its European ancestor and whatever the blend of spices they use here, it’s uniquely Hawaii. And ono. When we lived in Europe, I made this soup a couple of times using sausages (chouricos) from Portugal and those were good too, but in my heart I felt like something was missing.
Our favorite Portuguese sausage

The method I use for this (and most soups) is different in that I use a slow-cooker. This will require that you start at least 48 hours before you plan to serve, if you also want to de-fat the broth (which I do), at least 36 hours if you skip the cooling process. It does take a while, but I like the fact that I’m not tied to the stove making the broth or soup. In Europe we found a slow-cooker made in the U.K. that was 220-volt, and eliminated the need for a voltage-converter for a 110 volt machine. And the multiple draining and rinsing may seem like a bother, but according to Aliza Green in "
The Bean Bible," this process, along with the parboiling, reduces the beans’ propensity to cause flatulence so skip this step at your own peril! ; P

The substitution of mustard greens for cabbage is a new thing in the evolution of this soup for us — we tried this variation in a soup we had near Hilo on the Big Island a couple of years ago. The slightly bitter green brings a nice balance to the spicy meaty soup.

Making broth for soup

Make the broth:
1 large smoked ham shank, whole
1 medium onion, peeled but left whole, or halved
4 whole cloves
4 celery heart branches, with leaves
2 large bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks

Stick cloves in onion halves or whole. Place all ingredients in 5 quart or larger slow-cooker. Cover with water, at least to 4/5 of the ham shank. Set slow cooker to High and cover. After an hour or so, check and remove scum rising to the surface. When water comes to a boil, turn setting to Low and leave for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Meanwhile, soak 8 oz. (225g) of rinsed red kidney beans in 8 cups (2L) cool water. After 4 hours, drain the water, rinse, and cover with 6 cups (1.5L) cool water. Repeat after 4 more hours.

When the broth is done, remove the ham shank and all the vegetables. Debone and shred or chop the meat, and return to broth. You can either cool the broth overnight and remove the fat in the morning, or proceed to finish the soup as is. These pictures show the cooled and defatted broth.
Broth after coolingBroth after de-fatting
If you choose to cool the soup, after de-fatting, return to slow-cooker and set on High for one hour before proceeding.

For the soup:
10 oz of Hawaiian Portuguese sausage, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half-moons
4 cloves of garlic, diced
2 cups water
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, including juice
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1-½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 medium bunch Chinese mustard greens, Italian chicory, endive, or other bitter green, chopped
4 oz. (113g) dry elbow macaroni, or other small pasta shape

Drain and rinse beans. Bring 6 cups of water to boil, then add rehydrated beans and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in water until ready to use. Then drain, rinse and add to hot broth.
Portuguese bean soup
Mmmm, soup . . . .
Over medium heat, pan fry the sliced sausage until browned, then add to hot broth. Remove the excess fat from the pan, then add garlic and cook until just fragrant. Turn heat to high and add water to pan and deglaze, add to broth with tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper and paprika. Turn slow-cooker to Low and let cook about 4 hours. Add potatoes, carrots, stem parts of cabbage, and uncooked macaroni. Cook on Low another 1-½ to 2 hours, or until potatoes and beans are tender. (Add tender green parts of cabbage last half hour.) Correct seasoning (salt will depend on type of sausage or smoked shank/hocks used) and serve with cornbread, hawaiian sweet bread, or garlic bread.

If you want to use cooked pasta or macaroni, reduce water to 1 cup, and add cooked pasta with tender cabbage greens, in the last half-hour of cooking.

For a great step-by-step pictorial on how to make Portuguese bean soup local kine, check out Pomai’s site at The Tasty Island.

For a European take on this island favorite, see local girl Rowena cooking in Italy at
Rubber Slippers in Italy.

Update: The Warriors took it in a come-from-behind, nail-biting finish, 35-28. . .

See also
Portuguese-style pork, clam and periwinkle stew


The Way of Cooking: Chicken soup

When you're really not feeling well, there's few things better than chicken soup to make it all better. So what is it about chicken soup that makes it so popular as a cold remedy? Is it just the warm liquid soothing the chest? Hot vapors loosening nasal congestion? Or is it something more? At least two different scientific studies have taken a crack at what mothers and folklore the world over tout as the best cold remedy. The earlier study showed that warm chicken soup "increased nasal mucus velocity" (what a lovely term!) and so would alleviate the "acute rhinitis" (stuffy nose) that accompanies the common cold. (A) The later study, in 2000, demonstrated that the synergistic combination of chicken and vegetables in a homemade chicken soup inhibited the movement of white blood cells (called neutrophils) that caused inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. (B) By limiting the number of neutrophils at the infection site, the inflammation was reduced, and so was the duration of the cold. Interestingly, the second study also tested several commercial brands of chicken soup and found some of them had a better or equal anti-inflammatory effect as the homemade soup. (See the list of the commercial soups in the survey)

But what's the one key ingredient all the commercial brands of soup will be missing? TLC, of course — love. Chicken soup is not hard. Here's an easy, foolproof method you can start in a crockpot. The only catch is, I recommend starting the day before you serve so you can chill the broth and remove most of the fat. I usually start this in the morning and let it do it's thing until evening. (Meanwhile I can do my thing and not fret too much over an open flame)

In a 5-7 quart crockpot, place:
3-4 lbs chicken backs, or a 1-2 whole stewing chicken
2 well-scrubbed unpeeled carrots, cut in half
1 large well-scrubbed unpeeled onion, quartered
green tops of one bunch of scallions
1/2 hand of ginger, sliced

Cover with water and set crockpot on High setting for 3 hours, skim as impurities form "scum" in broth.
Turn setting to Low and simmer for another 6 hours. (The long simmer is necessary to extract maximum goodness from the bones)
Remove broth to a large shallow pan to cool, then in a container to refrigerate overnight.
When cold, remove all or most (I leave about 10-15
% in for flavor) of the layer of yellow fat at the top of the broth.
Chicken backs and vegetables start the soup base
Now you can do anything you want with it -- add all the vegetables you like; add chicken, seafood; add macaroni, orzo, rice noodles, rice or potatoes; add herbs or more spices; add . . . your imagination!

Here is one of our favorite chicken soups. It's a Filipino soup with green papaya
called Tinola. The papaya is supposed to be a stark white color. The one in these pictures had started to ripen on the inside, although the outer skin was still green. But it was very firm, not sweet, and stood up well in this soup. The watercress is not traditional in the original Philippine version, but I love watercress and think it adds a great flavor, not to mention all the extra nutrition from the greens. I"ve also seen this made with togan (also called winter melon) or upo (also called loofa gourd), instead of green papaya.

(Look here for a more traditional
Chicken & Vegetable Soup)
Peeled whole green papaya

(Chicken and green papaya soup with watercress)

1 large knob of ginger, julienned
1 onion, sliced
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
8-9 cups prepared chicken broth
1 whole chicken breast, cut in half
1 whole green papaya, peeled and cut into 4-inch cubes
1 large bunch watercress, cleaned and chopped into 2-inch pieces
2 TBL fish sauce (patis)
1-2 tsp ground black pepper
sea salt, if necessary
Cleaned watercress

The most important step in developing the right flavor for this soup is to saute the ginger, onions and garlic together until the onions become translucent, then slightly brown. Add chicken broth, and breast halves and bring to boil. Remove any scum that surfaces. When chicken is fully cooked, remove from broth.

Add papaya pieces, watercress, patis and pepper. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bone, tear into large chunks and return to soup. Cook over medium heat until papaya is just tender (pierces with a fork). Taste and adjust seasoning.
Raw green papaya Chicken and green papaya soup

Although this is a soup, you've probably guessed from the large chunks that this is not eaten directly from the bowl. I was taught to eat this with fork, spoon, plate of rice and a side dish of patis. We've given up on the tableside patis for health reasons (like all fish sauces, it's very salty with a high sodium content), but still eat this the traditional way: put some meat and vegetable on your plate and eat it with rice. You can use the broth to moisten your rice and/or drink the broth separately.

(A) Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach study (1978)
(B) University of Nebraska Medical Center report: "
Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro*" (2000)