Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

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Living in Portland in the winter, chances are fairly high every day that it is going to be gray, rainy, gray, cold, gray, and did I mention gray? We had about a week of glorious sunshine, albeit with temperatures hovering around 30, but we’re back to the rain and gloom. Rain and gloom produces a deep longing for a piping hot bowl of soup, and since chances are fairly high you may also be suffering from a cold or ÜBERFLU this time of year, what better way to comfort yourself than by making a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup?

You can go all sorts of fancy with this and make your own stock and your own egg noodles like I did, or for a quicker version, use store-bought chicken broth and noodles.  I just happened to have 2 chicken backbones in the freezer asking to be made into stock, and a bag full of dried homemade egg noodles (leftover from making pappardelle with beef short rib ragu last week) sitting on the counter, but I’ve made the quicker version many times and it’s still tasty.

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For a ‘cheater’ quick chicken stock:

1 Tbsp olive oil

chicken backbones or other pieces

1 large, unpeeled carrot, roughly chopped

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

1 tsp whole peppercorns

1 tsp dried thyme, or several fresh sprigs thyme if you have it

several sprigs fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add an assortment of chopped bone-in chicken pieces or as I did, 2 backbones previously cut from a whole chicken carcass and frozen.  Cook over medium heat until deeply browned, then flip and brown on the other side as well. Add in roughly chopped large onion, roughly chopped  carrot, and 2 roughly chopped stalks of celery (these vegetables will be strained out after the stock is finished, so there’s no need to peel or chop them finely) and cook until they start to turn brown around the edges. Add in 1 quart (4 cups) water and the peppercorns, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves (I put the herbs/peppercorns inside a little disposable spice bag so they would be easy to remove from the stock). Be sure to scrape any browned tasty bits off the bottom of the pot (brown bits= tasty, rich flavor).  Bring the water to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium-low and let the stock simmer for about 45-60 minutes, or until the stock is a nice golden brown and the chicken-y aroma is making your mouth water.  Strain the stock to remove all of the vegetables, herbs, and the chicken.  If there are little bits of chicken on the backbones, make sure to get those off (use a fork if it’s too hot to touch) and add to your soup. This should make about a quart of chicken stock, which isn’t a ton, but to make a good bit of stock you would want to simmer it for at least 4 hours and I was doing a short-cut version where I combined it with some store-bought chicken broth.

To finish your soup:

2 small-medium onions, small dice

2 medium peeled carrots, small dice

3 medium stalks of celery, small dice

3-6 cloves garlic (I used 6 because they shoot a lot of vampire shows in Portland so you never know who’s going to show up here…)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (they have a lot more flavor and will not dry out like chicken breasts do if overcooked), chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 quart homemade chicken stock + 1 quart store-bought chicken stock (or all store-bought), fat skimmed off the homemade stock as much as possible

8 oz dried egg noodles, homemade or storebought

freshly ground black pepper to taste

kosher salt to taste (the amount you’ll need depends upon how salty your broth is, so taste the finished soup before adding more salt)

optional lemon juice to squeeze over finished soup

optional chopped cilantro or parsley

(also tasty with a fresh grating of parmigiano reggiano on top of the soup)

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If you’re making your own chicken stock, while it is cooking, heat another 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a second saucepan or skillet. Add the chopped boneless, skinless chicken thighs and sauté until golden brown. Add in the diced onion, celery, and carrots and sauté until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Pour in the 2 quarts of stock plus 1 quart of water and bring to a boil. Add in the 8 oz of egg noodles and cook according to package directions (or for homemade, mine took about 4-5 minutes) until al dente.  Serve with a sprinkle of fresh chopped cilantro or parsley and/or a squeeze of lemon juice and grating of parmigiano reggiano.

Orange Poppyseed Cookies

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This little buttery cookie is rather tasty and addictive, and goes nicely with a mug of Earl Grey tea.  The recipe comes from a book called Maman’s Homesick Pie, and it’s a part of my favorite genre of book- memoirs that have recipes in them!  I made no changes to the recipe other than just rolling one large log of dough instead of two skinnier ones, though next time I think I will add a little more ground cardamom.

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8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

Grated zest of 2 oranges

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

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Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until it whitens, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the egg yolk and orange zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Combine the flour, salt, cardamom, and poppy seeds and fold in, mixing just enough to combine the dough. Form the dough into 1 log (that is a half-sized sheet pan so the log is 18 inches long), wrap in parchment paper, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

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Using a sharp knife, slice the log into ½-inch-thick rounds and place 1 inch apart on a nonstick or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake approximately 15-18 minutes, until slightly golden around the edges. Note: This dough keeps well in the freezer for 2 to 3 weeks.

Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

Did I mention it’s soup weather here in Portland? Not to mention that I am fighting a cold, so that’s like double bonus points for soup.  I picked up a large bunch of curly kale and some hot Italian sausage at the farmer’s market yesterday, which then made me think of the 6 little orphan potatoes kicking around on my countertop, which then made me buy a baguette at the Pearl Bakery stand as I began to formulate a kale, sausage, and potato soup. Again, soup is very versatile, so don’t be afraid to change up ingredients. Sometimes if I don’t have potatoes, I’ll drain and rinse 2 cans of cannellini or northern beans and add them to the kale and sausage. Also tasty.

1 1/4 lbs Italian sausage (I used pork, but turkey is good too), removed from the casings

1 large onion, small dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 small potatoes, peeled and sliced into rounds

4 cups chicken broth

1 large bunch of curly kale, leaves stripped from the stalks and torn into bite-size pieces

I included the kale stalks in the picture so you could see what I meant about stripping off all the leaves. I don’t use them in the soup, but if you absolutely must, they will take more time to cook than the leaves so add them with the potatoes.

Heat a 6 quart pot over medium heat. If you use turkey Italian sausage, you might want to add a Tbsp of olive oil, but I didn’t add any because I used pork sausage and it had plenty of it’s own fat.  Add the sausage to the pot and break it up into small pieces. Cook until it starts to brown, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to further break up the meat and brown all the pieces evenly. Add the diced onion and minced garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.  Add the chicken broth and potatoes and bring the liquid to a boil before turning down to medium-low and simmering until the potatoes start to soften, about 10 minutes.  

Add the kale- it will seem like a ton of greens and you’ll be wondering why I told you to add so much, but greens always cook down so add them all anyways and put the lid on the pot just for a minute or two until the kale has started to wilt down and now you can stir it without pieces of kale flying everywhere.  Cook until the kale is tender, about 7-10 minutes.  I did not add any extra salt to this soup because the sausage and broth were already salty. So taste your soup before you add salt. Serve with a lovely baguette and perhaps a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Potato Leek Soup

When the days are rainy and gloomy, there are a few choices to be made. You could huddle over your blue light box and sob uncontrollably until the sun comes out again in July, oooooor you could try to make the best of it by making warm, comforting soups that always taste even better after you’ve come inside and shed the wet rain coat and boots and maybe had a mug of coffee or hot tea. This potato leek soup is one I’ve been making for awhile, but I usually never measure my ingredients. This means that once you’ve got down the basics, a pot of soup is normally pretty forgiving so you can add or subtract things as you desire. Love garlic? Add more.  Don’t have any vampires to ward off? Add less.  Hate leeks? Use yellow onion….etc etc. 

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter

2 medium-size leeks, white and light green part only

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 lbs yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1 ½ in pieces

2 cups less-sodium chicken broth or water

2 cups whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

garnishes: crumbled crispy bacon, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, chopped chives

This is what happens when you photograph on the floor.

A word about leeks: Cut off the root end of the leek and then cut again between the light green portion and the dark green stalk. Discard the dark green stalk, and peel off the outer layer of the remaining white/light green portion of the leek (The outer layer can get tough). Slice the leek into quarters lengthwise and then dice them. Also, they are diiiirty. They can have sand & grit trapped inside the little rings, which is not the flavor of soup we’re shooting for here, so I always swish the chopped leeks around in a bowl full of water to loosen any dirt before I lift out the leeks, leaving the dirt behind in the bottom of the bowl.

In a large pot (6 qt is the size I used), melt the butter over medium heat, then add the leeks. The goal is to soften them, not brown them, so turn the heat to medium-low. Add the minced garlic and stirring occasionally, continue to cook the leeks until soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the potatoes and the chicken broth or water and some salt (I added 1 tsp kosher salt at this stage), and turn up the heat again to medium so the liquid starts to come to a boil before you turn it back down to medium-low so the soup will simmer rather than boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. I like to have soups with at least some texture to them, so I don’t puree this soup; rather, I use my potato masher to mash it up until it reaches a thicker consistency with small pieces of potato still visible.

Heat up the milk (either in a small saucepan or in a measuring cup in the microwave) until almost boiling. The reason for this is if you add cold milk to a very hot liquid, chances are high the milk will curdle. It won’t ruin the taste of your soup, but it will look a little funny. Add the milk to the pot, then add more salt to taste (I added about ½ tsp more) and a pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper.

Sprinkle the chopped chives on top.  Either eat it this way and be perfectly happy with it, or if you’re concerned it doesn’t have enough calories, top it with crumbled cooked bacon and/or shredded sharp cheddar. It’s ok, I won’t judge.

Warm Chickpea and Winter Squash Salad

I normally make this salad with butternut squash, but this time I made it with delicata squash. Why, you ask? Well, if you live in Portland long enough, chances are pretty good that you will know at least one person who quit whatever they were doing in Portland to try their hand at organic farming in rural Oregon. And when those said friends come to visit you, they try to make up for the distance with 10 pints of raspberries in the summer, or a large box full of delicata squash and pie pumpkins in the fall. So since I have a surplus of delicata squash hanging out in the guest bedroom, I decided to try putting them in this salad. Happily, delicata squash are much easier to cut than butternut squash, and because the peel is very thin and tender and it’s perfectly fine to eat it, you don’t even have to peel them!

Salad

2 medium delicata squash (about 2 ½ lbs), seeded, and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces

1 large garlic clove, pressed

½ tsp. ground allspice

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt to taste

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Lemon-Tahini sauce

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup lemon juice- I used 2 medium-sized lemons

1/3 cup well-stirred tahini

2 Tbsp water

3 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine the delicata squash, garlic, allspice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Mix together to evenly coat the squash pieces. Turn them out onto a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tender (but not smushy). Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile, make the tahini-lemon sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. Since taste can be so subjective, don’t be afraid to add more tahini or lemon or oil and salt, to get it to your liking.

To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Add tahini sauce and mix, careful not to break up the squash pieces. Taste again and adjust salt, and lemon or olive oil if needed.