A Trio of Hearty Soups for a Cold Spring Day

Preparing the Ample Bites vegetable garden plot for planting on a windy, chilly morning brought to mind a trio of hearty soups.

The first soup is a robust and healthy White Bean and Ham Soup that will incorporate ham scraps and the ham bone from one of the family’s Easter hams. The recipe is very easy, takes little prep and can be made ahead of time to be reheated. The only real advance preparation required is soaking the dried white beans overnight to reconstitute them.

The other two soups are richer cream-based soups using simple ingredients such as mushrooms and potatoes. The Smoked Potato Soup is uniquely flavorful. The Mushroom Soup is rich and elegant with its garnishes of goat’s milk cheese and sauteed mushrooms.

Try all three soups and let Ample Bites know which is your favorite.

White Bean and Ham Soup

White Bean and Ham Soup
Mark Kelly

Serves 6

¾ pound (about 1 ½ cups) dried white beans, preferably cannellini
1 pound ham, preferably remainder of a full ham, on the bone
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large red onions, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
4 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
4 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 ½ tsp Kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Soak the beans overnight in enough cold water to cover by at least 2 inches. Drain.

Trim most of the loose ham from the bone and warm in a large Dutch oven until warmed through. Remove the ham from the skillet and add the chopped onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic to the pot. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the beans, stock, 2 tablespoons of the fresh sage and 2 tablespoons of the parsley. Bring the soup to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are almost tender, about 1 hour.

Add the ham and salt to the pot and continue cooking until the beans are very tender, about 15 minutes. Puree about 1 ½ cups of the beans with some of the liquid in a blender or food processor .

Return the puree to the soup. Add the remaining herbs and the black pepper and serve immediately.

Mushroom Soup
(Courtesy of Tasting Table Sous Chef Series, Adapted from Mike Ryan, Elements, Princeton, New Jersey)

Serves 6

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ pounds Cremini mushrooms, 1 pound finely chopped, ½ pound sliced
3 large fingerling potatoes, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
1 dried bay leaf
¼ cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp soy sauce

Crusty bread for serving
Fresh goat’s milk cheese (Chevre), for serving

In a large heavy bottomed soup pot, melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped mushrooms, potatoes, thyme and bay leaf and continue to cook, stirring often, until all of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pot; once it has been mostly absorbed, add the vegetable broth. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a medium skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the ½ pound slice mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender. Return the soup to medium heat. Season with the soy sauce, salt and pepper and cook until warmed through. Divide the soup among soup bowls and sprinkle with some sautéed mushrooms. Serve with crusty bread and fresh goat’s milk cheese.

Smoked Potato Soup
(Courtesy of Tasting Table Chefs’ Recipes, Adapted from Cedric Maupillier, Mintwood Place, Washington, D.C.)

Serves 4

2 cups hickory-wood chips
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 large), each pricked a few times with a fork
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, white part only, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 ½ Tbsp white miso paste
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the wood chips in the bottom of a large stockpot and set over high heat. Once the wood chips become fragrant, after about 5 minutes, place steamer insert over the chips and set the potatoes in the steamer. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until a paring knife easily slips into the center of the potatoes, about 1 ½ hours. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly, then peel the potatoes.

Meanwhile, make the soup base: In a stockpot set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, leek and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the water, cream and milk, and then stir in the miso, salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to almost a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes, buttermilk and sherry vinegar and use an immersion blender to blend until smooth (alternatively, blend in a blender, working in batches, then return the soup to the stockpot). Warm gently over medium heat. Serve heat.

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Vegetable Side Dishes for Easter

An Ample Bites fan asked for some suggestions for vegetable side dishes for Easter dinner this Sunday. Below are recipes for a few of my favorites. All of these dishes go very well with ham and lamb.

Asparagus and Cheese Tart
(Courtesy of April 2012, Food Network Magazine)

1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 pound)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 cup grated comte of gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 Tbsp minced shallot
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp whole milk
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Roll out the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, mix the cheeses, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Red Onion

2 pounds of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350F

Line a baking sheet with oil. In a large bowl, toss sprouts, onion, oil, sugar and seasonings. Spread the sprouts in the baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes stirring halfway through. Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, toss well and serve immediately.

Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Cook beans and cranberries in simmering water in a skillet for 4 to 5 minutes until tender crisp. Drain and pat green beans dry. Immediately heat oil in skillet and add the onions and sugar, cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the beans and cranberries and stir for about 3 minutes, until heated through. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook one additional minute. Garnish with the slivered almonds and serve.

Scalloped Potatoes with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers
(Courtesy of April 2012, Food Network Magazine)

2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bay leaves
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/8 inch thick and patted dry
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated gruyere cheese (about 6 ounces)
4 plum tomatoes, sliced 3/4 inch thick
2 yellow and orange bell peppers, cut into 3/4 inch strips
1 onion, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
3 tsp herbes de Provence
1 1/4 cups breadcrumbs (preferably fresh)

Whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the remaining 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream in a medium saucepan; stir in the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the garlic and bay leaves and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the potatoes and simmer until halfway cooked, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Gradually stir in the egg-milk mixture and 1 cup gruyere. Cover and keep warm.

Preheat the broiler. Put the tomatoes, bell peppers and onion on a baking sheet in separate piles. Drizzle each pile with 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss each pile to coat and spread them out. Broil until tender and charred around the edges, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with olive oil. Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) in the dish. Spoon out half of the potatoes and arrange evenly over the breadcrumbs; top with the broiled onions and half each of the tomatoes and peppers. Top with the remaining potatoes in an even layer and all of the cream mixture; discard the garlic and bay leaves. Top with the remaining tomatoes and bell peppers.

Bake until the potatoes are tender and lightly golden, about 40 to 50 minutes. Drizzle with the remaining 1/2 cup cream and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup gruyere. Continue baking until the cheese melts, about 5 more minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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