Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category


Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

        Two-toned and delicate, and vaguely related to Leek and Potato, this is an excellent cream soup for a cold winter day, or when your mind lights on a nostalgia for things Northern, a panelled Luebeck rathskeller, say, or a dowdily luxurious Amsterdam salle.

        Or perhaps a restaurant like the sprawling and sparsely populated one in Copenhagen’s Tivoli where, one evening long ago, a nine-piece palm court orchestra lit gamely into the Finlandia hymn with such fervor this DC7-lagged tourist couldn’t help weeping into his soup.  Such fun!  Well, it had been twenty hours from San Francisco, with a stop at Winnipeg then a leisurely drone-and-rattle through the spacious twilight of the North — complete with SAS’s cooked-to-order scrambled eggs served with courtly Nordic precision by the brass-buttoned pursers to one and all.

        Such airborne eggs of yesteryear I can scarcely fathom in this era of millennial cattle cars. Now Amtrak, that’s where the proper cooking of an egg is a grave responsibility, a matter of nothing less than kitchen honor.  Figure in the fluffy biscuits and you have something close to breakfast heaven, with Lake Erie and its gulls or a Nevada morning at your side.


Break off the flowerets of a medium-sized cauliflower and steam them until they’re almost limp, then reserve ’em. Meanwhile in a large pot soften 1 small chopped onion in a good tablespoon of butter along with 1 small diced red or white potato; add 3/4 of a 49-ounce can of chicken broth — you can freeze the remainder¾bring it to a boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until the potato is done.

In a blender or food processor purée the broth and the cauliflower in batches, adding 1/2 bunch of washed and de-stemmed watercress in the later stages. Re-heat the soup in another pot or saucepan, stirring in 1/4 cup of cream, then serve it with a light sprinkle of grated gruyère, cheddar, dry jack or parmesan cheese. Croutons would not be ill-advised.

CIUPPIN GENOVESE — a puréed fish soup

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

        The most delightful moment in the preparation of this orange-brown ciuppin comes in our first paragraph, just when you notice the aroma of anchovy and celery getting acquainted.  Such unions build up super interest in our olfactory memory banks.

        Now back in ’78 when we were in Genoa and ate at the incomparably named Nino da Nani e Mumo (with that fiery littleToscanini-sized conductor Molinari-Pradelli at the next table) we had fish soup of course, but it wasn’t this one, no, Nino’s ran another gamut, from calamari to gamberi, plus croutons.

        People warned us away from Genoa, suggesting a menu of muggings would be our fate before the first pesto was tasted, but we emerged from its picturesque alleys (and numerous vowels) unscathed.  Also charmed.  Naturally a San Franciscan feels at home puffing his way up and down this sloping city with its funiculars headed for the stars.  Then of course there’s pesto, cima and pansoti between climbs, and those incredible Van Dycks at the Palazzo Rosso — paintings with eyes so penetrating they could see straight into a soufflé and all its frothy secrets.  Meanwhile from the palazzo windows one looks through tombstone forests of TV antennae to the sea.

        But our Genoese epiphany occurred one winter 6:30 a.m. when we took a rainswept walk along the narrow avenue of the palazzi, no one about but us and the streetsweepers.


In a large pot in a tablespoon of olive oil — and stirring frequently — soften 1/2 carrot, 1/2 onion and 1/2 celery rib, all finely chopped (the carrot really ought to go in several minutes before its less slow-pokey brethren), adding to the mélange after a couple of minutes 1 large pressed garlic clove, 3 or 4 drained and finely chopped anchovy filets and about 1/4 cup of minced parsley, standard or Italian. Keep stirring for a good minute.

Now add 2/3 cup of dry vermouth and cook your mush enough to palpably reduce the liquid content; then add 1 14-ounce can of tomatoes (“ready cut” is best), 3 or so cups of fish stock and some salt and pepper, bring all to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, mostly covered.

(The fish stock you can produce as you start this recipe: while softening those first paragraph veg boil a pound or so of fish bones from the market with 1/4 cup of carrot-onion-&-celery pieces in 4 cups of water, reducing the liquid by about a quarter and straining it).

Now you have a viable soup, a lovely and slightly sea-influenced vegetable tomato broth, but continue, else you will have an Unfinished Symphony on your table. Add at least 1/2 pound of fileted halibut and/or butterfish in chunks and simmer the soup another 10 minutes, uncovered. Then cool it for 10 minutes and, in batches, briefly purée it in a blender or food processor. Include the fish pieces in the purée or not as you please.

Finalmente, warm your ciuppin for several minutes, until the consistency is half-way-to-creamy. Serving this soup with croutons is strongly recommended.


Sunday, September 2nd, 2007


        A Mittel Europa mushroom soup is not easily found in cookbooks but strikes me as a necessary staple.  Herewith, then, a little invention in the genre, light and fragrant. It’s more, perhaps, for the sick man than the he-man, but no less rewarding for that.  This is the sort of brothy nectar you might find in one of the better new hotels in what used to be East Germany, the Art’otel in Dresden, for example, a hilariously modern — and very comfortable — hostelry where the wash stands look like giant ice cream cones, the bathtub is an oval playpen and the lighting fixtures above the beds are unflappably mammary.  But I must tell you, our room was so sexy in an abstract, test-tubey way that, if I remember right, we didn’t feel very much like being physical therein.

        There was competing fantasy in the mosque-like Wilhelmine cigarette factory across the way, improbable, abandoned, but There, Survival royalty.  Maybe all the great Dresden maestri, Fritz Reiner, Fritz Busch, Karl Boehm, drove by it on the way to work.

        In Dresden one goes to the opera where so many Strauss operas had their premieres, one promenades amazed in view of the Zwinger’s ten-star porcelain collections, and one can’t help noticing that all the little numbered pieces of a grand church under reconstruction look in their segments of scaffolding like so much Costco merchandise reaching for a warehouse ceiling.

        Yes, the apostrophied Art’otel was a shade contrived . . . and the near-miss of its intended bacchanalization puts me in mind of what I offer as the sexiest room ever of our European travels.  It was simply a little room with a bed and a view — and a bathroom that was an essay in chipped porcelain.  The location was Moustiers-Ste-Marie in upper Provence, and the view down a long valley that had kept its soul intact.

        The room was an unknowing vehicle for passion.  And an era came to an end there, but I can’t explain that now . . .

        It helped to arrive in this room in a state of lyrical fatigue: the previous day we’d had to endure a roller-coaster ferry crossing from Corsica, followed by a trying absence of taxis in Nice, and a fall on an escalator, then a long drive up into the Provence hills – which we’d heretofore avoided, because they’re written about and glowed over so much.

        And a mis-reading of Michelin (this, I’m afraid, happens more often than it used to, now that they’re chucking out charming hostelries not sufficiently modernized to the inspectors’ taste) resulted in our spending a night in a motel-like place outside Moustiers itself.  Anne knew I’d be a lot happier if I went out and found a simpatico hotel in town, the less modern the better, and the faience shops hadn’t opened when I strode into the Belvedere and presented myself to the bartender who seemed to be in charge of bed and board.  He was welcoming — and unquestionably gay and wanted to visit San Francisco at the earliest opportunity.

        The vibes, in short, were right. I summoned Anne and we dragged our bags happily to the room with the chipped loo and the view and the soul . . .


Soften 1 small chopped onion in a little butter along with a couple tablespoons of finely grated carrot. Add a cup of sliced/chopped/julienned mushrooms (oyster and shiitake, for instance) and 3 or 4 trimmed and rather finely minced asparagus stalks, paprika the veg lustily and toss them until they’re nicely integrated.

Now add 1 49-ounce can of chicken broth, a splash of dry vermouth or white wine, a pressed garlic clove and some dill weed, bring your soup to a boil and simmer it mostly uncovered for 30 minutes. Before serving, stir in a cup of yogurt off the fire.