Tag Archives: soup

Shitake Soup


If you like mushroom flavored food, you will love this. If you don’t–don’t use mushroom broth, and you can make a variation on this lovely soup.

This soup is very easy to make, and satisfying. A vegetarian can substitute the chicken for tofu.

The backstory on cornstarch, and why I left it out

I recently made my first orange chicken dish–a healthy version. What I realized (perhaps a little late in my culinary career) is how chefs make the thick sauce for Orange Chicken–>corn starch.

Corn starch is harmless in small amounts, however it has been used to make lotion. It’s not something you should consume large amounts of. That being said I’ve left it out of this recipe that I borrowed from Eating Well Magazine.


Due to a lack of lo-mein noodles sold at Trader Joe’s this Asian-inspired soup I made with whole wheat noodles.

Remember cooking rules are only a guideline, and they’re meant to be broken. This Shitake Soup came out thick despite the lack of cornstarch ingredient.

Makes 8 Servings, about 2 cups each

Active time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

24 dried shitake or black Chinese mushrooms (2-3 ounces)
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-2 inch sticks
2 carts mushroom broth
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
4 1/4 cups water
2 chicken breasts (skinned) and cubed into bite-size pieces (or 2 14 ounce packages extra-firm water-packed tofu, drained)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper (or black pepper if that’s all you have)
4 cups kale
1/4 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3 cups cooked lo mein noodles (or whole wheat pasta broken up)
1 cup sliced scallions

Add all ingredients into the pot and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then bring the broth to a boil and add the noodles. Let them boil for ten minutes until soft, and until chicken is cooked all the way through. Chop scallions (or green onions if that is all you have) and put a teaspoon over the top of the soup.

Enjoy with a piece of homemade seven grain toast!


Leek and Potato Soup


I love having people over, and chopping away on a Saturday after a day at the farmer’s market is a great way for me to get R&R. It’s mindless, and I had on NPR all afternoon. About six months ago I made a purchase on Gilt Groupe–it was a tour of the Alice WatersEdible Schoolyard in Berkeley. I’m interested in sustainable farming, gardening and of course cooking so I thought it would be an adventure. I got a signed copy of Alice Waters’ new cookbook In the Green Kitchen. The book is laden with simple easy to make recipes. I chose two for our small dinner party last night.

I made the potato-leek soup, my simple steak recipe, salad and berry cobbler for dessert. Let’s start with the potato leek soup. Leeks are in season, but I must have missed them at the Farmer’s market–I ended up picking them up at Trader Joe’s which I don’t recommend because they are three dollars a bag. French women appear to use them to lose weight, but I just think they taste wonderful. This makes about 6 servings.


2 lbs leeks
3 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
6 cups chick stock
Champagne or white wine vinegar (optional)
fresh-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley or chives

Directions (as instructed by Alice Waters)

Prepare the leeks: Trim off the root ends and the tough upper green tops. Halve the white part of the leeks lengthwise and then, without cutting through the root end, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch-wide strips. [Don’t worry too much about how you cut the leaves, because you will be blending them up eventually.] Wash the diced leeks thoroughly in a large basin of cold water. Once the dirt has settled, scoop them out with a sieve or strainer. Drain and set aside.

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil or butter, followed by the leeks, thyme and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender, about 10 minutes. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4 inch dice or slices. Add the potatoes to the pot and cook for three to four minutes. Pour in the chicken stock season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender, but not falling apart. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Let the soup cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Puree in a blender or using an immersion blender before serving.

Before serving, remove the bay leaf and reheat the soup over medium heat and taste again for salt. If you like add a splash of champagne or white wine vinegar to sharpen the flavors. Stir in 1/3 cup heavy cream before serving.

Ladle the soup into warm serving bowls. Finish with a few grinds of the peppermill, and garnish with chopped parsley or chives.

Velvety Butternut Squash Soup


Looking for a soulful and soothing soup for cold winter nights? Look no further.

This Butternut Squash recipe is incredibly easy to make, not to mention satisfying for the taste buds. It is sure to win over any dinner guest and it’s a great way to feed a small group of friends given how few ingredients this dish requires. This Butternut Squash soup is a perfect recipe for a dinner party, or as a starter for Thanksgiving dinner.

Jacob and I go to the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market pretty much every Saturday without fail. When you buy local and cook seasonal, everything tastes better. If you go to any farmer’s market this season you will start to see butternut squash, pumpkins, broccoli rabe, pears, crab apples and more! I love fall don’t you?

In an effort to eat healthier, I’m now the Soup (Wo)man. Soup is very filling, and according to Runners Magazine it’s a great choice after a long run. Butternut Squash Soup’s name represents its flavor profile. This Butternut Squash recipe is velvety, creamy and contains no butter (unless you prefer to use butter instead of olive oil). Either way!

Jacob doesn’t generally like “sweet” food but he loved this soup. It’s not too salty and not too sweet. Indulge your senses!

Ingredients for Butternut Squash Soup:

3 butternut squash, sliced and cubed
1 small white onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon garlic, pressed
1 tablespoon allspice
1 container chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 medium-sized carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced


4 small potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
2 tablespoons Fage yogurt (plain)
1 piece Fennel


1. Put large soup pan on medium-high heat, and carmelize onions in olive oil and garlic.
2. Add in your butternut squash, and all other ingredients.
3. Cook on medium heat for about 45 minutes or until cubes of butternut squash are soft.
4. Allow soup to cool. Puree in blender or food chopper until smooth.
5. Serve with dollop of yogurt, and a small piece of fennel on top.

Slow Cooked Smokey Barbecue Chili


I tell you this every time I post a recipe, but I’ll tell you again. I love to cook because it’s creative. There are generally so few activities that get us away from the computer, and allow us to use our hands. That is precisely why the kitchen is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Yesterday was a quiet day at home. I spent the morning with the ladies from Team In Training going for a Saturday morning jog, brunch and then drifted through my favorite local Farmer’s market at Lakeshore in Oakland.

On a Fall day with three hours to do as I choose there is no greater joy than pulling out the slow cooker and losing myself in some heavy duty chopping.

Dish purchased at Cost Plus World Market

Slow cooked food always tastes better. The dish soaks up all kinds of flavors given that it has more time to marinate. That being said, slow cooked chili is one of my favorite things to make. It opens up your pores just as much as a salsa dancing class would. And if you like spice and flavor, there’s no shortage of variations you can do. I like to kick the heat and spice into high gear. You can control how spicy the dish is with the optional ingredients listed below.

You don’t have to make this in a slow cooker but it adds a lot of flavor.

Smokey Chili Recipe Ingredients:

1 lb heirloom tomatoes (the fresher the better)
1/3 cup of smokey barbecue sauce
1 lb extra lean beef (organic if possible)
1 green bell pepper chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
1 yellow onion chopped
1 can of Cuban black beans
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup low-fat cheddar cheese
2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Optional Chili ingredients:

1 cup Israeli cous cous or another grain to serve with
chili powder or chipotle seasoning [check out the Rancho Gordo Chili Powder found at the SF Ferry Building or Farmer’s Market]
2 Habanero Peppers


1. Spray pan with olive oil spray or pam. On medium heat saute the chopped onions in garlic. Chop green pepper and add. Once soft, add ground beef and break up the meat in the pan. You might add some of your chicken broth to avoid having to use olive oil and keeping the meat moist.
2. Heat slow cooker and add in all chopped ingredients stirring every 45 minutes or so. Add water if soup is too thick. Heat on high for about 4 hours on high, or 8 hour on low.
3. Serve with Israeli cous-cous and a spritzel of cheese on top garnished with cilantro or fennel.

I always just use what I have in the fridge or pantry. There’s no sense in starting your car up and driving to the market for one small ingredient.

I garnished my soup with fennel rather than cilantro. Fennel, while probably an uncharacteristic garnish, still tastes wonderful. Frozen cilantro went into the soup but wouldn’t have looked very becoming on top of the meal.

I took one bite of this soup and melted on the kitchen floor. The fresh heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market and all the spices made this dish an absolute pleasure to eat.


To dress the table for your meal, depicted below are a feast of Dahlias.

Heirloom tomatoes, golden beets, carrots and cucumbers from Lakeshore Farmer’s Market.  Fresh veggies make all the difference. Once you get your veggies directly from the farmers you won’t ever want to get your veggies from a plastic case at Trader Joe’s again. I promise you this.

Borscht–A Soup Accompanied With a Toast “На здоровье” AKA “In Good Health”


I will never forget my first bowl of Borscht.

I was living in New York City and had met some friends on Coney Island to hang out on the beach and eat supper in Brighton Beach (also Coney Island). This is a distinctly Russian area of Brooklyn.

Borscht (also borsch, bortsch, borstch, borsh, borshch, or barszcz, Ukrainian: борщ) is a soup of Ukrainian origin (that’s where my ancestors came from), can be served cold or hot. The versions I have eaten were tomato-based-but some chefs use beetroot as the main base.

Photo of my first bowl of Borscht at the Tatiana Grill in Brighton Beach

For some reason I gravitate toward Russian culture. My brother does too, and even moved to Moscow four years ago. We both date Russians. Neither of us can explain this coincidence. But we are both happy nonetheless.

I am the only non-speaking “Russian” at the table of my friends at Tatiana’s Grill on Coney Island

Russians are fun to dine with. Dinners last hours and hours. While vodka is a staple at important meals, no one goes home drunk because each sip is coupled with a bite of something fresh and healthy.

My second bowl of Borscht was eaten in Moscow. One of my favorite parts of visiting Russia was eating the freshest food I’ve had in my life. Moscow is like Paris in that you eat decadent a lot of carbs (potatoes, breads etc), but no one is fat.

My third bowl of Borscht was eaten in my kitchen with Jacob, my Georgian Russian speaking boyfriend. Here’s a photo below.

Jacob my boyfriend is Russian–well he’s Georgian but he speaks Russian. My great-grandparents are Russian as well. That being said we happily indulge in pickled food, pelmeni and blintzes–yum! (ok very rarely do we actually eat this–but when we do it’s always with a smile and a story).

There are many interpretations of Borscht. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. I like mine very purpley from the beets. I did not use any butter….but you can if you want that really rich creamy flavor–I find the spices do the trick.

This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook, something passed down to me from my mom–it’s a vegetarian cookbook…that does not skimp on flavor.


  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
  • 1 cup thinly sliced beets
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I did not use butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • sour cream, for topping (or 0% Fage Yogurt)
  • chopped tomatoes, for garnish


  1. Place sliced potatoes and beets in a medium saucepan over high heat; cover with stock, and boil until vegetables are tender. Remove potatoes and beets with a slotted spoon, and reserve stock.
  2. Melt butter (I used olive oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, caraway seeds, and salt; cook until onions become soft and translucent. Then stir in celery, carrots, and cabbage. Mix in reserved stock; cook, covered, until all vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes and beets to the skillet. Season with black pepper and dill weed. Stir in cider vinegar, honey, and tomato puree. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer at least 30 minutes. Serve topped with sour cream (I use 0% Fage Yogurt), extra dill weed, and chopped fresh tomatoes. Top with a sprig of Cilantro or Dill if you like for aesthetic appeal.

I love a good baguette with my soup. If you can go to your local bakery to pick up sourdough or another dense but healthy loaf.

As the Russians say:

На здоровье (Na zdarov’e)

“In Good Health”

Russian History and Culture

Below are more photos from my trip to Moscow + St. Petersburg two years ago. My brother was kind enough to give me the grand tour. You are lucky to travel with someone who speaks Russian–but it’s possible to go without it. If you ever have the opportunity to go–please do-it’s a magical city.

Me in front of the famous Kremlin in Red Square….

According to Wikipedia (and myself) there are hundreds of smaller bridges in Saint Petersburg spanning across numerous canals. Peter the Great wanted the city to resemble the beauty of Amsterdam and the surrounding countries. Many of the themes of Dostoyevsky’s novels took place on the streets of Saint Petersburg. It was eerie to walk on these streets having read Crime and Punishment so many years ago–still one of my favorite books to this day. The Russians really kick everyone else’s a** when it comes to writing a good novel

Due to the intricate web of canals, Saint Petersburg is often called Venice of the North.
My brother on one of the many bridges in St. Pete!

Red Square in Moscow (across the Brick Court Yard from the Kremlin)

My brother and I took a lunch break while shopping in the main downtown mall at the Kremlin

If you ever ask for your dressing on the side at a Russian restaurant–they will laugh at you. Their lunches are wonderful–and if you can try an Odessa Salad. I’m eating Caesar [salad] who apparently made his way east. People take breaks for meals…Like in Paris, where meals are a special occasion. Meals are a ritual, and often accompanied with intense conversation. We need more of that here in the U.S. Less desktop lunches….

I had the opportunity to go to Saint Petersburg, known as the “Western City” of Russia. This building photographed is the Winter Palace also known as the Hermitage (now a museum). It’s the most stunning building that I have ever seen in my life.

That is my brother in a food coma after eating at the restaurant terrassa in Saint Petersburg. It was wonderful!

This is a photo of my brother and I at Terassa–it was October–notice all the goodies behind us!

My digs on the Nevsky Train that runs from Moscow to Saint Petersburg–very sad that this train was blown up only a few weeks after I arrived back in the U.S. Scary…

The entrance to the garden at the Hermitage.

My dear friend Liza who had me over for some authentic tea (I think she got this tea set in Moscow where she is from). Notice Klimt?


When you explore other cultures, whether it’s food, music, art, film or anything else, it brings you into another world. So go explore…you will find yourself surprised and delighted.

Whether it’s a cup of Borscht, or a cup of another delicious adventure !

Thai Lemon Grass Soup


Thai Lemon Grass Soup is a wonderful light meal on a cold night. It is packed with flavor from chili powder and curry paste–these spices can open up your pores and help your skin to breathe. It’s a sensory experience.

Jacob and I ate this super bowl of soup tonight while watching the super bowl. We ate the soup with a toasted crumpet (round English Muffin) and a shrimp salad. The soup is very simple to make–the hardest part is some of the ingredients you might not be able to get at your local market. I can assure you Cost Plus has all of these spices.


5 sprigs lemon grass
generous sprinkle of Chili powder
sprinkle of Pepper
sprinkle of Salt
1 tablespoon Red Curry Paste
Chicken (lean, cubed)
One carton of chicken broth
Shitake Mushrooms (a handful)
Ginger (one inch-chopped)
One shallot
One potato
olive oil spray
Rice noodles
one cup water


1. Clean the chicken
2. Cube the chicken
3. Put in pan with onions and sautee in olive oil spray
4. Add all ingredients into crock pot and keep on medium heat
5. About two out of three hours in, add rice noodles
6.When you serve the soup, don’t serve the lemon grass–that’s just to flavor the soup

Jamie Oliver Makes Asparagus Soup Sexy


Creamy Asparagus Soup with A Poached Egg On Toast

Here we have Jamie Oliver’s pureed silky smooth Asparagus soup with Poached egg–a fantastically delicious treat on a cold Winter night. Don’t be turned off by the color, the soup has a wonderful rich flavor.

Chop the tips of your asparagus and put these to one side for later. Roughly chop the asparagus stalks. Get a large, deep pan on the heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Gently fry the onions, celery and leeks for around 10 minutes, until soft and sweet, without coloring. Add the chopped asparagus stalks and stock and simmer for 20 minutes with a lid on. Remove from the heat and blitz with a handheld immersion blender or in a standard blender. Season the soup bit by bit with salt and pepper until just right. Put the soup back on the heat, stir in the asparagus tips, bring back to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until the tips have softened.

Boil enough water that the eggs can sink–gently place two eggs with a spoon into the boiling water. After about 5 minutes they should be perfectly poached.

Toast a delicious piece of ciabatta bread and gently place the poached egg over the bread.


Serves 8

1 3/4 lbs asparagus, woody ends removed

olive oil

2 medium white onions, peeled and chopped

2 sticks of celery trimmed and chopped

2 leeks, trimmed and chopped

2 quarts good-quality chicken or veggie stock

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 small very fresh free0range or organic eggs (only one per soup bowl!)

8 slices of ciabatta bread

a knob of butter (I skipped the butter)