Now that autumn is here, it's time to get serious about soup.
One of the trendy soups of the '80s, black bean soup, gives a stellar performance. Dotted with bell peppers, tomato and onion, perfumed with cumin and rosemary, and given a subtle jolt with Spanish sherry or Madeira, it's unbeatable.
Smoked chicken, broccoli and black bean soup started as "a kind of po-tage gar-bage." One Monday a chef had three soups left over from the weekend -- a broccoli soup, a chicken soup and a black bean soup -- and he mixed them together to see what would happen.
The soup is rich, subtly seasoned and satisfying. And the presentation is as dramatic as the flavor. Each diner is presented with a hot soup plate containing thinly sliced scallops, tiny tomato cubes and fresh chervil. Then a light, foamy broccoli cream soup is ceremoniously poured in.
Some could live on bread and water alone -- if it were doctored up like the bread soup. Not much to look at, but brightened with garlic and sage and lightened with a touch of cream it is full of stick-to-the-ribs goodness.
Bouillabaisse is enough to make you swoon: saffron, herbs, lobster stock and enough lobster, mussels and fish to fill a seafood market. After you've fished out all the goodies, the luxurious broth is just fine on its own.
Black bean soup
Makes 12 to 15 servings.
2 pounds ham hocks (or bacon ends, prosciutto trimmings, ham ends)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium bell peppers, chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 medium brown onions, chopped
4 stalks celery
3 quarts beef stock, medium strength (about 1 tablespoon bouillon to 1 cup water)
2 medium bay leaves
4 tablespoons oregano
3 tablespoons ground black pepper
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon crushed red chilies
3 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons rosemary
2 pounds black beans
2 cups sherry
salt and pepper to taste
Spanish cheese, such as manchego or strong Swiss cheese
Brown ham hocks and trimmings in 4 tablespoons oil. Add bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and celery and let them sweat for 3 minutes. Add half stock, bring to boil and add seasonings.
Add beans, sherry and rest of stock. Let simmer until beans are tender, adding more stock to keep soup liquid, if needed. It must be stirred regularly. Simmer about 2 to 3 hours.
When finished, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with salsa and sour cream, Spanish cheese such as manchego or strong Swiss cheese, if desired.
Smoked chicken, broccoli and black bean soup
Makes 4 servings.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 cup broccoli stems, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried sweet basil
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock, hot
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1 cup smoked chicken, diced
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup broccoli florets
2 cups heavy cream
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with a little water (optional)
In 1/4 cup butter, saute carrots, onion, celery and broccoli stems for 5 minutes. Add thyme, oregano and basil; saute 5 minutes more. Add wine and deglaze pan.
Add hot chicken stock and reduce by one-third. Add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, smoked chicken, beans and broccoli florets; simmer 5 minutes. Add cream, simmer 5 minutes more and season to taste (thicken with cornstarch mixed with water, if desired). Drop in remaining butter, piece by piece, stirring until melted, and serve immediately.
To make smoked chicken: On covered grill, slightly smoke boneless chicken, cooking to medium rare (about 30 minutes). Use apple wood chips and don't allow grill to become too hot.
Broccoli soup with scallops
Makes 4 servings.
2 pounds broccoli
3 pints clear chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh butter
salt and pepper
1 cup whipped cream
8 large raw scallops, finely sliced
1 large peeled tomato diced in 1/8 -inch squares
Cook broccoli in salted water until crisp-tender. Immediately transfer broccoli to ice water. Drain well and pass through fine sieve.
Bring chicken stock to boil, add broccoli puree and butter. Pour in blender at high speed and run for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Add whipped cream.
Arrange finely sliced scallops in circle in very hot, deep plates (warm plates in oven). Garnish with tomato cubes and chervil in middle of plates and place in front of your guests; add soup to plates at table.
Notes: Scallops will be raw; therefore, soup needs to be extremely hot to slightly cook them when added to plate. Also, go easy on salt, since scallops are naturally high in sodium.
Makes 6 servings.
4 strips bacon, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 loaf dense, whole-grain bread, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
4 leaves fresh sage
1/2 pint heavy cream (optional)
salt, white pepper
4 ounces ham, cut in 1/2 -inch squares