Nothing satisfies winter appetites more effectively than hot, well-made soup--especially soups substantial enough to make a main dish. But main-dish soups are more than satisfying; they are also one of the kitchen's most practical preparations--easy to freeze, easy to thaw and available at a moment's notice.
Soup also serves as the basis for a wonderfully friendly party. Simple and straightforward, it provides an opportunity to gather your friends without any formality. Let them ladle their own servings right out of the soup pot. Fill a bread basket with warm peppered biscuits and slices of a crusty baguette to sop up the last of the soup. An herbed goat cheese and olive oil spread is the perfect addition--your guests can spread it on the breads or swirl it into the soup. A few chunks of cheese arranged on a board with sliced apples and pears and a plate of butter-rich cookies make an ideal dessert--and a perfect finale to a simple, heartwarming meal.
And don't forget the drinks: Warm, unfiltered cider with a cinnamon stick and a slightly chilled bottle of Beaujolais are excellent options. Coffee may not even be necessary.
\o7 This soup soothes and comforts on winter nights. Although it takes a long time to simmer on the stove, it requires little attention from the cook and serves a crowd. You can cook it ahead--and it freezes well.
WHITE BEAN AND
LAMB SOUP WITH
2 tablespoons light-tasting olive oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried sage
6 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups water
1 pound lamb shanks
1 pound dried navy beans
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper
3 large plum tomatoes, shells only cut in 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup finely julienned fresh basil leaves
Heat olive oil in 4-quart pot. When hot, add celery, onion, garlic and sage. Cook until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add stock or broth and water. Bring to boil. Add lamb and beans. Bring to boil again. Simmer, covered, 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove lamb with slotted spoon. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bone. Cut meat in 1/3-inch dice. Puree 2 cups beans with 1 cup soup liquid until smooth. Return meat and pureed mixture to pot. Stir well to combine. Add lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated as long as 3 days or frozen. Reheat gently, thinning with water as needed. Adjust seasoning and lemon juice.)
To serve, garnish with diced tomatoes and basil. Makes about 10 cups or 8 to 10 servings.
Biscuits are the easiest type of bread to make at home. Here, they are peppery, moist and soft-textured. Cut into rectangles, they have great homespun appeal. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
5 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, cut in small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Combine flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper in food processor or small bowl. Work butter into dry ingredients in food processor or cut in with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk. Process or stir just until ingredients clump together.
Transfer dough to floured board. Knead into cohesive mass. Roll into 8x6-inch rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick. Cut evenly into 6 pieces. Arrange 1 inch apart on greased baking sheet.
For glaze mix egg and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt with fork until frothy. Lightly brush egg glaze on tops of biscuits. (Excellent for cookies, breads and cream puffs, glaze can be stored in refrigerator up to 5 days.)
Bake biscuits in center rack of 400-degree oven until golden, about 18 minutes. (Can be served immediately or kept at room temperature several hours and gently reheated in 300-degree oven for 10 minutes or in microwave oven on MEDIUM or 50% power). Serve warm. Makes 6 biscuits.
Spread this goat cheese mixture on the biscuits or warm baguette slices or else swirl it into the soup.
10 ounces soft plain goat cheese
2 tablespoons light-tasting olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons snipped chives
2 teaspoons minced parsley
Place goat cheese in small bowl and stir until smooth. Add olive oil, basil, oregano, thyme, chives and parsley. Mix well. Transfer mixture to serving crock. (Can be refrigerated as long as 3 days, covered airtight. Let come to room temperature before serving.) Makes about 1 cup.