A restorative soup supper is just the ticket every now and then. A soothing alchemy develops in the soup pot. My preference is old-fashioned beef and vegetable soup, a thick and hearty combination that softens stress. It's also a do-ahead one-dish meal.
After experimenting with various cuts of beef to give the necessary body and soul to this soup, short ribs were my choice over beef stew meat and beef shanks. The short-rib stock and the meat are more flavorful than the other options. It's no problem that there is more fat, as it's skimmed off in the end. The vegetables can be varied according to taste; I especially like this mix.
Hot slices of toasted sourdough bread with sizzling Parmesan cheese and a hearty Burgundy wine lift it all to perfection. Serve the chilled fudgy brownies with walnuts and fresh fruit for dessert: no more blahs!
Old-Fashioned Beef and Vegetable Soup
Active Work Time: 40 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Be sure to make this soup at least a day ahead to let the fat congeal on the surface so it can be easily removed and discarded. Also, the flavor improves tremendously as it stands. It freezes well. To thicken the soup, simmer it, uncovered, until it's just as you like it. If it's too thick, simply add water.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 large onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 large stalks celery, diced
1 large celery root, peeled and diced
1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
6 cups beef broth
6 cups water
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
* Heat oil in large stewpot over medium high heat. Season ribs with salt and pepper to taste. When oil is hot, sear ribs in batches. Set aside.
* Keep about 2 tablespoons fat in pot. Add onions and garlic. Stir until mixed. Cook, stirring often, until hot and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add celery, celery root, rutabaga, potato, bay leaf, thyme, broth, water and tomatoes with juice. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until meat is falling off bones, about 2 1/2 hours.
* Use tongs to transfer ribs to plate. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from ribs, trim away fat and cartilage (there will be more waste than meat). Use hands to shred meat. Stir into soup. Cool, then refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days. Skim and discard solid fat. (Can be frozen up to 1 month.) Reheat over medium high heat, stirring often. Taste and adjust seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, to thicken as desired. Remove bay leaf. Serve hot in warm soup bowls.
8 servings. Each serving: 268 calories; 1,037 mg sodium; 56 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 22 grams protein; 1 gram fiber.
Active Work Time: 5 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes * Easy
8 large (1/2-inch thick) slices crusty bread
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground pepper
* Spread bread with butter. Arrange on large baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
* Broil 12 inches from heat source until lightly browned and cheese is sizzling, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on broiler heat. Serve slices hot, cut in half.
8 servings. Each serving: 121 calories; 280 mg sodium; 12 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.50 gram fiber.
Double Chocolate Fudgy Walnut Brownies
Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour, plus more for preparing pan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* Toast nuts in dry skillet set over medium heat until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
* Microwave chocolate until melted, about 1 minute. Set aside until cooled to room temperature.
* Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until very well mixed. Add 1 egg and mix until almost incorporated. Add remaining egg and mix until just combined. Scrape sides of bowl. Add vanilla and melted chocolate and mix 30 seconds.
* Mix in flour and salt on low speed until almost combined, with some flour still visible. Using spatula, fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour into greased and floured 9-inch pan. Smooth top.
* Bake at 350 degrees until center stops rising and toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 27 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Cut into 12 squares, or refrigerate overnight, covered airtight up to 3 days. (Can be frozen up to 2 weeks.)
12 servings. Each serving: 292 calories; 165 mg sodium; 63 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.36 gram fiber.