As winter finally settles into the San Joaquin Valley, comfort food becomes the focus in many kitchens. And what better way to ward off the Valley’s chilly temperature, than with a steaming bowl of soup.
Sarah Lisitsin, an avid cook, has fond memories of coming home from school and smelling the aroma of soup cooking on the stove.
“It gave me such a warm feeling,” says Lisitsin, an owner of Rocket Dog Brats and Brew, 88 E Shaw Ave. in Fresno. “And there is nothing better on a cold day.”
That’s the feeling Lisitsin wanted to bring back with her hearty cheddar brat soup. The thick and creamy soup is loaded with chunks of potato, carrots and succulent Fresno State sausage. The soup is relatively easy to make, and can be made without the sausage for a meatless meal. Or add chicken for a lighter option.
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“The great thing about soups is that you can easily alter recipes if you want,” says Lisitsin, who also offers the soup at her restaurant.
Kim Tirapelle, a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente, said that one of the growing food trends is incorporating beans, peas and whole grains, including red lentils, chickpeas and bulgur, into meals like soups.
The lentils, chickpeas and grains add fiber and protein that are nutritious and make you feel full and satisfied.
“It also adds a different flavor profile to your soups,” Tirapelle says.
Chef Hillori Hansen, a culinary specialist at Whole Foods Fresno, loves soups because “it screams winter.” She enjoys playing with different spices and herbs. Her soup recipe for Italian sausage and lentils uses lots of seasoning, including fennel seed, sea salt, oregano and smoked paprika.
“It is like a minestrone soup that is hyped up,” Hansen says. “It’s really delicious and nutritious.”
Hansen also recommends making your own bone broth. Homemade broth is generally lower in sodium, although there are also low sodium broths available at the grocery store.
Another reason Hansen likes making soups is because you can freeze the leftovers. Just make sure the soup is cool and avoid using Mason jars, they will crack in the freezer. Hansen uses Pyrex bowls, but plastic freezer bags also work.
“Plus, the great thing about soup is that it always tastes better the next day,” Hansen says.
Cheddar brat soup
by Sarah Lisitsin
1 or 1.5 lbs fresh bulk (out of the casing) bratwurst
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 or so carrots, peeled and chopped
5 or so stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 gallon whole milk (sub a cup or so of cream if you're feeling luxurious)
1 (49.5oz) can chicken stock
2 bay leaves
3 pounds red potatoes, diced
16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic to taste
Fully cook bratwurst in a large soup pot, set aside in a bowl. In the same pot, sauté onion, celery and carrot in a little canola oil, add salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste. Once the onions are translucent and the carrots are al dente, remove the vegetables from the pot and set them aside with the cooked bratwurst.
Melt butter over medium heat in the soup pot. Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in milk, cook for 5 or so minutes and allow to thicken.
Add chicken stock and bay leaf, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, add potatoes. Cook until soft. Reduce heat to medium-low, add cooked bratwurst and vegetables and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add shredded cheddar. Add salt/ pepper/ garlic to taste.
Red lentil soup with spinach
by Dr. Preston Maring, Kaiser Permanente
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
Large pinch chili powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
2 medium carrots, chopped (If they are washed well, I don't bother to peel them)
Lemon juice to taste
2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
Heat the olive oil to shimmering in a large soup pot. Sauté the onions and garlic for about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, chili, salt, pepper and cook a minute or two. Add the broth, water, lentils, carrots, and bring to a simmer.
Gently simmer partially covered about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender. Use an immersion blender for a while leaving the soup chunky or puree about half of it in a blender then add it back to the pot. Remember to take the center piece out of the top of the blender and cover with a wadded up kitchen towel to let the steam escape. Stir in the spinach. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Spicy chickpea and bulgur soup
By Kaiser Permanente
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
2 large carrots, peeled
4 celery stalks
4 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons harissa paste (2 tbsp provide a fair amount of heat)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ground caraway (or whole seeds)
2 cans chickpeas, drained (about 3 cups)
5 cups vegetable stock, homemade or low-sodium store-bought
¾ cup bulgur wheat
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ lemon, juiced
Coarse Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery into similar-sized pieces. Mince the garlic. Heat a heavy-bottom soup pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the oil and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 8 minutes. Stir in the harissa paste, cumin, coriander, and caraway and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas along with one teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Add the vegetable stock, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse the bulgur wheat and cover in a saucepan with cold water. Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat and drain. Rinse with cold water, and set aside.
Just before serving, stir the bulgur, cilantro, and lemon juice into the soup. The longer the warm soup sits with the bulgur in it, the less soupy it gets. You may need to add a little more stock or water to loosen it up. Divide into soup bowls and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro and feta cheese, if using.
Roasted butternut squash soup with grilled cheese croutons
By Veleda Oltjenbruns
1 peeled and diced yellow onion
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 medium butternut squash
4 cups water
4 1/2 tablespoons Better than Boullion chicken base
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
Melt butter and extra virgin olive oil in a stock pot on medium heat, add onions and thyme-cook until softened but not burned or caramelized. About 5-7 minutes. Add poultry seasoning and thyme and cook for another minute.
To roast squash, cut in half, brush with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees or until spoon tender.
Add roasted squash, discard any peel or seeds. Add water, bay leaves, cayenne and chicken base. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves and thyme stalks. Add cream cheese and blend to a smooth consistency with an immersion blender or work in batches with a traditional blender. If too thick, thin with water and chicken base. Serve in soup bowl topped with grilled cheese croutons
Grilled cheese croutons
10 slices sourdough bread
Softened butter or mayo
10-15 slices of cheddar, Havarti, jack or any other smooth melting cheese to fill sandwiches
Spread bread with either mayo or butter for a good crust. Place spread side down in medium high heated pan, top with cheese and another slice of bread with spread side up. Brown one side, flip and brown other side, melting cheese. Repeat for 5 sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into 8 small squares.
Italian sausage and lentil soup
By Hillori Hansen
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes or 2 - 3 large tomatoes chopped
2 – 3 cups leafy greens like kale or chard, stemmed and chopped into shreds
1 bunch broccoli or broccoli rabe, chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup shiitake mushroom, sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
6 cups beef stock
2 cups cooked lentils
Heat olive oil and butter in a pan until butter is bubbling. Add onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or until onions become translucent.
Add ground Italian sausage and sauté until cooked through. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Add tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, shiitakes and parsley and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add in spices and stir to coat.
Add stock to pot and simmer until vegetables are tender. Stir in cooked lentils and simmer a few more minutes to incorporate.
Serve with crusty bread.
Note: You may also substitute ground beef, turkey or chicken.
Linguica and vegetable soup
By Lori Scott
1/2 link of linguica (4 oz) chopped small
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise then sliced about 1/8" thick
2 carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and sliced about 1/8" thick
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of kale washed well, stem removed and cut into ribbons
1 cup lentils
2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
1 1/2-2 quarts chicken broth (homemade if at all possible)
Salt and pepper to taste
In an eight quart stockpot or Dutch oven add oil or melt butter. Add linguica and cook until some of the fat has rendered out (you will know this when the oil/fat in the bottom of the pan is turning red). Add onion and garlic and sauté until softened and starting to become translucent. Add carrots, potatoes and lentils then pour chicken broth over to cover veggies by 2 inches. Bring to a very gentle boil, add kale and let barely simmer covered for 30 minutes until all veggies are soft and lentils are cooked through. Add more broth if you want a "soup-ier" consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. If you'd like a little more "heat" you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Serve with a nice crusty bread.