Soups and Stews

Friday Instagram Round-Up 5

Hello! So, I missed last week’s round-up. But, I only had a couple of photos (what with a week of late work nights and eating out), so I thought I would roll last week’s into this week’s. So here we go!


I am currently trying to grow out a pixie cut while trying to avoid that whole Justin Beiber/mullet look. I find dark red lipstick helps.


Sunday movie night: Bernie with Jack Black and curried kobucha squash and quinoa and kale soup.


Easy Dinner 1: chicken and sweet pepper stir fry over rice.


Easy Dinner, The Sequel: penne and pork tenderloin in tomato sauce.


Saturday night, couple’s dinner with Kat and Kris: veggies with hollandaise.


Me. Instagramming Kat. Instagramming dinner. Meta.


Pork and cucumber meatballs with yogurt sauce. The best.


And, of course, boeuf bourguignon to finish us out.

Have a great weekend friends!

Follow me on Instagram @thehumblegourmet

Quick Pumpkin Soup

Quick Pumpkin Soup

I have been actively trying to will autumn to start.  I love the fall.  The clothes, the food, the weather, the smells, the holidays.  In the Bay Area, we don’t really have the changing of the leaves like you do in New England, but the weather is just so cool and crisp and lovely.  And you have sweaters and boots.  And squash.  And stews.  And Halloween and crunchy leaves and cider.  It’s all just so cozy and comforting.  And I want it to start.  NOW.

So, in an attempt to kick start the season, I decided to make pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies.  The only problem with pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies?  The recipe calls for 1 cup of pumpkin puree, but canned pumpkin puree only comes in those enormous, pumpkin pie-sized cans.  You know, like this:

Canned Pumpkin Puree

It’s a mother can of pumpkin.  So, what do you do with the remaining 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin after you’re done with the cookies?  Make some soup!

Quick Pumpkin Soup

This is really a 20 minutes, start to finish soup.  And that finish is delicious.

I’ve had a lot of pumpkin soups that were on the sweeter side, with quince and butternut squash or sweet potato and cinnamon.  I really didn’t want to do a sweet pumpkin soup.  I wanted something hearty and definitely savory.  Ancho chile and crème fraiche and a sprinkling of pancetta really create that great, autumnal, savory comfort food flavor.  A drizzling of basil oil on top completely rounds out all the earthy flavors of this soup.

Come on in autumn!  Soup’s on!  THG

Quick Pumpkin Soup

Quick Pumpkin Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 garlic cloves, smashed

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder

1 tsp. ground paprika

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup crème fraiche

1 cup pancetta, fried until crunchy

Basil Oil (recipe follows)

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add crushed garlic to olive oil and brown without letting it burn.  Add chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Add pumpkin puree and mix well.  Add ancho chile powder, paprika and salt and mix.  Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add crème fraiche and using an immersion blender or a stand blender, puree soup until smooth.  Serve immediately garnished with basil oil and fried pancetta.

Serves 4

Basil Oil

2 cups fresh basil

1 cup olive oil

In a blender puree basil leaves and olive oil for 2-3 minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Will keep for 1 week.

Tomato and Lemon Cucumber Gazpacho

Last Sunday, I had this text exchange with my dad:

Text with Dad


In case you don’t speak Dad, “cucs and toms” translates to cucumbers and tomatoes.  Or, more specifically, garden fresh tomatoes and lemon cucumbers.  No way I was going to pass up an offer like that.

4 hours later, I was unwrapping these beauties:

Tomatoes and Lemon Cucumbers

Insert Homer Simpson drooling sound effect here.

Perfectly ripe and still warm from the sun, I could not wait to get dinner started, with these babies as the featured players.  Luckily for me, Shawn was a work that night and I was on my own for dinner.

See, the thing is, Shawn hates tomatoes.  I KNOW.  He hates tomatoes, and I married him anyway.  Well, at least he has some other redeemable qualities

Winking smile

So, I had a night all to myself and a table full of homegrown cucs and toms.  Too hot to cook.  Gazpacho it is.

Tomato and Lemon Cucumber Gazpacho

Cold, crisp tomato and cucumber soup.  The best possible way to enjoy those fresh garden veggies.  Garlic, fresh mint and a dash of cayenne pepper evens out the flavors, adding a bit of a bite to the sweet and smooth cucumber and tomato.  A drizzle of lemon and a swirl of olive oil.  This is summer in a bowl.  You can’t help but take a deep breath and smile a bit sipping on this icy soup.  Too good.

Tomatoes and Lemon Cucumbers

Cold roasted potatoes round out this meal perfectly.  Just roast the potatoes in the morning or the night before when it’s cool enough to have the oven on (if that’s even feasible where you live; I feel for all of you in 100ºF+ weather.  Stay hydrated my overheated friends).  This soup calls out for garden fresh produce; it just wouldn’t be the same with grocery store tomatoes or cucumbers.  You need the picked-ripe flavor to come punching through; the soup could be pretty bland with most mass-produced veggies.  If you don’t have a garden (or a dad with a green thumb), your local farmer’s market selection will do just fine.

What’s your favorite summer cool down meal?  THG

Tomato and Lemon Cucumber Gazpacho

Tomato and Lemon Cucumber Gazpacho

2 lb. assorted tomatoes, roughly chopped

3 medium size lemon cucumbers, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped

1/2 lemon

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

sea salt

olive oil

In a blender, puree tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, garlic and mint until completely broken down and frothy (this may need to be done in batches).  In a fine mesh sieve, strain liquid into a large bowl.  Discard solids.  Whisk in lemon juice, cayenne pepper and sea salt to taste.  Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least one hour.  Spoon into individual bowls and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve cold.

Serves 4

Ragoût D’Agneau aux Artichauts


Shawn and I went to the library on Saturday. Wanna see what I got?

The Country Cooking of France

Ooh. Ahh.

The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan is a book of, obviously, French country food. All recipes from and in the style of what they eat in Provence. Beautiful photography, incredible recipes and great stories that really get into the daily living in the French countryside. Butchers, cheese shops, farming, fishing, hunting for truffles. Earthy, hearty, unpretentious foods. I do not want to give this book back in two weeks.

Ragoût D'Agneau aux Artichauts Ingredients
Ragoût D'Agneau aux Artichauts

I am something of a Francophile. I have always dreamed about going to France, namely Paris. I used to think the best way to “do” France would be to go for an entire year; that way you have the time to take in everything the country has to offer. The cafes, the museums, the architecture. Montmartre, Lyon, the Rivera, Bordeaux, St. Germain. I want to go. So. Much.

But, until that happens, making French food will have to do. I adore French food, particularly their rustic, country foods. There is something so natural about those Provencal dishes; a lot of stews and soups, breads and pastries, unfussy and slow-cooked with time, love and patience. And gobs and gobs of cheese. I always loved that the French end meals with cheese platters; something we Americans have gotten backwards since we tend to start a meal with cheese platters, with appetizers.

Ragoût D'Agneau aux Artichauts

This cookbook is pages upon pages of truly French food. I mean, there’s a chapter called “Frogs and Snails”. THAT’S French.

The book is divided into main ingredients; Poultry, Beef and Lamb, Savory Tarts, Vegetables, Breads. Every recipe has its proper French name, as well as a translation in English. It talks about where recipes originated from, why you prepare certain dishes in certain ways, recommendations for dishes to serve them with and even advice on how to store them if you’re cooking dishes ahead of time. It talks about each Provence, what type of dishes they’re known for, how the climate affects their vegetable planting and crops. It even goes into detail on annual festivals in certain areas and their traditions.

I knew that I wanted to take on one of the recipes this week for dinner. After flipping through the book a few times, I settled on Ragoût D’Agneau aux Artichauts, basically a lamb and artichoke stew. Yum. I also decided to do a warm bean salad on the side, with a red wine vinaigrette. So much deliciousness.

Ragoût D'Agneau aux Artichauts

This dish was really a bit thinner than most stews, but still thicker than a soup (a stoup!). White wine and beef broth flavored by the garlic, meat, tomatoes and artichokes. I tossed in some fingerling potatoes just for good measure and because I love potatoes in stew.

The dish is supposed to be made with lamb, but this being The Humble Gourmet, and lamb costing an arm and a leg, I chose to go with beef instead. Still delicious, though I’m sure the lamb would have added a whole other level of depth to the broth. Seriously though, why is lamb so expensive? Who decided that the most delicious ingredients have to also be the most expensive? If I were making this for just Shawn and myself, I probably would have gone ahead and got the lamb, but I was making this dish for 5 people. 5 people stew = way more lamb than I could ever afford for one Monday night dinner.

Ragoût D'Agneau aux Artichauts

There is definitely a distinct taste to French food. The wine in the broth really sweetened things up and kept it from being too heavy or salty. The artichokes were a great addition, a nice little variety from the meat/potatoes/carrot/celery stews I’m used to (Irish-style). The recipe called for baby artichokes, but those can be hard to find in the Bay Area this time of year, so I went with regular artichokes and just peeled them down to the inner leaves. Next time, I will definitely go for the smaller artichokes, because the larger ones are just a little more fibrous than I usually like. I also peeled the stems of the artichokes and added them into the broth. They had a much more concentrated artichoke flavor, like a slightly tougher artichoke heart. Very good.

White Beans with Red Wine Vinaigrette

For the bean salad, I went with regular white beans. I wanted to use fava, but my grocery store didn’t carry them dry, and I prefer to cook my own beans to canned in this type of dish. I did a quick soak on the beans, which is a great method if you’re looking to make beans for dinner but either forgot or didn’t have time to soak them overnight. Simply put the beans in a large pot of salted water. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Let the beans boil for 2 minutes, then move them off the heat and let sit in the pot for another 10 minutes. Drain and cook accordingly. It does the same work an overnight soak does in about 20 minutes; very handy little trick to have. Be sure to pick out any stones or other oddities from your beans; you’d be amazed how many strange little rocks I’ve found in bags of dried beans.

Well, after this little Monday night jaunt to Provence, I can tell you for certain that my desire to travel to France went from “desperately-want-to-go” to “oh-my-god-someone-buy-me-a-plane-ticket-now-I-MUST-GO!”. While I wait for my first-class ticket (you are sending it, right?), I’ll just indulge in some pain au chocolat and café noisette. Ne pas vous joindre à moi?  THG

Ragoût D'Agneau aux Artichauts

Ragoût D’Agneau aux Artichauts

(adapted from Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France)

1 4- to 5-pound lamb breast or shoulder OR stewing beef

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. flour

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups beef or veal broth, plus more as needed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large tomato, seeded and roughly chopped

1 Tbsp. dried thyme

juice of 1 lemon

8 to 10 baby artichokes OR 4-5 medium artichokes

1 lb. fingerling potatoes

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 lemons, cut into wedges

Trim the meat and cut into chunks.  Pat dry the meat and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over high heat.  Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch.  Remove each batch with a straining spoon and set aside.

Over medium heat, whisk the flour into the remaining olive oil until brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Add the beef broth, garlic, tomato and dried thyme.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the meat and push down so all the meat is completely submerged in the broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour.

In a large bowl, fill up halfway with cold water and add the lemon juice.  Trim the stem from the artichokes.  Cut off the dried end and peel the outside layer.  Cut into chunks and add to the lemon water.  Cut the artichokes in half across the equator.  Peel back the tough leaves to the center.  Cut into quarters lengthwise.  Cut out the furry thistle (this section is inedible).  Immediately add the cut artichoke hearts to the bowl of lemon water.  Set aside.

Wash the fingerling potatoes and cut in half lengthwise.  Add to a bowl of cold water.  Set aside.

When the meat is tender, drain the artichokes and potatoes and add them to the Dutch oven.  Add more broth to cover if necessary.  Increase heat to medium and cook, covered, until artichokes and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

Skim off any excess fat on the surface of the pot.  If the broth is too thin, increase the heat and boil it down to the desired thickness.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the parsley.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8

Warm White Bean Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

1 lb. dried white beans, soaked

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 whole shallot

1 bunch fresh sage and 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied together (bouquet garni)

salt and pepper to taste

8-10 cups water


2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 shallot, roughly chopped

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil plus 1 tsp.

In a large pot, bring beans, garlic, shallot, bouquet garni, salt and pepper and water to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until beans are tender, about 45 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and shallot and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add red wine vinegar and bring to a boil.  Reduce vinegar by halt.  Drain vinegar into a large measuring cup.  Whisk in mustard, parsley and salt and pepper.  While vigorously whisking, add in olive oil.  Whisk until emulsified.

Pour vinaigrette over beans and toss to coat.  Serve warm.

Serves 6-8

Sunday Scrap Lunch: Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with Garlic Bread

I want a vacation.

I haven’t been on a good, proper vacation since my honeymoon.  Three and a half years ago.  I’ve gone out of town, but it’s only been for family gatherings and weddings, which while lovely and very fun, aren’t quite the same as taking a vacation out of town with the hubby.  Just a few days, away from work, alone, just to unwind.  It should be illegal to go three and a half years without taking a few days for yourself.

Roasted Carrots and Garlic
Roasted Garlic Butter and Whole-Wheat Toast

I want to be in the mountains.  In a cabin.  With a fire going.  A mug of green tea and this soup.

Roasting the carrots brings out their sweetness and adds a caramel-like flavor.  The garlic mellows out a lot and retains an almost nutty taste.  I added fresh thyme for its earthiness and ground ginger for a little kick.

Sweet.  Herby.  Peppery.  Nutty.  So delicious.


I used half the roast garlic bulb for garlic toast.  Just mashed the roast garlic into butter, little pepper, and spread it on whole-wheat toast.  Yum, yum, yum.

On a cold Sunday, where all I want to do is stay in, I can imagine I’m on a snowy mountain, in a beautiful cabin, just me and Shawn, a bowl of roasted carrot soup and some garlic toast.


Almost the same as a vacation.  ALMOST. 


Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup

4 large carrots

1 garlic bulb

3 Tbsp. olive oil

4 cups chicken broth

2 Tbsp. fresh thyme

1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Cut carrots in half lengthwise, then in half widthwise, leaving skins on.  Cut garlic bulb in half through the middle.  Brush each carrot and the cut ends on the garlic with olive oil.  Roast in the oven until brown and lightly caramelized, about 20-30 minutes.

In a saucepan, combine carrots, half bulb of garlic (removed from paper skin), chicken broth, thyme, ginger, salt and pepper.  Reserve other half of garlic for toast.  Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.  In a blender, puree soup until vegetables are broken down and soup is thick.  Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and fresh ground pepper.  Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Avegolemono with Lemon-Thyme Potatoes

Avegolemono Ingredients

Sometimes, you just don’t have time.  Chopping takes time, marinating takes planning, baking takes precision.  There is not always time for such things.  Sometimes, you need to be able to throw open the refrigerator door and have dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

Avegolemono with Lemon-Thyme Potatoes

Chicken broth, lemon, egg, rice and chicken.  That’s it.  Ingredients we probably all have laying around the kitchen.  And in 30 minutes, Avegolemono.  A soup so flavorful, smooth, so fresh that you’ll swear you stepped straight from a boat onto a Greek isle.  Finish it off with the smoked sea salt and flower black pepper from Trader Joe’s.  You’ll thank me for it.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Roasted Potatoes Close-Up
Lemon-Thyme Potatoes

While that’s cooking, toss some fingerling potatoes in lemon zest, thyme, garlic and olive oil.  They will roast to perfection in the same amount of time it takes to make the Avegolemono.  Delightful.

Avegolemono with Lemon-Thyme Potatoes

By the way, I got Shawn a new Canon digital camera for Christmas.  I’ve been using it.  Can you tell?  (And yes, I’m totally the wife that gets her husband a gadget for Christmas and then immediately says, “Can I play with it?”)

But time.  Yes, time.  Time is not something we always have.  I usually only prepare dinner once a week since living at my parent’s, but even then I sometimes find myself scrambling at 6:00 to get something on the table.  It’s nice to have a few quick, but delicious, fixes at your fingertips for those “no time” nights.

What’s your favorite dinner quick fix?  THG


Avegolemono (Greek Lemon Soup)

2 chicken breasts

5 fresh thyme stalks

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 cup white rice

3/4 cup lemon juice

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, add chicken breasts and thyme stalks.  Fill with water until just covering the chicken.  Add salt and pepper.  Boil chicken until cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Remove chicken from pot and cut into 1/2” cubes.

In a large saucepan, add chicken broth and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add white rice and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until rice is cooked through and slightly al dente, about 15 minutes.  Add chicken to the broth.

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and egg together.  Slowly add 2 cups of the broth while whisking continuously to temper eggs.  Add egg mixture to soup and whisk to combine.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Lemon-Thyme Potatoes

2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise

2 garlic cloves, minced finely

Zest of 2 lemons

3 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large bowl, toss potatoes with garlic, lemon zest, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread potatoes out on a baking sheet in one layer.  Roast in oven, tossing once, until potatoes are golden brown and tender, about 30 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Meyer Lemon Risotto with Butternut Squash, Quince and Apple Soup

Meyer Lemon Risotto with Butternut Squash Soup

Before Shawn and I moved in with my parents, we lived in a house on the other end of town.  In our backyard we had a Meyer lemon tree.  I loved that tree more than the house itself.  Everything I made had Meyer lemon in it; it was heavenly.

Meyer Lemon

Green Apple
Butternut Squash

Meyer lemon, for those who don’t know, are a much smaller, slightly sweeter lemon.  It’s skin is much thinner, and it tastes slightly like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.  They are fantastic in desserts, and have such a distinct taste they really serve best as the star of a dish.  They have a beautiful, bright yellow color and are incredibly fragrant.

Meyer Lemon Zest and Juice
Meyer Lemon Risotto

This Meyer lemon risotto is so incredibly delicious.  Rich and creamy and decadent yet still fairly light.  The lemon adds a real brightness to the risotto and keeps from weighing it down.  I love risottos.  They seem very fancy, very gourmet, but they’re actually quite easy to make.  You just have to have the time to stand in front of the stove and stir it constantly as required.  Risottos generally call for Arborio rice. 

Arborio Rice

Arborio rice is a short, wide and flat grain that gives very well to the creaminess of the risotto; but a regular short grain white rice will work just fine if you don’t have access to Arborio.  The risotto gets it’s creaminess from two places; the slow simmering of the rice and the addition of cheese (Parmesan in this case).  It comes out so soft, so smooth, so completely delicious, you’ll never want to eat rice in any other way again.  In this particular dish, the Meyer lemon just jumps out at you, but without ever being to sour.

Butternut Squash Soup with Spices
Butternut Squash, Quince and Apple Soup

I wanted a soup to go with the risotto.  Something light and flavorful but wouldn’t upstage the main dish.  I came up with an idea for a butternut squash, quince and green apple soup.  The sweetness of the butternut squash, the tart of the apple, the brightness of the quince, pureed together and seasoned with paprika, cinnamon and cumin.  Quince is a very interesting fruit; starchy like a potato and tastes like a cross between an apple and a lemon.  Very fresh and subtle flavor and works wonderfully in apple dishes.  The soup came out to the consistency of applesauce, which worked just fine for me, but if you wanted a thinner, soupier consistency, you could always increase the amount of broth in it.

I’m not going to lie, I really miss that Meyer lemon tree. I’ve had thoughts about sneaking into the backyard and “borrowing” some, but I’m pretty sure that’s considered breaking and entering.  Or, in my case, “baking and entering”.  Ugh.  That was really bad.  I’ll stop now while you’re still reading


Meyer Lemon Risotto

Meyer Lemon Risotto

5 cups chicken broth

3 Tbsp. butter, divided

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice

2 cups white wine

1 cup Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped

1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice

3 Tbsp. Meyer lemon zest

salt and pepper to taste

Simmer broth in a small saucepan over low heat and cover to keep warm.  Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp. of butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and brown.  Add rice and stir to coat for 1 minute.  Add white wine and stir constantly until wine has evaporated.  Add 1 1/2 cups of the broth to the rice and simmer, stirring constantly until the broth is absorbed.  Repeat, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time, until the broth is all used and rice is cooked through and creamy, only adding more broth once everything is absorbed.  Stir in Parmesan cheese and remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. of butter.  Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and herbs.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Butternut Squash, Quince and Apple Soup

2 Tbsp. butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 butternut squash, diced

1 quince, peeled and diced

3 green apples, peeled and diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground paprika

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

heavy cream

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add garlic and carrots and cook until garlic is brown and carrots are slightly tender.  Add squash, quince, apples, broth and water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.  Transfer soup to a blender, 1 1/2 cups at a time, and puree until smooth.  Add spices and mix to incorporate.  Ladle into serving bowls and drizzle heavy cream over top.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Simple Beef Pho

Simple Beef Pho

Alright, so I have confessed my deep-running distaste for all things pie.  It felt good to get that off my chest, though I’m sure the backlash will be brutal. 


Simple Beef Pho Ingredients

But for today, I wanted to talk about something that I absolutely love: soup.  I love soup, really.  Cream soups, bisques, broths, noodle soups, wonton soups, anything really.  I have several different restaurants that I love to get a particular soup from.  San Francisco Soup Company, a chain in the Bay Area, has the most delicious Tomato Bisque ever.  So smooth and creamy and rich, I could eat gallons of it.  In San Leandro, there is a small Greek restaurant called Luke’s Grill.  It has the best avegolemono, a lemon/chicken/rice soup.  It’s made with egg yolks which gives a super velvety, thick consistency to the broth, and the lemon really brightens up the flavor of the chicken and rice, which could be fairly bland on its own.  It’s such an unexpected taste, to have a lemon flavored savory soup, but it works so well, you will want to order it in every Greek restaurant you step into.  Incredibly filling but refreshing.

Lemongrass and Ginger

Right next door to Luke’s is Le Soleil.  Le Soleil is a Vietnamese restaurant that serves fresh spring rolls, Vietnamese coffees, vermicelli plates and Pho.  Pho, for those who have never had it, is a rice noodle soup served in a very light and specially seasoned broth.  It comes in all sorts of flavors, the most popular though seem to be chicken, veggie and pork.  It’s a great soup, and Le Soleil’s is particularly good.  Gingery, sweet broth with an assortment of fresh veggies, just barely cooked through.  The dish is almost big enough for two (or one incredibly hungry blogger) and it’s generally very inexpensive (Shawn and I can usually eat for under $20).

Sliced Beef

So for all the dozens and dozens of bowls of Pho I have eaten over the years, I’ve never attempted to make it.  I always figured that the broth would be too difficult to figure out, that I would have to search down expensive, foreign ingredients, and that it would take hours of simmering and stewing to get everything just perfect.  I don’t know why I thought that was the case, but nevertheless, I convinced myself that it would be better to not try my hand at it.

Simple Pho Spices

But then this month, while perusing the newest issue of Bon Appétit, I stumbled across this recipe: Faux Pho.  An easy, quick, simple way of preparing Pho at home, and making it with beef, which I had yet to try.  Well, I absolutely had to try it.

Simple Beef Pho

I added my own spin to the dish.  First, I substituted lemongrass for the onion; none of my family are onion eaters, so I omit them from most recipes.  The lemongrass give it a nice little kick and really helps to flavor the oils before adding in the broth.  I also omitted the anise star, but that was because I didn’t have any; next time I would definitely add it in.  I also added in some sweet potatoes for depth and texture, and green snap peas for crunch.

Sweet Potatoes and Snap Peas

I decided to follow the recipes suggestion to use Raman noodles instead of rice noodles.  I figured with the heartiness of the beef, Raman would go better than the light and subtly-flavored rice noodles.  I just used regularly packaged Raman noodles (Ichiban) and boiled them in plain water; the broth would provide plenty of flavoring for them without using those overly-processed-super-salty packaged seasonings.  I finished the bowls off with a lime wedge and a handful of bean sprouts (which my sister Caiti calls “crunchy water”.  Yeah, she’s a little weird.).

This soup was so flavorful and so delicious, I know it will work its way into our regular rotation.  Which is fine by me: definitely always on the lookout for some new, delicious soups.  But I’m sure you’ve already figured that out.  THG

Simple Beef Pho

Simple Beef Pho

(Based on this recipe)

1 tsp. olive oil

1 stalk of lemongrass, trimmed and sliced thinly

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 3” piece of ginger, thinly sliced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

4 cups organic beef broth

2 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 cups green snap peas, stringed

4 packages instant Raman noodles, boiled to al dente and drained

2 1/4 lb. piece of beef round, sliced on diagonal to 1/8”

Bean sprouts

2 limes, quartered

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until almost smoking.  Add lemongrass, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to oil.  Cook until garlic is browned and lemongrass becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add broth, water and cinnamon stick; heat to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat to low and add sweet potatoes.  Simmer while flavors meld and sweet potatoes cook, about 10 minutes.  Add snap peas and cook another 2 minutes.  Remove pot from heat.  Add beef and cook until sides are browned and centers pink, about 30 seconds.  Spoon broth, veggies and beef over Raman noodles in soup bowls.  Garnish with bean sprouts and lime wedges.

Serves 4-6


I love the autumn.  The smells, the crisp air, the energy.  The world seems calmer, happier.  The good spirits that come with the holiday season seems to start with autumn.  Scarves, sweaters, boots, blankets, fires.  Pumpkins, cider, soups, stews, spiced cake.  What’s not to love about autumn?

There’s this path that Shawn and I like to take our dogs hiking on.  It’s just off of Redwood Road, a little path tucked into the hill.  It leads along the backside of some fairly spectacular houses, and back down alongside a golf course.  This time of year, the trails are shaded and covered with leaves that crunch underfoot, the smell of the wet earth and eucalyptus trees just make it pleasantly “fall-y”.  Coming back from one of our recent walks, being surrounded by the incoming autumn weather, all I could think about was pumpkins.  Pumpkins.  And soup.  And warm, crusty bread.  Oh, yum.

Pumpkin Soup edited 1

I used a recipe from the most recent issue of Bon Appétit.  Cheesy, pumpkin-y, smoky, delicious-y.  And yes, I add y’s to the end of most of my adjectives.  This soup is actually baked inside of the pumpkin, so be sure to do it on a cooler day because it will HEAT UP YOUR KITCHEN.  It’s much lighter than most pumpkin or squash soups I’ve had since it’s not cream-based.  Instead it’s just smooth and velvety without any heaviness to it.  The cheese helps to add a creamier texture, and the pumpkin really helps to fill out the subtle flavor of the broth.  The pumpkin itself really stands out, so you definitely need to like the taste of pumpkin to enjoy this soup.

Pumpkin Soup edited 2

In the original recipe, they used breadcrumbs to thicken the soup.  I, however, have an extreme aversion to soggy bread (Wet bread!  Agh!), so I instead added rice to fill out the broth.  It worked just fine, and blended nicely with the cheese.  I also added some fresh sage to the soup, because who doesn’t like fresh sage and pumpkin?  They are the chocolate-peanutbutter of the autumn-harvest-savory-soup world.  Oh, I also like to string words together into super-mega words using hyphens.  I’m weird like that.  THG

Pumpkin Soup edited 3


(adapted from this recipe)

1 6 to 8-lb. pumpkin with a thick skin (Cinderella, Jarrahdale or cheese are best)

1/2 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. chili powder

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

2 cups (packed) grated Gruyère cheese

1/2 cup (packed) grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup instant white rice

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 bay leaves

5 to 7 cups low-salt chicken stock

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Cut a wide lid out of the top of the pumpkin.  Scrape any seeds and strings off the inside of the lid.  Scrape out all seeds and strings from inside the pumpkin (set the seeds aside to roast if you wish).  Place the pumpkin in a roasting pan lined with parchment paper.

Rub the inside flesh of the pumpkin with the 1/2 stick of butter.  Mix together the cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Rub spices inside the pumpkin.  Add the cheese, rice, garlic and bay leaves to the pumpkin.  Pour in stock until 3” from the rim of the pumpkin opening.  Place lid back on the pumpkin.

Roast whole pumpkin for 1 hour.  Remove the lid and set flesh side up next to the pumpkin in the roasting pan.  Add the sage to the soup and stir lightly.  Continue to roast pumpkin and lid until the flesh is tender and pierces easily with a knife, being careful not to puncture the skin.  This should take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of pumpkin being used.

When the pumpkin is soft, remove from the oven.  Discard the bay leaves.  Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, ladle the broth into a bowl and gently scoop the flesh from around the inside of the pumpkin.  Garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Serves 6 to 8.