Thursday, October 30, 2014

Let's all eat some cake!

Poor Marie Antoinette! She is saddled with the unfortunate "let them eat cake" maxim. There is a great amount of controversy around its origin. From all accounts, even though Marie Antoinette was from Austrian aristocracy, she, in fact, had great charity and cared deeply about the people of France. She was the wife of Louis the XIV. There is no record or any evidence that she utter these words. But history is often distorted, and with famine in Europe and the cost of bread ingredients, Marie comes out being callus and unsympathetic.

Marie Antoinette

Today cake is much different than that in Marie's time. In fact, it was the Ancient Greeks that developed the notion of baking.  From that possibility, cake took it's place in history. But even prior to that villages in Neolithic times 10,000 BC, there is evidence of simple cakes made out of grains that were moistened and packed into cakes and likely cooked on hot stones. These were likely more like biscuits and maybe cookies.  But through time and advances  the cakes we are more familiar with were developed.  It is not uncommon when looking at history that the distinction between bread, cake, cookies, and biscuits was not very clear.  

When yeast was discovered, thanks to Louis Pasteur, as a leavening agent, it was used for bread and cake.  They were not all that different, although cake often included honey.  In time, yeast was substituted with eggs that, when whipped up, gave enough air to lift the batter.  This was followed by the introduction in the 19th century of baking soda and baking powder.  (We'll talk more about that in our cookie post coming soon.)  This was probably the defining point of distinguishing bread from cake.  As technology advanced and ovens were improved, baking a cake  was more and more easy to manage.

The word "cake" comes from the old Norse word "kaka."  Cake first made with refined sugar was available mostly to the wealthy who could afford such a new ingredient.  Previously, honey was the sweetener that made cake different from bread.  The French were the first to adopt the concept of dessert and cake finally took it's place as part of the course in a meal. More importantly, during the time that ingredients were expensive, cake became a most special thing.  There is a mystique around cake, and always has been because it was often presented at celebrations.  Let's face it, cake for a birthday, wedding, retirement, or anniversaries is as much a part of the celebration as anything else.  We have held on to the special nature of cake for centuries. Throughout time, cake, regardless of how it was defined, has been a treat. 

So how many different cakes from around the world can you name?  We'll help you out a bit here.
  • Smorgastarta, a savory sandwich cake from Sweden and Finland
  • Panettone, a cake from Italy made with raisins, orange peel and lemon peel
  • Magdalena, a cake from Spain that is much like a muffin
  • Kransekake, a cake from Denmark made with egg whites, sugar and almond
  • Dobos cake, a cake from Hungary is a sponge cake with layers of chocolate cream
  • Petit fours, a cake from France that includes butter cream
  • Sernik, a cake from Poland includes sponge cake, cream cheese, and raisins
  • Yokan, a cake from Japan made with red bean paste
Dobos Cake
And that is only beginning.  Every country, every culture has its own special definition and recipe for cake.  Because there is so many culture within the United States, we wonder if you can name the different cakes just in the US.  Again, we'll help you out.
  • Black Forest Cake, a popular cake in the Midwest with German influence
  • Red Velvet Cake, a cake from the Southern states.  The red originally came from beets
  • Cassata, a dense chocolate cake filled with ricotta cheese from the east coast with Sicilian origins
  • Funnel Cake, well maybe not really a cake.  With a Dutch influence, this cake is found at fair around the country.
  • Marble Cake, originally from Canada or the US, combines white cake with chocolate cake to make a swirl.
Marble Cake
Of course, this list doesn't even begin to address all the cakes from around this country.  But it gives you an idea of how cultures within a culture are influenced from around the world.

But there is a cake not included on the list.  It's the cake we are going to talk about in more detail and ultimately make.  Can you guess?  Here's a hint.  Bugs Bunny would love love love this cake.  Yes, it is Carrot Cake!

Did you know that there is a World Carrot Museum?  Did you know that there are dozens of varieties of carrots?  If you want to know about that, look here.  And did you know that the predecessor to carrot cake was likely carrot pudding made in Medieval times?

Carrot Pudding
Turns out that when sugar was rare and expensive, carrots were used as a sweetener.  It seems that one cup of sliced, cooked carrots has 2.69 grams of sugar.  Now, don't get excited. No one is saying that carrots are not a good food source.  It simply is true that vegetables have dietary sugar.  The balanced nutrition of vegetables is necessary for good health. History shows us the use of various forms of sweeteners like carrots were much easier to come by and actually better for consumption than refined sugar.

From carrot pudding came carrot loaf in Europe, sort of like a quick bread during World War II.  By the 50's the carrot cake made its way to the US.  One story for this new dessert is based on the fact that there was a glut of canned carrots.  George Page, a businessman, hired bakers to find a use for the surplus carrots.  The result was the carrot cake we know today.

Ironically the popularity of carrot cake came in the 70's when it was perceived as being healthy.  Now, while it is true that carrots and walnuts and raisins are easily recognizable as healthy, the truth is that carrot cake also has butter and cream cheese and sugar.  We wouldn't think of suggesting that carrot cake is a health food.  But our purpose is to offer you an opportunity to make your family and yourself a lovely treat.  And so we offer you the 2 Prickly Pear recipe for Carrot Cake.  Let's get started.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
What you need:

2 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cup olive oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups grated carrots

12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon milk (as needed)

What you need to do:

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour 2 9" cake pans.

Whisk together flour, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a large bowl.

Add the oil, eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Fold in the nuts and carrots.

Divide the batter into the 2 cake pans and bake for 45-50 minutes.  Cool on rack for 10 minutes.  Remove the cake from the pans and allow to cool completely.

While cake is cooling, cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Sift the confectioners' sugar into the butter mixture and beat until the mixture is smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Add milk as needed at achieve the necessary thickness.

Once the cake is cooled, frost.

There are literally hundreds of cake recipes to choose from when selecting the perfect treat for a celebration or to simply treat yourself.

Now go out and make something good.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Who doesn't love PIE!?!

Today we aren't really talking about pies in general.  We've already done that in a previous post.  Here it is if you would like to know more about pies.  

What we are talking about today is apple pie, specifically.  It is apple season, after all.  And there are so many apples to choose from whether you are craving a tart crunch or a sweet crunch.  Maybe you are making your favorite apple strudel or a lovely baked apple with caramel sauce.  Fall is the time of the year to truly appreciate and celebrate this most popular fruit.  So let's begin.

No doubt, you have heard the expression "as American as apple pie."  But did you know that crab apples are the only apples native to the United States?  They are considered wild apples and Native Americans cultivated apples extensively, although you can find wild apples in many other countries.  In fact, the crab apple is considered the ancestor of many varieties of apples grown today around the world.  

There are over 10,000 varieties of apples.  Here's a site that will break down the varieties alphabetically for you.  Apples are a member of the rose family.  And if you look at apple blossoms you will see that they are very similar to wild rose blossoms. 

The word apples comes from the Old English word "aeppel."  Apple remnants have been found by archaeologists in Switzerland dating back to the Iron Age, around 800 BC.  There is also evidence that, in the Stone Age, apples where preserved  by drying them.  And as early as 20,000 years ago, in the countries of China and Egypt, humans understood the art of grafting fruit trees, including apple trees. 

Crab Apples
Interestingly enough, crab apple trees in the early days produced very few apples.  The reason is that there weren't any honey bees.  Turns out that the colonist brought those along with them, as well and apple seedlings and seeds.  The first shipment of honey bees arrived in Virginia in 1622.  The natives called the bees, "English flies." 

So how do we get from the stone age to apple pie being a symbol of America?  During World War II, American soldiers, when asked what they were fighting for would often say, "for Mom and Apple Pie.  That was a very common catch phrase.  In short order, that phrase morphed into "as American as Mom and Apple Pie.  And by the 60's, the expression became "as American as Apple Pie."  We don't know what happened to "Mom."

So even though the first apple orchard in the United States was planted in Massachusetts in 1625, it wasn't till the 20 Century that apple pie took its place in American's patriotic hearts.

If you are wondering how it is that apples got from the east coast all the way to the west coasts, let your wondering stop.  We can thank a man who we will call "Johnny Appleseed." Yes, there really was a Johnny Appleseed.  His real name was John Chapmen (1774-1845). He was born in Massachusetts and his dream was that the land produce so many apples that no one would go hungry.  

John traveled all over the new territories leasing land and developing nurseries.  He would collect apple seeds from cider mills, dry them, and put them in small bags.  He then would give them to people who were heading west.  He also made it his business to build nurseries that grew other fruit as well as vegetables and herbs.  John had a reputation for eccentricity and was completely dedicated to his mission to grow apples.

Johnny Appleseed died at the age of 70; he is buried in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He spent 50 years growing apple trees and traveling to spread his precious trees around the country so that people could enjoy apples. In 1966, the US Postal Service designed a 5 cent stamp honoring Johnny Appleseed. 

Long before Johnny Appleseed and even before the first European apple seeds were planted in Massachusetts, there was recorded the expression, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."  Only that wasn't the exact wording.  In February 1866, in a Welch magazine, it was written,  "A Pembrokeshire proverb:  Eat an apple on going to bed. And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."   Who ever said it first made a great point.  Here are some of the benefits to eating an apple a day:
  1. Phtyto-nutrients and anti-oxidants for optimal growth, development and overall wellness.
  2. Low in calories, but contain no saturated fats or cholesterol.  They are rich in dietary fiber, which helps prevent absorption of LDL or bad cholesterol.  
  3. High amount of Vitamin C and beta-carotene, both develop resistance against infectious agents in the body.
  4. A good source of B-complex such as riboflavin, thiamin, and pyridoxine.  These vitamins help metabolism.
  5. Small amounts of minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.
Now that we know the history of the apple, let's get down to the business of what to do with them.  There are a zillion ways to eat apples.  Just this morning I ate a fresh Honey Crisp with chunky peanut butter...yummy.  They can be baked, sauced, dried, tossed in a fruit salad, made into apple butter, made into a crisp, carameled, juiced, you name it.  But we are not here today for any of those ideas.  We are all about the pie.  

So today we offer you a classic recipe for apple pie....the 2 Prickly Pears version of Dutch Apple Pie.  Most apples pies have a double crust.  A Dutch Apple Pie has a single crust and is topped with a streusel-like mixture.  

When choosing which apples will make the best pie, there is a general understanding that Granny Smith is the best.  The reason for this is because it is a tart and firm apple.  The tartness pairs well with the sugar that is added to the filling.  The firmness means that the apple won't fall apart while baking.  Having said that, there are a variety of apples that work well in pie making.  Braeburn apples are tart, with a wonderful flavor and are firm enough to stand up to baking.  In this recipe, I used 4 Granny Smith and 2 Honey Crisp.  I like the combination of sweet and tart.  Feel free to use whatever combination you like.  

Dutch Apple Pie.

What you need:

1, 9" pie crust (see link above)
1 egg white thoroughly beaten

5 cups apples, peeled and cored
3 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 Tablespoons butter

3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter

What you need to do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush pie crust all over with beaten egg white and set aside.

Place sliced apples in large bowl.  In another bowl mix the 3 T flour, sugar, 1 T cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Add mixture to apples.  Toss until apples are evenly coated.

Place apple mixture in pie crust.  Cover losely with aluminum foil.  Bake for 10 minutes.

While filling is basking, make the Streusel Topping by combining 3/4 cup flour, 12/teaspoon cinnamon, brown sugar, and oats in food processor.  Pulse until mixture is crumbly.

Remove pie from oven and sprinkle streusel on top.  

Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake pie for an additional 45-55 minutes until streusel is brown and apples are tender.  Losely cover with aluminum foil to prevent to much browning.

Cool on wire rack.  ENJOY!

It is apple season and fall is in the air.  Find an apple orchard and pick your own fresh apples. Bring them home and make an apple pie.  There's nothing like it!

Now go out and make something good.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Whoever said writing the history of some foods was going to be easy was simply crazy!   Who would have thought the history of stew started 8,000 years ago or more when artifacts of turtle shells where found in the Amazon by an indigenous tribe who used them to create a form of a stew with meat and vegetables in the area.  You just never know what you will find when you start digging.

In the Roman cookbook call Apicius believed to date back to the 4th century and the oldest cookbook in French called Le Viandier mention various type of stews.  We would be remiss not to mention the importance of Hungarian Goulash and Irish Stews in the world of stews that date back to earlier times.

So what is stew?  It is more than just a pot over an open camp fire or a cast iron pot in the fireplace of a pioneer settler home we commonly see in an old western movie.  Of course every culture has it variation but the basics of a stew is a combination of vegetables and meats, normally a tougher meat that is normally used for slow cooking.   The ingredients are cooked in a liquid such as wine, stock, beer and even water for several hours until the meat is soft and tender. Who hasn't thrown a combination of what I mentioned in a crockpot in the morning before leaving for work only to come home to a yummy goodness ready to eat?

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the meat.  As mentioned the meat should be the least tender cut.  These cuts normally contain a marbling effect which lends to a juicier stew then a lean cut of meat.  A leaner cut will be dry from cooking so long.  A tougher cut of meat doesn't mean it is a bad cut.  On the contrary, it is perfect for stew.  Once the meat and veggies are cooked the liquid is normally thickened by reducing it or thickening it with flour.  Both are acceptable techniques in the world of stews.

There is little difference between soups and stews and many think they are the same. However soups normally have more liquid then stews....except at my house.  Soups and stews all look the same. :-) 

Today stews are common in all cultures and countries.  Here are a few you might recognize...

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff, a stew with beef from Russia.  Seeing this on the list makes me want to make it soon!
Bourguignon, a French dish of beef stewed in red burgundy wine.  If you haven't made Julia Child's Beef Bouguignon...well you need to!  YUM!!
Booyah, an American meat stew...  This is for my friends and family in Green Bay WI.  Chicken Booyah!   I can smell it all the way to FL!
Bouillabaisse, a fish stew from Provence.
Brunswick stew, from Virginia and the Carolina's.
Chili con carne, Mexican-American meat and chili pepper stew.
Goulash, a Hungarian meat stew with paprika.  Have you ever met a goulash you didn't like?
Gumbo, a Louisiana creole dish.   Cajun cooking.... oh my!
Irish stew, made with lamb or mutton, potato, onion and parsley.
Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat.  If you know me you know why this is on the list.  I could just swim in the stuff!
Ratatouille, a French vegetable stew.
Yahni, a Greek, Turkish, and Persian stew.

For a more complete list of stews from other countries go to

What is your memory of stews?  In our house I remember a stew had beef in it with everything but the kitchen sick thrown in!  It was always served over noodles.   Our dad (Lloyd) threw caution to the wind when he cooked so it was not surprising to find a leftover hot dog cut up in chunks floating around in our stew.  I didn't really like that kind of cooking but in our house you did not complain about what was put on the table.   It could be why I make sure hot dogs are kept to eating in a bun and not available in the house when it is time to make stew...LOL!

As you can see by my comments above I like stews.  It is a comfort food to me and it best served in the Autumn or Winter, but I will eat it anytime.  However with all there is to chose from I decided to pick something I have not made in a long time.  Jambalaya!!!  Though I don't come from the south, I think I make a pretty good Jambalaya.

Here is what you need...
3 (14 1/2 oz) cans chicken broth (can use homemade stock also, which is what I prefer)
1 (14 1/2 oz) canned diced tomatoes with juice (can use homemade canned tomatoes, which is what I prefer)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp cayanne pepper
1 1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup diced celery
1 Fennel bulb diced/sliced
2/3 cup brown rice (can also use wild rice, which is what I prefer)
4 oz cooked andouille or chorizo sausage or a combination diced/sliced or your favorite type of sausage
8 chicken drumsticks (leave the skin on for flavor while cooking)
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, diced
1 lb uncooked shrimp peeled
1/2 lb okra fresh or frozen

Here is what you do...
This can be made in a slow cooker or on the stove top.   Stove top will be faster but it is perfect in a slow cooker if you are going to be gone all day.   The steps to make are the same.

In a slow cooker, combine the first 10 ingredients.  Cook in high for 4 -5 hours or until the rice and chicken are cooked through.  When the chicken is cooked, remove from the slow cooker.  Let them cool and remove the skin from the chicken and remove the chicken from the bone.  Add chicken back to the cooker along with the shrimp and okra.  Simmer for about 5 - 10 minutes or until the shrimp is done.  Do not over cook the shrimp.  Serve with a nice salad and bread.  

Pretty easy... now go and make something good.....and share your talents with others!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

With a chill in the air, it's time to talk Chili!

What were you doing on February 27th?  If you were eating a bowl of chili, then you were right on time.  What does February and chili have in common.  Turns out the 4th Thursday of February is National Chili Day.  And not only is there a national day for chili, there is an International Chili Society, which just happens to be holding their Championship Chili Cookoff on October 24-26, 2014.  This event is happening in Las Vegas.  Now we're not saying what you should do with that information, but we will say that, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."  Have a good time!

Now, about you know, The 2 Prickly Pears do not take sides on any issue that involves culinary diversity.  We believe there is room for all and "each to her/his own taste," as it were.  So as we begin to discuss the influences of culture and territory when it comes to chili, please don't get excited that we might play favorites.  We will not.  Having said that, we will inform you that people everywhere take their chili seriously.  Many regions will not discuss what they consider abominations to their chili sensibilities.  For example, how do you feel about the following:
  1. Chili with tomatoes vs. chili with no tomatoes
  2. Chili with ground beef vs. chili with chopped beef
  3. Chili with chocolate vs. chili without chocolate
  4. Chili with meat vs. vegetarian chili
  5. Red Chili vs. white chili
  6. Chili with kidney beans vs. chili with pinto beans vs. chili with black vs chili with no beans
  7. Chili with or over pasta vs. absolutely NO pasta!
  8. Chili with red pepper flakes vs. chili with ancho chilies
  9. Chili with cinnamon/allspice/clove vs. chili with just chili powder/cumin
  10. Chili with ketchup vs. what the heck are you thinking!!!???
  11. Chili with a thin sauce vs chili that is more stew like
  12. Chili with beer vs chili with soda vs.  what the heck are you thinking???!!!
No, we aren't trying to start a war here.  Quite frankly, the war began long ago, probably right around the time the 2nd person ever to make chili squared off with the 1st person to ever make chili.  And the feuding hasn't stopped since.  

If you are from the northern states, you are familiar with beans in your chili.  If you are from the south, you won't find nary a bean in sight of a bowl of chili.  The 2 Prickly Pears grew up eating chili with elbow macaroni.  Some call that chili mac.  Some call that yuk!  As I recall, it was good.  And from a purely economical standpoint, the macaroni made the meal go further.  This was important with a big family to feed.  

There's a place in our hometown of Green Bay, WI, called Chili Johns.  It opened in 1913 and later opened another site in California.  Both restaurants are still in operation.  If you sit down at the counter to order your bowl of chili, you will inevitably be asked if you want it with spaghetti.  And you will get oyster crackers on the side.  There's another place that makes a chili that you can either get served over spaghetti or not.  Their version is slow cooked for 6-8 hours and has beans.  It is thick and has deep flavors of cumin and chili powder.  The first time I had it, I wasn't sure what to make of it.  

We are not suggesting that Green Bay is a hot bed of chili making nor that they have a corner on how to make chili.  We are suggesting that it is likely that no matter where you go from Texas to the Midwest to the West Coast to the Southwest, you will find a chili culture.  And we say try them all.  Don't be offended, just embrace the notion of "when in Rome, do as the Roman's do."

When it comes to throwing down the gauntlet, Texas may win the prize.  Turns out that President Johnson, a Texan, is quoted as saying that "Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing."  In 1977, chili manufacturers successfully lobbied the legislature and had chili be the "state food."  This in recognition of the fact that the only "bowl of red" is one prepared in Texas.

Texas Chili
That's a bold statement.  We've no doubt that Texas chili is great.  However, the folks of New Mexico have something to say about chili.  Their recipe includes black beans, corn and green chilies.  And they are not ashamed to say so.

New Mexico Chili made with green chilies
Which ever way you choose to make your chili there are some does and don't that are consistent in the world of chili-making.
  • Brown beef before adding to chili.  Searing the meat will add a richer deeper taste.
  • Saute your vegetables first to get the maximum flavor out of them.  Don't be afraid to use lots of onion and fresh garlic.
  • Instead of using a chili seasoning mix, use separate spices and season your chili.
  • Season your chili in layers rather than adding everything at the end.  This way everything will be well seasoned and can be adjusted as you go along.
  • Cooking your chili slow ensure the deepest best taste.  All the ingredients will meld together.
These simple steps will go a long way to have the best tasting chili.  You'll be happy you did.

We offer you a simple chili recipe that uses ground beef and beans.  You can easily adjust the seasoning to suit your taste.  

What you need:
2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, diced (pick the color you like)
1 Tablespoon organic seasoning salt
1 Tablespoon chili powder (more or less to taste)
1 Tablespoon cumin (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon red chili flakes (more if you like more heat)
1 large can tomato sauce (if you like it chunkier use diced tomato sauce)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 can chili beans (do not drain)
1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese
sour cream

What you need to do:
Brown ground beef and drain.  Set aside.  In large dutch oven saute onion, garlic and bell peppers. Season vegetables with organic seasoning salt.  Saute until vegetables are soft but not browned.  Add chili powder, cumin and red chili flakes.  Saute for another minute.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste and water.  Mix thoroughly.  Add ground beef and simmer on low for an hour.  If chili is too thick, add additional water to desired consistency.  Allow to cook slowly, stirring occasionally.  Taste as you go and adjust seasoning accordingly.  Add sugar and chili beans.  Heat through.  Allow your chili to sit for awhile before reheating and serving.  You want to make sure all your seasonings marry into your chili for best results.

Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream as garnish along with some corn bread.

There are as many versions of chili as there are communities that enjoy it.  Feel free to experiment and make your chili your way!

Next week, Chef Pam will give us the news on stews.  And has she got a recipe for you!!!

Now go out and make something good!

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Oh, how comforting is a simple bowl of soup when the wind blows or when you just not feeling so well!?  We are all very familiar with soup.  We have our favorites whether it is a simple broth with vegetables or a rich chowder that is creamy and hearty.  

Today we will be looking at soup, its history and its place in our culinary experience.

To begin with soup is likely one of the oldest prepared foods known to humans.  It dates back to the first time that pottery was developed and could be used to hold liquid.  At this time water was used to boil grains, root vegetables, and beans for easier consumption.  The water or broth was reserved and used later.  Such a broth offered tasty possibilities for a side dish that was often called gruel or porridge.  This was served with bread.  Ever wonder why bread is served with soup?  This may be the explanation.  The bread would be used to "sop" up the broth.  During this time, appropriate cutlery wasn't available so the bread served more than one purpose.  Also, this is likely the beginning of the crouton, which is often served in soup today.  French Onion Soup is a good example.

French Onion Soup
The word "soup" is influenced by the French, Italian, and German language.  Originally derived from the Latin word suppae soak, the Italian word suppa, and the German root word sup, we eventually get to the word soup.  But the word means so much more.  It is likely the reason we have the word supper.  Supper was often the name for the last meal of the day.  It was lighter than the other meals and more than likely consisted of broth and bread.

Even the word restaurant finds its beginning associated with soup.  The first public places that served food in the 18th Century in Paris offered broths and consummes.  These soups supported what became Classic French cuisine.  In fact, we can thank the French for the development of many of the soups we know today.

During the Renaissance period (14th-17th Century) soup became a first course of a meal rather than the meal itself.  Also during this time, soup began to evolve as seasonings and spices were more available.  This was also when the spoon was invented.  And we are grateful for that.  Not only did the spoon make eating soup so much easier, it also meant that heartier and richer soups were created.

Original carved spoons
There is hardly a culture around the world that doesn't have their own version of soup.  To prove our point we offer you the following:

  • Tarhana is a Persian soup made with fermented grains and yogurt.
  • Waterzooi is a Belgian fish soup.
  • Soto is a traditional Indonesian soup made with either beef or chicken with tumeric.
  • Lentil soup is popular in Middle East and Mediterranean cuisines.
  • Fanesca is a soup of Ecuador made with cod.
  • Bird's Next soup is a delicacy of Chinese cuisine.
  • Egusi is a traditional soup of Nigeria.
  • Avgolemono is a chicken, lemon and egg soup of Greece.
  • Caldo verge is a soup of kale from Portugal.

Avgolemono soup

And believe you me, that is only a short list of the very many soups from around the world. And, of course, the soups that we know in the many regions of the US were greatly influenced by immigrants from all over the world.  We would go so far as to say that soup is a time honored tradition.  The first cookbook dedicated to soup was published in 1882.  It was written by Emma Ewing and was entitled Soups and Soup Making.

Just when you think you understand soup, you find out there is more to learn.  For example, have you ever had a dessert soup?   How about a Chilled Mango Soup!   Then again, there is a cold and savory soup called Vichyssoie, which is a potato leek soup.  And while we tend to think of soup with lots of vegetables, potatoes, pasta, and meats or fish, there are those clear broth soups that are called Consumme.   A consumme is a richly flavored clarified broth.

So how did we decide which soup to prepare for our weekly recipe?  There are so many to choose from and there are so many to like.  When in doubt, go to a classic.  So today we offer you the quintessential comfort soup, Chicken Noodle. While in and of itself, this soup may not actually clear up a cold, the wonderful nutrition of chicken noodle soup will go a long way to give you comfort.  And if you use fresh garlic and other savories, you will do your body good.  That and the inevitable love that goes into this soup won't hurt one little bit! And if you make your own soup, you need never hear No Soup for You!!

Here we go with Chicken Noodle soup:

Chicken Noodle Soup
What you need:
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped *
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced *
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock **
8 ounces of wide egg noodles ***
1 1/2 cup diced chicken breast
Salt and Pepper to taste

What you need to do:
In a large pot add enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add the onion, garlic, carrots, fennel, type and bay leaf.  Cook and stir for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked but not browned.  Add chicken stock and bring the liquid to a boil.  Turn down to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and thyme sprigs.  Add noodles and cook just until tender. Gently stir in chicken and continue to simmer until chicken is heated through.  Season to taste.

* Add lots and lots of onion and garlic.  Did you know that garlic is a natural antibiotic?  And with Halloween very close, it wouldn't hurt a bit to put an extra clove in your soup.

** If you are making your own chicken broth, here's a recipe.  It takes a little time, but your end results will be worth it.

*** Don't worry so much about what noodles you use. Pick the kind you like and that will be best.  I used linguine noodles that I broke up.

This recipe is easily adjusted to your own personal taste.  Pair your lovely soup with an artisan bread.  It's an unbeatable combination.  

Now, go out and making something good!