I’ve quoted Tamar Adler before, author of the highly-recommended An Everlasting Meal. She says of soups that “The best soups are a day old. Soup mustn’t be fresh, but mature. They needn’t taste of their ingredients, but only give their ingredients somewhere to be left off and picked up again. I learned to make soup from my mother, whose potages contained whatever was around, much of it already cooked: roasted root vegetables, boiled potatoes or turnips, an odd handful of herbs.” Adler’s advice seems particularly apropos to this farmhouse vegetable barley soup filled with carrots, celery, potatoes, turnips. They cozy up to hearty barley, and are “picked up” and enhanced by porcini powder giving them a depth and earthiness. If this doesn’t warm you up on a cold January day I don’t know what will.

1/8 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

8 sprigs fresh parsley plus 3 tablespoons chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil

1  1/2  pounds leeks, white and light green parts sliced 1/2 inch thick and washed thoroughly

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons soy sauce

Salt and pepper

10 cups veggie stock

1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed

1 garlic clove, minced

1  1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 turnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 cup frozen peas

1 teaspoon lemon juice

sea salt and pepper

Grind porcini with a spice grinder until they resemble fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds. Measure out 2 teaspoons porcini powder. Reserve remainder for other use. Using kitchen twine, tie together parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay leaf.

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery, wine, soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.

Add water, broth, barley, porcini powder, herb bundle, and garlic. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.

Add potatoes and turnip. Return to simmer and cook until barley, potatoes and turnip are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and remove herb bundle. Stir in peas, lemon juice, and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen


October 17, 2015


For me, borscht conjures images of the Russian steppes, a snappy cold autumn wind, the musty smell of a root cellar, warmth in the belly, and a grandmother’s love. It’s a soup made for this time of year with the sweetness of good hearty vegetables just harvested – cabbage, beets, carrots – and the sourness of apple cider vinegar straight from laden orchards. In fact sweet and sour is one of its signature qualities going back to its slavic origins when it was known as *bŭrščǐ  which means hogweed. Hogweed was the soup’s original ingredient before it was replaced with other vegetables and then brought to North America by Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. I like that the recipe was featured in the Domostroy, a 16th-century Russian compendium of “moral rules and homemaking advice” where it notes, as an essential part of the recipe, “for the Lord’s sake, to share it with those in need.” I got the basis for the version below from Liz at Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre who fortunately took that advice and shared it with me.


3 tbsps olive oil

2 large onions, sliced finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

seasoning – caraway, dill, fennel seeds, myrtle, or whatever tickles your fancy

2 medium carrots, grated

3 large beets, grated

1 small head of red cabbage, sliced finely

sea salt and pepper

6 cups veggie or smoked cabbage stock 

2 tbsps apple cider vinegar

In a large dutch oven heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add sliced onions and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add seasoning – seeds or ground spices. Sauté for a minute or two being careful not to burn them. Add carrots, beets, cabbage and a bit of sea salt and pepper on top. Cover with stock, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Let simmer until vegetables are tender, 20 – 30 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar and season to taste.

cabbage soup 1

This recipe is quite a treat. Andrew and I were in NYC a couple of weeks ago and ate at The Gramercy Tavern for his birthday dinner. We had the vegetarian tasting menu.  The main course was this simple but powerful smoked cabbage soup with raw vegetables and grilled Japanese sweet potato – or satsumaimo – unlike any soup I’ve eaten before. Lo and behold, we were invited into the kitchen at the end of dinner to meet the chef and we were given the broad outlines of the recipe. I’ve looked all over for a similar recipe and I can’t find one. So, you saw it here first. I have to admit that theirs was better but this one’s pretty damn good.

cabbage soup 2

1 head cabbage, quartered

sea salt

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced finely

1 tbsp minced ginger

sprinkle of red pepper chili flakes

6 cups veggie stock

3 tbsps tamari sauce

1 1/2 tsps sherry vinegar

1 satsumaimo sweet potato, peeled and cut into large cubes

2 brussels sprouts, shaved finely

2 green onion, chopped finely

a handful of sliced cabbage, carrots, radishes or other vegetables of your choosing

2 chanterelle mushrooms, chopped coursly

tender green shoots

cabbage soup 3

Preheat your BBQ to high. Add hickory (or any fruit wood) in a small smoking box to create a home-made smoking oven. Add the quartered cabbage and grill on all sides. Once it’s nicely browned, turn down the heat to low, salt the cabbage well, and smoke the cabbage for approximately 2 hours until it’s super tender and smokey. Leave the BBQ on low heat.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Sauté onions until carmelized. Add garlic, minced ginger, and chili flakes and sauté for another 3-5 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, and smoked cabbage. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until the flavours meld. Strain and finish with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Keep piping hot over the stove.

While your stock is cooking, prepare the satsumaimo sweet potato by peeling it and cutting it into large cubes. Brush with a little olive oil and grill in the BBQ on low heat until soft and charred on the outside.

Prepare your other vegetables and place them in the bottom of large soup bowls. Add the grilled satsumaimo. Finish with some tender shoots. Place vegetable bowls in front of hungry eaters and when everyone is seated and ready, pour smoked cabbage stock over the vegetables to the sounds of “oooohh” and “ahhhhhh.” Feel the satisfaction.


beet soup

This is a recipe I found in Epicurious magazine. It called to me on this wintry day because soups are so hearty and warming, and beets so nourishing, and coconut milk and ginger so tasty together. It seemed the perfect concoction on a cold, snowy day. I used chioggia beets – also known as candy cane beets – which are an heirloom beet from the 19th century from the town of chioggia near Venice. You can use any beet you find or have or desire. The colour will change but the taste will be as earthy and sweet regardless.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped ginger

4 large red beets, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

4 cups vegetable stock

1 can (14.5 ounces) coconut milk

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

parsley, minced for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion, 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add beets and stock; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until beets are fork-tender, 20 minutes. With an immersion or regular blender, purée soup. Return to pot. Stir in coconut milk, salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Serve hot with some crusty bread.

roasted parsnip soup


My favourite holiday read was “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler, so favourite in fact that it’s going to become required reading in this house for her simple, creative, poetic, completely authentic approach to food and cooking. This soup – sweet from the tomatoes, spicy due to the hints of coriander, cumin, turmeric and mustard seed, earthy from the parsnips, and entirely satisfying – didn’t come from Adler’s book but was, in part, inspired by her. She’s a big proponent of finding what’s in the fridge, roasting it, and making something good with a big glug of olive oil, pinch of salt and some pepper. That’s what I did with this soup, and good it is.

Which brings me to one of Adler’s insights, which she sprinkles like parsley through the pages: “There is great dignity in allowing oneself to keep clear about what is good … Whether things were ever simpler than they are now, or better if they were, we can’t know. We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our most foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar. And knowing that is probably the best way to cook, and certainly the best way to live.”

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seed

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp mustard seeds

1 large onion, cut into 8 chunks

2 garlic cloves

2 lbs parsnips, diced

2 plum tomatoes, quartered

4 cups vegetable or tomato stock

1 tbsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oil,  spices, and vegetables and give them a good toss. Spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put them in the oven. Bake until they are tender and slightly browned on the edges, about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are done, spoon them into a food processor with half the stock. Pour them into a saucepan or small dutch oven with the remaining stock. Bring them back to the desired temperature and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. Add seasoning to taste. Serve with good crusty baguette or boule and enjoy the good, simple pleasures of the table.



Every fall season needs its own version of minestrone made up from whatever is in season or happens to be in the pantry, as it has been for centuries. Some of the earliest origins of minestrone soup pre-date the expansion of the Latin tribes of Rome, “when the local diet was vegetarian by necessity.'” Marcus Apicius’s ancient cookbook De Re Coquinaria described polus, a Roman soup dating back to 30 AD made up of farro, chickpeas, and fava beans, with onions, garlic, and greens thrown in.

Like many Italian dishes, minestrone was probably originally not a dish made for its own sake – the ingredients were pooled from whatever happened to be in the pantry. There are two schools of thought on when the recipe for minestrone became more formalized, the details of which are confusing. Suffice it to say there are a number of theories with dates and reasons, and rationales, and so on.

Let the argument rage on. It’s no matter to me. If I had to choose I would go with an organic-use-whatever-is-available approach as I did with this minestrone. This version is made from vicki’s veggies awesome delicata squash, leeks, beans, slow roasted tomatoes, onions, and garlic from the farmers’ market yesterday – and fresh arugula for the salsa verde which adds an amazing spiciness, zip and zing to the soup. On a chilly autumn day you can’t beat it.

1 pound dried navy or cannellini (white kidney) beans (or canned beans)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling

2 large onions, finely chopped

4 small leeks, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped

4 small celery stalks with leaves (from celery heart), chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

sea salt, freshly ground pepper

1 squash, delicata or otherwise (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces

10 cups veggie stock

1 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces

1 cup slow-roasted tomatoes (or just fresh tomatoes if necessary)

1 pound small pasta (such as tiny shells or pipette)

small bunch of thyme, leaves removed

Place navy beans in a large pot; add cold water to cover by 2″. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in another large heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add onion, leeks, celery, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes.

Add squash, navy beans, soaking liquid, and stock to pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until navy beans are tender, 1 1/2–2 hours.

When soup is almost finished cooking, add green beans, slow-roasted tomatoes, pasta and thyme leaves. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente. Adjust seasoning. Serve with a big dollop of salsa verde.

salsa verde

2 plum tomatoes

1 garlic clove

3 cups arugula leaves

1/4 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more

Mix tomatoes, garlic, arugula, breadcrumbs, capers, and vinegar in a food processor. Pulse on low until just roughly chopped. Quickly mix in 3/4 cup oil so it stays roughly chopped but well mixed. Transfer to a bowl and pour a little oil on surface to keep salsa from discoloring.


sweet potato curry

Fresh English peas are not necessarily the star attraction in this simple, elegant, and surprisingly light red curry, but without them you wouldn’t have that spring zing and bright green sphere to feast your eyes on. I haven’t seen fresh shelling peas in the market for awhile but tripped upon some the other day and couldn’t resist, given that winter won’t release us despite the fact that it’s almost April. The earliest archaeological finds of wild pea date from the late neolithic era of current Greece, Syria, Turkey and Jordan. In Egypt, early finds date from ca. 4800–4400 BC in the Nile delta area, and they were present in Georgia in the 5th millennium BC. Now that’s just kind of crazy. They found their way to England – hence “The English Pea” and “Peas Porridge” and other horrid sounding recipes – and fortunately found their way here to grace much more appetizing dishes like this simple curry.

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp red curry paste

1 pound sweet potato, peeled and cubed

2 cups vegetable stock

1 13-oz can coconut milk

6 kaffir lime leaves

1 pound firm tofu, cubed

1.5 cups peas, freshly shelled or frozen

2 tbsps tamari

green onion, cilantro, red pepper flakes

In a wok over medium-high heat, heat up sunflower oil. Add red curry paste and mix well, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add cubed sweet potato and cook for a few minutes until sweet potato is coated.

Add vegetable stock, coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes until sweet potato is soft. Add tofu, peas, and tamari  and let simmer for a few more minutes until tofu is warmed through. Just before serving, add garnishes to your liking including green onion, cilantro, and/or red pepper flakes.



I like this recipe for a number of reasons. First, it’s a great detox when you are feeling in the need for some cleansing. Second, it’s a great way to clean out the refrigerator when you’ve got odds and ends of kale, broccolini, mushrooms, green onions, whatever. Third, it’s a great way to carry any elemental, delicious, nurturing stock whether veggie, mushroom, or dashi. I adapted it from a new cookbook call A Love For Food. I went to London this past December with my Global Alliance for the Future of Food hat on, for a meeting on the true cost of food – check out what HRH The Prince of Wales has to say on the subject – and we were given the cookbook as a gift. It’s full of all sorts of British fare like Welsh Rarebit and Chutney, Bubble and Squeak, Pan Haggerty … you get the picture. Use the recipe below as a guideline but use your imagination and whatever happens to be  left in the back corners of your fridge.


GingerVeggieSoup2 tbsps olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

Various quantities of various vegetables (carrots, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, celeriac, celery, leeks, etc.), chopped finely or shredded

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tsps fresh ginger root, minced

6 cups stock, veggie, mushroom, or dashi

bunch cilantro, chopped

bunch parsley, chopped

bunch of basil, chopped

sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add onion and shredded vegetables, garlic and ginger, and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low and let simmer while vegetables continue to cook and flavours meld, about 6 minutes. Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Adjust seasoning and serve.

hot and sour soup

January 21, 2014

hot and sour soup

It’s -21 celsius (that’s -6 fahrenheit for our friends south of the border) here in Toronto which made me think that it’s a good day to put on a pot of hot and sour soup to warm the blood. I’m not exactly sure from whence and where hot and sour soup originates but lots of cultures have it – in China this soup is claimed variously by Beijing and Sichuan as a regional dish; Canh chua (literally “sour soup”) is indigenous to the Mekong River region of southern Vietnam; Cambodia has a version called Samlor machu pkong traditionally made with shrimp; Thailand has Tom yum; and India has its own versions typically made with red and green chillies, ginger, carrots, snow peas, tofu, soy sauce, rice vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Many hot and sour soups you find these days contain meat and some thickening agent like eggs or cornstarch, but the following version requires neither meat nor a thickener as the “hot” and “sour” stand out on their own on the main stage stage, as they should.

2 tbsps sunflower oil

6 green onions, white and green parts, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

1 pound firm tofu, cubed

8 – 10 cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly

4 cups shiitake kombu dashi or veggie stock

1 tsp cane sugar

2/3 cup rice vinegar

3 tbsps tamari

1 tbsp sesame oil

1/2 tbsp sriracha*, or other hot sauce

ground pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat the sunflower oil over medium- high heat. Add the green onion, garlic, ginger, tofu, and mushrooms, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes until the flavours meld and everything softens up a bit.

Add the dashi or stock, sugar, vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, and sriracha and bring the soup to a boil. Turn down to  simmer and let cook for 5 – 10 minutes over low heat. Add pepper to taste. Adjust to your liking with either more vinegar (for more “sour”) or more sriracha (for more “hot”).

Serve immediately with a little garnish of sesame oil, green onion, or pepper if you like.

*Please note that sriracha is now more than just a brand sauce. Other brands make sriracha and have been known to add shrimp paste. Huy Fong, the dominant provider of sriracha, does not have shrimp paste or fish sauce but just check before you buy.


I’ve posted other soups similar to this one, like the wabun point potage, ribollita, and minestrone. So this recipe is less about the actual recipe and more about the procurement of ingredients. We all have beans and rice in the pantry (or should!) but this soup features two ingredients that take this soup up a notch or several. First, instead of your ordinary grain, I used farro, or more specifically, emmer grown in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany with an IGP designation (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) which by law guarantees its geographic origin. Second, I used Gialet beans which are Slow Food Presidia protected. If you don’t know Presidia, “the Presidia sustain quality production at risk of extinction, protect unique regions and ecosystems, recover traditional processing methods, safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties.” Wendell Berry says that “eating is an agricultural act” and it’s true. By purchasing foods that protect our farmers, our fields, our biodiversity, our traditions, we advocate for the systems we want and don’t want. All in a bowl of soup. 

4 tbsps olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

8 baby potatoes, quartered

2 cloves garlic, minced

handful of fresh thyme

1 cup farro

4 cups veggie stock, plus water from cooking the beans if necessary

1 cup stewed tomatoes

1 cup cooked gialet beans

sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven. Sauté onion, carrot, celery, and potatoes until they begin to soften up, about 10 – 15 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and sauté until garlic becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add dry farro and stir until coated with the olive oil. Add veggie stock and cook for about 20 – 25 minutes until farro is cooked. If you need more liquid, add additional veggie stock or some of the water from cooking the beans. Once the farro is done, add stewed tomatoes, gialet beans, and sea salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat for another 5 – 10 minutes until the flavours meld, adjust seasoning, and serve with some bread or other delicacy that sustains quality production, protects unique regions and ecosystems, recovers traditional processing methods, safeguards native breeds and local plant varieties.