From the Aztecs comes a chicken vegetable soup with poblano chiles and chayote squash; from Paraguay there’s bori-bori, a beef broth and dumpling soup; from the Caribbean there’s callaloo, in which the greens of taro root are cooked with okra and bacon.
The book cover says soup, but inside, the “Culinary Institute of America’s The New Book of Soups” (Lebhar-Friedman Books, New York) says so much more.
It says that many Americans in this land of immigrants have a taste for foods of cultures beyond their own — and that most of these stews and chowders are well within our reach as home cooks.
The collection of recipes is presented as American, not international: ethnic soups from immigrants old and new, meant to warm body and soul. At a time when every other cookbook seems to rely on one gimmick or another, this subtle message of inclusion is especially enticing.
What we think of as traditional American favorites are still included in this revised edition: minestrone, mushroom barley, chili, cream of tomato, and classic lentil soup.
But instead of putting all the international soups in a separate chapter, the book is divided into sections on broths, hearty soups, stews, cream soups, pureed soups, bisques and chowders, cold soups, and accompaniments, with world flavors included in each.
There’s a recipe for mulligatawny, which reflects the British colonization of India; a Tunisian chickpea soup called leblebi; and a Moroccan vegetable stew that is a meal in itself.
Jambalaya, etouffee, lamb korma — you can spend the rest of winter roaming the culinary globe.
You’ll find avgolemono, the traditional Greek egg and lemon soup that is so surprisingly simple and appealing it has become my new go-to soup. And at the other end of the convenience-and- capability spectrum is feijoada, a stew rich in ham hocks, pig’s foot, and chorizo that takes three days to prepare.
Since I favor vegetarian bisques, I decided to step outside my comfort zone with the Catalan Beef Stew. Beef cut from the shoulder is at the heart of the Spanish dish made all the more aromatic with julienne orange peels.
As a soup maker, have you ever wondered how many scallions to buy in order to get one cup chopped? The answer to that and other shopping dilemmas is in a helpful chapter.
Alongside directions for making pistou and popovers are recipes for accompaniments like harissa, a spicy-hot Tunisian condiment, and fried shallots, a quick, crispy garnish for hearty soups. Fried shallots are, essentially, a more elegant, homemade version of those fried onion rings in a can.
They taste great on soto ayam, an Indonesian chicken noodle soup with cellophane noodles and lemongrass.
Don’t let the lemongrass scare you, it’s quickly becoming an all-American ingredient. Stalks of fresh lemongrass are available in ethnic supermarkets such as the H-Mart chain, as well as at Reading Terminal Market. To clean them, work from the base of the stalk, removing the tough outer peel, and wash away underlying grit. Then chop and use the bottom 4 to 5 tender inches.
The finished soto ayam is a delicately scented chicken soup with a rich flavor that is distinctly different from what we think of as Jewish chicken soup.
Soto ayam is not a quick recipe, but it is easy and stores well. When you serve this soup on a cold winter’s night, you’ll think the time well spent.
And what would a book from the CIA be if not instructive? So, for example, a recipe for Belgian cream of chicken soup called waterzooi instructs in the use of a thickening “liaison,” a mixture of egg yolks and cream added to hot liquid using a process called “tempering.” It’s not a complicated step, but one that makes the difference between a good home cook and a great one.
And once you master it, you can also use it to make billi bi, a French cream of mussel soup.
Julia Child would be proud.
Catalan Beef Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 slices bacon, thick-cut, diced
2 pounds boneless beef chuck or bottom round, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups red wine
2 tablespoons orange peel julienne
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 parsley sprigs, minced
1 cup Spanish black olives, pitted
Heat the oil in a casserole or Dutch oven over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add the bacon, and sauté until crisped and browned, 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon, letting the oil drain back into the casserole.
Return the casserole to the heat and heat the oil until it shimmers. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. Add the beef (working in batches to avoid crowding the pan) and sear on all sides until brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer the beef to the bowl with the bacon using a slotted spoon and letting the oil drain back into the casserole. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until deeply caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole, add the red wine, orange peel, bay leaves, garlic, and parsley; bring the liquid to a boil. Immediately adjust the heat for a gentle simmer. Season the stew to taste with salt and pepper throughout cooking time. Simmer the stew, covered, until the beef is nearly tender, about 2 hours. Add the olives and continue to simmer until the beef is fork-tender, 1 to 11/2 hours. Serve in heated bowls.
Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition per serving: 914 calories, 52 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 62 grams fat, 177 milligrams cholesterol, 728 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Avgolemono (Greek Egg and Lemon Soup)
6 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
4 eggs, separated
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, as needed
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, as needed
Bring the broth to a simmer in a soup pot. Add the rice and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
Whip the egg yolks in a large bowl until thickened. Whip the egg whites in another bowl to soft peaks. Fold the whites into the yolks. Add the egg mixture to the simmering broth, whipping constantly. The soup will become frothy and thick.
Season the soup to taste with the salt, white pepper and lemon juice. Serve in heated bowls.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition per serving (based on 8): 80 calories, 4 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, trace sugar, 4 grams fat, 106 milligrams cholesterol, 725 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.
Soto Ayam (Indonesian Chicken, Noodle, and Potato Soup)
1 3-pound chicken
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 shallots, chopped
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, bottom 4 or 5 inches only, crushed
1 garlic clove, crushed
One 1-inch slice fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
6 cups chicken broth
1 1/4 cups diced yellow or white potatoes
1 ounce dried mung bean threads (cellophane noodles)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon red chili or hot bean paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 1/2 celery stalks, diced
Fried Shallots (recipe follows)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Remove the giblets from the chicken; discard or save the liver for another use. Wash the chicken and rub it with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the chopped shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and turmeric. Cook, stirring constantly, until the aroma is apparent, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
Combine the broth and remaining 11/2 teaspoons salt with the chicken, giblets, and shallot mixture in a soup pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 45 minutes. Skim often to remove the foam that rises to the surface during simmering.
Remove the chicken from the broth and, when cool enough to handle, remove the bones from the chicken. Return the bones to the broth and continue to simmer for another hour, skimming as needed. Meanwhile, dice the chicken meat and set aside.
Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and spread the potatoes in a single layer to cool.
Soak the bean threads in hot water to cover until tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse and separate the strands under cool running water. Chop into 2-inch pieces and set aside.
When the broth has simmered for an hour, strain it through a fine sieve. Mix the soy sauce, chili paste, and sugar together; stir into the strained broth.
Add the diced chicken meat, cooked potatoes, soaked bean threads, scallions, chopped eggs, and celery to the broth. Bring to a simmer and add a squeeze of lemon to taste.
Serve the soup in heated bowls, garnished with the fried shallots. Pass the lemon wedges on the side.
Yield: 8 servings
Nutrition per serving: 364 calories, 45 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 13 grams fat, 202 milligrams cholesterol, 1,644 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1/2 cup milk
2 cups vegetable oil or as needed for frying
Peel and slice the shallots into 1/8 -inch-thick rings. Separate the rings.
Season the flour with salt and cayenne (if using).
Dip the shallots in the milk. Strain or use a slotted spoon to remove. Dredge the shallots in the flour.
Fry in 325-degree oil until golden, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Season to taste with salt.
Yield: 8 garnish servings
Nutrition per serving: 10 calories, trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace sugar, 1 gram fat, trace cholesterol, 1 milligram sodium, trace dietary fiber.