Archive for the ‘Soups and Chilis’ Category


What better way to start the day off than with banana stuffed croissant french toast and an amazing cup of coffee from Covenant Books & Coffee on 12th. Avenue in Honolulu?  I dare say not much.  If you can’t make it for breakfast (they also do a mean breakfast burrito), stop in for soup (a different one made fresh daily) and a sandwich (my fav is the veggie delight)….hands down one of my very favorite breakfast/lunch places of all time.

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“Like stones rolling down a hill, fair ideas reach their objective despite all obstacles and barriers. It may be possible to speed or hinder them, but impossible to stop them.”

– Jose Marti, Statesman, Poet, Visionary and Cuban Revolutionary

We have been talking about trying Soul De Cuba Cafe since a dinner down the street at JJ Dolan’s way back in January….and after many failed attempts, I finally found myself there, sitting at a cozy corner table with Justin, Tori, my roommate Carol, and a large pitcher of soul healing mojito goodness.  After a less than stellar day, it was exactly what I needed.

Pollo Soul de Cuba - this lightly breaded chicken was the most moist, juicy and flavorful chicken I think I've ever had. Paired with the home made salsa of mango, guava, black beans pineapple and rum it was nothing short of amazing.

In a place where Korean BBQ, Japanese, Chinese and Pacific Rim restaurants reign king, and Cuban is rarer than rare, despite this places good reviews I feared that I would find myself in a situation similar to that of the Mexican food dilemma in Hawaii – there are few options to choose from and most of them miss the mark…by a mile.  However, with one dip of my spoon into the black bean chili Justin had ordered and I knew I was in for a spectacular meal.

The Eggplant Milanesa tatsted like a more fresh, healthy version of eggplant parmesan.

We started with an appetizer sampler and an order of the empanadas as recommended by our server.  Delicious.  After some deliberation about whether or not ox tail would make an appearance at our table that evening (I was vehemently opposed to eating it and so it was a no-go), we decided to share the Eggplant Milanesa, Pollo Soul de Cuba, and the Picadillo.  One word. Wow.  From the super moist, juicy chicken & homemade mango salsa, to the just barely still-crisp slices of tomato sauce smothered eggplant, to the slight and very welcome tang of the Spanish olives in the Picadillo, right down to the black beans, rice and the plantain garnish – not one bite was a disappointment.  We closed with a delectably moist, dense brownie capped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, and, of course, flan with fresh strawberries, whipped cream and caramelized plantain.  Oh my.

Tori especially wanted to try the Picadillo because she said she makes it at home...I thought it was delish, but forgot to ask her how it stacks up to her own. Tori?

As usual, even better than the food proved to be the company.  At one point conversation turned from the current hapennings of our days to my new-found obsession with an under-ground, invite-only supper club here in Honolulu called Spork.  Tori told us all about their friend’s supper club on the east coast and a plan to form our own was born.  Still in it’s fledgling stage, I think it will take at least a pizza night or two for us to really flush out the details 🙂

It is always a good time for a fudgy brownie and vanilla ice cream. Always.

It is evident in everything from the atmosphere of the restaurant to the stories about the founders on the website, and especially in the food prepared from the home style recipes of their families, that there is indeed a soulfulness about this place.  All in all, Soul De Cuba Cafe has officially earned a place in my top 15 favorites here on Oahu…which is a pretty serious statement considering how much I love to eat.  Go, try it for yourself – I am positive you won’t regret it.  Don’t live on Oahu?  Drop in to their New Haven, CT location and let us know how it is!

Flan topped with fresh strawberries, caramelized plantains and whipped cream was super yummy....not gonna lie, I think the flan I make is better 🙂

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Here is a recipe for vegetable stock that we made in my cooking class. What is stock exactly, you may be asking? Well, stock is basically flavored water that forms the basis for soups and sauces. Stock is made by simmering together a variety of ingredients in water. This rich brown vegetable stock is healthy and delicious and can be easily incorporated into many different sauces and soups when the recipe calls for vegetable stock. Make it in advance and freeze it, then just take it out when you need it!

Yield:             0.5 gal.                                                                                   


  • 1 fl. oz. Vegetable Oil                                                           
  • 5 Garlic cloves, chopped                                   
  • 2 lb. Mirepoix, small dice                                               
  • 0.5 lb. Leeks, whites and greens, chopped                       
  • 2 oz. Turnip, diced                                                           
  • 2 oz. Tomato, diced                                               
  • 0.5 pt. Red wine                                                           
  • 1 oz. Tomato paste                                                           
  • 0.5 Onion brulee                                                           
  • 2 qt. Water                                                                       
  • Sachet-  0.5 Bay leaf, ½ tsp. Dried thyme, 1/8 tsp. Peppercorns, crushed, 4 Parsley stems                                               


  1. Heat the oil. Add the garlic and vegetables and sweat for 10 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook the vegetables until lightly caramelized, approximately 10 more minutes.
  2. Add the wine, tomato paste, onion brulee, water, and sachet.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 1 hour 30 minutes.
  4. Strain. Reduce to make a glace or cool and refrigerate.

Approximate values per 1-fl.-oz serving: Calories 5. Total fat 0 g. Saturated fat 0 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Sodium 0 mg. Total carbohydrates 0 g. Protein 0. g. Claims- fat free; low calorie

Recipe Source: On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals

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Need a good recipe for white/chicken stock? Try this! We made this in my cooking class recently so I thought I would share it…

Yield:             1 gal.                                                                                   

Mise en Place

  • Cut up and wash bones.
  • Peel and chop onions, carrots, and celery for mirepoix.
  • Prepare herb sachet.


  • 7.5 lb. Bones, veal, chicken, or beef                       
  • 1.5 gal Cold water                                               
  • 1 lb. Mirepoix                                               
  • Sachet- 1 Bay leaf,  ¼ tsp Dried thyme,  ¼ tsp. Peppercorns, crushed, 4 Parsley stems                                   


  1. Cut the washed bones into pieces approximately 3-4 inches long.
  2. Place the bones in a stockpot and cover them with cold water. If blanching, bring the water to a boil, skimming off the scum that rise to the surface. Drain off the water and the impurities. Then add the 1.5 gallons cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer.
  3. If not blanching the bones, bring the cold water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and skim the scum that forms.
  4. Add the mirepoix and sachet to the simmering stock. Continue simmering the stock for 6-8 hours. (If only chicken bones are used, simmer 3-4 hours.)
  5. Strain, cool, and refrigerate.

Approximate values per 1-fl.-oz serving: Calories 4. Total fat 0.1 g. Saturated fat 0.1 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Sodium 5 mg. Total carbohydrates 0 g. Protein 0.2 g. Claims- fat free; very low sodium

Recipe Source: On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals

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Photo Credit: The Food Network

My mom sent over a few recipes of Ina Garten’s that she has tried recently…both sound amazing!

Hi E & Z, Here is Ina Garten’s Ribollita recipe. It is so good and very healthful. It takes some advanced planning (you have to soak the beans overnight), but it’s a dish you can make early in the day and re-heat just before dinner. Invite some friends over because it makes a huge pot of soup! A great one-dish meal.  Love, Mom


  • 1/2 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 pound large diced pancetta or smoked bacon
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded savoy cabbage, optional
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving


In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, if using, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.

Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.

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© James Baigrie
I found this recipe recently on Food & Wine’s website and immediately thought of the always delicious tomato soup and cheese toast from Nordstrom Cafe.  It sounds super easy and looks just as yummy – here it is directly off F&W.
TOTAL TIME: 40 min


  1. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  2. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  4. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  5. 2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika, preferably pimentón de la Vera
  6. 3 1/2 pounds tomatoes, quartered
  7. 1/2 cup water
  8. 1 thyme sprig
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  11. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  12. Eight 1/4-inch-thick baguette slices, cut on the bias
  13. 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (3/4 cup)


  1. In a soup pot, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, water, thyme sprig and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and bring the tomato mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer over moderate heat until the tomatoes break down, about 15 minutes. Discard the thyme sprig and bay leaf.
  2. Preheat the broiler. In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Strain the soup back into the pot, pressing on the solids to extract as much soup as possible. Stir the cream into the soup and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from the heat until lightly toasted on both sides, about 2 minutes total. Top the toasts with the Gruyère and broil for about 30 seconds, until the cheese is bubbly. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with the Gruyère toasts.

Recipe by Melissa Rubel Jacobson

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My mom told me about this recipe in one of our favorite cookbooks, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures, by Jeanne Lemlin. I love corn chowder and I think I am going to make this tonight! 

Scallions greatly enhance the flavor of this thick soup, so be certain to include them. Making the soup a few hours in advance will allow the flavors to meld.

Serves: 4 as a main course


  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, fnely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. good quality sweet paprika
  • 4 cups vegetable stock*
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and finely diced (about 2.5 cups)
  • 1 celery rib, very thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Frenshly ground black epper, to taste
  • 4 cups frzen corn kernels
  • 5 scallions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • Few dashes cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup sour cream


  1. In a large stockpot, combine the butter, olive oil, onions, and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onions are tender but not brown, about 10 minutes, Sprinkle the paprika, toss, and cook 1 minute.
  2. Add the stock, potatoes, celery, bay leaf, salt, sugar, and pepper. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the corn and scallions and cook 2 minutes more. Remove the bay leaf.
  3. Scoop out 2 cups of the chowder and set it aside. Puree the remainder and return it to the pot. Stir in the reserved chowder, the milk, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Cook 5 minutes more. Serve in bowls with a spoonful of sour cream on top. 

*Vegetable stock can be made with powdered vegetable stock base, available at health food stores.

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