White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks

White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks

White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks

I had high hopes for this weekend. I wanted to go into the city early on Saturday, buy a companion fish for my upside down catfish, buy some groceries at the Union Square Green Market, and rush home to cook a fabulous meal. What I wasn’t counting on was spending most of the weekend fighting off a cold/flu in bed.

After sleeping in bed for most of the weekend, by Sunday afternoon I was starting to gain back some of my strength. I didn’t want the whole weekend to be a wash so I wanted to cook something that would give me strength but that I could also feel accomplished cooking.

I recently had a really wonderful white bean soup at El Quijote restaurant in New York City. My family has been going there for years to celebrate birthdays, graduations, and any other special events that happen in our lives. I had the soup on my last visit and really enjoyed it. I made sure to add it on to my “must-make” list and found this to be a perfect opportunity to give it a try.

The Parmesan Rind... I knew this would come in handy...

The Parmesan Rind... I knew this would come in handy...

White Bean and Spinach Soup with Leeks – serves 4

36 ounces of Chicken Broth
1 cup of water
1 lb white beans
6 cloves of garlic, minced
4 leeks (bulbs), diced
½ white onion, diced
2 carrots, cut into ½ in. pieces
1 large potato, cubed into 1 in. pieces
1 parmesan cheese rind
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp rosemary
2 tbsp salt
½ tbsp pepper
  1. Heat water in a pot. Once the water is hot, turn the heat off, add the beans and let sit for one hour. Once the beans are done soaking, drain and rinse with water in a colander.
  2. 10 minutes before the beans are done soaking, add olive oil to the pot you will cook the soup in and turn on the heat to medium. After a few minutes add the leeks and onions and stir until softened, or about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the chicken broth, beans, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary to the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 40-50 minutes or until the beans are almost fully cooked, stirring occassionally.
  4. Add carrots and potatoes to the soup and cook for another 15 minutes. Feel free to add ½ cup-1 cup of water to the soup if you feel it is necessary at this point.
  5. Add spinach and let wilt into the soup, about 5 minutes or so. Stir occassionally.
  6. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan
The soup bubbling away

The soup bubbling away

The soup came out really great and it really helped to clear up my sinuses… at least for a little while. I also made enough to have for a lunch and dinner this week. It was really filling, had lots of fresh vegetables, and even though it took a long time to make, it was mostly a hands off meal.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to call this soup my “cure your cold and flu white bean soup”.

Update: While it wasn’t my complete cure all it really did help to clear up my sinuses. However, it was no match for my fever so I ended up staying home sick yesterday. The silver lining? I got to have the soup for dinner last night and after having sat for a day it was even more packed with flavor! So how am I feeling today? Not 100%, but I am posting this so that’s a good sign!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I was feeling under the weather when I got home today so I needed something warm and comforting to lift my spirits. I first had chicken tortilla soup at my aunt’s house. My aunt Liz is an amazing cook. Before I thought I ever wanted or even had the capacity to cook, I was influenced by my family members. They all seemed to be good at cooking one thing or another. All of them but Liz. Liz was pretty much good at cooking anything. So anytime Liz gets behind the stove I get excited- I know something good is coming soon.

This soup is no different. I’ve had a few different chicken tortilla soups but none of them compare to this one. It’s perfect- spicy, comforting, cheesy, crunchy- and even when over or under cooked it just becomes a different variety of itself. Its a really simple recipe, and takes about an hour to get from the stove to the plate. Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Tortilla Soup – 6-8 servings

2 (thin/medium) chicken breasts
8-9 cups water
2 tbsp sofrito (optional)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 can tomato sauce
1 tspn tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes w/ chiles
1 cup rice
1 small can black beans
3/4 cup of frozen corn
1/4 cup of shredded cheese (I love this with cheddar, jack, and pepper jack cheese)
Tortilla chips – your favorite kind

1. Start boiling the water in a large pot.

2. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, black beans,  corn,  olive oil and sofrito to the pot.I also add some salt and pepper to the pot around this time.

3. Once the water starts boiling, add the chicken breasts. From this point on, the soup should boil for about 30 minutes. Stir every 5-10 minutes.

4. The type of rice you use will dictate the time it will be added to the soup. If you are using instant or 10 minute rice, add the rice to the soup 20 minutes after you add the chicken. If you are using regular rice, add it to the soup when you add the chicken.Lower the heat slightly, to around medium. Keep stirring every 5-10 minutes.

5. 10 minutes before the soup is done, remove the chicken from the soup and shred using 2 forks to pull it apart. (If you’re using instant rice this is a good time to add the rice.) Once the chicken is all shredded add it back to the pot.

6. Around the 30 minute mark, the soup should start look thicker and the rice should be plump. Once the rice is cooked, shut the soup off and let stand for 5 minutes.

7. Serve the soup in bowls, and top the soup with tortilla chips and the shredded cheese.

That’s it! It’s really simple and really flavorful with very minimum amounts of work. This recipe is my go-to when I need something quick, yummy, and also when I haven’t taken any meat down from the freezer. I take down 2 chicken breasts when I get home from work, start the water and add the ingredients, and add the semi-frozen breasts to the pot. The chicken is always ready to be shredded after 20 minutes of boiling in the pot.

You can often find sofrito in the Goya section of the freezer isle. If you have the urge to make your own sofrito, I’ll be happy to share my grandmother’s recipe here. You don’t need to use the sofrito in this recipe, I just think it adds something special to the soup.

When I first started making this soup, I diced the chicken and added to the pot when the water started to boil. That’s another option if you don’t like shredding chicken, but I think the texture of the shredded chicken makes the soup a lot more comforting and full bodied. To mix it up, I sometimes like add cubes of ripe avocado or a dollop of sour cream in the middle. I’ve also made my own tortilla chips for the dish and used the store bought kind. It’s a really versatile soup that never gets old.

A bite of Chicken Tortilla Soup

A bite of Chicken Tortilla Soup

I recently made it for a very old friend of mine and she liked it so much that she asked for the recipe and made it for her family. That made me feel really great. I love cooking for myself, but it’s always a pleasure to cook for others and get positive feedback. I guess I know now how Liz must feel every time she cooks any of her dishes for us.

…Special…

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