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SOUP: When Life Gives You Casseroles Make Soup!

         Cold weather and an ongoing quarantine were inspiration enough for Michele Di Pietro who decided to take a creative turn with some of our favorite dishes such as Philly Cheesesteak, Clams Casino, Chicken Masala, Lasagna, Chinese Egg Roll and Twice Baked Potatoes and turn them into soup. Creating a soup dish for each of the 31 days of January, Di Pietro wrote “SOUPified:  Soups Inspired by Your Favorite Dishes– 31 Innovative Recipes That Ditch the Dish and Embrace the Bowl.”

         The idea came about, she says, after being cooped up way too long in her one-bedroom apartment in New York City.

         “I had a lot of extra time on my hands,” she says. “So I decided to transform some of my favorite dishes into soup versions of themselves while still making sure the essence of the original dishes stayed intact.” 

         As an added plus, Di Pietro makes these recipes even more user friendly by including ideas on substitutions, reheating, storing, and product information. For example, if you’re unable to find chipotle powder for her Mexican Street Corn Soup try smoked paprika instead and for a different taste or low-calorie switch when making her Lasagna Soup,  Italian pork sausage without the casing or ground turkey are good alternatives.

Mexican Street Corn Soup

The following recipes are from SOUPified. 

Twice Baked Potato Soup with Bacon

2 ounces bacon cut into ½-inch strips while raw

2 cups diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)

1 cup chopped green onions (about 4 onions)

¼ cup chopped garlic (9 to 10 cloves)

¼ cup all-purpose four

3 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced (peels reserved for Crispy Potato Skins), held in cold water to prevent browning

3 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne

1 cup sour cream

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or cut into very small pieces

½ cup finely chopped chives

1 recipe Crispy Potato Skins (recipe below)

Peel potatoes, then prepare Crispy Potato Skins and set aside.

Place bacon in 6-quart (or larger) pot or Dutch over medium heat. Slowly cook it until it becomes crispy and most of the fat has been rendered. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set it aside to drain on paper towels.

Remove all but about 3 tablespoons of rendered fat from the pot and use for other purpose or discard. Leave enough fat to cover bottom of pot.

Add onions and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes, or until onions have softened a bit, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle four on top of onion mixture; stir to coat and continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes while four cooks. Gradually pour in 2 cups broth and whisk mixture quickly to fully incorporate four into liquid until smooth.

Then stir to loosen and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pot.

Add remaining broth, potatoes (drain first if being held in water), milk, salt, paprika, and black and cayenne peppers. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. Cover pot and bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, stirring frequently. This could take 20 to 30 minutes. Do not boil soup once milk is added to prevent curdling.

Reduce heat to low. Then partially purée mixture using an immersion blender. Be sure to leave some bigger chunks as this results in a great, chunky texture. Gradually stir in sour cream, then cheese, 1 cup at a time, ensuring each cup has melted before adding the next. Finish by stirring in chives and about ¾ of reserved crispy bacon. Then turn off heat.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with Crispy Potato Skins and remaining bacon.

Crispy Potato Skins

¼ to ½ cup olive oil or as needed

Potato peels from all peeled potatoes in main soup recipe

Pinch salt

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil starts to spread out and glisten, add potato peels and fry them until crispy. Use tongs to turn over peels while frying. When peels are brown and crispy, remove them immediately with a slotted spoon and transfer them to paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle them with salt immediately.

Set aside, uncovered, at room temperature. You can make these potato skins 3 to 4 hours in advance and hold them, uncovered, at room temperature.

Lasagna Soup

Serves 6 to 8

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound lean ground beef (90/10 is perfect)

2 cups diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)

1 cup lightly packed, chopped fresh basil leaves, divided

¼ cup chopped garlic (9 to 10 cloves)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ cup tomato paste

6 cups low-sodium beef or chicken broth

1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes crushed into small pieces by hand

2 teaspoons dried basil

1½ teaspoons dried oregano

8 lasagna sheets, broken into 1-2” random pieces (9 ounces)

½ cup heavy cream

3½ packed cups chopped fresh baby spinach (about 5 ounces)

1 recipe Cheese Topping (recipe below)

Prepare Cheese Topping and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 6-quart (or larger) pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef, onions, ½ cup basil, garlic, and spices. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until all the beef has browned. Break it up into bite-sized pieces while stirring.

Move beef mixture to one side of pot. Then add tomato paste and cook it for about 30 seconds. Add 2 cups broth and stir to loosen and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pot.

Add remaining broth, tomatoes, and dried herbs and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Cover pot and bring mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer, partially covered, for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until vegetables have mostly softened. Add pasta and remaining 1 tablespoon oil and stir well.

Simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente, using instructions on pasta package as a guideline, stirring continuously so that pasta doesn’t stick or get clumpy. Taste pasta along the way to monitor its doneness.

Once pasta is al dente, reduce heat to low. Then whisk in cream and spinach and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring. Add additional liquid if you want a brothier soup. Stir in remaining ½ cup basil, then turn off heat.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with a generous scoop of Cheese Topping. The cheese will melt once you stir it into the hot soup.

Cheese Topping

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)

1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all topping ingredients together until well combined.

You can make this 2 to 3 days in advance and hold it in the refrigerator. Bring this mixture to room temperature about 30 minutes before serving the soup.

Mexican Street Corn Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off cob

and silk removed (about 4 cups kernels),

stripped corncobs reserved for broth

2 cups diced yellow onions (about

1 medium onion)

1 cup diced celery (about 3 to 4 ribs)

1 poblano pepper, seeded, stemmed, and finely chopped

¼ cup chopped garlic (9 to 10 cloves)

3 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

3 cups whole milk

1 pound Yukon gold or other waxy potatoes cut into 1-inch pieces, held in cold water to prevent browning

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons salt

1½ teaspoons dried Mexican or regular

oregano

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese

1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream

½ cup fresh lime juice (zest limes first)

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime zest

Brown corn: Heat oil and butter in 6-quart (or larger) pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When butter has melted, add corn kernels and cook until they start to brown (about 5 to 7 minutes), stirring occasionally. Do this in batches if necessary. Then remove about ²/³ of corn with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add onions, celery, poblano pepper, and garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally. Add broth and stir to loosen and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pot.

Add milk, potatoes (drain first if being held in water), bay leaves, salt, oregano, chili powders, black pepper, and reserved corncobs.

Stir until all ingredients are well combined. Cover pot and bring mixture to a simmer. Then partially cover and lightly simmer soup until potatoes are tender, stirring frequently (about 20 to 30 minutes).

Remove and discard cobs and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low. Then carefully purée mixture until smooth using an immersion blender. Only partially purée soup if you prefer a chunkier version.

 Add cheese, crema or sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, lime zest, and most of reserved sautéed corn kernels, reserving some to use as topping. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. Turn off heat. Do not boil soup once crema or sour cream is added to prevent curdling.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with remaining cooked corn kernels.

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