A Cure: Tortellini Soup

Between catching a cold, finding out my husband has high cholesterol and battling frigid winter temperatures on my walk to work, a steaming pot of soup just seemed like a good idea. Over the past six months, I’ve made soup my mission. Maybe I’m watching too much Top Chef, or maybe it’s my obsession with the soup chapter in Martha Stewart’s recent Cooking School (published in 2008) but my blender is weary from purees and my sauté pans have a permanent smell of celery, carrots and onion. Not necessarily bad things.

Point: I love making soup.

My most recent soup (to address the cold and cholesterol) is a variation of a recipe found in Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta. Italian White Bean, Pancetta and Tortellini soup is, in Giada’s words, a twist on the traditional tortellini en brodo. Since cholesterol is found in many animal products, my version adds a vegetarian twist to her…twist.

I’ve made Giada’s tortellini soup with and without the pancetta. Granted, the original meaty version is delicious and yeah, that salty, chewy pancetta is a nice touch, I’ve found that the soup doesn’t suffer without it. And head this advice- do not try to substitute veggie bacon (or other veggie versions of meat) for pancetta. The consistency of that stuff once you sink it in soup is grainy, and the saltiness it adds doesn’t make up for that.

And here’s another tip -- make sure your swiss chard is very clean and well chopped, with the major purple veins removed. To do this: wash it well, and then lay each piece down on your cutting board, and run your knife along the center of each leaf down each side of the purple rib, removing it completely and discarding it. Then continue chopping the leaves into squares or strips. Sometimes you can rip the veins out, but cutting it out makes for more uniform pieces.

I hope you enjoy this flavorful soup as much as we did. And here’s your health!

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large shallots, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced (a handful of baby carrots work in a pinch)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of Swiss chard, chopped
7 cups vegetable broth
9 ounces (or one box) spinach tortellini

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and carrot and cook until the vegetables are soft and starting to change color. Add the garlic, beans, and let cook until the beans begin to break down, just a little (the looseness of the beans adds a nice thickness to your soup when it’s finished). Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the Swiss chard and let it wilt (about 3 minutes).

Add the tortellini and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the tortellini are tender.

Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Ginger Soup

Veggies_at_the_market Let’s face it - this time of year is difficult for lovers of fresh, local produce.  A majority of the farmers markets are closed, save for Dupont Circle, Eastern Market, Penn Quarter (until December 18th at least) and the one in Arlington; there are only so many things you can do with potatoes; and what the hell is this odd looking tuber thing in my CSA box?  Believe it or not, there are still plenty of fruits and vegetables in season in the metro DC area.  And I’m here to help you not only find them, but turn them into delicious, hearty meals. 

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest farmers markets open year round is the FreshFarm market at Dupont Circle.  Open every Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm (the starting time switches to 10 am in January), the market is a wonderful source for local produce, meats and dairy products during the colder months.  In  December, you can find an assortment of potatoes, turnips, onions, carrots, beets and a variety of greens (from arugula to kale).  While there are fewer vendors at the market during the winter, there are still more than enough from which to choose. 

Carrots_at_the_market Next Step Produce is a family-run farm in Charles County, Maryland that can still be found at the farmers market during the colder time of year.  The husband and wife team of Heinz Thomet and Gabrielle Lajoie use organic farming techniques to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers that they sell not only through Dupont Circle Farmers Market, but also through a CSA in Vienna and directly from their farm.  You can sign up to receive weekly lists of their harvested vegetables and place an order with them by a specified day.  Arrangements are then made for the customer to pick up their order.   Heinz and Gabrielle are also committed to teaching others about the benefits and techniques of sustainable agriculture.  They offer people the chance to work on their farm, located just 50 miles outside of Washington, DC to learn the principles of responsible and conscientious farming. 

The Farm at Sunnyside is another year round vendor at the local farmers markets, thanks to their four season farm production method.  Like Next Step Produce, The Farm at Sunnyside is a strong proponent of sustainable agriculture and using farming techniques that preserve the land for future generations.  Located in Rappahannock County, Virginia, this certified organic farm sells in season vegetables, tree fruit and eggs from free range hens.  Owned by Nick and Gardiner Lapham, the Farm at Sunnyside also operates a CSA (however, they are currently not accepting new subscribers) and sells their produce directly to restaurants in the Virginia, Maryland and DC areas.  The farm’s idyllic location (at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains) also makes it a favorite farm visit destination for Virginians.  You can find their products at Dupont Circle year round and at Penn Quarter Farmer’s Market until December 18th. 

Onions_at_the_market I stopped by both Next Step Produce and The Farm at Sunnyside recently and picked up some carrots, sweet potatoes, celery and onions.  Along with some garlic and thyme from my own CSA box, I decided to create a curried carrot and sweet potato ginger soup for my week’s lunch.  Because all soup requires a stock or broth of some kind, I opted to use the abundance of vegetables from my CSA to create a vegetable stock for the soup.  This is the perfect time of year to create vegetable stocks because there really is only so much you can do with carrots, celery and onions.  You can then freeze the stock using freezer bags, a freezer hearty container or in ice cube trays.  And since it’s winter, you will need a lot of stock for the many, many, many soups and pot roasts one inevitably makes when it turns cold.

Vegetable Stock

1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves (the only item I did not get locally)
Freshly ground pepper
6 cups water

In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a low boil.  Reduce the heat and allow the stock to simmer for one hour.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Strain out the vegetables and herbs and store the stock for later use.

Soup_1 Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Ginger Soup

1 large onion, diced
3 cups cubed sweet potatoes
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons curry powder
3 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until tender (about five minutes).  Add the sweet potatoes and carrots and cook for two minutes.  Add the paprika, curry powder and ginger and stir to make sure the spices mix in with all of the vegetables.  Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the Dutch oven and allow the mixture to cook for 35 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the salt and pepper and allow the mixture to cook for another 5 minutes. 

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.  Working in batches, pour some of the soup into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.  Repeat the same steps until all of the soup has been blended. 

Apple and Celery Root Soup With Bacon And Chive Oil

Small_apple_celery_root_soup_in_d_2 The turkey is in the oven, the house smells like heaven and  your guests are whetting their appetites. Here's a recipe that will both please and surprise them, giving a glimpse of what is to come as they begin a feast at your table.

Apple and celery root (also known as celeriac) soup is velvety and slightly sweet, with a note of celery in the background and a pleasing crunch of salty bacon to compliment the apple. I found it truly amazing that this rather ugly looking root vegetable can make a soup that is so delicious! Celery root gives meaning to the phrase "don't judge a book by it's cover".  Apple celery soup is accessable in terms of both flavors and ease of preparation.

This recipe can be made a day ahead of time, reheated and arranged just prior to serving. The soup can be served as an amuse bouche ( a small bite before the meal begins) or as a thick soup after the appetizer course.

Apple and Celery Root Soup with Bacon and Chive Oil (adapted from

Serves 6-8 as a soup course


1/2 stick butter

4 cups celery root, peeled and diced (about 1 1/4 lb celery root)

3 cups (2 medium) empire apples*, peeled, cored and cubed

1 large onion, diced

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup chives, chopped

1/3 cup safflower oil

Kosher salt to taste

Pepper to taste

3 slices thick cut bacon** cooked and finely crumbled


Melt butter in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery root and apples. Stir to combine. Cook until onions are soft and begin to become translucent. Do not brown. Add chicken broth and a pinch of kosher salt. Simmer covered for 45 minutes, or until celery root is soft, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

In small batches, puree soup in blender being careful to vent the top and allow steam to escape. Pulse the hot soup several times, increase to blend and then to liquify. Return soup to pot and add salt and pepper to taste.

Puree chives and oil in blender until smooth.

To serve

Pour soup into bowl. Drizzle or dot chive oil on top of soup (I use a cheap condiment container from the Dollar Store to place the chive oil on the soup). Add a small mound of bacon crumbles to the top and serve.

*Any firm and tart apple can be used, such as Granny Smith.

** Pancetta, or Italian bacon, would also be great in this recipe.

Sweet Potato Soup With Pancetta And Spiced Pecans

It's fall and that means soups, sweet potatoes and pecans. Locally, sweet potatoes are abundant at the farmers markets and further south pecan trees are yielding their nuts.

This soup is evocative of the cooler weather and shorter days of fall. It combines the sweet creaminess of the potato, with the saltiness of rendered pancetta and the crunch of the spiced pecans to give lots of flavors and textures in each spoonful. This recipe and its' presentation is inspired by a pumpkin soup I had about a year ago, at Majestic (then The Majestic Cafe) in Old Town Alexandria. The bowl came with pulled pork and the soup was ceremoniously poured in the middle. Toasted pumpkin seeds were then placed atop as a garnish. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.


2-2 1/2 cups pecans

1 stick butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 t. pumpkin spice

4-5 "shots" of sriracha or other hot sauce

1 T. olive oil

1/2 medium onion, cubed

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 cups chicken stock or broth

1 t. cumin

1 t. curry

3/4 cup half and half

salt to taste

1/4 t. white pepper

1/4 pound pancetta, sliced into cubes or sticks



Sweet_potato_soup_1_2 Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sweet potatoes and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Add chicken stock and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Allow potatoes to cook for 20-30 minutes, until they are soft and yield easily to a fork.

Transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender. Blend in batches if needed. Place a thickly folded dish towel over the blender's top opening to allow for steam to escape. Pulse the mixture a few times until you're sure the soup isn't coming out of the top of the blender. Turn blender on high for 2-3 minutes, until mixture is liquefied.

Sweet_potato_soup_2_2 Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat. Add the cumin, curry, white pepper and half and half. Salt to taste.


In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, pumpkin spice and sriracha. Stir frequently until the butter and sugar incorporate, about 5 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine the pecans and butter mixture to coat thoroughly. Transfer pecans to a baking sheet (use a silicon mat or non-stick spray) and spread out evenly. Place the pecans in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and toss the pecans lightly. Bake an additional 5 minutes. Allow the pecans to cool completely, approximately 1/2 hour.


Place pancetta in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook until fat is rendered and pancetta is crispy. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.


Place a few pieces of pancetta in a bowl. Pour soup over pancetta and garnish with chopped spiced pecans.