How do you bring the flavor of Thanksgiving to a family that includes both vegetarians and meat lovers? That was the challenge facing Ronnie Fein. “Our family loves Thanksgiving,” she explained. “We are a close family and we spend holidays together.”
So the Stamford, CT-based food writer and cookbook author went into her kitchen and emerged with a dish that was sure to please everyone, a chestnut-based vegetable puree she whimsically named Thanksgiving Stuffing Soup.
“I wanted to do something different with common stuffing ingredients” she told me. The soup, which is meatless, includes chestnuts, fruit, celery and onions.
Thanksgiving Stuffing Soup is one of 125 recipes in Fein’s new cookbook, The Modern Kosher Kitchen. With its unfussy blending of fresh and edgy ingredients, the soup expresses Fein’s general cooking gestalt: “Be confident,” she explained. “Don’t make it a struggle.”
As much as she loves Old World Jewish favorites like stuffed cabbage and kugel, Fein isn’t a traditional Jewish cook. “I like trying new ingredients such as Sriracha, grapefruit peel, watercress leaves, kuris squash, and so on.” Yet as au fait as she is with the latest food fads, Fein embraces simplicity and blasts the trend toward culinary pretension. “No one expects you to be a restaurant chef or to have your food look like it does in a restaurant,” she said.
But Fein draws the line at quality. She favors only the freshest ingredients, eschewing anything ersatz or processed. Though her recipes are healthy, they’re tasty and well-spiced enough to satisfy any sensualist. And although the collection includes many vegetable dishes, Fein isn’t a vegetarian. The Modern Kosher Kitchen includes entire chapters devoted to meat, poultry, fish, as well as Passover dishes and budget meals.
A former Wall Street attorney, Fein retired from corporate practice to enter the food world, and has written for various newspapers and magazines. The Modern Kosher Kitchen is her fourth cookbook, and was preceded by Hip Kosher, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cooking Basics, and the Complete Idiot’s Guide to American Cooking. Fein also blogs at Kitchen Vignettes and teaches cooking to private groups in her Connecticut home.
Thanksgiving Stuffing Soup
For the Soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 ripe pears, peeled and sliced
1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon
fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups whole peeled roasted chestnuts
1 cup almond milk
For the Herb Croutons:
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups diced Italian bread, ciabatta, or home-style white bread
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs
Salt, to taste
Make the Soup:
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Add the pears and thyme, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chestnuts, stock, and water. Raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables and fruit are soft. Purée the soup in a food processor or blender (or use a hand blender). Return the soup to the pan. Stir in the almond milk and heat through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with Herb Croutons.
Make the Herb Croutons:
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the bread dice and herbs. Sprinkle with salt to taste and cook, turning frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
Yield: 6 servings
Carol Ungar is the author of Jewish Soul Food: Traditional Fare and What It Means, and a prize-winning writer who blogs about traditional Jewish food at Kosher Home Cooking.