A SOUP WITH MEMORIES OF LOS ANGELES

During our sabbatical  year at UCLA, we often went to a restaurant in our  street, Beverly Glen Blvd, right at its junction with Mulholland Drive.  It was a small Italian restaurant called Fabrocini’s, almost hidden in a little corner, but always packed with folks from the neighborhood. The restaurant is affordable (for L.A. standards, that is), has an extensive menu, and the moment you sit at the table the waiter greets you with a small bowl of their focaccia.  Interestingly, each time we went there, the focaccia was just a little different, as if the baker loved to improvise.  We were obviously hooked!

One evening I was not very hungry and ordered a small bowl of their stracciatella soup for my dinner.   From the first spoonful, I was equally hooked.  Their version had spinach and a little pasta added to the basic egg-drop preparation, in a light and delicious broth.  I loved it so much that before we left L.A. I wrote an email asking for the recipe, but they never even replied to it…  😦      Undeterred, I went on my own quest to make it at home, and finally found a good version on a Food and Wine magazine.

SPINACH STRACCIATELLA SOUP
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

1 cup tubetti, ditalini or other small pasta
1 quart chicken stock, preferably home made (recipe follows)
1 garlic clove, cut in 4 pieces
3- 4 ounces baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well.

In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer with the garlic; simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic using a slotted spoon, add the pasta and spinach and cook over medium heat until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stir in the eggs, breaking them into long strands. Simmer the soup until the eggs are just firm, about 1 minute. Stir in the Parmigiano cheese. Ladle the soup into bowls, and serve with additional cheese grated on top.

to print the recipe, click here

ONE HOUR CHICKEN STOCK
(adapted from Mark Bittman, and other sources)

8 – 10 chicken wings
10 cups water
1 onion, cut in half
4 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
4 green onions, cut in half
1 piece of ginger (1/2 inch thick)
1 bay leaf

Stuck 2 cloves into each onion half, add all ingredients to a large stock pot, bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, and cook, uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove the layer of foam that eventually floats to the surface during the initial stage of cooking, using a slotted spoon.

Drain the stock, discard all vegetables and meat.   Let it cool slightly, refrigerate, and remove the congealed fat from the surface before using.  Freeze 1 or 2 cup aliquots.   Season with salt and  appropriate spices when using for soups, risottos, or sauces.

to print this recipe, click here

The beginning…..

Almost at the end of cooking….

The reward…  Liquid culinary gold!

I am no food snob, in the sense that I use store-bought chicken stock on a regular basis.  However, for this soup to be really special, I went the extra mile and made my own.  I’ve made many types of chicken stock in the past, using chicken bones, or a whole chicken.  But once I found this shortcut version at Bittman’s book “From Simple to Spectacular,”  I adapted it to my taste and it’s been my method of choice because it is fast and produces incredibly rich  and dense stock.    Usually I make my first batch when the weather turns cold, and save a few cups in the freezer.

This simple soup, with very few ingredients, definitely benefits from a home made stock, but in a pinch, I’d still use a good quality store-bought version.  Do what suits you best, but make this soup, it’s a winner… 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Sabu’s Spicy Coconut Chicken

TWO YEARS AGO: Poolish Baguettes

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