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An Open House for Soup

by Lou Seibert Pappas

During the holidays, a soup-supper open house makes a casual change from the typical cocktail buffet party. The concept is special because all ages, from toddlers to great-grandpas, are included. Strangers and neighbors meet and become friends as they break bread around an informal table.

With two substantial soups, home-made or commercial bread, cheese, fruit, and biscotti, the spread suits a 6 to 9 p.m. supper gathering of drop-in friends and neighbors. Plan to make the soups at least two days in advance and refrigerate. Bake the breads up to two to three weeks ahead of time; as soon as they are barely cool, slip them into a plastic bag, seal and freeze. They have a fresh-baked taste once thawed and can be reheated. Poilane's bread makes a decorative centerpiece.

Sparkling cranberry-apple juice suits the season. You might offer such good value wines as Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon or Glen Ellen Cabernet Sauvignon or in whites, 1996 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc or 1996 Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc.

Greek Lentil Soup
makes 20 servings

3 large onions, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 1/2 cups lentils
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 quarts water
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon crumbed dried oregano

In a large soup kettle sautネ the onions, celery, and carrots in oil until limp. Add the lentils, bay leaves, garlic, salt, pepper, and water. Cover and simmer until lentils are almost tender, about 25 minutes. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, and oregano and simmer 15 minutes longer. Adjust the water, adding more to desired thickness.

Veal Barley Soup
makes 20 servings

4 pounds meaty veal shanks
3 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 quarts water
4 beef bouillon cubes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery or fennel, chopped
1 1/2 cups barley
2 cans (15 oz. each) stewed tomatoes
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a large soup kettle, brown the shanks and onions in oil. Add the water, bouillon cubes, and pepper, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Remove the veal shanks and skim the fat off the broth. Remove the meat from the bones and dice the meat. Bring the broth to a boil and add the carrots, celery, and barley. Cover and simmer 1 hour, or until the barley is tender. Add the meat and tomatoes and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.

Pesto Spiral Bread
makes 2 loaves

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups unbleached flour, approximately
4 eggs
6 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Fontina, Gruyヒre or Jarlsberg cheese
1/2 cup chopped basil

Sprinkle the yeast into warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand until puffy. Add sugar, salt, and 1 cup of flour; beat well. Add 3 eggs, one at a time. Beat until smooth. Beat in the butter and gradually add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out on a floured board. Knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a greased bowl. Butter the top of dough lightly. Cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Turn out on a floured board. Knead lightly and divide in half. Roll out each half into a rectangle about 10 by 16 inches. Beat remaining egg and blend in cheeses and herbs. Spread half the cheese filling over the dough. Roll up firmly from a long side. Place on a large greased baking sheet. With scissors cut through the loaf, almost to the bottom, at 3/4 inch intervals. Lay down each cut slice by pulling and twisting each slice to opposite sides. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 350ェ. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and the loaves sounds hollow when thumped. Let cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.

Poilane's Peasant Loaves
Makes 1 large loaf or it also makes 2 medium loaves or small rolls.
One of the most worldly, celebrated breads is Poilane's Pain de Campagne, a 2 kilogram peasant loaf that is baked in the wood-fired oven of the boulangerie built over the ruins of a 14th century Gothic abbey at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi, Paris. Many of the thick-crusted loaves are adorned with a bunch of grapes with tendrils, making a stylish artistic bread. It is fun to recreate the idea at home.

Starter: 1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup low-fat milk, warmed to room temperature
1 cup whole-wheat flour
All of the starter
2 cups warm water
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
All of the sponge
1 tablespoon salt

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, approximately
In a medium or large bowl, stir the yeast into warm water until the particles have dissolved. Add milk and whole wheat flour and mix until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature (70ェ ) for 1 day. The batter will rise and fall and continue to ferment during the 24-hour period.

The next day turn back the plastic wrap and pour in the warm water. Stir in the unbleached and whole wheat flour. Dough will be runny like a batter. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for one day. The next day, stir down the sponge. Add 1 cup of flour and the salt. Gradually add the remaining flour to make a firm yet springy dough. Knead on a lightly floured board until smooth. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1-1/2 hours.

To shape, first cut off a portion of dough, about 1 cup, to save as the starter for the next batch of bread. If desired, cut off a portion for making a grape bunch or wheat stalk design. Form the large piece of dough into a ball with a taut surface, about 8 inches across. Place on a greased pan. Cover and let rise until dough triples in volume, about 1 1/2 hours. Shortly before dough is completely raised, make top decorations, if desired.

Grape: Use leaf, cluster and tendrils as model. Roll dough 1/8 inch thick for leaf and cut with dough wheel, razor or sharp knife. Score veins. Pinch off 2 dozen marble-size pieces of dough and roll into grapes. Carefully roll out long strings to resemble tendrils. Uncover loaf, lightly brush with water and position decorations forming a bunch of grapes.

Preheat oven to 425ェ with a broiler pan placed on the bottom shelf, filled with about 1 cup hot tap water. Place loaf on middle rack of oven and bake 50 to 55 minutes or until light golden brown and hard. Remove broiler pan after about 15 minutes of baking when steam has evaporated.

Toasted Walnut Bread
makes 2 loaves
Toasting the walnuts or filberts lends a delicious nutty flavor to this bread.

1-1/2 cups walnuts or filberts
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons olive oil or walnut oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-3/4 cups cups warm water
3 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour

Preheat the oven to 325ェ. Place the nuts in a baking dish and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until light golden. If using filberts, rub between two sheets of paper towels removing most of their papery skins. Let cool. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the warm water and let stand until dissolved and bubbly. Add the honey, oil, salt, and remaining water, mixing well. Add 2 cups unbleached flour and beat until smooth. Add the whole wheat flour and remaining unbleached flour, mixing to form a soft dough. Mix in the nuts. Knead using a dough hook or by hand. Place in the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.

Turn out on a floured board and divide in half. Shape into 2 round 8-inch loaves. Place in greased 9-inch baking pans or on a baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled. Preheat the oven to 375ェ. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Holiday Biscotti
makes about 4 dozen
Pistachios and cherries stud these cookies that are optionally sealed in white chocolate.

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose or unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts
2/3 cup dried cherries
3 to 4 ounces white chocolate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325ェ. In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the creamed mixture, mixing until blended. Mix in nuts and cherries.

Divide dough in half. Form into two logs on a greased and floured baking sheet making them about 1/2-inch thick, 1-1/2 inches wide and 14 inches long, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until set and golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and let cool 5 minutes. With a serrated knife slice diagonally into 3/8 inch slices. Stand upright on a baking sheet and return to the oven at 300ェ for 15 to 20 minutes to dry out. Let cool on a rack.

If desired, melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on medium about 2 to 3 minutes. Spread with a spatula over tops of cookies; let stand until set. Store in a tightly covered container.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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