Pascale's kitchen: Warming up the new year

I thought I would suggest that you prepare a few dishes for a festive dinner alongside interesting cocktails for a fresh start.

Noodle and mushroom soup (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Noodle and mushroom soup
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
This is a fickle and very odd time of the year, and alongside it the coronavirus has struck every good part.
The weather changes slowly and surprisingly in the flickers of winter, but it still is not really winter. Sometimes it’s hot and the sun shines, and sometimes it’s cold and winds blow alongside torrential rain. Everything is confused and strange, and yet on the Gregorian calendar a new year begins.
I thought I would suggest that you prepare a few dishes for a festive dinner alongside interesting cocktails for a fresh start.
Learn more about Pascale's Kitchen here>>
But when I sat down to plan the dishes for the column, I felt it was really not the time for celebrations, what with every few days a cloud pops over our heads in the form of a full or softened lockdown. Because it has not yet been decided, “and all these good things” are happening as the country begins to get vaccinated and we hope for the best.
So, after some deliberation and deep thinking about how and which foods are suitable for preparation and serving in honor of the beginning of the new civil year, I decided to opt for warming and straightforward dishes, dishes that give a feeling of warmth and satiety, home and family. I decided to suggest two soups to make that are rich in content and surprising in their taste.
Soups usually vary according to mood, weather and the vegetables in the refrigerator. The additions with which I enrich the soup are chosen according to the taste of the members of the household.
When I explain how to make soup, I always start with one important rule: To enjoy a successful and delicious soup, you must take care with the raw ingredients, so that they will be of high quality and fresh. In the winter the soups easily become a full meal, so be sure to thicken the soup and enrich it with add-ins.
Focaccia in different flavors with various toppings should be served alongside the soups. This time I chose focaccia with seeds.
If you think about it carefully, focaccia is just flatbread baked in the oven, which does not need a brick surface to successfully bake. But the variety of possibilities inherent in making focaccia make it the queen of carbs of the table. Impressive bread. Without much work, but always eliciting compliments.
If one has to think about a disadvantage in this dough, then the only thing is that it should be served immediately after baking and eaten while hot and crackling. And this is exactly what will embrace and complement the taste of soups.
I sincerely hope that these warm, modest flavors will bring the desired change in honor of the new civil year, and 2021 will smile on us with lots of love.
A happy and healthy new year to us all.
NOODLE AND MUSHROOM SOUP
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 peeled carrots, cut into cubes
½ head celery, diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 clean bell pepper, cut into cubes
5 garlic cloves, chopped
5 parsley stalks, washed and finely chopped
5 coriander stalks, washed and finely chopped
3 basil sprigs, chopped
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. soy
1 Tbsp. onion soup powder
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. red peppercorn
½ tsp. turmeric
4 Tbsp. crushed tomatoes
1 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
10 cups water
1½ cups fresh champagne mushrooms, sliced
2 cups egg noodles, thin, spiral or tagliatelle
For serving:
1 Tbsp. fresh basil sprigs, chopped or small, full leaves
Handful sliced mushrooms
A little salt and ground pepper
Warm olive oil in a deep pot. Add chopped onion and fry lightly until transparent. Add cubed carrots, chopped head and leaves of celery, cubed bell pepper and garlic, mix and steam two to three minutes.
Add chopped parsley, coriander and basil and all the spices, the soy and onion soup powder. Mix and add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, mix well and pour in water.
Cook on a high flame and bring to a boil. Add mushrooms and pasta and mix and bring to a boil again. Lower the flame and continue to cook for about 30 to 40 minutes in a covered pot.
Taste the soup and adjust the spices, pour in another cup of water, mix and continue to cook on a very low flame for about 30 minutes or until the soup thickens.
Serve hot and top with sliced fresh onions and basil leaves and sprinkle black pepper and coarse salt on top.
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1 hour
Status: Parve

Bean soup. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin)Bean soup. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin)
BEAN SOUP
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
500 gr. (3 cups) white beans, soaked the day before and filtered
10 cups water
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped thinly
3 beef bones
1 bone marrow
2 carrots, cut in half slices
2 heads of celery, cut into 3-cm. pieces
3 small hot peppers, whole
3 ripe tomatoes, cut into small cubes
2 heaping Tbsp. of tomato paste
2 peeled potatoes cut into medium-sized cubes
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. chicken soup powder
2 Tbsp. onion soup powder
Topping:
¼ cup chopped parsley
Place the beans in a wide and deep pot, pour water on top and bring to a boil on medium heat. Remove the foam that forms and keep it on the side.
In a separate wide and deep pot, warm the olive oil and fry the onion with the beef bones until they change color.
Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and steam for a few minutes and pour in the beans with the liquids and mix and bring to a boil again. Lower the flame to the lowest setting and cook for two-and-a-half to three hours until the beans soften.
If you’re interested in thickening the soup more, continue cooking for another hour on a very low flame. Occasionally mix the soup well. Taste and adjust flavor as desired.
Serve hot and top with parsley or basil leaves alongside rustic bread.

Level of difficulty: Moderate
Time: 3-3.5 hours
Status: Meat
Basic focaccia. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin)Basic focaccia. (Photo credit: Pascale Perez-Rubin)
BASIC FOCACCIA
Makes 3 to 4 medium focaccias or 2 big ones.
3½ cups + 1 Tbsp. sifted flour
25 gr. yeast
1¼-1½ cups lukewarm water (depending on how much is absorbed by the flour)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Place the flour, yeast and water in a wide bowl or mixing bowl. Mix (by hand or with a kneading hook) for a 2-3 minutes and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until a soft and uniform dough is obtained, which detaches from the sides of the bowl.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour and a half to two hours, or until the dough doubles in volume.
Grease your hands and divide the dough into the desired number of focaccias. Line oven pans with parchment paper and place the focaccias on them. Flatten out and shape into the desired shape and size.
After shaping the dough, make a kind of dimple in the center by pressing your fingers into the center of the dough. Sprinkle with the spices, olive oil or desired toppings.
Let the dough rise again, for about 10-15 minutes, and bake for 12-15 minutes in an oven preheated to medium heat, 180° Celsius. The focaccias are ready when the bottom of the dough is golden and crispy.
Crackling coating:
Spread olive oil on the dough, sprinkle a little coarse salt and spread a cup of mixed seeds, including flax, oatmeal, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, on top.
You can combine rosemary leaves from 1-2 sprigs over the dough, or a handful of finely chopped rosemary leaves. You can use 1 Tbsp. of dry oregano with a little chopped dry chili.
Alternatively, you can use a ready-made ga’ala mixture, which is sold in the markets. Leave the focaccias to rise and bake in the oven.

Level of difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5-3 hours, including rising
Status: Parve
Translated by Tzvi Joffre.