You could say that my book Easy Soups From Scratch with Quick Breads To Match is a manifesto on scratch cooking, since I encourage you to make your own soups. You could call the book an edible travel log, since a lion’s share of the recipes were inspired by my frequent travels (see the Jamaican Pork and Sweet Potato Stew recipe below).
And the book could just as easily be filed under “guide to easy weeknight dinners,” since all the recipes take less than an hour to prepare. I include lots of “cheffy” tips and shortcuts so your pot of soup is on the table fast. As the author of countless 30-minute meal features for magazines like Cooking Light, Fine Cooking, and Clean Eating, I’ve got the quick dinner thing mastered.
This book has soups, lots of them. But when soup comes up, I’m always thinking, “Oh that’s nice, but what bread goes with it?” I immediately daydream about how nicely a maple-flavored cornbread counters the spice of Cincinnati chili. Or how well teff injera can be used to scoop up Ethiopian lentil soup. Or how pao de queijo (think Brazi bite tapioca puffs) are so damn good when you dunk them in Bahian seafood coconut chowder.
So soup needs bread, for sure. And there’s something immensely satisfying about whipping up bread or muffins or savory scones from scratch, but all too often I hear “oh, but I don’t bake.” That’s why the recipes in my book are easy—as in “one bowl-give it a stir-drop it on a baking sheet”-easy. Whether it’s pimento cheese drop biscuits or genius Indonesian net breads, you’ve got this, trust me.
So I encourage you to dive in and try a few new recipes, revisit some old favorites that have updated ingredients or streamlined methods. And then bake, dunk, and slurp like the wind!
Jamaican Pork and Sweet Potato Stew
I’ve sampled the dishes from street-food stands all over Jamaica, and my hands down favorite dish is their thick, spicy “brown stew.” The hearty stew is full of whatever local vegetables are around and includes some sort of meat—chicken or goat being the most common. I opt for spice-coated pork tenderloin here. The fruity heat of habanero chile is pronounced, so if your family isn’t fond of spicy food, omit the chile and serve habanero hot sauce on the side.
Serves 4 to 6
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme
- 1/2 tsp finely chopped habanero chile, or more to taste
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 6 cups [1.4 L] chicken broth
- One 11/4-lb [570-g] sweet potato or garnet yam, peeled and cut into 1/2-in [12-mm] chunks
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 11/4 lb [570 g] pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-in [12-mm] cubes
- 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 to 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- Soy sauce, for seasoning
1. Adjust the oven rack so it is 6 in [15 cm] below the heating element and preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrot and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, thyme, and habanero and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Add the chicken broth, sweet potato, and Worcestershire. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is tender, about 15 minutes.
3. While the soup is simmering, place the pork on the prepared baking sheet and toss with the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle the meat with the flour, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, pepper, and salt and toss to coat. Arrange the meat in a single layer and broil, without stirring, until the meat is browned on one side, 4 to 5 minutes (the pork will finish cooking in the soup).
4. Transfer the pork and drippings from the baking sheet to the pot. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded and the soup has thickened a bit, about 10 minutes more. If you’d like the soup to be still thicker, use a potato masher to mash some of the sweet potato. Season the soup with the lime juice and soy sauce.
5. Ladle the stew into bowls and serve immediately.
GET AHEAD: This recipe doubles easily, tastes better the next day, and freezes well. Go easy on the habanero; just 1/2 of the finely chopped chile will be plenty, as the stew will become spicier the next day. Store in airtight containers or zip-top plastic freezer bags in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or the freezer for up to 3 months.
Pair With: Blue Corn and Maple Skillet Bread
This rustic cornbread has a hearty whole-grain texture thanks to blue cornmeal (look for it in the bulk section of natural food stores) and white whole-wheat flour. You can substitute regular cornmeal if blue cornmeal is unavailable. The hint of sweetness comes from maple syrup; use Grade A dark maple syrup for the richest flavor. Because this bread has a hint of sweetness and a rustic texture, it complements spicy, robust fare.
- 6 Tbsp [85 g] unsalted butter
- 1 cup [140 g] blue cornmeal
- 1 cup [140 g] white whole-wheat flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 3/4 cup [180 ml] buttermilk
- 1/2 cup [120 g] sour cream or plain
- full-fat Greek yogurt
- 3 Tbsp Grade A dark amber maple syrup
- 2 large eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F [220°C]. While the oven is heating up, place the butter in a 12-in [30.5-cm] cast-iron skillet, slide the skillet into the oven, and heat the pan until the butter has melted, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, maple syrup, and eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and scrape the melted butter from the skillet into the batter. Mix with a wooden spoon until just blended. Do not overmix.
3. Scrape the batter into the skillet and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Cut the cornbread into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.
GET AHEAD: This moist cornbread freezes well. Stack the cooled wedges, wrap them in foil, and freeze in a zip-top plastic freezer bag for up to 3 months. To reheat, arrange the bread in an even layer on a baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake in a 350°F [180°C] oven until heated through, 15 to 20 minutes.