Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Sheila and Rick on Vacation

Rick and Sheila enjoying winter!

Mayor De Blasio of NYC has been hyping the “Blizzard of 2015″ aka ” winter storm Juno,” which – if true – would be the first thing he has gotten right since he assumed office over a year ago.   Personally, I am always interested in how many snowplows the labor unions in NYC can mobilize for a winter storm or how many tons of salt will be spread on New York streets to make sure  auto commuters (and to a lesser extent: pedestrians) are not inconvenienced.    I don’t mean to trivialize the seriousness of a winter storm, but I am terribly disappointed that the YMCA will be closed tomorrow so I won’t be able to enjoy my daily sauna.   (Editor’s Note:  As the picture to the left suggests, the “California Dreamers” still believe they are on vacation.)

In any event, Sheila and I braved the crowds by elbowing our way through Whole Foods to stock up for a particularly bitter winter storm.  We opted for Hugh Acheson’s “Beef and Farro Soup” which was recently featured in  Food and Wine.   While this is more of a stew than a soup, Sheila decided to make several modifications to give the stew (sic soup) more flavor.  Personally, I am glad that she did.

Variations on Hugh’s Beef and Farro Soup

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces  (Editor’s Note:  Sheila recommends a mixture of 50% boned short ribs and 50% chuck for more taste.  Chuck is too dry!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 9 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1 head of garlic, pierced all over with a knife
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 leek, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, chopped (3 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp of white miso
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika  (Editor’s Note:  Make this a Tablespoon, a teaspoon is useless!)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish (Editor’s Note:  The photograph shows shaved parmesan – grated is better!)


  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper, add half to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes; using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining meat.
  2. Pour off all of the oil from the casserole. Add 1 cup of the stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining 8 cups of stock along with the meat, garlic, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in the farro and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the farro is almost tender, 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, leek, celery, carrots, kale, miso and paprika. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the garlic and herb sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with cheese and serve.

Again, this is a hearty stew more than a soup.  Enjoy on a cold winter’s day.

Cheating Death: A Guide to Obamacare

If you think you can cheat death, maybe you should call the guys in the white coats. If you are looking for a Guide to Obamacare, try Nope, it doesn’t work either. Actually, the title of this Blog Post has little to do with the content below. (Editor’s Note: In any event, you can’t afford to get sick since your insurance policy has been cancelled. Nevertheless, I have been advised by a reputable source in the Obama administration that you can get a better health insurance policy after you are dead. So hang in there and don’t die until you have finished reading this blog post).

The goal was to spark interest in a rather long (55 minutes) video on nutritional choices you can make to prolong your life. Sadly, some of these choices will damage our factory-based farm businesses. As 99% of all food products consumed by the American public are factory-tainted and something less than organic, we will not make much of a dent in the profits on Monsanto, Tyson and other “government-protected” food and food-related companies if we follow the suggestions shown below.

Now, Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts may not be the most polished speaker, but he does make the discussion of death and nutrition somewhat entertaining. It is most certainly educational and rather easy to understand.

For those truly interested in boycotting factory farms, please find a link to a guide that will help you regain control of your digestive track and also help small farmers regain control of our ecosystem. Enjoy and eat more organic kale!

Kale, Sausage and Mushroom Stew

Tuscan KaleThey say that people tend to lose their sense of taste as they grow older.   I suppose that is true given the number of people that watch politicians and their pundits on TV.  Personally, I believe that a bit of Tabasco makes everything more tasteful, with the possible exception of  “hate” TV.   One vegetable that has become a favorite of mine is Tuscan kale, also known as black kale or lacinato kale.  The taste is so distinctive and sharp that no Tabasco is needed to stimulate the saliva glands.   The best thing about kale is that it is full of antioxidants and is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium.  It isn’t often that you find a vegetable this tasty that does so many good things for your body.

I made a New Year’s resolution to promote a more healthy diet in 2011 on GourMay.  Some of my Texas relatives were not pleased with this decision but after watching Jamie Oliver give his vegetable quiz to some West Virginian kids, I decided  to jump on Jaime’s bandwagon and support the American Food Revolution. 

 I mean, imagine a world dominated by McDonalds, KFC, Dunkin Donut and Starbucks.  Pretty grim stuff if you ask me, but a diet of brown rice and tofu would likely send me around the bend.  

Now that I have a granddaughter, I want to make sure that she is brought up properly eating the “right” food.  I don’t plan to go overboard like most of today’s amateur nutritionists who have taken the joy out of eating.  GourMay is  simply going to focus on eating non-processed foods.  In fact, next month we will be launching a new section on GourMay on how to prepare natural baby foods as the solids begin to kick in month four of Corinne’s culinary awakening.

Several months ago, I presented a couple of kale recipes that were quite popular with old and young alike:  Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino and Kale Crunch.    This time, we will experiment with Mark Bittman’s kale stew recipe  (The Minimalist column from the New York Times), affectionately known to his fans as “Bitty,” who was paired with the Claudia “Eye Candy” Bassols in Mario Batali’s delightful and entertaining Spain food Odyssey, On the Road Again.

Kale, Sausage and Mushroom Stew


1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3/4 to 1 pound Italian sausage, sweet or hot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound of kale, leaves stripped from stems, stems reserved
3/4 pound trimmed and sliced mushrooms
1 Tbs roughly chopped garlic
1 Tbs hot paprika or dried red  chili flakes, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock or water (not Perrier!)


  • Put olive oil in a large deep skillet or casserole and turn heat to medium-high.  When the oil begins to ripple (Langston, that means make waves that you are not afraid to surf in), add sausage and cook without stirring until well browned on one side (about 5 minutes).  Meanwhile chop kale stems into 1/2-inch lengths and shred leaves.
  • Stir sausage and let it brown a bit more.  Remove it with a slotted spoon (don’t worry if it isn’t cooked through).  Cook mushrooms in remaining fat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
  • Add kale stems and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, in 3 or 4 minutes.  turn heat to medium and add garlic, paprika or chili flakes, kale leaves, salt and pepper.  Stir and cook about 1 minutes.  Return sausage to pan and add stock or water.  Raise head to high and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon.  Add salt and pepper to taste, ladle stew into bowls and top with reserved mushrooms.

You are what you eat and, quite frankly, the war in Europe would have been lost if Churchill had been eating tofu and drinking skim milk.