Cowboy Soup – The Day After Wagon Wheel Ribs

cowboy sparerib soup n

The leftover stock from oven-cooked Wagon Wheel Baby Back Ribs is the base for one of the best soups we’ve ever enjoyed. 

This soup doesn’t really have much to do with cowboys, except that if we were cowboys, this would be what we’d want to eat around the campfire. A cold night, wolves howling in the darkness, shooting stars above, a roaring fire cracking and sparking, a properly chilled Riesling… (We’re the kinds of cowboys who pack stemware.)

Cowboy Soup


  • 2 cups leftover liquid from Wagon Wheel Ribs
  • 1 pound leftover baby back ribs, meat cut from bone and sliced into bite-sized chunks
  • leftover bones, cracked
  • leftover potatoes, beans and onions
  • fresh sweet corn from one or two cobs (1 – 2 cups)
  • 1 cup smoked gouda cheese, shredded
  • bay leaf
  • additional potatoes, cut into large chunks, salted and seasoned as desired
  • additional spices and seasonings such as chili powder, jerk rub, Cholula sauce, Mongolian fire oil, oregano, mesquite seasoning, salt and pepper, as desired
  • sour cream


  • Place leftover ingredients from Wagon Wheel Ribs (liquid, meat, bones, potatoes, beans, onions) and bay leaf in a medium-sized pot and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer.
  • Meanwhile, place olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium heat. Add chunks of additional potatoes, seasoned as desired with salt, pepper, Cholula sauce and jerk rub. Cook till tender.
  • Add potatoes to soup. Stir in sweet corn and gouda cheese. Add additional seasonings if desired.
  • Serve piping hot with a dollop of sour cream.

Baked Minestrone Soup: Celebrating Summer’s Garden

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A hearty bowl of minestrone soup is the perfect way to enjoy seasonally abundant vegetables from your own garden, your CSA, the local farmers’ market or the grocer.

Before there was Rome, there was minestrone soup, and although some may insist that true minestrone must have this or that, the spirit of this dish lies in taking advantage of whatever vegetables are on hand. Add pasta or not, rice or not, and although contemporary versions of minestrone usually feature a bean broth, some versions use vegetable or even meat broth. Chunk up some halibut, striped bass or loup de mer (European seabass), toss it in and you’ve got a hearty fish stew. Here’s how we made our minestrone – courtesy of the abundance of vegetables we have now that we are receiving weekly deliveries to our Arctic home from Full Circle Farm. A good smoked sea salt works beautifully in this soup. A dollop of sherry is nice, too.

Ingredients (feel free to change quantities and freely substitute):

  • olive oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • two sunburst squash, diced (zucchini or summer squash also work well)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1 cup (1 ear) sweet corn
  • 1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • several leaves of basil, cut into thin ribbons chiffonade style. (You can do this by rolling the leaves cigar style, then slicing them.)
  • 1 bunch spinach, chopped coarse
  • 2 cups pinto beans (or other beans), cooked till they’re tender. Separate from broth and save the broth.
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • Italian herbs


  1. Start by cooking the beans in a pot till they are soft. Save the broth, as it will be the base of the soup. Set aside beans and broth.
  2. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  3. Place olive oil and tomatoes in a large pot over medium heat stirring occasionally till the tomatoes are falling apart. Add onions and green beans and cook till they just begin to soften. Add garlic and squash, followed by parsley and basil. (You will add the beans, spinach and corn later.)
  4. Stir the broth and pour into the pot so that the vegetables are just covered. Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil.
  5. As soon as the broth begins to boil, place the pot into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove pot from oven. Add beans, spinach and corn. Give the soup a taste and add seasonings as necessary. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, stir in a good olive oil for added flavor and give it a final taste. Let soup rest with lid on for about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a baguette of French bread or a crunchy bolillo.

Alaska Salmon Seafood Chowder with Fennel Sheefish Stock (and a Brief History of the Tomato)

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Pink salmon and sweet shrimp from the cold, clean seas of Alaska along with a terrific fish stock are key ingredients in this hearty, tomato-based seafood chowder. Made from a little of this, a little of that, and a lot of whatever the catch-of-the-day may have been, in many kitchens and galleys no two chowders are exactly the same. This one was especially tasty, and so we’ve provided the recipe, below.

Native to the Americas, tomatoes didn’t find their way to Europe until Spanish explorers took the fruit back in the late 1400’s or early 1500’s. Even after tomatoes found their way to Britain, leading horticulturalists there believed them to be poisonous. And so this versatile, luscious fruit was not generally consumed in Britain or her American colonies until the mid 1800’s.

It was in the 1800’s that Portuguese immigrants introduced tomato-based seafood chowders such as Manhattan clam chowder to New York and other American cities. Among the endless variations of this soup is the national dish of Bermuda: Bermuda fish chowder is built around a sumptuous combination of fish, tomato purée, onions, a healthy dollop of dark rum and sherry pepper sauce. 

See also: Manhattan-style Razor Clam Chowder

New England-style Alaska Clam Chowder

Alaska Salmon Seafood Chowder 

Ingredients: (makes about

  • 4 cups fish stock (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 pounds salmon, cut into 1/2″ or 3/4″ cubes (skin removed or not, chef’s choice)
  • 4 potatoes, diced into cubes smaller than the salmon cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped semi-coarse
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped into discs
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped coarse
  • 3/4 lb. shrimp, peeled and veins removed. Leave whole or cut to smaller pieces, depending on size of shrimp.
  • 3/4 lb. shellfish such as razor clams, other types of clams or oysters. Reserve juice to add to fish stock. (We used equal portions of clams and oysters)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano (dry)
  • ground pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • smoked sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 lb. diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, chopped large (or use 1/2 cup frozen)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped into thin slivers
  • 1/4 cup good sherry or white wine (optional)


  1. In a large kettle: Add fish stock, clam or oyster juice, bay leaf, oregano, ground pepper and tomato paste. Stir till paste is thoroughly mixed in.
  2. Add potatoes and tomatoes, ensuring that there is sufficient liquid to cover them. Add additional water, as necessary.
  3. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Continue cooking just until potatoes are tender.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet: Add enough olive oil to cover skillet bottom. Add onions and cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add carrots and celery and continue stirring for about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and continue cooking and stirring for 1 more minute – about 5 minutes total. Onions should be just turning translucent. Place in a bowl to prevent over-cooking and set aside.
  5. When the potatoes have just become tender, add sautéed onion mixture to soup. Add sherry or wine, if desired. Return soup to a simmer.
  6. Add salmon, shrimp and shellfish. At this point, we remove the pot from heat – the ambient temperature will cook the seafood sufficiently. (Seafood should be fresh or fresh-frozen.)
  7. Serve piping hot. This soup needs nothing, but a little freshly grated parmesan cheese, a few pieces of nori (dried seaweed), crackers or croutons make nice condiments.

Fennel Fish Stock


  • 1 1/2 lbs. fish bones & head, cleaned, scaled, gills removed (preferably a white-meated fish such as striped bass, sea bass, snapper, porgy, rock fish, halibut, walleye, etc. We used sheefish.) It is important that the fish is fresh.
  • fennel – leaves and stalks from 2 stalks, chopped coarse (or use 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds or powdered fennel)
  • 1/2 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 whole pepper corns
  • 1 tsp smoked sea salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup coarsely celery
  • 1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup good sherry or white wine (optional)
  • water


  1. Cut up fish bones and split fish head butterfly style so that everything can be lain as flat as possible in the bottom of a large kettle. 
  2. Place all other ingredients on top of the fish bones and head, arranging so that ingredients are fairly compact so that as little water as possible is needed to cover them.
  3. Cover ingredients with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  4. As soon as pot is boiling, reduce heat to simmer. You may need to use a flame shield if stock is boiling too vigorously.
  5. Gently simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to stand an additional 15 minutes.
  7. Strain through a wire mesh colander and set stock aside.
  8. Stock can be placed into containers and frozen for later used, or used immediately.

Hearty Bean, Roasted Squash and Sausage Soup

Hunks of crusty, toasted baguette and parmesan cheese accompany one of our favorite wintertime soups.

We don’t get many fresh vegetables up here in Arctic Alaska. Squash really shines. It ships well and keeps for months, so every August we fill a tub with an assortment of acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash, put in in the mail, and use them in pies, soups and entrées over the following months. Puréed butternut squash is a terrific way to thicken hearty soups. I do a version of bean and sausage soup every winter in my big soup kettle. This year’s was our favorite to date, and although ingredients on hand will always necessitate minor changes, we’ve now got a base recipe that’s a keeper.

Although ingredients can be freely substituted, the combination of smoked chipotle peppers and star anise is especially nice. Make this dish even tastier by roasting the squash and the tomatoes on a charcoal grill.

Hearty Bean, Roasted Squash and Sausage Soup

Ingredients:  Makes about 2 gallons. If you do not have whole peppers, substitute powdered cayenne or similar pepper, or use a good chili or Thai blend.

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1o cups black and pinto beans (or use all black beans), soaked, tender and ready for cooking
  • 3 stars of star anise
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped coarse or sliced
  • 3 smoked chipotle peppers, ground fine (use a food processor)
  • 1 ancho pepper, ground fine
  • 1 tbs oregano
  • 1/2 tbs thyme
  • 1 bay leave
  • two sweet onions, chopped coarse
  • several grinds black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet corn
  • 1 pound sausage, sliced (I used chicken sausage.)
  • olive oil
  • chicken broth – enough to cover beans plus some additional broth to use when puréeing the squash. (I use Better Than Bouillon to make the broth.)
  • 2 pounds diced tomatoes, canned or fresh, seeds removed
  • smoked sea salt, to taste


  1. Place a cooking sheet in an oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
  2. Squash: Cut away the stem and slice into discs approximately one inch thick. Quarter these slices. Remove seeds and stringy flesh. Leave the skin on.
  3. Place the squash in a large pan, add olive oil, and toss till all pieces are well coated.
  4. Lightly oil the heated baking sheet in the oven and place the oiled squash pieces on the pan. Roast until thoroughly cooked through and soft – about 20 minutes.
  5. Place cooked squash on a large cutting board. When cool enough to work with, use a knife to remove the skin.
  6. Use a stick blender or food processor to purée the squash a few chunks at a time. Keep the mixture fairly thick.
  7. When all the squash has been puréed, place in a container and set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, in a large soup kettle combine the beans, star anise, garlic, chipotles, anchos, oregano, thyme, black pepper, bay leave, enough chicken broth to cover all the ingredients, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and continue cooking on a low simmer for about 20 minutes.
  9. Stir in the puréed squash.
  10. Add the tomatoes, corn and sausage. Add smoked sea salt, if needed.
  11. The soup is ready to serve, but will be even better if it rests for an hour or more.

Serve with freshly baked French baguettes. 

Smokey, Spicy Butternut Squash Soup with Almonds

This hearty, flavorful butternut squash soup will take the chill off of crisp autumn evenings. 

Recipes go through iterations until, it is hoped, something approaching perfection is obtained. Of the many squash and pumpkin soups I’ve made over the years, this, so far, has been our favorite. The secret? Smoked chipotle peppers. These robust, pleasantly fiery chili peppers have been this fall’s find in our kitchen. Combined with even hotter arbol chili peppers, the combination has been adding extra zip and depth to our chilies and soups. (Barbra’s worried I’m going to start putting these chilies into our morning oatmeal and waffles.)

The other twist to this particular squash soup was the addition of toasted almonds. As with many recipes, this one invites experimentation. Roasting or grilling the tomatoes and squash adds a dimension of flavor, as does toasting the chopped almonds. And don’t overlook the small pumpkins that are available this time of year as a possible main ingredient. A mug or bowl of this soup served with a hunk of crusty French bread is just the thing as fall days turn wintery.


  • 3 cups butternut squash purée (made from steamed, roasted or grilled squash, or from canned pumpkin or squash)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pound diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds (preferably toasted)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (I used Better than Bouillon)
  • 3 dried smoked chipotle chili peppers, chopped fine
  • 2 dried arbol chili peppers, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp powdered coriander
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • olive oil


  1. Cut up a butternut squash into discs roughly 1 inch thick, and then cut the discs into halves or quarters. Scoop away the seeds and fibrous matter. Roast, grill or steam the squash and peel away and discard the skins. To oven-roast, heat oven to 400 degrees F., place a baking sheet covered in olive oil in the oven, and when it’s hot, add the squash. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until some of the squash starts to brown.
  2. Combine the chopped onions, tomatoes and garlic and grill, roast or sauté until onions are translucent. This can be done by placing some olive oil in a large skillet, heating over medium heat, and adding the tomatoes, onions and garlic, stirring occasionally.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients except the cream in a large mixing bowl. Purée with a stick blender (or in a food processor or with a conventional blender).
  4. Scrape and pour ingredients into a large pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soup begins to simmer. Continue simmering on low heat for 20 minutes. A flame tamer may be necessary to prevent soup from boiling. Continue to stir occasionally.
  5. Stir in cream and return soup to a simmer.
  6. Serve piping hot.

Garnish individual bowls of soup with sun-dried tomatoes cut into thin strips, a spoonful of toasted garlic and almonds, or both.

Smoky, Fiery Chili con Carne with Beans and Sweet Corn

Berry leaves are turning red and the grass is going to autumn gold. Nightly temperatures are dipping into the thirties. We’re losing about seven minutes of daylight each day. Winter’s coming, and so today I made the season’s first Big Pot of chili.

I’ve been doing this for years now – one or two pots of chili con carne every fall and winter. No two pots are the same. Here’s this year’s first four-gallon batch. The smoked chipotle’s, smoked sea salt and charcoal grilled meat made this batch the best chili to date!


  • 2 3/4 lbs tri-tip steak
  • 1 tbsp cumin – divided into two equal portions of 1/2 tbsp each
  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sweet mesquite seasoning
  • 13 lbs, 10 oz diced tomatoes, seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 pounds (24 oz) tomato paste
  • 3 3/4 pounds sweet onions, chopped coarse
  • 2 1/2 lbs sweet corn
  • 9 pounds beans, soaked, tender, and ready to go. Pinto and black beans in equal portions work well. Alternatively, all black beans are fine.
  • water, as needed (about 1 to 2 cups)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dry oregano, crushed
  • 1 tbsp dry sage
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked sea salt (to taste)
  • 2 arbol chilis, with seeds, chopped fine
  • 4 smoked chipotle chilis, with seeds, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tbsp mince garlic


  1. Fire up a grill to a fairly hot temperature. Charcoal gives the best flavor, but a gas grill is fine.
  2. Cut the tri-tip into small cubes. And place into a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp mesquite seasoning, and 1 tbsp olive oil. Mix together and place on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil that has been coated with olive oil.
  3. Place the aluminum foil with the meat on it on the grill and cover. Use a spatula to occasionally turn and stir the meat till it’s cooked through. Remove meat from grill, place in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, place tomato paste in a bowl and stir in just enough water to make a thick liquid. If you’re using canned diced tomatoes, the liquid from those will be plenty. Set aside.
  5. Add olive oil to a large pot, heat over medium heat, and add onions. Stir to ensure even cooking. When onions just begin to turn translucent, add the tomatoes, the tomato paste (from step 4), and all the remaining spices and seasonings. Heat over medium heat and stir till well mixed. Add the beans. The spices will become more pronounced with cooking, so wait at least an hour before adding additional spices.
  6. Bring pot to just barely boiling, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Use a flame tamer if necessary. Cook for one hour, or more.
  7. Stir in the sweet corn and the meat.
  8. Serve piping hot with corn bread fresh out of the oven and perhaps some grated cheddar cheese.

Scallop and Shrimp Chawan Mushi with Smoked Quail Eggs

Chawan mushi combines two of my favorite things: custard and an element of pleasant surprise. Although the custards served to me (mostly by my grandmother) in my youth were invariably sweet, it was love at first spoonful when I had my first taste of chawan mushi in a Tokyo restaurant. On that occasion, I would have been happy just to enjoy the small ramekin of savory soupy custard that came with my meal. But when one of those spoonfuls revealed a sweet shrimp, and another a tender boiled quail egg, I was full-blown, head-over-heals gone.

Japanese diners seem to think of chawan mushi more as a soup than a custard, and I have to admit that over time, I have come to prefer this dish fairly loosely set. In addition to fresh, grilled or smoked seafood (a bit of smoked salmon makes a nice finishing piece), fresh vegetables such as peas, butter beans, lotus root or mushrooms, or a tender piece of salty grilled chicken, beef or wild game all work well. Creative cooks may want to experiment with the basic dashi recipe or substitute chicken or beef broth. A pinch of smoked sea salt adds another dimension to this versatile dish which can be served hot to take the chill of a winter evening or refreshingly cold on a warm summer day.

Below are the directions for Scallop and Shrimp Chawan Mushi with Smoked Quail Eggs – with much appreciation to a Japanese friend who mailed us a package of smoked quail eggs, thus inspiring this dish. By the way, chawan means tea cup; mushi means steaming.

The Watercourse, a signed and numbered giclée by Whitehorse, Yukon Territory artist Nathalie Parenteau serves as the backdrop for this All-Clad poacher. With its raised tray, it’s perfect for steaming chawan mushi either in an oven or on a stove top. In the past, I’ve improvised with a large round kettle fitted with an inverted shallow wicker basket. The same kettle also works with an inverted metal strainer that happens to fit.

Jack’s Dashi


  • 2 cups water
  • sheet of dried kombu (Japanese kelp) about 4″ x 4″ (about 5 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon “Better than Bouillon Lobster Base” (or make traditional dashi with 1/4 cup dried bonito flakes)


  1. Add two cups of water and the kombu to a pan. Heat over medium heat.
  2. Just before the water boils, remove the kombu. Turn off heat and stir in the lobster base bouillon.
  3. Strain through cheese cloth or fine-mesh strainer to remove stray pieces of kombu (or bonito flakes, if those are used). The lobster bouillon base will create a slightly darker dashi than bonito flakes. In the finished chawan mushi, this will create an attractive cream color.
  4. Set aside to cool.

Scallop and Shrimp Chawan Mushi with Smoked Quail Eggs


  • 6 small ramekins, preferably with loosely fitted lids. Plastic wrap with a small puncture (to allow steam to escape) can be used to cover the ramekins if lids are not available.
  • 2 cups dashi (see recipe above)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 6 sea scallops
  • 6 sweet shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed (Alaskan shrimp are similar to the ama-ebi of Japan and are perfect for this dish)
  • 6 smoked quail eggs
  • (optional) sea salt to taste
  • (optional) 2 tablespoons good sake


  1. In a bowl, whisk eggs until smooth. Make sure dashi is cool (so it won’t cook the eggs) and stir into egg mixture. Add soy sauce (and sake, optional) and mix together, but avoid mixing so vigorously that foam is created. Taste for appropriate saltiness. If more salt is desired, use sea salt. Set mixture aside.
  2. Slice scallops depth-wise into three or four parts. Place scallops and 1 shrimp each into the ramekins.
  3. If there are bubbles or foam on the egg and dashi mixture, use a spoon to remove. The finished chawan mushi should be smooth. Cover the scallops and shrimp with the egg and dashi mixture so that ramekins are about 2/3 full. Cover each ramekin with a loosely fitting lid or punctured piece of plastic wrap.
  4. Arrange the covered ramekins in a steamer and gently steam for 12 minutes, until mixture is loosely set.
  5. Turn off heat. Place a smoked quail egg atop each chawan mushi, cover with lids again, and keep them in the steaming pan so that the custard continues to set and the egg warms through – approximately 3 – 5 additional minutes.

This dish makes a delicious appetizer, can be served as one would serve a soup, or as part of the main meal. It will keep nicely in the refrigerator for a day or two. Our village in bush Alaska is dry, so sake is not an option. But I highly recommend you include it, as it really compliments the flavors of this dish – and pairs well as a drink served with the finished chawan mushi.