Soups + Stews + Chili

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Bisque

By | Soups + Stews + Chili, Uncategorized | No Comments

Success! I created this Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Bisque at my mom’s request, and it is every bit as good as the dish she dreamed of in her head.

Every year or so as the Food Director of Ladies’ Home Journal magazine, I would create recipes for a soup story. Sometimes I would get crazy and throw a stew or two in the mix; but either way, we would get our soup on for the winter months. Well, that’s not exactly true, because technically I developed and cooked them in the summer, since we worked so many months ahead of real-time. That’s how I knew a recipe was a winner though. If it was good enough to eat in the sweltering heat and humidity of a New York summer, then it was sure to be a hit when the magazine went to print in the winter.

This soup resulted from a request my mother made. She had eaten a roasted tomato and eggplant soup at a restaurant, and wanted me to re-create it so she could make it at home. Having never tasted it myself, I got a kick out of coming up with a recipe based solely on my mom’s description! Really, all I knew was that the soup had eggplant and tomatoes in it, and tasted delicious. Even so, I still managed to nail it. (Hands above head emoji!)

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Bisque

I’ve always liked roasted eggplant. If you were to saute it in a pot with onions, it would turn into a watery situation with very little flavor. On the other hand, roasting this veggie gives it a nice mild smokey taste, makes it easy to peel, and turns the insides all creamy and delicious. I figured as long as I was roasting the eggplant I might as well do the tomatoes and garlic too. I really like all of these veggies cooked in the oven. Garlic gets soft and buttery, eggplant is smokey and creamy, and the tomatoes intensify in juicy flavor.

I use an immersion blender to puree it right in the pot, but you can process it in batches in a blender or food processor too. Note: if you’re using a Vitamix or Blendtec just pulse the mixture to keep the lovely texture of the eggplant and whole tomatoes. These machines are amazing and will puree the soup into a texture-less liquid in no time!

Oh I just love this soup! I call it a bisque because of the thicker, rich texture. However it’s not quite a stew. So bisque it is!

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Bisque

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Yield: Makes 10 cups

Calories per serving: 75

Fat per serving: 3 g

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Bisque

Roasting vegetables is the key to the sweet and smokey flavors of this Roasted tomato and Eggplant Bisque. Make it vegetarian by swapping veggie broth with the chicken broth.


  • 3 lbs eggplant, halved lengthwise
  • 5 medium tomatoes, halved and cored
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for vegetables
  • 1 head garlic, about ¼-inch cut off top to expose cloves
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cans (14-oz each) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. In a rimmed baking sheet, liberally brush eggplant and tomatoes with oil; arrange eggplant cut side down and tomatoes cut side up. Brush cut side of garlic head with oil and wrap in foil. Roast vegetables and garlic until vegetables are tender and browning in spots, about 45 minutes. Let stand until eggplant is cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes; peel.
  2. Meanwhile in a large pot, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 2 minutes. Add eggplant and tomatoes. Squeeze roasted garlic from skins into vegetables; stir to combine. Stir in broth, salt and pepper; bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Purèe using an immersion blender or a food processor.
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Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Bisque

Dill Ricotta Biscuits go perfectly with this warming tomato soup

While the veggies roast, feel free to make these Dill Ricotta Biscuits, they go gorgeously with the soup. You can throw them in the oven the minute those vegetables come out. Dinner is done, and the family will love it. Or, you can try these open-faced sandwiches, or toasts with your soup: Spinach Melts go well with this bisque, and Toasts with Sweet Potato Spread add a fresh bite to a warm dinner.

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Recipe Tara Bench
Photographer Blaine Moats
Prop Stylist Carol Linnan
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal February 2008

Mushroom Ravioli Soup

By | Easy Dinners, Main Dish, One Dish Meals, Pasta, Soups + Stews + Chili, Uncategorized, Vegetables | No Comments

The broth for this rich Mushroom Ravioli Soup is steeped with dried porcini’s and shallots, served with mushroom, ricotta and Parmesan dumplings. The entire dish is impressive and completely comforting.

Here in New York City we have had a little snow. 26.8 inches to be exact. That’s just under the 2006 record of 26.9 inches! Incredible. We may still be digging out.
The mayor cancelled alternate side parking for an entire week! That doesn’t mean much to most of you, but for those in the city who own cars, it’s a welcome relief. The snow plows push the snow onto the parked cars so it’s piled higher than the car. I’m very glad I don’t have to dig one out.

Also, there are giant slush lakes and 4-foot glaciers of plowed snow on every street corner. I’m still emotionally getting over being fully splashed by a car with heavy, wet, grayish-brown road-snow yesterday while trying to maneuver the slush lakes.

Mushroom Ravioli Soup
Let’s just make soup. It’s emotionally healing. Haha.

The beef broth for this soup is steeped with shallots and dried porcini mushrooms. Dried porcinis are not hard to find in larger markets. Sometimes they are in the produce section hanging on an end panel.

Mushroom Ravioli Soup

To strain all the bits from the broth I used cheesecloth. If you’ve never used it, cheesecloth might sound intimidating. It’s not! You can find it here so you have it on hand. One key is to get the cheesecloth wet before using it. It can be very absorbent dry, so by getting it wet with water you prevent it from soaking up all the delicious broth you just made. It simply acts as a very fine mesh to catch any little bits your strainer won’t.

The dumplings are easy to make with wonton wrappers. They are filled with the porcinis, other wild mushrooms, Parmesan, ricotta and herbs. Oh dear! They are tasty. The entire soup takes some time and love. But the dumplings and broth can be frozen separately so it can be two meals! Enjoy and stay warm.

Mushroom Ravioli Soup

Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 12 cups

1 cup

Calories per serving: 140

Fat per serving: 4 g

Mushroom Ravioli Soup


  • 4 cans (14 oz each) beef broth
  • 2 medium shallots, 1 coarsely chopped, 1 finely chopped
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 6 oz assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, shiitake or oyster)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup part-skim ricotta
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 pkg (12 oz) square wonton wrappers


  1. In a large pot, combine 5 cups water, the broth, coarsely chopped shallot and porcini mushrooms; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 30 minutes. Lightly moisten cheesecloth with water, fold into a double layer and place in a fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Pour mushroom stock through cheesecloth; remove and slice porcini mushrooms (discard shallot). Rinse pot and return strained stock to pot; set aside. Finely chop porcini mushrooms.
  2. While stock is standing, trim and clean assorted mushrooms, slice and reserve 1 cup. Finely chop remaining mushrooms.
  3. For ravioli filling: In a medium nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add porcini and chopped mushrooms, remaining shallot and the garlic. Sauce, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent and mushrooms are softened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Let cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in cheeses, parsley and thyme, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. For ravioli: Place 1 tbsp filling on one side of each wonton wrapper. Brush two opposite edges with water and fold over to form a triangle. Press firmly to seal.
  5. For soup: Bring stock to a boil; add reserved mushrooms and the ravioli. Cover and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley, if desired. (Freeze soup and uncooked ravioli separately in airtight containers up to 1 month. Save ravioli in single layers separated by waxed paper.)
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I love soup during winter months. If you do to, try one of my most popular recipes, Chicken Tomato Bisque, or Sausage and Greens Soup. Happy cooking.

Recipe and Food Styling Tara Bench
Originally published in Ladies” Home Journal February 2008
Photography Blaine Moats

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup + Lowfat Soup Secrets

By | Easy Dinners, Healthy + Diet, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, One Dish Meals, Seafood, Soups + Stews + Chili, Tips And Techniques, Uncategorized | No Comments

I love Thai food and flavors. When I was traveling in Thailand, the broths and soups were so delicious I just wanted to drink them, forget the spoon!

With all the many great jarred curry pastes available (typically in the Asian section of your grocery store) these glorious Thai soups are a cinch. This Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup recipe has got to be the easiest one you’ll ever make. It tastes like that warming bowl of coconut and curry broth from your favorite Thai restaurant. It’s also low-fat, low-calorie, and high in protein. A great dinner for DETOX month, after the holidays.
Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup
I was a picky kid, and often had to eat around things I didn’t like. I’m still not a fan of certain foods and my heart goes out for kids all over who may be sitting in front of a bowl of shrimp soup, and can’t stomach shrimp! My mom might disagree, after all she is “not a short-order cook” as she liked to remind me; but I am fine if every once in a while you throw your kid a bone and adjust a recipe so they can enjoy it! LOL! I offered a kid-ifying option for my Chicken Tomato Bisque as well.

I swap the shrimp for chicken or tofu for a change (and to kid-ify this recipe if you need to). Both options cook in just a few minutes and keep this soup prep to under 30 minutes.

If you’re on a soup kick but want to keep the calories in check, take into consideration some of these low-fat soup secrets!

•For creamy soups, replace heavy cream with whole or evaporated milk.
•Try using smashed white beans or mashed potatoes instead of butter and flour as thickeners.
•Choose lean cuts of meat; try turkey bacon or chicken sausage.
•If you need more moisture when you’re cooking vegetables, add fat-free broth in place of butter or oil.
•Use canned low-sodium broth instead of water to add flavor to soup that doesn’t have a lot of time to simmer and cook.

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 5 cups

Calories per serving: 160

Fat per serving: 6.5 g

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup

Never tried Thai cooking? This mildly spicy dish will turn you into a huge fan.


  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14-oz can unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (nahum plah)
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (4 oz) green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Lime wedges
  • Cilantro for garnish


  1. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, combine chicken broth, coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, ginger, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Add green beans and cook 2 min. Add shrimp and cook until pink, 5 min. Top soup with scallions and serve with lime.


If you'd like you can swap the shrimp for thinly sliced chicken breast or even diced tofu. To make it completely pescatarian (not vegetarian because of the fish sauce) use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

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Recipe by Tara Bench
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Feb 2009
Photography: Sang An
Prop Stylist: Tiziana Agnello
Food Stylist: Jee Levin

Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping

By | Beef, Easy Dinners, Main Dish, Soups + Stews + Chili, Uncategorized, Vegetables | No Comments

This is a delicious, saucy beef stew, made better with biscuits baked right on top. Some call it a casserole, some call it a stew. I call it whatever you want to hear that will make you want to cook it, then feed it to me right this minute.

I took the liberty of developing it for a traditional casserole vessel, or if you want, individual servings. They are just so cute individual!! (Either way tastes the same by the way, wink)

Happy comfort-fooding

Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping


Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Calories per serving: 700

Fat per serving: 38.5 g

Beef and Vegetable Stew with Biscuit Topping

With its biscuit topping and rich flavors, this is the perfect comfort food


  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 carrots, cut into ½-inch slices
  • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz white button mushrooms, sliced ⅜ inch thick
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • ¼ cup steak sauce (such as A1)
  • 1½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 2¼ cups packaged biscuit mix
  • ⅔ cup milk


  1. Heat oven to 325°F. In a bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper; toss with beef until coated well. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. in two batches, cook beef (adding 1 tbsp oil to second batch), burning, until browned, about 4 min. Transfer to a plate. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic to pot. Cook, stirring until wilted, 8 min. Stir in beef, mushrooms, wine, broth, steak sauce and Italian seasoning. Cover; bake 50 min. Remove from oven.
  2. About 20 min before serving, stir together biscuit mix and milk until just combined.
  3. Increase oven to 400°. (To make individual servings, transfer beef mixture to pint-size casserole pans.) Drop biscuit batter in mounds over beef mixture. Bake, uncovered, until biscuits are lightly browned, 15 to 20 min.
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Recipe by Tara Bench
Food Stylist Nicole Faber
Prop Stylist Carol Linnan
Originally Published in Ladies’ Home Journal January 2009

Spice Smarts

By | Easy Dinners, Side Dishes, Soups + Stews + Chili, Vegetables | 9 Comments

Having cooked in many different kitchens, people’s houses and friends apartments, I’ve rifled through my fair share of spice cabinets.

I certainly have a system for mine*, but every kitchen is as different as its cook, and I’m going to be honest…most aren’t organized or even frequently used.

I’m here to change all of that! Here are some ways to use your standard spices in unexpected ways to add flavor to everything you cook!


Ground Ginger
Try some in a smoothie or sprinkle it into a cup of green tea. It’s also great on winter squash and sliced apples.

Bay leaves
Simmer one in your vanilla pudding (even the kind from the box!) to add a sophisticated flavor, and don’t forget to add one to rice or grains before cooking.

A sprinkle of dried thyme elevates canned soup like a charm. It’s equally delicious stirred into mashed potatoes, even store-bought chicken salad.

Use it to wake up a ho-hum ham or turkey sandwich, or add pizzazz to potato chips and oven fries. Potato chips are my favorite. Scatter a bag of plain salted chips on a baking sheet and heat for a few minutes in the oven. While hot toss with oregano. Instant gourmet snack!

It’s classic in apple pie but also provides an unexpected burst of flavor to popcorn and chocolate chip cookies, even baked chicken and meat dishes.

This citrusy spice is my favorite by far. It adds a refreshing kick to marinades and grilled meats, roasted potatoes and baked goods like bread and cookies.

It’s delicious tossed on potatoes or cauliflower before roasting; a dash also gives grilled cheese sandwiches an exotic edge.

Mustard Powder
The subtle flavor perks up meatballs, turkey burgers and bread stuffing. Try adding it to olive oil before you saute veggies.

Curry Powder
Use it to rev up crab cakes, shrimp salad and even chicken soup. Or toss with mixed nuts to add major flavor. I keep the nuts in their canister, add the curry powder and lid and shake. Kids can even make this snack!

Dried Red Pepper Flakes and Cayenne
A pinch of cayenne or red-pepper flakes adds a pleasant heat to omelets, guacamole and salad dressings.

*I alphabetize my spices. There! I said it. It’s out there, and I will take whatever Type-A comments you want to throw at me. I love my spice drawer. I’m lucky because it’s a wide, deep drawer. But it could also be a wide, flat bin slipped under a cabinet so it can be pulled in and out if you don’t have a drawer. I use a little sticker and Sharpie to label the tops of each jar and stand it upright so I can just see the lids and labels…in alphabetical order. I use my spices ALL the time because they are accessible and I don’t have to dig through a cupboard to get the one at the back. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and organize your life. I mean spices!!!
It will change your life! 🙂

See me and these spices in action on KSL Studio 5.

Sausage And Greens Soup

By | Easy Dinners, Soups + Stews + Chili | One Comment

Sausage and Greens Soup means comfort food at it’s best. Creamy, savory broth and hearty greens, potatoes and sausage simmer together to perfection. 

• • •

Sausage And Greens Soup

Making soup is one of my ideal procrastination activities. It’s typically a lot of methodical chopping, mindless stirring and sautéing and it uses up lots of ingredients from the fridge—making it look like I cleaned (bonus!).
I can sit down to a dinner of delicious soup and some bread, and glare at my procrastinated to-do list with a smug look, saying, “I’ve accomplished something today and you can’t do anything about it.”

The to-do list usually doesn’t respond. It just sits silently waiting.

This healthy, awesome soup doesn’t take a lot of chopping, or time. It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare everything and you walk away and let it simmer.
Totally easy for a weeknight meal. With hearty greens like collard, kale and escarole now available pre-washed, chopped and bagged in the produce section, it’s even faster.

So much for procrastinating.

Sausage And Greens Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: Makes 8 cups

1 cup

Calories per serving: 190

Fat per serving: 11.5 g

Use your favorite sausage in place of kielbasa for a different take on this hearty, comforting soup.


  • 8 oz kielbasa sausage cut into ¼-inch half-moons
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 8 oz baby red potatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 3 cups hearty greens (such as escarole or collard) cut into 2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup whole milk


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook kielbasa in 1 tsp olive oil until browned, about 5 min. Remove kielbasa and set aside.
  2. Add onion, garlic and 1 tsp olive oil and cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 4 min. Stir in flour, thyme and potatoes. Add kielbasa, broth and salt; cover and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, until potatoes are tender, 25 min. Add greens and cook until tender, about 7 min. Stir in milk.
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Sausage And Greens Soup-2

Recipe by Tara Bench. Originally published in LHJ Feb/09. Photography Sang An. Prop Styling Tiziana Agnello. Food Styling Jee Levin.


Chicken Tomato Bisque + Kid Tip

By | Chicken, Easy Dinners, Kid Friendly Dinners, Main Dish, Meat + Poultry, One Dish Meals, Soups + Stews + Chili, Tips And Techniques, Uncategorized, Vegetables | 2 Comments

Chicken Tomato Bisque
Plus Kid-style tips!

First, this is an easy, really good creamy tomato soup. Make it in under an hour—we all have things to do, people to see…
Then you add shredded chicken (leftovers are awesome for this!), and it makes a complete meal—right in the bowl.

Kid Style
As much as we’d like to deny it, kids are picky. Also, grown women like me are picky, but that’s for another time.
So unless your children are like my food-hero-nephew Jackson, who asks for broccoli for breakfast, here’s a thought:
Don’t add the chicken to the soup (also leave off the beautiful leafy oregano garnish). Cut chicken into little bites along with some squares of bread and cheese and hand the child some toothpicks. Let them dunk skewered bites of these morsels into the tomato soup. FTW*

*That means “for the win” for people like me who had to Google it.

Chicken Tomato Bisque 

Chicken Tomato Bisque + Kid Tip

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 5 cups

Leftover grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken is perfect for this easy weeknight meal.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp chopped oregano
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups (12 oz) shredded cooked chicken


  1. In a 6-qt pot over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, carrot, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft, 6 to 8 min. Stir in flour until vegetables are coated, then add tomatoes. Add broth and ½ tsp oregano and stir, breaking up tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 8 to 10 min.
  2. Working in small batches, puree soup in a blender of food processor and transfer back to pot. Stir in cream, salt and chicken and heat through. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper and serve garnished with remaining oregano.
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Recipe by Tara Bench originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Sept/09. Photography Alexandra Rowley. Food Styling Roscoe Betsil. Prop Styling Jen Everett.