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Recipes: Boost your stock with a Romanian white bean soup, Basque-style leek soup, and more

Elevate traditional soups with fresh inspiration from around the world.

Romanian Pork and White Bean Soup With Vinegar and Caraway (Ciorba de Porc) accompanied by pickled red onions.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

We’ve reimagined a few soup season classics with global inspiration. Romanian ciorba de porc is a brothy pork and beans, hearty and subtly smoky with a tomato base scented with caraway and dill; quick-pickled red onion adds a punchy flourish. To amp up New England clam chowder, we incorporate Mediterranean flavors, including fresh fennel, and lighten it with tangy crème fraîche instead of heavy cream. And our spin on a rustic Basque soup transforms humble leeks and potatoes into a satisfying meal enriched by nutty parsnips and a whole head of slow-simmered garlic.

Romanian Pork and White Bean Soup With Vinegar and Caraway (Ciorba de Porc)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

This soup, called ciorba de porc, is inspired by a recipe from Carpathia: Food from the Heart of Romania, by Irina Georgescu. A staple on Romanian tables, ciorba might feature beef, pork, sausage, meatballs, or even just vegetables. Beans and smoked meat are a common pairing, and we include that in our version. No matter the headlining ingredient, the defining characteristic of ciorba is a distinct tanginess that comes from the addition of a souring agent. We use white wine vinegar, but according to Georgescu, other options include pickle brine, sauerkraut liquid, and the juice of sour plums.

Quick-pickled red onion garnishes individual bowlfuls of this ciorba, adding a sharp, punchy flourish.


Make the pickles while the soup simmers so the onion has time to steep in the vinegar mixture.

Be sure to soak the beans, as directed in the first step of the recipe, for at least 12 hours before you begin cooking. Soaking the beans in water that is salted tenderizes them as well as seasons them throughout.

1 pound dried great northern beans

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons grape-seed or other neutral oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

2 medium celery stalks, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped


1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

1 pound smoked ham hock

1½ pounds pork baby back ribs (½ rack), cut between the bones into 3 sections

28 ounce can whole tomatoes, finely crushed by hand

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

¼ cup white wine vinegar

Pickled red onion (recipe follows), to serve

First, soak the beans. In a large bowl, combine 3 quarts water, 1½ teaspoons salt, and the beans. Stir until the salt dissolves, then soak at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.

In a large pot set over medium-high heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and bell pepper, then cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the beans, ham hock, ribs, tomatoes with juices, caraway, broth, and 1 quart water; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high, then cover, reduce to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until the beans are tender and a paring knife inserted into the meat between the rib bones meets no resistance, about 2 hours.

Remove the pot from the heat. Using tongs, transfer the ham hock and ribs to a large plate. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from both and shred into bite-size pieces; discard the bones, fat, and gristle.

Return the meat to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, then stir in the dill and vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the pickled red onions.


Pickled Red Onions

Makes about 1½ cups

If you like, these quick-pickled onions can be made ahead, then covered and refrigerated for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. As they stand, the onions will turn pink in color.

1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

½ cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, vinegar, sugar, and salt; stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Steamed Clams With Corn, Fennel, and Crème FraîcheConnie Miller/of CB Creatives

Steamed Clams With Corn, Fennel, and Crème Fraîche

Makes 4 servings

Think of this as a chowder for eating with your fingers. Finished with a small measure of crème fraîche (or whole-milk yogurt), the briny-sweet liquid released by the clams becomes a subtly creamy broth that’s as delicious as the clams themselves. If you can, use corn kernels cut from freshly shucked ears (you’ll need two good-sized ears to get 2 cups of kernels), but in the off-season frozen corn works perfectly well. Serve with oyster crackers, or with crusty bread for mopping up the broth.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced

1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 cups corn kernels

2 pounds hard-shell clams (about 1½ inches in diameter), such as littleneck or Manila, scrubbed


¼ cup crème fraîche or plain whole-milk yogurt

Hot sauce OR chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley OR lemon wedges, optional, for garnish

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the fennel, onion, fennel seeds, and a pinch of salt, then cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned. Stir in the corn and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and add the clams. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until the clams have opened. Stir once more, then remove and discard any clams that haven’t opened. Off heat, stir in the crème fraîche and ½ teaspoon pepper. Season with salt. Garnish with hot sauce, or chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, or lemon wedges, or a combination of the three.

Basque-Style Leek and Potato Soup

Makes 4 servings

Porrusalda, a rustic leek and potato soup from Spain’s Basque Country, takes a few humble ingredients and transforms them into a light but satisfying meal. Some versions are made with salt cod or meat, but ours is vegetarian. Carrots are classic in porrusalda; parsnips are not, but we like their nutty notes and earthiness. Use whichever you prefer, or even a mix.

Leeks’ many layers trap dirt and sand, so be sure to thoroughly wash them after slicing, then drain them well in a colander so excess water doesn’t cause steaming, which will delay browning.

Browning the garlic is essential for building flavor, and should not be skipped. We sear the cut side of the garlic head until nicely caramelized to create compounds that add flavor complexity to the soup. This is especially important because water, not broth, is the liquid here.


Serve the soup drizzled with olive oil, and with warm, crusty bread.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

1 head garlic, top third cut off and discarded

4 medium leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, rinsed, and drained (4 cups)

4 bay leaves

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1- to 1½-inch chunks

3 medium parsnips OR carrots OR a combination, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Crusty bread, to serve

Flaked smoked trout, optional, for garnish

In a large pot set on a stove over medium-high heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic head cut side down and cook, undisturbed, until well browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the garlic to a small plate, then add the leeks, bay, and ½ teaspoon salt to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

Add the potatoes and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper, then continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes begin to brown and stick to the pot, about 4 minutes. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the carrots and garlic head, then reduce to medium-low and cook, at a gentle simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally. Cook at a gentle simmer until a skewer inserted into the garlic and potatoes meets no resistance, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay. Using tongs, remove the garlic head and squeeze the cloves into a small bowl. Mash the garlic to a smooth paste, then stir into the soup and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Off heat, add the lemon juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup drizzled with additional oil and topped with flaked smoked trout, if using, and with bread alongside.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.