Tag Archives: Soup

What do YOU eat in Winter?

Toast slathered with butter.  Couscous porridge with butter and whole fat milk.  Potatoes mashed with butter, whole fat milk, and an entire head of garlic.

See a theme here?  For me, winter is all about fat and carbohydrates.  I have no qualms confessing that my diet is highly influenced by the season; I know I’m not alone here.  Most of humanity begins thinking this way as evening falls earlier and earlier and we all huddle about wondering how to survive another long, cold winter.  We may not be able to hibernate for the entire three or four months, but we can sure eat like we’re preparing to!

Tonight I made a cheesy potato-corn-white bean chowder.  It started out with onion cooked in a large chunk of butter until translucent, then a few minced cloves of garlic, two smallish diced potatoes, and about 2 1/2 cups each chicken broth and fully fat and wonderful milk, brought to a boil and simmered gently.  Oh, it smelled heavenly!  Once the potatoes were tender I added one (drained) can each of corn and white beans, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and some cubed cheese, maybe 1/3 cup, which led to the only slightly disappointing part of the whole shebang.  In my extreme cheapness, I had forsaken the real cheese and bought processed cheese.  I was thinking Velveeta; what I got instead was a sticky white brick that refused to melt even when cut into very small pieces, meaning that instead of a consistently gooey cheesy broth, I ended up with a milky broth with bursts of cheesy(ish) goodness.

(That’s all the recipe you’re getting for this.  It’s so very simple.  And soup is really something that was made for adaptation and improvisation, so you can take this idea and recreate it yourself in whatever manner works for you.  I would suggest better cheese, though!)

And I ate it out of a mug, because it is a well known fact that soup (umm, or chowder, whatever the difference may be) always tastes best when eaten out of either a mug or a bread bowl.  Bread bowls being in short supply round these parts, I happily grasped my mug in both hands (giving the additional benefit of warm to my chilly little fingers) and soaked up my leftover broth with a warm wheat roll.  (And no, I did not butter the roll.  But I did consider it…)

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LEFTOVER LAMENTATIONS

This has not been a stellar week for eating in my house.  I’m not quite sure what exactly to blame it on…I have a few suspicions (well, one in particular), but in general I can say that it has been very difficult to get back in the swing of things.  Especially because, at this point in our lives, we are in a period of rather inactive waiting with nothing specific to do, and I have found that in times of aimlessness like this, I am prone to wasting inordinate amounts of time doing absolutely nothing.  Hopefully we have only one or two more weeks of this before some of our future life murkiness clears up…

Upon returning from our long trip, we spent several days grudgingly eating thawed chicken-and-vegetable noodle soup, the very same soup that seemed like such a lifesaver when we returned from traveling and there it was, ready to eat in just minutes!  Two days later, there were still several servings lingering in the fridge, and in my desperation to clear out that precious space for food that we actually wanted to eat, I threw the remaining soup in a casserole dish, spread a thick layer of garlicky mashed potatoes on top, and baked it to a bubbly, golden brown.  (This is one of my main tricks of reinventing leftovers…thankfully, it usually works.)  In this case, it was like a potato-y version of chicken and dumplings, and I was happy.

We managed to finish that off, and to replace it with…

Disaster.  I don’t know what happened.  I went to make one of my old stand-by dishes, a spinach-tomato-and-chickpea bake, a dish I have made so many times and which is so fundamentally easy in its composition that I don’t even have a recipe anymore.  And yet this time it turned out weird and watery and I still haven’t figured out what went wrong.  We choked it down the first night and then it sat in the fridge for two days while I wondered if there was any way to save it.  Last night I threw a bunch of curry spices in a pot with some chopped potatoes and cauliflower, and then added the spinach yuckiness, which resulted in a tolerable (although still not entirely enjoyable) curry.  I also put it in a nice serving dish, which is another trick I have for increasing edibility.  However, the addition of more vegetables increased the volume to such an amount that there are, again, leftovers sitting in the fridge.

I really, really hate throwing food away, even when I really, really don’t want to eat it.  But at the same time, I have a very low tolerance for food repetition, especially if it is a food that didn’t taste good the first time I ate it!  There is a good chance that this curry will languish another day or two until I give into the guilt and throw it away.  I doubt even the stray cats that live off my garbage will be interested in it!

 

P.S.  Do you have any favorite leftover-saving tricks?

COOKING WITH PRIDE

 

The picture does not do it justice.

 

A few days ago we had dinner with some friends, one of whom likes cooking and considers herself to be a good cook.  Unfortunately that night she made lentil soup, a dish for which I have fairly high standards.  I love lentils.  I realize that many people do not share my feelings, but I think that’s because there are a few consistent ways cooks fail in making lentil soup:

  • The broth is watery and flavorless.
  • The lentils and accompany vegetables are overcooked, mushy and tasteless.
  • Spices have not been added in a suitable amount.

I have seen these problems over and over and over again, and my poor friend made the same mistakes.  The next day, I made my own batch.  And it was pretty much perfect, definitely worth selling your birthright for a bowl or two.

But afterward I felt kind of bad, because as much as I enjoyed my tasty batch of soup, the process was tainted with the knowledge that I was in part motivated by the desire to upstage my friend and prove my superiority in the kitchen.  I have often thought of cooking as something that tempers my naturally competitive, perfectionist tendencies, as things often do not work out the way I would like and there is nothing I can do but deal with the failure.  However, in this case it turned out quite opposite, as this soup fed not just my body but also my pride.  And pride is something better left to starve.

LENTIL SOUP

  • 1 c. brown lentils
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 med. onions, cut in quarters and sliced
  • 2-3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander (dried)
  • ½ tsp. fennel
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 hot peppers, diced very, very small
  • 1 med. carrots, diced (about ½ c.)
  • 1 med. zucchini, diced (about ½ c.)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 med. potato, diced (about ½ c.)

Start with the lentils and water in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, cover, turn heat to low and simmer until they become crunchy-tender.  You should not need to add any water during this stage, but check on it periodically to make sure.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and caramelize the onions.  Just before they finish, add the garlic, cumin, coriander and fennel and stir until the scent rises.  Remove from heat.

When the lentils are crunchy-tender, add the onions etc. mixture (including the oil) and the rest of the ingredients to the lentils.  Stir well and add just enough water to barely cover everything.  Bring to a boil again, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables and lentils are tender and the broth is nice and thick.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP

It all started with this: a sick friend, ruminating on the blessings of soup fairies (my words, not hers).  I would like to be a soup fairy, but there are 10 time zones between us that prevent me from hand-delivering, and I doubt that DHL would get it to her hot.  Recent experience has shown them to be rather slower than the average magical creature, not to mention apparently lacking in GPS systems for their drivers…

But I did think that perhaps I could send her a few recipes, which I have yet to do, because not only am I not a soup fairy, I am occasionally lame about putting action to my ideas.  So Kristin, if you are ever well enough to read this blog, ask your mom or sister to make you this amazing soup.  And if you’re not Kristin, maybe you should consider getting sick so that you too can have soup fairies deposit steaming bowls of goodness on your doorstep.  Or just make the soup yourself, because it’s so stinkin’ easy and perfect for fall.

 

Roasted Vegetables, perfect any time of the year!

 

Lacking sweet potatoes, a key ingredient in the aforementioned soup delight, but having joyfully bought a wedge of pumpkin on my last trip to the market, I had to aim myself for something different.  More pumpkiny.  A little inspiration thanks to the Google machine, and I was on my way.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP

  • 1 lb. pumpkin, peeled and cubed
  • 4 small onions, quartered
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 hot peppers, like a jalapeno (I have no idea what kind of peppers I buy here–they’re long and skinny and green and very hot to me)
  • Olive oil
  • Cumin, Coriander, and Mixed Curry spices, as you like (I used about 2 Tbsp. total)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vegetable broth (amount depends on how thick you want your soup)
  • About 1 cup cilantro/fresh coriander

Put your veggies in a roasting tray.  Drizzle with oil, sprinkle the spices over them (like fairy dust!), and stir around so that every veggie piece is evenly coated.  Roasted in a HOT oven (like 400-425 F) until the pumpkin is soft and things are nicely browned.  Remove from oven and let them cool a few minutes so that you don’t risk mortal injury, then put the veggies and remaining ingredients into your blender or food processor and blend to your desired consistency, adding broth as needed.  Pour into a pot and heat through, adjusting spices as necessary.