Monday, March 1, 2010

2010 Wrap-Up

A few notes on this year:
  • 30 soups in 27 days, with one day taken over by guest souper Aron
  • 156 bowls of soup served (not counting seconds!), plus 10 more at Aron's (159 in 2009)
  • 64 individual soup-eaters (up from 54 last year)
  • 25 brand new soup-eaters (attendees who didn't come last year)
  • Only 2 temporary, stress/exhaustion-induced breakdowns!
  • The spread of Soupruary—Congrats to Mick for his month of gorgeous soups in North Carolina! You did it, man! Can't wait to try some of his recipes, and he's inspired me to start baking more breads (Starch March anyone?).
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in Soupruary II, and thanks especially to Josh for being so supportive and helpful throughout. Being able to spend so much time with friends is a true joy, and the memories we made this month will live on far longer than any of the leftovers in my fridge or even stains in my aprons. Thanks for letting me experiment on y'all, brave souls; I hope you had as much fun as I did. Nothin' but love.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a glass of wine and an overwhelmingly be-bubbled bathtub that will not wait any longer.

Tom Yum Goong and Thai-spiced Butternut Squash

Last night of Soupruary...etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!

Location:The Rich Ranch

Attendees:
Bill, Leslie, Ashley, Joshua, Brent, Laura, Erin, Jeff, Julie, Aron, me


Menu:Spinach and artichoke wontons (Bill & Leslie)
Veggie egg rolls (Bill & Leslie)
Veggie spring rolls (Brent & Laura)
Pan-fried plantains (Aron)
Tom yum goong
Thai-spiced butternut squash soup
Mango sticky rice
Tamarind candies because Josh loooooves them (Jeff & Julie)
And the themed drinks of the evening: Little Kings, and the Siam-ease (Bill)

Entertainment:The King & I, complete with Yul Brenner's square torso (a.k.a. blockso, a.k.a. Lego with nipples (© Jellyrod))

The Soup:
I managed to find some gorgeous Ugly Ripe tomatoes at Findlay market today:


Can you believe it? Tomatoes that great in February! That kind of made my afternoon. That and the smell of butternut squash roasting away for an hour:


And here's what made my night:


Bill and Leslie got me flowers and had a champagne toast to mark the end of the month—So very sweet!

Plus, look at all these beautiful people:

I can't imagine being surrounded by these precious folks and not feeling wonderful about life.

And it doesn't hurt that the soups were darn good.

The Tom Yum definitely had a kick to it, but it lived up to the YUM part for me. Josh and Bill each sampled both soups, with differing results: Josh preferred the Tom Yum and Bill was very happy about the squash. As for me, I'd make them both again. Like, tomorrow.

In case you haven't used it before, here's what galangal looks like:


It looks a bit like ginger, but it doesn't smell or taste like it. It's a little citrusy and earthy. Oh, and it's way harder constitutionally than ginger, so you'll need a pretty sharp knife to do anything with it.

One awesome thing about the Tom Yum, boy does it come together fast. Start to finish in about 25 minutes with Josh's much-appreciated deveining assistance.

The squash soup takes a little longer, but once that squash is roasted it's easy as pie (scratch that—way easier than pie) and I highly doubt it's possible to screw it up.

So with this, I've reached the finish line, and can stop bothering you all with my blogs and status updates and one-track mind (except for maybe some kind of wrap-up entry. Maybe.). Until next year, happy Soupruary, lovelies.

Tom Yum Goong
Adapted from templeofthai.com

8 cups Asian vegetable broth (made from bouillon from Asian market)
2 fresh lemongrass stems, cut into 1–2" pieces and bashed up a bit
4 big slices of peeled galangal
2 or 3 hot peppers, sliced thin
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
2 cans straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed
4 tomatoes, cut into manageable sections
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
juice from 3 limes
leaves from 1 bunch of fresh cilantro

Heat broth over medium with lemongrass, galangal, peppers, fish sauce, and mushrooms. When hot (but not boiling), add tomatoes, shrimp, and lime juice. Cook until shrimp is cooked through—about 3 minutes. Be careful not to boil, or the lime juice will lose its zing. Add cilantro and serve, telling guests to be careful not to eat the big chunks of galangal and lemongrass.

Thai-spiced Butternut Squash
Adapted from 101cookbooks.com

Note: I doubled this recipe to have enough for a crowd.

2 small butternut squash, halved, and seeds scooped out
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
sea salt
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place squash skin-side down on a baking sheet, spread butter evenly on exposed flesh and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for 1 hour.

Scoop squash flesh out of skin and into a soup pot. Add coconut milk and curry, then either transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Heat the puree over medium heat, and add water to thin it to the desired consistency. Add salt to taste, and more curry paste if desired (I wanted to keep mine mild, so I used just over a tablespoon per batch).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Soupruary 27th: Peas & Pas

How can I not love a day when I can spend three hours making tomato sauce? You should seriously smell my apartment right now. I had to fight to keep myself from crawling into the oven all afternoon—it was just that tantalizingly roasty up in there.

Location:
Mi casa es su casa.

Attendees:
Aron, Jeff, Joshua, me

Menu:
Steamed broccoli
Summer squash with lemon herb butter
Tomato soup with peas and pasta

Entertainment:
Soupruary's one and only kitchen fire! There was definitely something on the burner that was ready to get some attention, and boy did it. Flames up to 3...inches...high! We managed to put it out with a metal pot lid after Aron shook some towels at it for a few seconds—which was basically risking his life seeing as he was attired in a polyester jumpsuit.
Oh, and then we went to see You, You're Awesome and Bad Veins and danced all night (fueled by soup!), and that was spectacularly fun.

The Soup:
My friend Bettina was the inspiration for this one—she told me about it on Monday night and I kept thinking all week that it's just the kind of comfort-food goodness I need right about now. I wanted something with heft and body that would keep me going all night, and this fit the bill precisely.

My second inspiration was reading Thomas Keller's recipe for this roasted tomato sauce on Friday—I knew immediately that I could not wait more than 24 hours to have it in my oven.


And now I may be ruined. I'm not sure I'll ever want any other tomato sauce. I could've just eaten a bowl of it and forgotten about making soup, but the spirit of Soupruary dictated otherwise.


This isn't a taste that will blow your mind, or be unlike anything you've ever had. It's perfectly normal, but exceptional in its perfection of said normalcy. It tasted just how I wanted it to, and kept me smiling through the whole bowl.

Adapted from Bettina's family recipe and Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup minced leeks, white and pale green parts
1 cup fennel, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 28-32 ounce cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
1 bay leaf
bunch of fresh thyme
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups vegetable broth
4 ounces pasta in the shape you prefer, cooked al dente and then set aside
8 ounces frozen peas
grated Parmigiano reggiano, to serve

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine vegetables in a baking dish and cook 45 minutes or until tender and browning, then remove from oven.

Stir in brown sugar and vinegar and return to oven for 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Pour one can of tomatoes into a food processor along withthe juice from the second can of tomatoes and process until smooth. Coarsely chop or tear apart the tomatoes from the second can.

Add tomato puree, tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf to the vegetables, stir, and return to oven for 90 minutes.

Discard thyme and bay leaf, and transfer sauce to soup pot. Add vegetable broth and frozen peas, and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and simmer till heated through. Serve with grated Parmigiano reggiano, if desired.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Soupruary 26th: Cream of Mushroom

Say it with me now: Umami. Oooomahhhhmeeeee.


Location:
My lilypad


Attendees:
Brent, Laura, Sebastien, Katie, Matt, Tiffany, Joshua, me


Entertainment:
Catchphrase, complete with one free radish pass per person (unless you eat it accidentally)
The New Yorker Cartoon Caption game, complete with half-eaten radish game piece


Brent's amazing Batman impression, fueled by approximately a loaf of bread with butter and salt


Menu:
Linguine cacio e pepe
Balsamic-glazed zucchini
Roasted tomato caprese
Wild mushroom soup


The Soup:
One of my favorite soups from last Soupruary was Jamie Oliver's wild mushroom delight, but I'd seen this recipe praised on a few different blogs so I thought I'd give it a try. The result? Delicious, but I still think last year's wins.

Matt isn't quite down with mushrooms as the main event, as you can see:


But I think everybody else was on board. Brent made some good satisfactiony noises and deemed it incredible, and I would've almost certainly licked my bowl had I not been in polite company. (Okay, polite company + Sebastien.)


It's fun to watch the dried mushrooms get fatter and turn the water dark brown, so that's a lovely little roadside attraction on the highway to Yumtown.


Adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook

1 ounce dried mushrooms (I used a mix of oyster, porcini, shiitake morels)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
4 sprigs of sage
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound white button mushrooms stemmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 pound shitake mushrooms stemmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
soft goat cheese
white truffle oil

Soak the dry mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes, until plump. Strain the soaking liquid (I was supposed to use a coffee filter, but I used a double-fine sieve because I use a French press, thus no filters in la maison); reserve the plumped mushrooms and strained soaking liquid.

Heat the olive oil in your soup pot over medium. Throw in the fresh herbs and let them sizzle a bit, stirring a few times. When the oil is smelling amazing, add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

Turn the heat up to high and add the fresh mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the water, reconstituted mushrooms and soaking liquid, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the herbs, then add the cream and butter. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until it reaches the consistency you want. Serve with a bit of goat cheese and a little drizzle of truffle oil.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Got me!

My friend Julie just sent me this amazing documentation that I'm one of her Safari top sites (click to enlarge):


I love my friends so hard.

Soupruary 25th: Triple Soupsplosion!

Proof positive that I'm going bonkers, or, as Josh put it: CocoNUTS. (grrrrarggh)


Location:
My apartment


Attendees:
Brent, Jeffrey, Joshua, Julie, Laura, Mandy, Matt, Sebastien, Tiffany, me


Menu:
Radishes with butter and salt, cheese, crackers
Napa cabbage salad with fresh buttermilk dressing (dressing by Josh, and srsly: new favorite salad ever in the world)
Yukon gold gratin with goat cheese (cuz I care about FOOD)
Sunchoke soup with toasted pumpkin seeds
Green pea soup with tarragon
Sweet potato soup with buttered pecans
Salted brown butter Rice Krispies treats (solely because I was craving them, not in fact a generous gesture)

64 calories!

Entertainment:

Who needs it when you have such amazing company? We did get a stellar turtle impression though.

video

The Soup:
First, a haiku:

Dear Food Processor,
Thank you for chopping onions
So I didn't cry.

Second: Sunchokes are zero fun to peel. Jerusalem artichoke? More like JERKusalem artichoke, amirite? Case in point: check out this little monster, straight out of Guillermo del Toro's imagination:


BUT: The sunchoke was my favorite soup of the eve. Oooooooobaby it was interesting and different and scrumptious and oooooooobaby. If it runs for president of my tummy, I'm gettin' out the vote. (That may be the stupidest sentence I've ever written, so I'm leaving it.)

The green pea was my second favorite. I likely should have smoothed it out a bit more, but my beloved immersion blender ELECTROCUTED me for a second and I was instantly twice-shy. I happen to adore tarragon, even though it always tastes slightly fishy (you know, like ketchup). But even more than that, I've been so all about peas lately. I've bought fresh ones, I've bought frozen ones, and it never matters; you can always count on them to be tasteeeeeeeee.

The sweet potato was nice too, but a little...sweet. I like my sweet potatoes heavily tempered with savory to balance that junk out, and I thought this recipe would do it. It was good, yes. But not quite up to the other two IMHO (there may be folks who disagree). There's the awesomeness of making three soups, though (on a school night, no less): You've got multichances to make good.

Let's get back to numbering.

THIRD: Holy cats. Today, February 25th, 2010, might be the best day of my life. Why? Because I tricked Jeff into doing my grocerying for me. None of this would've been possible sans that, for rlzies. I now present the most glorious thing I've ever come home to:


I'm attempting to talk Jeff into spending his non-blogging time starting an errand service called Jeffy-Do (because he always DOES!!!), and I think Sebby's on board too. This could be a Cincinnati miracle.

AND!! Jeff and Julie got me an amazing new apron and Findlay Market gift certificates. It's been a while since I've been genuinely overwhelmed, but this was genuinely overwhelming. So many hugs and kisses and hugs and kisses and hugs and IOUs going out to my lovelies.

So: all in all a wonderful night. I'm clam-happy and ready to bust out three more and then live on crackers and sparklewater for a month or two.

Oh, and you should totally at least make the sunchoke and the pea soup below. There's no excuse for not making the pea soup as it takes, like, 20 minutes in toto. That jerkusalem stuff, though: uhhhworthit.

Sunchoke soup with pumpkin seeds

Adapted from Bon Apetit, November 2008

8 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 pounds sunchokes
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped leek (white and pale green parts only)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
7 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Pumpkin seeds, toasted in a dry skillet

Mix 8 cups water and vinegar in large bowl. Peel one sunchoke at a time (and it'll take some time), and place in vinegar water to prevent discoloration.z

Melt butter in your soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, leek, and garlic; sprinkle with salt and sauté until soft and translucent, about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, drain and rinse sunchokes, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Add to onion mixture and sauté 5 minutes. Add 7 cups vegetable broth, increase heat to high, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until sunchokes are very tender, about 1 hour.

Puree soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Stir in cream and season to taste with salt and white pepper. To serve, garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.


Green Pea soup with Tarragon

Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009

2 16-ounce packages frozen petite peas, divided (do not thaw)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups sliced shallots
4 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, divided
crème fraîche as an accompaniment

Place 1 cup peas in microwave-safe bowl; set aside. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until golden and almost tender, about 7 minutes. Add remaining peas, 4 cups broth, and 2 tablespoons tarragon; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil until flavors blend and peas are tender, about 7 minutes. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in a regular blender until completely smooth.

Cook reserved 1 cup peas in microwave until warm, about 1 minute.

To serve, garnish with crème fraîche, a spoonful of the microwaved peas, and a sprinkle of fresh tarragon.


Sweet Potato soup with Buttered Pecans

Adapted from Gourmet, November 1992

For the soup
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped leek, washed well and drained
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 large carrots, sliced thin
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds sweet potatoes
a 1/2-pound russet potato
5 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
crème fraîche as an accompaniment

Make the soup:
In your soup pot cook the onion, the leek, the garlic, and the carrots with the bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste in the butter over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened. Add the sweet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin, the russet potato, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin, the 5 cups broth, the wine, and the water, simmer the mixture, covered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender, and discard the bay leaf. Puree the mixture with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until it is very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the buttered pecans:
In a skillet cook the pecans in the butter with salt to taste over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown, and transfer them to paper towels to drain.

Divide the soup among bowls and top each serving with a dollop of the crème fraîche and some of the buttered pecans.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Soupruary 24th: Tom Kha Tofu

If you can't stand the heat, eat the sides!


Note to my brother Karl: I'm aware that this post is going to make me sound like a wuss, and we're all impressed that you drink gallons of sriracha for breakfast. ;) I bet you'd at least admit this dish has a modicum of spice if you tried it though.

Location:

My lil downtown abode

Attendees:
Cybelle, Janice, Lauren, Sara, Sirli, me

Janice's look of spicy satisfaction.

Menu:

Mandarin salad (by Sara)
Red curry eggplant & haricot vert (which smoked up my apartment somethin' fierce)
Ginger fried rice (same exact side I made on the 11th, and truthfully I'm shocked I held out this long)
Tom kha tofu
Cappuccino trifle (by Lauren, who totally didn't bring leftovers to work for breakfast even though I'm sure she could sense my intense craving)


In case you were wondering, this is exactly the amount of hurt that 5 ladies can put on a trifle:

Entertainment:
Stories about Lauren's kids (Srsly, girl has the most entertaining stories and she knows how to tell 'em. Y'all should probably be jealous if you don't know her.)
Tales from the Work Bathroom (It's like Tales from the Crypt but the host is scarier)
Much later: Me going full PretzElrod and falling asleep in the living room. I hear there were pictures taken, but I'm going to be okay with that. You try making soup 24 days in a row and see how bright-eyed/bushy-tailed you are!

The Soup:
I got to use fresh uncut lemongrass for the first time!


I think the guy at Saigon Market is starting to think I'm incompetent. I've been there two days in a row and I can never find anything without help. He probably laughs at me when I leave, like "Pffffft that chick is totes gonna use that lemongrass INCORRECTLY." But I think I get the last laugh—I may not know where dude keeps the coconut milk, but the flavors in this soup were uhhhhhmayzeeng.


I say the flavors, because that part was undisputed. However, the spiciness was a bit on the no-joke side. Everyone put up a valiant fight, but only Janice was in the clean bowl club.

It was seriously good! Seriously, seriously! I would just dial the heat down a bit if I made it again to make it more widely palatable. I've never had a really spicy tom kha before, so I'm happy for the experience. And Cybelle said she was grateful for the sinus-clearing treatment (Coco's Soup Spa—should I open it?).

Adapted from toomanychefs.net

For tofu:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil

For broth:
1 quart vegetable broth
2 14 oz. cans coconut milk
3 cloves finely minced garlic
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pound firm tofu
1/3 cup thinly sliced ginger
2 lemon grass stalks, trimmed and cut into 3-4" lengths.
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon cayenne
2 tablespoons sriracha
2 tablespoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, no stalks
12 oz. can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed
12 oz. can enoki mushrooms, drained and rinsed

Press the block of tofu under a weight between paper towels for 20 minutes.

Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces, then coat with tofu marinade listed above and let sit for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350-F.

Spread the tofu in one layer on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.

Combine all the other ingredients except the mushrooms and cilantro in a pot, stirring well. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Remove tofu and flip, then put it back in the oven for 15 more minutes.

You'll have ginger and lemongrass detritus in the bottom of your bowl—you probably don't want to attempt to eat those. If you'd rather strain the soup, that works too.

Add the tofu, mushrooms and cilantro and cook on low until mushrooms are heated and cilantro has wilted.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Soupruary 23rd: Lost at Seaweed

Keeping us from turning into obese goiter candidates with multiple thyroid conditions, one soup at a time!


Location:

Kris & Cat's apartment, Covington, Kentucky (which they really should move out of post-haste, as I would like to move in por favor)


Attendees:
Kris, Catherine, Minda, Evangeline, Jamie, Jasmine, Jon, Penny!, Joshua, me


Menu:
Bruschetta (yummily prepared by Kris & Kat—doesn't matter that it didn't quite match the rest of the evening's food, because they were straight-up devoured before we started anything else. As they say: nom nom nom.)
Cucumber wontons
Edamame, wasabi peas, & dried squid (a.k.a. what qualifies as "snackies" on the shopping list)
Sunomono
Jasmine rice
Seaweed soup
Mochi (three flavors! from Jamie)


Entertainment:
Penny being cute
Pants being cute
Penny vs. Pants cute-off
aaaaaand...L O S T


The Soup:
Jasmine reminded me of seaweed's "wonder food" status, which both delights and frustrates me.

The delights: Feeling like you're doing something awesome for your body (you know, preventing goiters and all), while at the same time eating something that totally tastes good.

The frustrations: Um, wonder food? Wonder? Really?! Because I ate a big ol' bowl of this stuff, and I didn't even get a metaphorical Lasso of Truth, much less indestructible armbands. Stop setting me up with false hopes, Mr. or Ms. Seaweed Propagandist, wherever you are.


Devastating disappointment in my continued non-superhuman status aside,
I'm happy to know how easy this is to do, and jazzed to have lots of leftover ingredients with which to whip up another batch at whim. I'd be so okay with having this for breakfast on a daily basis, and since I've still got yards of dry seaweed and a gang o' miso, I might just do it. And seriously, this and a little bit of leftover rice in the morning? Fit as a fiddle (and ready for love).

Made after reading multiple online recipes + one in
Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. Also: I made twice as much as I've listed below, but normal meals don't need 12 cups of broth, so I'm listing a more reasonable amount.

6 cups water
2 3"x7" strips of kombu
2 cubes of vegetable bouillon
1/2 cup wakame
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 cloves of galic, minced
1/2 pound silken tofu, cut into a half-inch dice
1/4 cup white miso
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions

Bring water, bouillion and kombu to a boil, then remove from heat and let sit 30 minutes.

Reconstitute wakame: Place it in a bowl, cover with hot water and let sit 15 minutes, then drain.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat sesame oil. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, then stir-fry wakame for 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove 1/2 cup of broth and combine it with miso until smooth.

Remove kombu from broth, then bring it up to a simmer. Add wakame and tofu, then miso and scallions, stirring to combine. Serve immediately.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soupruary 22nd: Provençal Tomato, Orange & Saffron

This warm weather must be going to my brain. This is some precisely unseasonable soup, y'all.


Location:
My apartment

Attendees:
Molly, Justine, Caleb, Bettina, Joel, Michael, LeAnne, Joshua, me


Menu:
Green lentil, pea & goat cheese salad
Mini grouchies with mozzarella and Parmigiano reggiano
Tomato, orange & saffron soup
Caramel and toffee cheesecake

Entertainment:
Wholly strange cartoons with delightful in-room commentary
The invention of a new half-valet parking service called Fetch
The leaving and the taking and the going and the getting: a conversation approximating a lost episode of Seinfeld

The Soup:
When I was doing my semester abroad at Oxford, one of my favorite things to eat (apart from late-nite chips, cheese & vinegar) was the 47p Tesco brand tomato & orange soup in a can. Ever since then I've looked for a recipe that might bring me back to those deliciously cheap memories...and I guess I have to keep looking.

Maybe I was too harsh a critic for this soup; maybe I had too high of expectations or was too full of anticipation. I guess it was fine. I'm entering the home stretch of Soupruary now, so I want everything to be a lot better than fine. I mean, everyone ate it and all, it just didn't taste how I wanted it to.

I have no doubt it would be better in the peak of tomato season, but I'll probably just keep seeking out that tomato and orange simplicity of the ol' Tesco and not try this one again.

Honestly, the more I do this, the more I think the fewer ingredients the better. If you can get great ingredients and then make them really sparkle, you can't find a more exciting taste. So here's to simplicity for the rest of the week. Perhaps. (Somebody hasn't set the menu yet.)

I tripled this recipe because I wasn't sure how many people were coming—I suppose that could also have something to do with throwing off the taste.

I promised myself I'd have a souper-positive attitude the rest of the week, so let's end this on a high note: The tiny pasta is SO CUTE OMG!

Adapted from Orangette

2 lb tomatoes
2 medium onions, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced (~2 cups)
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (3- by 1-inch) ribbon of fresh orange zest, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 ¾ cups water
¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Pinch crumbled saffron threads
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ cup small soup pasta, such as acini di pepe
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil

Boil about 5 quarts of water in a large, deep saucepan of water. After cutting a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato, blanch them at a steady boil for about 15 seconds each (no more than 2 or 3 at a time), then toss each one into a big bowl of ice water. Once they're all done, slip the skins off—this should be really easy—then core them and cut them in half. Squeeze the tomatoes over a sieve set over a bowl, getting all the seeds and pulp out. You can toss the tomatoes in the bowl under the sieve when you're done with them. When you've finished all the tomatoes, squish the seeds around on the sieve until you feel like you've extracted most of the juice, then thrown them away. Reserve the tomatoes and juice for later.

Heat olive oil over medium in your soup pot. Add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic, orange zest, thyme, red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and bay leaf and cook for about 10 minutes (do not brown).

Add the tomatoes, juice, tomato paste, water, salt, saffron, and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon occasionally, about 25-30 minutes. Here you can take a few whirls with an immersion blender if you're not happy with the consistency, but the tomatoes really do break down a lot during the simmering. Add the pasta and simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until pasta is cooked through. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley and basil. Season to taste. Serve with grated Parmigiano reggiano if desired.

Soupruary 21st: Roasted Vegetable, Kale & Potato

It's like my favorite season in a bowl!


Location:
Doug & Mandi's house, Harrison, Darn-near-Indiana

Attendees:
Doug, Mandi, Guinevere (best name of anyone to attend Soupruary, even if she was too young to eat), Joshua, me

Menu:
Roasted vegetable, kale & potato soup with salad and bread

Entertainment:
I'm sure we talked about a lot, but to be honest it was mostly fart jokes. Really funny ones. Yes, at the dinner table. Sorry, mom.

The Soup:
Everything about this soup screams autumn, which makes me think we should write a movie called Soup Pot Time Machine (no more ridiculous than a hot tub). It may have actually been magical, too, because after record-breaking snows for the month of February in Cincinnati, yesterday was mild as mild can be with no jacket required.

The non-mystical standout part of this soup, for me, was the broth. I have every expectation that I'll come back to this method on multiple occasions in the future—it had a wonderful combination of great, hearty body and that full, roasted sweetness.


Of course, the sticky, golden bits of butternut squash didn't hurt my enjoyment either.

Adapted from Bon Apetit, January 2000

4 small carrots, peeled, cut into thirds
2 roma tomatoes, quartered
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
olive oil
6 cups vegetable broth
4 cups finely chopped kale
2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf

Soupruary 20th: Taco Soup

My tackiest creation yet (if you don't count the St. Patrick's Day Tree).


Location:

The party room!

Attendees:
Leslie, Liam, Ken & Barbie, Joshua, me

Menu:
Taco soup
Green salad
Apple cake & gelato

Entertainment:
Liam on the keys!


The Soup:
The idea to do this came from the guest of honor: It was Mrs. Mattie's birthday, and one of her specialties is Taco Pie (which I just had the pleasure of trying for the first time in January). So I thought, hey! Taco Soup! It was only about halfway done cooking when I remembered there was no way it could be as good as Taco Pie because, well, it's not PIE.

Here's a helpful equation for how it tasted:
You know, canned, childish, obvious, pedestrian, cartoony, but certainly not unpleasant.

It was incredibly easy to the point that it made me feel like a bit of a cheater. Really, if it's easy to the point of barely counting as cooking, it doesn't have any right to taste even one smidgen better than this did. It's nothing spectular, but it made me laugh, and I can't imagine anyone being offended by the taste. Seriously though—Look at these ingredients and tell me they aren't hilarious:

Especially entertaining to me: the presence of organic green onions in the midst of all that crap. Why bother?


Now I've got to try, like, pizza soup or macaroni and cheese soup. Those sound pretty funny too.

Note: Putting up the recipe isn't necessarily a recommendation of the soup. It's just what I do.

Adapted from Paula Deen's recipe

1 large onion, chopped
1 14.5-oz can black beans, drained
1 14.5-oz can light red kidney beans, drained
1 14.5-oz can pinto beans, drained
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 14.5-oz can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
2 10-oz cans diced tomatoes with chiles
1 4.5-oz can diced green chiles
1 4.5-oz can sliced black olives, drained
1 1.25-oz package taco seasoning
1 1-oz package ranch dressing mix
2 12-oz packages Morningstar Meal Starters Crumbles (or your preferred meat subsitute or browned ground beef or turkey if feel like swinging that way)

Brown your onions in a large frying pan, then put onions and everything else in a crock pot and stir it up. Add water until it looks like the right amount of soupiness for you, then cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve over baked tortilla strips and garnish as desired. The end.

garnishes:
green onions, thinly sliced
cheddar cheese, shredded
sour cream

tortilla strips:
1 package corn tortillas
olive oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 350-F. Cut desired amount of tortillas in half (just in a big stack), then into strips of desired thickness (I like mine about 1/4 to 1/3" thick). In a bowl, toss strips with a glug of olive oil and some sea salt, then spread evenly in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until crispy and turning golden. Be careful: These are super addictive for snacking, so don't eat them all before your soup is ready!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Soupruary 19th: Zucchini Rosemary

Now this I'm a little proud of.


My schedule tonight:
5:15 — arrive home from work
6:00 — Ken picks me up for the Shepard Fairey opening at the CAC


In that 45 minutes I managed to prep, make, and eat soup, as well as get all dolled up for a wonderful night out. You don't have to pat me on the back, but don't hate me if I do it myself.

This soup—adapted from a Bon Apetit June 1995 recipe—ended up yielding about 3 small servings (two for a wonderful lunch on Saturday). Tonight I ate it alone, standing in my kitchen. Before the first bite I was concentrating on not mussing up my lipstick, but as soon as it hit my tongue...oh, I was transported. To a place where I didn't have to rush around, a place of silky smooth buttery richness that makes you wanna close your eyes and dream. It was the perfect bite to remind me that the pleasures of life may take a little work, but they're always worth it.


Zucchini Rosemary soup: We shall meet again.

a knob of unsalted butter
a dash of extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
2 cups vegetable broth
1 small peeled and shredded potato, or a good handful of frozen shredded potato
2 medium zucchini

Here's what to do with the zucchini: Take one and cut it in half, crosswise. Set aside that half. Thinly slice 1 1/2 zucchini, and set aside slices. Now grab the other half, and give it a half-inch dice and set aside. (I just said "half" five times.)

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a small pot over medium heat, then add shallot and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary, and stir for another minute or two. Add vegetable broth, shredded potatoes and sliced zucchini— bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a small, salted pot of water to boil. Add diced zucchini and boil vigorously for about 30 seconds, then drain and set aside.

Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup until smooth. You can pass it through a fine sieve if you'd like, or leave it be if you're in a hurry like I was. Ladle into a bowl, and toss in a nice spoonful of diced zucchini.