Monday, February 28, 2011

English Onion vs. French Onion

No soups were harmed in the making of this blog post.

I'll add text to this one of these days. This is just to prove it HAPPENED.

Soupruary 27th: Selfish Coconut Noodle

Better than whatever drugs James Franco's on (allegedly).

Casa de Rich

Bill & Leslie (and Theodore & Liam), Ken, Josh, me

The old standby ginger fried rice
Baby heirloom tomato and cucumber salad
Coconut noodle soup
Some super good pumpernickel (doesn't really go with the theme, but good enough to mention)
Gelato from the glorious Dojo (Vietnamese coffee and Fior de Latte flavors. I die.)


The Oscars? Okay, I guess we shouldn't really call them entertaining. Wah waaaaaaaaaaaah. (Whatever, we all know they were bad, but I still love them for no justifiable reason. And James Franco. Leave James Franco ALONE, you guys! He's my imaginary BFF.)

Unlike the Oscars, the bread wasn't STALE. (...I'll show myself out.)

The Soup:
Once again I had plans for today's soup. In honor of the Oscars, I was planning to make a Wolfgang Puck recipe so we could all pretend we were at the Governor's Ball. I unilaterally decided to cast that aside in favor of making a big bowl of precisely what I wanted.

Let's discuss a different Oscar instead, one who hasn't betrayed our trust so deeply and often:

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
-Oscar Wilde

But, then, is that so bad? Allow me to posit that it's not, for—just like Oscar Wilde—“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

Thankfully, I think the others agreed. Bill said "While you're eating it, you're thinking about your next bite," and Leslie proclaimed she could eat it every day. I tend to agree.

This soup was so creamy it made me feel like a total lush, in a good way. It was also herby and fresh and vaguely Southeast Asian, which is possibly my trifecta of food descriptors.

The vegetables here are infinitely adaptable. You could make it with pretty much whatever you'd like, or leave them out altogether (you know, if you don't like delicious things).

A brief note: I didn't have time to make my own seitan, but Upton's Naturals brand (available locally at Park + Vine) is so good that it doesn't matter too much. I highly recommend both their traditional style (which I used here) and their Italian sausage style (which I crave fortnightly).

When I make it again, which I will, as this soup just screams I'M WORTH IT at the top of its lungs, I'll add some more heat. Trusty old Saigon Market was out of my favorite little Thai bird chiles today, so I had to make do. I'd also make more broth. I underestimated the massive amount of noodlage I'd end up with, which—don't get me wrong—I was pretty okay with, but the broth turned out dang delicious. I kind of wanted to turn it into lotion and rub it into my skin (Oh, lord, this is getting bad. I'd better stop writing.).

Selfish CocoCoconut Noodle Soup

Base paste:
3 serrano chiles, seeded
3 cloves of garlic
a thumb-sized piece of ginger
3 stalks of lemongrass
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
a handful of cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
just a dash of olive oil

dash of wok oil
1 quart vegetable stock
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
1 package of medium rice noodles
4 heads baby bok choy
1 bunch of broccolini (or of chinese broccoli if you'd prefer)
two big handfuls of snow peas
1 package traditional style seitan
juice of 1 lime (or to taste)
Soy sauce to taste
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of cilantro leaves

Put all base ingredients in a small food processor (my beloved Magic Bullet works great for this) and whiz until smooth.

Place your soup pot on medium heat with a dash of wok oil. Add the paste and fry until it smells really super good, about a minute. Add broth and coconut milk and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, prepare rice noodles by placing them in a pot, covering with boiling water, and letting them sit there until they're tender, then drain and shoot them with cold water to prevent them from overcooking. Rice noodles love sticking together, so make sure you move them around a lot while they're soaking.

Add vegetables to the broth, and crumble in the seitan. The vegetables don't really need to cook long--you want them still tasting nice and fresh. Add in the noodles, and punch up the broth to taste with lime juice and soy sauce. Serve immediately, sprinkled with mint and cilantro leaves. You could serve a lime wedge with it, as well, or add scallions. OR A POACHED EGG (Oh, man, I just blew my mind. I can't wait till next time!).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Soupruary 26th: Egg Drop Noodle

I wish I ate meat; I could have made Year of The Rabbit Soup.

(BARF! Why does "Rabbit Soup" sound SO much more disgusting than "Rabbit Stew"?? (Yoops, a quick Google search revealed that Rabbit Soup, or Polievka z Králika, is a classic of Czech/Slovak cuisine. Guess I'm not very good at respecting my heritage. (Wait, "z" is a WORD in Czech? Really truly a WHOLE WORD? I gotta learn this language. (OVERBOARD!))))

Right, so, Chinese New Year party at Nick and Leigh's in Finneytown! They throw this party every year, and are 100% dedicated to making it ridiculously fun for everyone there.

Even fun for Stormtroopers!

They lay out this massive spread of Chinese food, have air hockey and pool and pinball, give everyone little envelopes full of fake Chinese money to gamble with, have "horse" races

I was this little piggy's jockey. I lost pretty, pretty bad.

and a Slinky race,

and end the night with a hilarious and entertaining auction.

Every year the auction items are related to the animal for the year, and the bidding is blind--the items are all concealed in paper bags.

Someone ended up with some wine and a Rabbit wine bottle opener; someone payed like 700,000 in fakebucks for a bunch of carrots.

The youngest (and probably cutest) bidder.

I mean, seriously, these people can throw a party. You wouldn't have found a more heartwarming locale in Cincinnati tonight.

Here's to Nick and Leigh!

Special thanks to Josh for documenting the night so well!

Anyway, I brought soup! My initial plan was to make wonton soup (a childhood favorite), but everything I read about it made me think it would absolutely not transport well. Maybe I'll make some wonton in, like, April (the next possible time I'll be able to look a soup pot in the face after this month).

This baby took about 15 minutes per pot to make--how crazy is that? It wasn't amazing or anything, but it was totally edible, as evidenced by the 6 quarts of the stuff that were consumed. It's always good to have a dish like this in mind: something to warm you up and fill you up in no time at all using ingredients you probably have around the house. Plus, pretty healthy! And, lately, I'm down for anything that functions as a noodle-delivery system.

Authentic? Not even a little bit. But hey, it wasn't really the Chinese New Year, either.

"It WASN'T?!?"

Egg Drop Noodle Soup
adapted from Gourmet, February 2002

5 cups light vegetable broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons medium-dry Sherry
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 nest of fresh fine egg noodles (about 2 oz)
4 ounces firm tofu, diced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons sesame oil
sriracha, to taste
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Plase first five ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep at a steady simmer for five minutes or so to get the garlic and ginger flavors infused into the broth.

Add noodles, tofu and peas, and cook until noodles are tender, (two to three minutes depending on the type you have).

Using a spoon, swirl the soup so that it's a little cyclone in your pot. While continuing to swirl, slowly drizzle in the eggs. They should cook into ribbons in about a minute.

Stir in sesame oil, and top with scallions. Season to taste with soy sauce and sriracha. Best served immediately, but it travels pretty well too.

Soupruary 25th: Mushroom Noodle

Mushroomy! Noodly! That's all I need to know.

Ken, Josh and I enjoyed a hurried soup with some bread and cheese before dashing off to the wonderful opening at the Contemporary Arts Center, featuring the current work of local artist Jimmy Baker and an extensive Keith Haring retrospective.

Very classy, very Friday, very Cincinnati.

The Soup:
The plan all along was to make a recipe my darling mother sent me for Creamy Hungarian Mushroom soup. All the ingredients were purchased and prepped. It was THE PLAN. The recipe called for mushroom broth, so I decided to make my own rather than purchase a box of it. About half way into that, my mind started viewing at the plan a little differently.

See, Plan, you were a good plan. A great plan, even. It's not you, it's me. It's my fault I've been making so many creamy soups lately. It's my fault I made a broth so decadent on its own that it seemed a crime to add potatoes and cream. It's my fault I wanted noodles so hard today that I would have sold my car for some spaghetti. Don't feel bad, plan. I'll come back to you someday.

It's me and you forever, mushroom broth. I'll never leave you or replace you, for better or for worse.

Making the broth. Nasty-looking, no?

The rest of the soup, eh, whatever. It wasn't anything special. It was just precisely what I wanted at the time. So if you need a mushroom broth, y'all, MAKE THIS ONE. K?

Mushroom Broth
adapted from Gordon Hamersly's recipe for Food & Wine

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound white mushrooms, finely chopped
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
2 portobello mushrooms, stems and caps chopped
1/2 Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 cups dry white wine (I used a torrontes)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dried mixed wild mushrooms ( 1/2 ounce)
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence or thyme

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the white mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, Portobello, onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine, soy sauce, dried mushrooms, salt, herbes de Provence and 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 4 cups, about 1 hour.

Pour the broth through a fine strainer into a heatproof bowl. Strain again, leaving any particles at the bottom of the bowl.

Mushroom Noodle Soup

dash of olive oil
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
8 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart mushroom broth
4 oz homemade egg noodles
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
shredded Parmesan, for garnish

Heat up the olive oil in your soup pot over medium-high. Add mushrooms and garlic and sweat for about five minutes. Add broth, egg noodles, paprika and thyme, and cook until noodles are tender. Season to taste with pepper and salt if necessary (I only added pepper, as the broth was salty enough). Serve with shredded Parmesan.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Soupruary 24th: Creamy Potato Dill

Adam says I use too many exclamation points. Therefore, I'm going to pretend this is a movie and an exclamation point equals an eff bomb and I need a PG-13. This soup was secondsable!

My re-messed apartment (I think I've pushed my poor dishwasher a little too hard; it's mega on strike at the moment.)

Adam, Ashley, Joshua, and me

Yep, I made this dumb bowl.
Romaine with homemade bleu cheese dressin'
Creamy Potato Dill soup
Girl Scout Cookies HOORAY! (It was delivery day in the office today--yet another reason to adore Amelia.)

Ashley gave us the gift of a description of her incredible dream from last night. I won't go into detail, but let's just say cotton-candy pink and blue things came out of her and she blamed it on eating too much soup. There was a positive message, though: She was okay with it because she was surrounded by friends. Awwwwwww.

The Soup:
A while back, I took a lil facebook poll to see what soups people might like to try this year, and my friend Aileen suggested "Creamy Potato Dill." Having only just come around to liking dill within the last few years, I decided to give it a try. Having made quite a few potato soups in my day, I chose to cook intuitively, and I must say it turned out fairly close to what I had envisioned.

Creamy (but not too heavy), subtly dilly (lavender's blue), and perfect for a relaxing night sitting in front of the television with your friends, watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World for the 50 millionth time. (It's actually hilarious...hilarious.)

You could also make this without the dill, or switch up the herb for, say, rosemary (or whatever you like/have on hand). This is just a standard, easy, super adaptable method--and you'd probably be okay with dried dill, too.

I peeled the potatoes because I wanted a really smooth consistency and color (the leeks and dill gave just a wee touch of green), but you could make it more rustic by leaving on the skins and blending it up less.

Remember to be be wary of over-pureeing here, too: You don't want those potato starches turning into glue on you.

So here's pretty much what I did to make...

Creamy Potato Dill Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, sliced, white and light green parts only
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
5 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sprigs dill, 2 chopped, 1 reserved for garnish
1/4 cup low-fat milk, or to taste

Heat olive oil over medium low heat in your soup pot. Add leeks and a pinch of salt and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes and garlic, give it a good stir, and let cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Add chopped dill and water to just cover. Turn up to high until boiling, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth. Add milk, then blend to combine, adding more if necessary to reach desired texture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with bits of fresh dill.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Soupruary 23rd: Mushroom Potato with Roasted Poblano

A security blanket for your tummy.

My place, where I'm attempting to propagate the notion that the Flable is really just my first step toward minimalism (nicely complimented by my stark walls)

Ashley, Erin, Julie, and me

An admittedly low-quality photo, but because there are fewer
of Erin in existence than there are of Bigfoot, I'm using it.

Raw vegetables and Sweets & Beets with gua-cah-mo-lay
Lime cilantro slaw
Mushroom Potato Crema with Roasted Poblano

It was, like, venting central up in here. Very girltime. Very cathartic.
On nemeses: "We should make them be friends and then DESTROY THEM."
On exes: "My Valentine's gift to myself was to unfollow ___ on Twitter."
The name of the wine Julie brought made me giggle.

Bieber stickers = endless entertainment.

Ashley should be a professional photobomber.

The Soup:

Julie loves the shrimpless version of this poblano corn chowder I made a few years ago, and since I can't just make that again, I thought I'd find something that used a lot of the same ingredients and see if that would make her happy. Success (I think! Unless she lied!)!

Don't you feel lulled into a relaxed state just by reading the words "Mushroom Potato Crema with Roasted Poblano." You just know it's going to be food therapy. It sounds heavy, but it's so not; it manages to be both thin and creamy (concomitantly!). Still comfort food, but light and really quite healthy when it comes down to it.

In case you're worried about spice, poblano peppers, particularly when roasted, hardly pack any heat. To me, the poblano is just too pleasant for words. It's, like, earthy? Not spicy. Take my word for it.

Bonus for a weeknight soup: This comes together crazy fast and requires minimal prep time. It's so easy it feels like winning a prize for LIFE.

Mushroom Potato Crema with Roasted Poblano
adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe from

1 pound mixture of Yukon gold and fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 large fresh poblano
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
a few dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water to reconstitute, then chopped into small pieces
1 cup frozen corn
1 sprig thyme
1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1 corn tortilla, cut into eight wedges
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Place the potatoes and garlic in a pot with 3 cups of the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat the broiler in your oven with the rack in the top position. Place the poblano directly on the rack, and broil until blackened, turning once so you get all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove pepper and wrap it in a kitchen towel for a few minutes. The skin should peel right off, and then you can pull the stem and seeds out and dice it up.

Turn the oven to 350 and place rack in center position. Rub a bit of olive oil into the tortilla wedges and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 10 minutes or so, until nicely browned and crispy.

Remove potatoes from heat and, using an immersion blender, whiz the potatoes into a smooth puree. Add remaining 3 cups of broth, poblano, mushrooms, corn and thyme and cook over medium heat until mushrooms are cooked through (about 15 minutes). Stir a spoonful of soup into the yogurt, then mix it into the pot. Season to taste with salt.

To serve, divide among four bowls and garnish each bowl with a few cilantro leaves and two tortilla chips.

P.s. I would be remiss in my duties should I not share with you the epic tumbleweave I #spottedonwalnut today. Take in the majesty:

Guest Edition: Justine's Fennel and Mushroom

The very definition of "super good."
Trust me. I know definitions.

Chez Moi

Teamwork! Justine dishes; Caleb grills.


Caleb, Drew, Jacques, Justine, Katie, Sebastien, Tiffany, and me

Justine's Fennel and Mushroom Soup
Justine's Spicy Onion Marmalade Grilled Cheesewiches
Katie's Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Candied Walnuts, Cranberries and Balsamic-Glazed Red Onions
(And, of course, assorted veggies and olives and cheeses and bread; you know, the yoozh)

An excellent description of Bertolucci's The Conformist, with such information as "This guy's a total fascist, and he totally sucks," and "so they go to sexy Paris."
This sweet new game where my friends throw pennies over the wall at me while I change clothes. "Did that one hit you?" "No, just one of the many piles of clothes." Awwwww.
A field trip to MOTR for writer's night, where we:
a) were graced with a poetry reading by Tiffany
b) heard some pretty good music and some pretty bad music
c) planned to at some point make ourselves the "whatever," and
d) learned that "It's hard not to be frank with yourself when you've got eight hands." SO TRUE.

The Soup:
Justine let me know ages ago that she would be happy to take a night on for me and give me the night off. For several reasons, (I feel bad letting someone else do work I've imposed upon myself, I feel like I'm already forcing people to eat soup all the time and shouldn't force them to cook too, I'm kind of controlling after all, etc.) it took this long for it to happen, but BOY am I glad it did. Oh, man. (I gotta stop saying "man," man.)

For one thing, I was basically giddy to not be cooking last night. For another thing? Girl can COOK.

Brains, talent, beauty...if I didn't love her so much, I might be forced to hate her. Like, by law.

Justine insists that the first taste of her soup was awful, and she tweaked and tweaked and tweaked until it was simply marvelous. She saw the angel in the mushroom and seasoned until she set it free (? (oof.)).

Mushrooms make me glad to be alive just by their very existence. When they're propped up to new heights in a soup like this, I'm near euphoria. I also love her brilliant use of almond milk—I love almond milk but for some reason have never incorporated it into soups. It was just so creamy and savory and perfectly salted. I know I loved a soup when I can't write about it without getting megacravings for more.

Justine described herself as an "intui-cook" (cute!)—therefore, the below is an approximation of her process. She also noted, "if I ever make this again I would want to fix the texture. i think that was its main problem." But, y'all, she cra-zay. There was nothing wrong with this soup. And, frankly, if something were wrong with this soup, then I wouldn't want to be right. Pretty sure it was better than anything I've ever made.

SO: If you're feeling adventurous and want to trust your instincts to cook, try out Justine's guidelines. You can do it!

Fennel and Mushroom Soup
as penned by the lovely Ms. Ludwig

1 bulb of fennel
1 onion
1 bouillon cube
almond milk
porcini mushrooms
white button mushrooms
dehydrated mushroom mix
olive oil
truffle salt
dollop of buttah
greek yogurt

soak dehydrated mushrooms
while this is going down, cut up the other mushrooms and saute them in
olive oil with thyme, garlic, herbamare, and pepper until they are
slightly browned set aside
take a pot of water add bouillon cube and boil
add chopped up fennel and onion
let cook until fennel and onion are soft
add the no longer dehydrated mushrooms
cook for a bit
add rest of the mushrooms
cook for a bit
blend it up in a blender
add a tiny bit of butter
add almond milk
add truffle salt

when serving put a spoon of greek yogurt on the bottom of the bowl and
spoon the soup on top

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Soupruary 22nd: Red Lentil

Mixing business with pleasure.

Office conference room—very profesh soup, y'all.

Abi, Cybelle, Eva, Janice, Lauren, Nicole, Paige, and me

Marinated kale and radish salad
Smashed chickpea salad
Quinoa tabbouleh
Red lentil soup
Janice's peanut blossoms
Still more Abby Girl Sweets cupcakes (this may be becoming a problem)

The struggle it is to force oneself to talk about things that are not work-related while sitting at work with your coworkers
A brief and hilariously underinformed deconstruction of the Jonas Brothers' career (we soon realized that we really know nothing about them, and, to be honest, I don't even know how that all got started)
The struggle it is to force oneself to choose only one cupcake when there are JUST...SO...MANY

The Soup:
In January, as I was thinking about doing this project again, I decided to ask my boss if she wouldn't mind if I brought in soup for her and my other wonderful officemates one day. She was gracious enough to indulge my silliness, and we set a date. At last, that day has arrived! And so this morning I busted out an array of storage containers and schlepped down to the office.

This isn't going to overtake my favorite lentil soup; in fact, the way the red lentils work, it turns out feeling more like split pea than lentil. However, both for simplicity and for taste, I think it's going to replace my previous red lentil soup recipe. It always makes me a little sad, though, cooking red lentils—they start off such a beautiful bright orange, and fade into a dull yellow—it's like watching the passion slowly seep out of someone.

PASSION?!? Whoa, what? Somebody slipped some extract of melodrama in the soup, you guys.

Ahem, moving on. Red lentils. Right.

Janice said she "loved it" and Paige deemed it "excellent," but they could have just been flattering me: after all, we do have to work together every day. While they may have exaggerated a bit, I did think it was fairly delicious. And just look how short that ingredient list is! No way it can be anything but good when you have such focused flavors.

An added bonus for this lunchtime Soupruary: I can say with certainty that it stores, travels, and reheats well.

A note for Cincinnatians: You can get both red lentils and Aleppo pepper at Dean's in Findlay Markey (and don't forget to pick up some of their awesome homemade yogurt while you're there).
Red Lentil Soup
adapted just a bit from

2 cups Turkish split red lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
6 cups water, plus more as needed
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)

Garnish: fresh cilantro, Aleppo pepper, lemon wedges

Rinse the lentils and bring them to a boil with 2 cups stock and 6 cups water. Lower heat and simmer, stirring often, for about 40 minutes, or until lentil have deconstructed themselves into a big pot of mush.

Meanwhile, place garlic, coriander seed and salt in a mortar and pestle, and grind to a coarse paste. Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium heat, and add paste. Cook for about 1 minute (just wake up the flavors, don't burn that garlic!), then add to the soup and let simmer for a few more minutes.

Adjust for texture by adding water until you reach the consistency you prefer. Add Aleppo pepper and ground cumin, and season to taste with more Kosher salt.

Serve garnished with a sprig of cilantro, a pinch of Aleppo pepper if desired, and a lemon wedge. Squeeze a bit of the lemon juice into your soup bowl to taste--the lemon really zips it up.


I've just realized that, after today, there are only 6 days left in Soupruary. A cause for celebration, or for consternation?

More of the latter at the moment, as I've just realized I have t-w-e-l-v-e more soups I want to make. Some are soups that were bumped, some are new recipes I found and wanted to try. What to do, what to do? Of course I could double up on some days, but that seems a bit overboard. Come on, February! Pack in a few more days!

Here's the list that's currently haunting the soupcentric corner of my mind:

Creamy Hungarian Mushroom
Wild Rice and Cranberry
Potato Dill
Tuscan Bean and Farro
Mushroom Potato Crema with Roasted Poblano
Vegetarian Posole
Michael Symon’s Split Pea
Pho Chay
Spicy Curry Noodle
Savory Squash with Cardamom Cream
English Onion vs. French Onion Deathmatch

HALP! Any advice/opinion is welcome.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Soupruary 21st: Plain Old Vegetable

Homey, not homely.

The Mattie Ranch

Birthday Girl Mattie, Josh, Bill, Leslie & the wee ones, me

Garden salad
Servatii Championship bread (Bill's new and welcome discovery)
Vegetable soup
Key lime bars and Irish cream mousses

A few classic "Dirty Babs" jokes (she gets a free pass for her birthday)
Liam's excitement over blowing out his Grammy's birthday candles
A brand new baby! I thought he was named Theodore, but has apparently he's had his name officially changed to "Poopy Lump."

The Soup:
The Birthday Girl said she wanted either vegetable soup or tomato soup, and as I'd just tomatoed out last night, I decided to go with the former. And, hey, that meant I had everything I neeeded already in my fridge and pantry! The question was how to make it a little better than average.

For me, one thing that separates a good vegetable soup from a merely inoffensive vegetable soup is the broth. In this case, I used some of the massive quantity of vegetable stock I made and froze the last weekend of January, and it worked out beautifully. It's so easy to make your own vegetable broth, and it just takes an hour or two depending on how rich you need the flavors to be. But, if you don't have that kind of time (as I wouldn't have had last night if I didn't have those stockpiles (get it? STOCKpiles?)), I'd really recommend getting Rapunzel bouillon. It's absolutely the best I've found, and I like it a superton (that's, like, a ton that can fly) better than the canned or boxed stuff. Locally, you can get it at the fabulously convenient Park + Vine.

Thing Two that separates the palate-pleasing from the passable is holding on to the freshness and brightness of the vegetables. No one wants lifeless mush, and the mush is so easy to avoid. Just don't overcook the vegetables (your soup should be done in about 45 minutes, and be ready to serve it shortly thereafter), and add some acidity (I used lemon juice but any number of vinegars could be worth a try).

Bill said that, in transit to dinner, he remarked that he has never met a vegetable soup he liked. I'm proud to say he claims I changed his mind about that. Monday night victory! (Maybe it was just that Championship bread.)

I've included my method for this soup, but it's so simple that you don't really need a recipe. Vegetable soup is really just vegetables and broth, you know? So just go ahead and throw in whatever vegetables you like, and enjoy a meal that somehow leaves you feeling more wholesome than when you began.
I'm pretty sure an earnest bowl of vegetable soup serves as an act of contrition for at least one minor sin.

Plain Old Vegetable Soup

thrown together sans recipe

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
1 cup diced shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 cups diced Yukon gold potatoes
2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup celery, sliced
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup frozen peas
3 cups baby spinach
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
shredded Parmesan, to garnish

Heat olive oil in your soup pot over medium low heat and add leeks, shallots, garlic, thyme and a pinch of kosher salt. Sweat for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft.

Add carrots, celery and potatoes, give it a good stir and let soften for another 8 to 10 minutes.

Add stock, tomatoes, corn and peas, and increase heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so, until all vegetables are soft.

Add spinach, and stir until wilted. Just before serving, add lemon juice and parsley. Pass Parmesan around the table, and let that down-home feeling sink in.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Soupruary 20th: Spicy Black Eye Pea and Tomato Bisque

Better in soup than on the Super Bowl.

Josh's new apartment

Sebastien, Katie, Julie, Kelly, Drew, MaryKate, Kenneth, Brent, Laura, Steve, Marisa, Matt, Ben, Chris, Chandler, Ashley, Caleb, Justine, Doug, Mandi, Gwyn, Vanessa, David, Leland, Luke, Joshua, Claude, Bettina, and me

Sesame-ginger radish tea sandwiches
Lots of cheese (to quote Julie as she presented some havarti and beloved Tillamook: "A house isn't a home without cheese!")
Crudite with cucumber-dill Greek yogurt
Vanessa's Kalamata dip (AKA Chris's new obsession) and coconut jam (it's really THE JAM)
Brent and Laura's Prettiest Salad Ever
Josh's purple potato salad
Marisa's sweet potato bread
Baked four cheese penne with caramelized leeks
Spicy black eye pea and tomato bisque
Chris's butterscotch bars

So pretty!

Plain old good friends (who are, of course, far from plain or old), good vibes, and good conversation: The best comfort on a rainy night.
Bettina said the phrase "frickin' shoot," which was somehow the most charming thing I heard all night.
At one point, I cried from laughing. At my own joke, which I'm willing to admit was so...totally...humorless. Embarrassing much?

Bettina's champagne reaction shot. Nearly as priceless as "frickin' shoot!"

The Soup:
A new apartment is filled with so much promise. For me, it's always "I'm actually going to put things on the walls this time!" and "I might grow up and keep this one clean!" That hasn't happened quite yet in my case, so I'm just going to blame all my past failures on not having black-eyed peas at my housewarming.

Black-eyed peas, of course, are meant to be good luck if you eat them on New Year's Day. I've decided that souperstition (shuddup) can be extended to any new beginning, and what's a housewarming if not a brand new start?

The soup was tasty, y'all, and I'll talk about it more, but first I have a confession to make. I have this condition, you guys. Let's call it spice dysmorphia. Here I was, thinking I'd totally underspiced the soup, but I'm pretty sure it made some people sweat (sorry, Julie). Years of spice abuse at Thai and Indian establishments have left me desensitized to all but the most painful capsaicin-fueled lingual firestorms. Sometimes I forget that all tongues are different. To anyone I spiced out, I do sincerely apologize (I might even apologise--I know, so proper, right?). It's not me; it's my condition. Hope you got plenty of grown-up mac 'n' cheese.

Purply goodness.

Okay, confession over. This soup has a lot going for it. It's deceptive, which is always fun: It looks like a regular tomato soup, but is much more than meets the eye when it hits your mouth. It's spicy and smoky and the black-eyed peas lend some serious heft to it, making it quite filling. Oh, boy, and it's SO easy, which was a serious plus for me yesterday, with a full day and an even flightier than usual attention span (does too much soup kill your brain cells? INVESTIGATE.).

In summation: I liked it quite a bit, although it likely isn't to everyone's taste. I'm not sure whether I'll make it again in this magical world just brimming with recipes, but I'm pretty stoked to eat the leftovers. Legume-powered good luck for days!

My friend Beth sent me this recipe, and the way she wrote it was so cute that I'm just going to copy and paste it here, and list the changes I made at the end.

Spicy Black-eyed Pea and Tomato Bisque

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup diced onions plus a little more for garnish
A good size pinch of black pepper and salt
2 Teaspoons of Paprika – to taste
2 Teaspoons of Smoked Paprika – to taste
2 Teaspoons of oregano
A few dashes hot sauce (I’d recommend Tamazula)
2 can’s Trappey’s Black eyed peas with jalapeno (Available at Krogers - But you can use your own cooked and seasond black eyed peas if you'd rather)
2 large cans of Roma tomatoes (seeded, diced and the juice reserved)
1 cup and a 1/2 of cream plus some to garnish

Heat up a pot to medium add the olive oil, when it’s hot add the onions and stir for about 3 minutes, you want them soft so lower the heat if they are cooking too fast. Add in the salt and pepper, stir for another minute. Add the paprika’s and toast it with the onions turning up the heat a little bit. When the flavors have toasted and the onions are soft, turn up the heat a little more and add in a tablespoon at a time about a ¼ cup of the reserved tomato juice, letting the juice incorporate completely between each spoon full in effect deglazing the pan.

Add in the black-eyed peas (and their liquid), the diced tomatoes and the hot sauce, the rest of the reserved tomato juice and bring to boiling. Add in the oregano, turn down the heat to medium and let simmer about 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend the bejeezus out of it for about 5 minutes or more, getting it as smooth as you can. (you can do it in batches in a regular blender, just make sure you leave the lid open a bit so the steam/heat pressure doesn’t make the lid explode off…very painful with hot liquid, trust me you do not want this to happen)

Add the cream, blend together, heat and it’s ready to serve. Garnish with a drizzle of cream, a bit of the diced onion and a sprinkle of the smoked paprika. (You could use sour cream or yogurt as well)

My changes:
  • Because Trappey's are cooked with bacon, I used plain black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed, and added fresh jalapeno to the onions in the first step--The final flavor was still quite smoky.
  • To save time and mess, I just broke the tomatoes up with my hands as I added them.
  • I cut the cream by 2/3 and used fat-free Greek yogurt to make up the difference.
  • I tripled the recipe to be on the safe side. It made waaaaay more than enough with the plentiful spread--Probably should have just doubled it!
  • I added a good bit more than a few dashes of my El Yucateco hot sauce.