Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pizza Soup

"I have everything I need to make pizza; let's make soup instead," said nobody, ever.

Let's face it: Pizza is your favorite food. I mean I love, love, love artichokes and peas and brussels sprouts. But I'm an American. We love pizza. We love it so much that even bad pizza is good pizza in a pinch. It can't always be A Tavola or PizzaBomba--sometimes it's Bagel Bites.

As much as this was a bit of a weird meal to go out on, I think it accomplished what Soupruary is about for me. Trying something new just because, losing the need to be safe, and sharing the experience with friends. And, in the end, the act of finishing something is more important than what sort of bang (or flump) you go out on.

And, hey. Logan had seconds!

And I lost the pictures and never finished this post!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dan Dan Thank-You-Man!

Or if you prefer a title that's useful and descriptive and, like, boring: "Spicy Peanut Noodle Soup."

You know those days when there's only one food that even sounds worth the energy to chew? Today, my stupidly specific craving was also completely impossible: Dan Dan Noodles from Little Shanghai in downtown Santa Cruz, California.

"Oh, you luscious, spicy, peanut-buttery noodles! Why are you so far away from me? TELEPORT TELEPORT TELEPORT!" I wailed to absolutely no one as I wandered the streets of Over-The-Rhine (don't worry--not too terribly out of place in my neighborhood). Alas, my supplications to the laws of space and time were left unanswered, and I was left with a craving, a kitchen, and the world's tiniest Kroger.

The Kroger on Vine, which suffers many unsavory epithets I won't perpetuate here, is...improving. Compared to a few years ago, it's better--even offering a selection of fresh herbs (only cilantro, really--although I've heard many an offer to buy or sell a different sort of herb in its equally tiny parking lot) and some organic selections. Poor lil Kroger, and it's one shelf of Asian groceries that is mostly heat-n-go noodle dishes in New Xtreme Sodium! flavor.

But a craving is a craving, and in the immortal words of Mae West, I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it. So, here you go: A creamy, vegan, sweet and spicy dan dan noodle-inspired soup, using only items available for purchase at the Kroger on Vine. If I can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

I used linguine (because...well, you know why) but if I'd had my druthers/been even minimally prepared I would have used a more authentic noodle. You know what, though? Linguine is delicious. Fact.

During a trip to Ghana last February (the reason for Soupruary's one-year hiatus), I garnered the knowledge that spicy peanut (called groundnut there) soup can also be delicious. So why not merge that concept with some more East Asian ingredients, add some noodles and vegetables and make myself happy? 

And if you can manage to make someone else happy in the meantime, well that's just a big bowl of fantastic.

Translation: This is really good. And with all the lovely creaminess, you can add as much sriracha as you like. Which, for me, is a lot.

Speaking of cravings, I totally want these dumb shoes.

I mean a lot-lot. 

Spicy Peanut Noodle Soup
Influenced by Joanne Chang's Dan Dan Noodles in Food & Wine
Makes 4 big bowls


spicy peanut butter:
1/2 c raw peanuts, shelled
1/4 c peanut oil
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled
a thumb-sized chunk of ginger, sliced
3 T soy sauce
2 T water
2 T rice vinegar
2 T sriracha
1 T dark brown sugar
1 t hot toasted sesame oil

2 c vegetable broth
1 c water
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced small
1/4 of a large red onion, sliced thin
1 small zucchini, julienne
1 orange bell pepper, julienne
1/3 c frozen shelled edamame
14.5-oz can light coconut milk
8 oz. linguine (or Asian noodle of your choice)

1/4 c roasted peanuts, chopped
green onions


Heat peanut oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. 
Add raw peanuts and a splash of soy sauce, and cook until peanuts are golden.
Poor peanuts and oil into food processor, and add all other ingredients in the top section. 
Process until smooth.

Bring broth and water to a boil and add sweet potato and red onion.
Simmer until sweet potato is just cooked.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta until just al dente.

Add remaining vegetables, coconut milk and noodles to simmering broth, and cook a few minutes until edamame is heated through.

Serve immediately, garnished with peanuts, green onions, cilantro and sriracha. 
Go ahead and put the sriracha and soy sauce on the table so people can spice and salt it up as they like.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cheese Tortellini in Walnut Pesto Broth

Confession time, y'all: Over the last year or so, I've let myself become lazy.

A month ago, there's no way I would have made dinner on a night like tonight. Upon leaving work, I had a few hours of work to do, plus a few loads of laundry--a month ago, there's no question that I would have picked up some take-out. It's incredibly tempting in this neighborhoor--Over-the-Rhine is home to most of the best restaurants in Cincinnati, no matter the price range.

Honestly, the ease of take-out (or go-out) is the main thing that motivated me to do this silly Soupruary thing again. I haven't eaten out (or ordered take-out) once this month, and I have to say it feels good. Feels good to walk that extra mile to the market after work, feels good to do extra dishes, feels good to know I'm creating something I don't get paid to create. I suppose this is a selfish experiment.

But, for me at least, it's also informative. This soup took 10 minutes to make, all in. It probably would have taken longer to get take-out. Plus, I always feel awkward listening to podcasts while waiting for food, but it's perfectly enjoyable in my kitchen. I'm not trying to get self-righteous about not eating out or something. For one thing, I'm super stoked to go get some sushi on Friday (possibly for lunch AND dinner). But this month has been a great brain-reprogrammer for me. Yeah, I should cook more; yeah, I can cook more; no, it doesn't have to be a big production.

This soup? I'm not even sure you can call it cooking. I didn't toil over freshly-made pasta dough, forming tortellini by hand. I didn't fill a big stock pot with vegetables and aromatics to make my own perfect broth. But on a night when time was at a premium, I was able to make dinner for tonight and lunch for tomorrow in ten minutes. TEN MINUTES. That's nothing. That's oops-I-got-distracted-by-a-cat-on-the-Internet. As much as I've been annoyed by Sandra Lee over the years, semi-homemade really is a fact of life sometimes. (I still don't see how it ever merited being a television show, but then, a whole lot of people watch Two and a Half Men too, and that probably does more harm.) 

This soup is not fancy and it's not difficult, but it sure does yield some tasty, cheesy returns. If you read the title of this post, you already know exactly what this tastes like. Next time you're pressed for time, why not give this baby a spin? You won't be sorry.

One more note--I used walnuts in the pesto rather than the traditional pine nuts, just because I like them better. This would work with any pesto though, really--including store-bought if that's your jam/bag/preference.

Cheese Tortellini in Walnut Pesto Broth
adapted from Radically Simple by Rozanne Gold
serves 2


1 c packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 c chopped raw walnuts
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 T olive oil
2 c vegetable broth (I used Rapunzel vegan bouillon)
a handful of grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 c frozen peas
16 frozen or fresh cheese tortellinis


Place basil, walnuts, Parmesan and garlic in food processor and whir it up a bit.
Scrape down sides and add olive oil--process until it's your desired consistency.
Heat vegetable broth to a boil, and stir in pesto.
Add tortellini, peas and tomatoes, and boil for as long as your tortellini package directions tell you (probably no more than 2 or 3 minutes).
That's it. You're done.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crunchy Hot Mushroom Water

I asked Logan to name this soup, and he came up with the above. I'm pretty sure the scoreboard there reads half Arrested Development reference, half insult.

But believe it or not, he loved it. He even pouted a little when I said I didn't make enough for seconds.

I loved it, too. This soup--full of nondescriptly Asian, slurpy broth and crispety rice--was a big bowl of white girl satisfaction, inauthentic as it may have been. Maybe it's my California roots that make me so comfortable with the concept of fusion, no matter the level of artistry (or lack thereof, in this case) involved.

I can't lie: This soup came from me craving totally vague East Asian flavors. A heavy dose of umami, spice, ginger...MSG? I kinda just went to town with a combo of everything I like. This would never be served in any restaurant because it's a jumbled bunch of nonsense. But as nonsense goes? To my taste, this soup is Edward Lear.  fish fiddle de-dee

The real stand-out element here is the crunchy rice. I considered frying the rice to puff it and get a sizzling rice effect, but decided that with all the creamy soups lately (and Hello Honey in the freezer) I'd be fine without a snapcracklepop. Besides, this baked rice really keeps it crispy (sigh Pete Holmes) throughout the entire meal--a feat that was both improbable and impressive. The rice takes on a nutty flavor when you bake it, which is totally gluttony-inducing. I found myself greedily snatching up the wee grains that stayed on the baking sheet before I cleaned up.

To make this soup, I read a few different broth recipes (some Chinese, some Japanese) and then just did what sounded good to me -- using whatever I could gather from my pantry raid. I tasted as I went until I struck upon the exact taste I wanted. That's the nice thing about not following a recipe--if you can find the taste you want, you're never doing it wrong.

This makes a big (but not in a gross way) meal for two--about two cups of soup each to serve in nice big bowls, plus just the perfect amount of rice.

Crunchy Rice in Mushroom Broth
Rice technique taken from this recipe from The Healthy Helping
Two big servings (or four little ones, I suppose)


1/2 c sprouted brown rice
grapeseed oil
a handful of mixed dried wild mushrooms
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1 package white button mushrooms, stems and caps separated, caps sliced
1 yellow onion, skin left on, quartered 
4 scallions, bottom inch chopped off and reserved, tops sliced
4 Thai chili peppers, sliced in half lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
a thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 strip of kombu 
soy sauce
rice vinegar
1 tsp sambal oelek 
2 c fresh baby spinach, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 orange bell pepper, julienned
toasted sesame oil


Cook brown rice according to package directions. 
Rub a cookie sheet with a little grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil), and heat oven to 400 F.
Spread rice in a thin layer on cookie sheet--you're looking for even distribution as you make one big cake of crispy rice.
Bake for about 40 minutes--checking to avoid burning. You want the rice to be dried out and for it to break apart like a crunchy granola bar. 

Meanwhile, make your broth. Bring 6 c water to boil with the dried mushrooms. 
Turn heat off and let mushrooms sit about 10 minutes, until reconstituted.
Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add vegetable bouillon cube, mushroom stems, scallion bottoms, onion, ginger, kombu, garlic and Thai chili, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Thinly slice your reserved wild mushrooms.
In a small frying pan, heat a dash of grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. 
Throw in sliced white mushrooms and wild mushrooms with the sambal oelek and a dash of soy sauce, and fry until cooked through with some nice color on the white mushrooms. 

Use a fine mesh strainer to strain your broth into a clean bowl, then return it to the pot and to medium-low heat. 
Add carrot, bell pepper, spinach cooked mushrooms and most of the sliced scallion tops. 
Add a splash of soy sauce and a dash of rice vinegar, tasting until you hit the flavor you want. 

To serve, divide into two big bowls. Top with broken up islands of crunch rice and a light sprinkling of sliced scallions, plus a few drops of sesame oil.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Asparagus & Spinach Soup with Tarragon

So green it's practically LEED certified. groan

So: Oscar Night! While everyone in Hollywood transformed themselves into visions of perfection, we put on pajamas and stuffed our faces. Look at this stuffed face, though, and tell me I'm not as happy as I would have been if I'd just won Best Actress:

That, dears, is the power of friendship. And soup.

Another power of this particular soup: EXPLOSIVE DRAMA!

This first Oscars upset of 2013 probably had a lot more staining/laughter potential for us than for anyone at Hollywood & Highland. When the shock and giggles wore off, Kelly put in an award-winning performance with some OxiClean.

Logan was either stunned by the spilled soup or by the sheer unfunniness of Seth MacFarlane. You decide.

Over the past few weeks, I sporadically tried to come up with some sort of punny soup based on a nominated film. Nothing was really clicking for me, so I finally changed my strategy this morning as I grasped for something to fill out my shopping list. In a short game of word association, I came upon steak Oscar: steak with crab, asparagus and béarnaise. 

One of the chief differentiators between hollandaise and béarnaise is that béarnaise includes tarragon. From there I remembered this recipe I had wanted to try anyway, and that was enough of a logical connection for me. Plus, the soup is also basically the same color as this guy: 

When you think about it that way, this soup practically screams Oscar, right? It just took me a while to get there. 

This recipe hails from my most recent cookbook acquisition, Secrets of the Best Chefs by Adam Roberts (of Amateur Gourmet fame). I totally recommend it, even though this is only the second recipe I've tried from it. He spent time with 50 chefs, and in this book, which really does read like a novel, he imparts the lessons he learned. The title of the book makes it sound like it's going to be gimmicky, but it's really just entertaining and informational. One of the nice things about the book is that its goal is to make you trust yourself in the kitchen. I'm working on that.

I'll get to the soup, but first, let's pause to drool over this dessert Kelly made: 

It was somewhere between a cheesecake and a pie, and it was lick-your-plate good. She found the recipe hidden among totally insane recipe cards from the '80s. People used to use gelatin a lot more.

Okay, soup. Logan said his favorite thing about it was when it spilled everywhere. But I really, really liked it. Especially compared to other asparagus soups I've had or made. It's very simple, tastes nice and light, and tastes like the embodiment of spring--to me at least. If you like asparagus, I absolutely recommend this. Plus, it's purdy (see above).

Asparagus & Spinach Soup with Tarragon
Adapted very slightly from Adam Roberts' Secrets of the Best Chefs
Serves 4


2 bunches of asparagus, or about 1 1/4 pounds
2 T unsalted butter
1/2 c diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane
1 1/2 t dried tarragon
pinch of grated nutmeg
4 c baby spinach leaves
crème fraîche


Cut off the tips of the asparagus and reserve, and cut off the wood ends and discard.
Bring a small pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt, and add asparagus tips. 
Cook for one minute, strain, and place asparagus in a bowl of ice water to cool.
Slice the rest of the asparagus into 1/2" chunks.

Melt butter in your soup pot over medium-low heat and add onion and a pinch of salt.
Cook gently for about 20 minutes--don't let them brown. 
Add garlic, tarragon, nutmeg, asparagus, and just enough water to cover everything.
Bring to a boil, turn heat down to a simmer, and cook for another 20 minutes or so, until asparagus is very soft. 
Add spinach and remove from heat.
Blend with an immersion blender until very smooth.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl.
Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.

Slice asparagus tips in half lengthwise. Divide soup among four bowls and top each bowl with 1/4 of the asparagus and a few dollops of crème fraîche. 

Can also be served chilled, and it really was quite good as it cooled, so I'm totally not even a little bit against that.
Bonus Logan-majorly-enjoying-the-Oscars pic! You're welcome!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Thai Curry Red Lentil, Beans & Rice Soup

Do you have a cold? Of course you do. It's February. Go make this. It's spicy and appetite-inspiring. You'll thank yourself. 

I also garnished this delightful Thai-inflected soup with thinly sliced radishes, but by the time I put them on I was too excited to eat and could not be bothered to take another photo.  That's how good this is. I didn't even have time for the cutest vegetable on the planet. 

This was another recommendation from Ben, who insisted I definitely had to try this Red Lentil Thai Chili. I'm so glad I did. I altered it a bit to make it a little soupier--after Soupruary I'm totally going back to give the original a go as well. 

I was planning to throw some diced avocado on top of here, but my avocados betrayed me. No matter how many times they hurt me, I keep going back for more. It would probably be less emotionally draining, though, if I'd stop trying for a while. After eating this, though, I think avocado really would be a nice touch.

Not that this needs anything else. I can't think of anything it's lacking--sweetness (sweet potato), spice (cayenne, paprika, curry paste), creaminess (coconut milk), acid (lime)--it's all there. If you're a fan of Thai red curry, I promise you'll be happy with the decision to make this, preferably ASAP. 

Of course you can make your own red curry paste if you'd like to. But on a Saturday after being at work all day and a 7:30am call time, that wasn't in the cards for me. Luckily, the lazy way works out great. Allow me to introduce you to another of my favorite pantry items: the perfect $1 can of curry paste from Saigon Market at Findlay Market (that place is chock full of fun and tasty gems).  

They carry a wide array of styles, and every single one I've tried has been a shortcut to a delicious meal. I try to keep a few on hand for emergency stir fries and soups. Besides, what business do I really have attempting to make a good Thai red curry paste? About as much business as I have writing this blog! BASICALLY ZERO BUSINESS.

Business discussions aside, let's talk about love. I really believe this soup potentially make your significant otro fall more in love with you. In my case, I'm at least halfway certain Logan loves this soup more than he loves me. He's already declared his fear of running out of leftovers. And I don't blame him. It really is a soup you just want to keep eating and eating. Muy peligroso!

So, thanks for the recommendation, Ben--you were right. This is definitely going to make repeat appearances in my kitchen/mouth. Try it out, or try the original chili recipe. It's just GOOD.

Thai Curry Red Lentil, Beans & Rice Soup 
Serves at least 4, likely more


olive oil
two shallots, chopped
1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 t cayenne
1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t garlic powder
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/3 c red lentils
1/3 c wild rice (I used a mixture of brown, red and black)
2 c vegetable broth
1 c water
1 15 oz can mixed kidney, pinto and black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained but not rinsed
1 14 oz can coconut milk
2 T Thai red curry paste (or to taste)
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro, plus more as garnish
juice of half a lime, plus lime slices as garnish
thinly sliced radishes, as garnish


Heat oil in your pot over medium heat, and add shallots and bell pepper with a good three-finger pinch of salt. 
Let this cook for a few minutes until softened, then add garlic and cook for another minute or two. 
Add cayenne, coriander, paprika and garlic powder, and stir around until the vegetables are coated and the mixture is super fragrant, a minute or two. 
Add sweet potato, lentils, rice, vegetable broth, and water, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and cover pot--cook for about 20 minutes until or until sweet potato, rice and lentils are cooked through.
Add tomatoes, coconut milk and curry paste, and turn the heat back up to medium. 
Stir until everything is well incorporated, making sure not to leave any weird clumps of paste (gross)--you may want to use a wire whisk here.
Cook for 5 minutes or so, uncovered, then remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add salt here if necessary.
Serve garnished with more cilantro and slices of lime and radish (and some diced avocado if you'd like!).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Scrap Drawer Soup

Unless you're much more adept than I at somehow managing to purchase only the precise quantity of ingredients you need for each meal you make, you probably have some scraps in your vegetable drawer. Half a leek here, a handful of greens there--if you're as much of a cheapskate as I am, those 5 little fingerling potatoes sitting there will begin to haunt you like the Telltale Heart. If you let them go too long and you lose them? At a certain point, I can't take anymore trashcan funerals. It's just too sad.

A nice vegetable soup is a great way to waste-not-want-not. Pretty much anything goes -- you can use up odds and ends, and those veggies that aren't looking quite as fresh as they used to will find new life in a flavorful broth.

This recipe is totally adaptable--you really could use whatever vegetables you have or like. There are two rules though:

1) Cheese rinds. I used some old rinds of Parmesan and Gruyere here that I had saved in a little baggie for just this purpose. Adding rinds to your broth is a great way to be get the most out of of your expensive cheese habit. They impart a heft and richness to your broth that would otherwise be lacking, not to mention just the hint of cheesy flavor and some saltiness. Pretty impressive for something you otherwise would have thrown away.

2) Fresh herbs. There's nothing like the brightness of fresh herbs to convince you through taste alone that you're the healthiest person on earth, ready to conquer the world (or at least that massive pile of laundry you've been ignoring while you've been making soup every day (no? just me on that one, then?)).

Below I've noted what I used in this soup, but really, the only things to remember are cheese rinds and herbs.

Could I have found something more exciting to make tonight? Oh most definitely. But this was wholesome and nutritious and I really would eat it any day of the week. Plus, the slightly smug satisfaction you get from making an attempt to be a responsible consumer? You'd be surprised how much flavor that can add.

Clean out the Fridge Vegetable Soup
About 6 servings


olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
2 smallish ribs of celery (from the middle of the heart--choose ribs with lots of leaves), sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 small leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced
5 fingerling potatoes, sliced about 1/8" thick
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 14.5-oz can of tomatoes, drained and rinsed

2 bay leaves
5 c water
 a few pieces of rind from hard cheeses (I used a few 2" chunks of Parmesan and Gruyere rinds)
1/2 c frozen peas
1 c chopped kale
 chopped fresh basil and parsley, to garnish
shaved Parmesan, to garnish


Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat and add garlic, carrots, celery, bell pepper, fennel, leek, potatoes and rosemary.
Add a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not starting to brown (5 minutes could be enough--but just watch it).
Add tomatoes, bay leaves, water, and cheese rinds, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer until vegetables are cooked through and broth has become nice and flavorful -- I left it on low for about 30 minutes.
Remove rinds and bay leaves.
Stir in peas and kale--cook about 5 minutes more until peas are heated through and kale is nice and wilted but still has some bite to it.
Season to taste and serve garnished with basil, parsley and Parmesan.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cauliflower Soup with Crème Fraîche and Salmon Caviar

Fancy Thursday is the new lazy Sunday. 

Look at that beauty, eh? This is an impress-your-company soup, a pretty and luxurious first course with fun textures, that's so easy to put together it feels like cheating. 

There's hardly anything in the soup itself--cauliflower, water, salt, pepper, milk, parsley. The simplicity there is a fantastic base for some seriously high impact garnishes. And the soup on it's own? It's a silky, creamy delight that I'd also eat without the froufrou and folderol. Sure it's plain, but pleasantly so. 

I have to assume that's because Alice Waters knows what she's talking about. This recipe came from the beautiful Chez Panisse Vegetables, one of the most attractive cookbooks on my living room floor shelf. It's divided alphabetically by vegetable, and each section begins with a gorgeous color woodcut of the subject. Man, xylography. So classy, right? 

Everything I've tried from the book has scored between tasty and excellent; however, many of the recipes are a bit on the intimidating side. This is not because they use complicated techniques or unfamiliar ingredients--quite the contrary for the most part. It's because the Ms. Waters expects you to trust yourself. EEK! WHAT COULD BE MORE TERRIFYING?

Rather than providing an ingredient list or any specific amounts of anything, this recipe is just a paragraph of instructions. She tells you to add some of this and some of that, with no measurements! For someone who isn't a real cook (read: someone like me), this can seem like telling me to get on the ice and do a quadruple salchow in a bikini. While making soup.

But for you, dear, I tried it. And it's pretty much foolproof. I didn't pay attention to it for more than five minutes, leaving me free to make salmon with oyster mushrooms and spinach without worrying about the soup once. 

This soup will definitely trick your friends into thinking you're at least slightly fancy, if that's a thing you're into. And I handily included all measurements I used below, constructing what I hope is a less intimidating recipe. Go 'head: get yr posh on.

Look how excited Posh gets about Cauliflower!

Bonus: After you plop the crème fraîche on top of each bowl, you get to lick the spoon. It's your inalienable right. 

Cauliflower Soup with Crème Fraîche and Salmon Caviar
Adapted from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables
Enough for 4 first-course servings


1 head of cauliflower
1 c whole milk
2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
crème fraîche
1 green onion, sliced
1 jar salmon caviar
2 slices of rye bread
1 T unsalted butter, melted


Break up the head of cauliflower into florets, removing the big green leaves but including the stalk. 
Place cauliflower in a pot and cover with water and a good bit of kosher salt--about a tablespoon.
Cover and bring to a boil, and cook until cauliflower is fork tender--about 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 400 F. 
Cut rye bread into bite size cubes and toss with butter, then place cubes on a cookie sheet.
Put bread in the oven--about 8 minutes later, you'll have croutons!

Back to the soup: Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked cauliflower to a food processor.
Add 1 cup of the water you cooked the cauliflower in, and whiz until totally pureed and super smooth--should take 1 to 2 minutes.
Discard the rest of the cooking liquid, and transfer the cauliflower puree back to your pot.
Turn heat on to medium-low and stir in milk, then simmer for five minutes (don't let it boil). 
Season with salt and pepper--but leave it less salty than you normally would, as you're going to get some major saltiness from the caviar.
Stir in parsley and simmer for another 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool until just barely warm (or at room temperature or you can chill it--up to you). 
Garnish with a blob of crème fraîche, a teaspoon of caviar, green onion and rye croutons.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spicy Lebanese Couscous Soup

I hear often that people don't like to cook because it's too much work (or too much food) for just one human. As with all things, though, I think cooking for one is about what you cook and how you look at it. 

Cooking for one can be like putting on the perfect outfit: exactly right for the weather, makes you feel good from the inside out, and SPICY. (somewhere that simile fell apart.)

Cooking for one means the only taste you have to account for is your own. Do you like things so salty you could float in them? Do you find there's no such thing as too much pasta? Too many herbs? So much spice you sweat through the dirty t-shirt that you may or may not be wearing as you sit on the couch watching hulu in the dark? 

And if you're cooking soup for one, you have the joy and anticipation of knowing that it will only be better the next day when you reheat it for another lonely but perfectly self-indulgent meal.  

To my tastes, this soup was my cooking-for-one heaven/nirvana/Valhalla/Rivendell/whatever-works-for-you. I mean, look at all these spices:

thassalotta spices

You know that made my apartment smell like I was living IN THE DREAMS of a Yankee Candle, and my lips tingle like a 13-year-old who just stumbled through her first kiss.

Unlike a lot of greedily-eat-alone-on-the-couch comfort foods (Easy Mac, Hello Honey, Doritos & cottage cheese), this one you can actually feel good about. It's pretty darn healthful and eating it makes you feel better in a physical way, not the fleeting way that makes you wanna cry afterward. 

Lebanese Couscous, if you haven't had it, is delightful. It's like Israeli Couscous only even more mega-sized, and each little ball soaks up every flavor you add to it like a CHAMP. It's also fun that no one can decide upon the spelling of its real name--I'm partial to "moghrabieh." As awesome as it is to add those pasta flavor bombs here, you could definitely make this soup without -- just amp up the bean input a little. In Cincinnati, you can get a big package of them for just $1.99 at Dean's in Findlay Market, and a little will go a long way.

Holy cow I can't wait to eat this again tomorrow. 

Also, I only used about half a can of fava beans, which means I have enough left for a hearty Egyptian breakfast in the morning. See how resourceful cooking for one can be? 

If I didn't make it clear enough, this soup is heavily spiced. Consider that fair warning. Pardon me, but I'm gonna go sneak bites out of the refrigerator now.

Spicy Lebanese Couscous Soup
Inspired by the spices in this recipe, for which I haven't been able to find an original source. I think mine is better anyway (but that's just me).
Serves about 4.


olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 c grape tomatoes, chopped
1 small leek, white and light green parts sliced
1/2 of a red bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 small stick of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t cayenne
1/4 t allspice
1/4 t ginger
pinch of saffron, crumbled between your fingers
4 c vegetable broth
1/2 c moghrabieh (Lebanese couscous)
2/3 c canned fava beans, rinsed
2/3 c frozen green garbanzo beans
1/2 of a lemon, juiced
chopped fresh Italian parsley
feta cheese


Heat oil over medium heat and add shallot, garlic and tomatoes. 
Stir occasionally to keep from sticking, and cook for about five minutes.
Add leek, bell pepper and carrot and stir around for a few more minutes.
Add all spices and stir until well combined and very fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
Add in broth and moghrabieh, bring to a boil, then turn down to a steady simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add fava beans and green garbanzos and cook another 10 or so, until couscous is cooked through.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
Season to taste (I added nothing here) and serve topped with parsley and a sprinkle of feta.