Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Soupruary beats out hundreds to be named Best Soup Blog in Cincinnati by CityBeat!

On second thought, this might be Cincinnati's only soup blog, but that didn't diminish my smile upon learning this morning that some lovely human over on the CityBeat staff took up the cause of celebrating this silly, soupy annual experiment in their Best of Cincinnati issue.

Finally, all the trips to the market in the snow, all the dish-washing, all the leftovers for lunch, all the oops-a-bit-too-much-wine-for-a-Tuesday: all worth it! I even sent a picture to my mom. 

So, thank you, mystery CityBeat staffer (I'll figure out who soon enough). You made my day, and my five years of blogging.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Red Corn Chowder with Shrimp

I'll never run a marathon.

The summer before my last year of high school, I sprained my knee at cheer-leading camp (shut up). I had to sit out the beginning of the football season, watching my squad from the bleachers and realizing, slowly and painfully, that my knee was never going to be quite the same again. And also (perhaps more painfully) that cheer-leading, which I was in my sixth year of, was yeeeeeaaaactually a little bit annoying. But the uniforms omg so cute, right?!?

My bum kneecap now has the delightful habit of popping out of place every once in a while when I'm doing something strenuous, like getting out of bed or sipping a glass of water. Needless to say, I don't want to tempt fate by doing something like running. 

Even before that, though, I was a terrible runner. And apparently a pretty amusing one, if you asked the kids in my PE group or the neighbors down the block who had to watch my feet wildly kick out to the side every time I broke out of a jog.

But my lack of running ability isn't the only reason I don't think I'd ever finish a marathon -- part of it is that, as I get older, it's harder to finish non work-related goals. Here are things I definitely haven't done in the past year:

- learn French!
- follow a strict budget!
- lose weight!
- keep my room clean!
- schedule regular haircuts!
- those two suitcases that have been packed and ready to go since last spring? take them to the Salvation Army!

I find myself better and better at starting things and losing steam (how's that for positive language?).

Which brings me to: Yet another reason to love Soupruary. I finished. Maybe next year will be time for a new challenge, but for now I'm basking in a little bit of tiny accomplishment afterglow. Maybe it wasn't all great, but a lot of it was pretty dang good. And tonight was a tasty way to go out.

Natalie and James came over and we had this lovely chowder. A little spicy, not very heavy, and very shrimpy. The corn was sweet, the peppers were hot, and the company was delightful. This is a solid recipe -- if the title sounds good (the red part = tomatoes), you're going to like it. 

The shrimp shells in the broth start going crazy at a certain point and it's equal parts fun and gross to watch.

I'd say more, but I already passed the finish line and collected my medal. It's made of a soup can lid, and it's obviously imaginary.

And now I keep hearing it's time for Starch, which is either a March full of eating starches (the food of the gods) or a March full of eating stews, depending on who you ask. And as much as I've loved this entire month, I'm ready for food that can be served on a plate.

Red Shrimp Chowder with Corn
Adapted from Pete Wells' recipe by way of The Wednesday Chef

Serves 6


4 cups seafood stock
1 pound shrimp, shelled, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces, shells reserved
4 ears corn, kernels cut off, cobs and kernels reserved separately
2 large basil sprigs, leaves cut julienne, stems reserved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
Half a fennel bulb,diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 jalapenos, minced (seeded if desired)
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved


Bring seafood stock, shrimp shells, corncobs and basil stems to a boil in a pot and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

In your soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, fennel, carrots and jalapeno and saute for 10 minutes. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt.

Strain the broth into your soup pot (over the softened vegetables) using a fine mesh strainer. Discard shells, corncobs and basil stems.

Add corn kernels, potatoes, bay leaf and red pepper flakes to the soup pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.

Crush about 1/3 of the potato against the side of the pot using the back of a spoon. Stir in chopped tomatoes and tomato juice, return to a boil and simmer another 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp and stir. It will only take about 2 minutes to cook through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately so the shrimp is nice and tender, garnished with julienne basil.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Addictively Hot & Sour Mushroom, Tofu and Cabbage Soup

Logan can't stop talking about this one. It's about to enter my regular rotation.

I almost cried at the market today because they were out of both ginger and jalapenos. After a long, rough day in what seems like a month of long, rough days, this was a crushing blow. My cheeks flushed, my eyes welled, I threatened to leave my cart and walk out.

Luckily, the very understanding and supportive Logiebear was there to tell me it was okay, and that certainly we could go to Kroger and find jalapenos, and wasn't that ginger over there? (Nope, galangal.)

So, I finished up the rest of the list like a rational human being, rather than screaming at the heavens WHYYYY MEEEEEE and storming out of Whole Foods. 

Guess what though, guys. Kroger didn't have any jalapenos either. Is there a jalapeno shortage? All of a sudden I'm hearing R.E.M.'s "It's The End of The World" in my head, and I don't feel fine.

But it's getting late, and there's soup to make. Kroger has ginger, a pretty poblano and a cayenne; so, fine. I can be flexible. This new chillness bubbling to the surface is going to make for a good cooking experience, right?

So I get home and start prepping. Chop chop chop, measure measure measure. All good. Then I start cooking. Time to put those substitute peppers in the pot!

I'm prepping other ingredes for a bit, then go to stir the pot. I'm immediately frantically confused. Did they melt? Did they evaporate? Where are the stupid peppers? WHYYYY MEEEEEE?!?!?!

Oh, cool, I put them in the trash.

At this point, I had half a mind to give up, and the other half a mind was clearly not functioning. But I had more of the chilis left, so, chop some more, put on a happy face and pretend nothing happened. 

I know I said previously that I learned not to cook frustrated or angry, but this soup proved to be an exception. It was fantastic. With the first bite, it made me forget all the inner turmoil that I'd gone through to get to that moment. Maybe this soup has so much love for humanity that it could sense I needed a win. I wouldn't put it past 'er.

Another great thing about this soup: it's not dependent on particularly seasonal ingredients. And -- perhaps at least partially because of that -- it comes off as a soup without a season. As in, I would eat this stuff all year, regardless of weather. The slightly spicy tang makes me think I'd be just as happy eating this in 90 degree weather as in 12.

I'm sure you could switch up the vegetables or keep adding more to your heart's content. You could totally make this with rice noodles instead of rice. You could also use brown rice (my original plan, as evidenced by the ingredient photo) if you don't cook it at 9pm and thus not want to insert a single extra minute between you and soup. And having any sort of rice element qualifies it for Starch March.

The heat is totally adjustable here, so have no fear. Just make this soup. It's definitely in my top three of this month, and now the only reason I want to cry is because we ate every last bite.

Hot & Sour Mushroom, Tofu and Cabbage Soup
Adapted pretty significantly from The Kitchn
Served two big pigs tonight but should likely have served four

For tofu:
1/8 cup tamari
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon sambal oelek
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 of a 14 oz block of extra firm tofu, cut into bite size pieces

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and add tofu, turning as necessary to get all sides marinated, as you make the rest of the soup.

For soup:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
4 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped poblano pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 cups vegetable broth 
1/4 cup jasmine rice
2 limes, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon sambal oelek 
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 head of green cabbage, sliced very thin
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
green onion, sliced, as garnish
cilantro, leaves picked, as garnish
sriracha, as garnish

Heat oil over medium heat in your soup pot. Add mushrooms and cook for five minutes, then stir and cook for another five minutes. Add pepper, garlic and ginger, stir and cook another five minutes.

Add vegetable broth and rice and bring to a simmer. Cook about twenty minutes. Add lime zest and juice, tamari and sambal oelek and stir. Continue stirring as you stream in the beaten egg. Add cabbage and onion and let cook for just a minute or two -- softening just a bit without losing crunch.

Divide among bowls and top with marinated tofu, green onion, cilantro and sriracha.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ina Garten's Split Pea Soup

Dan and Tracy came over for dinner, and we chowed on this:

See, I feel like I more often hear the phrase “pea soup” referring to the contents of infants’ diapers than to the actual food.   

But how could you ever compare these tiny green spheres, melting into one another, punctuated by velvety white pillows of potato and a brilliant spectrum of spring carrots to anything less than heavenly?

Nope. No matter how you try to dress it up, there’s just not much romanticizing when the word pea is involved (R. Kelly notwithstanding (TOO SOON GROSS)).

But not everything has to be sexy, you know? Just because it ain’t pretty doesn’t mean it ain’t good, or that it’s a classic dish that needs to be “elevated” with exotic ingredients or whimsical techniques. 

This "don't judge a soup by its color" principle is obviously one of the oldest in the book (you know, the one with an un-judged cover), but it was demonstrated in yet another way for me tonight. Since Harold Ramis left this plane on Monday, much has been said and internetted about his oeuvre. I must admit, I didn't grow up with the same attachment to his films that most of my generation seems to have. I grew up steeped in AMC back when it stood for American Movie Classics, in movie musicals, in lots and lots of Hitchcock. Thus, there's a pretty big gap in my pop culture consciousness from about the mid-70s to mid-90s. I just watched Ghostbusters for the first time in the last few years -- a fact that has elicited charges of heresy. 

I'm not opposed to filling out my movie knowledge, but for some reason, I just always figured Caddyshack would not hold up. Never appealed to me -- I assumed it was the type of movie found in an infant's diaper.

You know what? I was wrong. Sure, the plot is a bit tenuous, it's pretty raunchy, the gopher took a while to convince me, and I still don't know what Chevy Chase put in that girl's drink. But I sure did laugh, a lot and hard. Some masterful line deliveries and virtuoso performances -- color me wrong. I'm not too evolved for Caddyshack.

This split pea soup just tastes good. Get over yourself and eat it. It’s just like Caddyshack’s protagonist – his splotchy face and terrible dental hygiene didn’t stop the movie from being hilarious.

After a few nights of unpleasant dreams, I feel like I should start inserting a judgment of the recipe based on their subconscious consequences. This soup yielded:

Dream 1: Supremely excellent New Year’s Eve party in a sweet house on a mountain, surrounded by all my family and friends old and new. New beginnings, happiness, celebration.

Dream 2: I scheduled a haircut. WORLD-SHAKING!

I’d say this soup did a bang-up job of highlighting both my desires and my needs. [Caveat: it could have been the Hello Honey ice cream we had for dessert.]

There’s a scene in Caddyshack that takes place in the club’s pro shop (is that what it’s called? Why am I pretending like I know what it’s called? Why didn’t I just say “shop”? We’ll never know…) – Rodney Dangerfield disparages a hat by saying, “You buy a hat like this, I bet you get a free bowl of soup.”

If that bowl of soup was as satisfying as this one, I’d take that as a compliment.

P.S. If I say "R.I.Pea, Harold Ramis," will y'all get that for me, resting in peas would be a fate devoutly to be wished, and not just a brash tie-in to the soup? No? Best to leave it out, then.

Ina Garten's Split Pea Soup 
Original recipe here
Serves six as a main course


1/8 cup olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups small-diced carrots (I used rainbow carrots for fun)
1 cup diced red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
1 pound dried split peas, split into 2 half-pound portions
8 cups chicken stock (I used Better than Bouillon vegan no-chicken base)


Heat oil over medium-low heat in your soup pot, then add onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. It's going to look like a lot of pepper, but it's going to be a lot of soup. Cook slowly for about 15 minutes, until onions are nice and soft.

Add carrots, potatoes, half-pound of split peas, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. 

Add remaining peas and simmer for another 40 minutes. Adding the peas in two intervals allows the first batch to completely melt into a mushy pea situation while the second batch provides some tender (but still intact) pea texture.  

You'll want to check the liquid frequently during the last 40 minutes -- I ended up adding about 1.5 cups of water to the pot to keep it a good consistency, and really could have added more. 

When second batch of peas are tender, taste for salt and pepper and serve. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spinach Asparagus Soup

I was spending some time with Pete Holmes ('s podcast) again today, as I'm wont to do. He posited that a person only really has enough time or passion to spread to three main interests. I neither know where nor how he came up with this hypothesis, nor could I begin to debate its merits. But it did make me start thinking -- what are mine?

If I consider time, energy and money spent, I suppose they're words, food and comedy -- each with vastly different levels of skill and possible personal contribution.

Through my love of words from an early age, I started learning about foods I couldn't even conceive of. I still remember how I felt on the day in 1994 when I learned the word croquembouche. French. Noun. A cone-shaped stack of cream puffs coated with caramelized sugar.

Not only is that a cool-sounding word, but I had just discovered that I lived in a world where one could possibly, someday, from a cone-shaped stack of cream puffs coated with caramelized sugar. A ziggurat of pastry; a  tower of puffy, treacly delights. I could hardly believe my eyes, and I knew without a doubt that this was the best of all possible worlds.

To this day, I've never eaten croquembouche, which in most pictures I've seen looks more like a jumbled stack of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins than my childhood reveries would like to admit. But discoveries like that one in the addenda section of Webster's Third New International Dictionary started me down a path I hope to never stray from. One in which I'm always looking for the next thing to try, and laughing each time I fail. (See? I knew I could get back to comedy somehow (sort of).)

Oh, right. Soup.

Thankfully, this was not a failure, but it could have been. I was all by my lonesome tonight, so I decided to make a soup-for-one in the Vitamix. I had some nice asparagus and spinach, I thought -- hey! Perfecto! Donezo! So I blended it all up with some onion and garlic and herbs -- oh, it was beautiful to look at. Took a taste, and seriously? It wasn't bad, but it was almost too healthy. Like I was subjecting myself to a juice cleanse, except HOT. Nobody wants that! Especially not on a solo night when I can make something exactly to my tastes and not be judged. 

Potato to the rescue! (Seriously, I would wear a shirt that said that, with a cute little superpotato wearing a cape on it.) Adding a small russet potato mellowed the taste of the veg a bit, but really it was all about texture. Runny to creamy in one easy step! Not sure how I didn't think of it in the first place, but all's well that ends well. It was a lesson in improvisation: I tasted the first version and thought, "Yes, and."

It ended well, but not uhmaaaayyyzing. I licked my bowl, but that was at least partially because I was alone, and when else can you do something so uncouth?

Here's what was amazing though: Pecorino cream on top. From now on, I will be very surprised if I can resist the urge to put this on top of every veg-puree-type soup I make. I mean, zippadeedoodah! (Translation: salty-creamy-nutty-peppery.) It was just a small bit of cream, so it didn't mask the veg at all -- just made them ol' asparaguses sing (asparagi? nope.). And, folks -- I made it in the microwave (gasp!). All I did was stir up a splash of cream with about half as much grated Pecorino Romano and microwave 30 seconds. Stir in some freshly ground pepper, and voila: you just proved your love for yourself in 60 seconds or less. 

Don't it just look so refined? (Please say the previous aloud in a charming Southern accent while fanning yourself.)

In conclusion: Croquembouche, Pecorino cream, bowl-licking, treat yo self.

Vitamix Spinach Asparagus Soup
Serves 1


For the soup:
1 small russet potato, peeled and chopped
6 spears of asparagus in 2" pieces, woody ends discarded and tips reserved
1 big handful fresh baby spinach
1 teaspoon chopped red onion
1 roughly chopped garlic clove
1 teaspoon chopped fresno pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
1 pinch dried oregano
1 pinch dried tarragon
1 teaspoon grated Pecorino Romano

For the cream:
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons grated Pecorino Romano
1 pinch ground black pepper


Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and add potatoes; cook until tender (5 or 6 minutes), then transfer potatoes to blender using a slotted spoon.

Add all soup ingredients to blender, excepting the reserved asparagus tips. Blend on high for 7 or 8 minutes, or until steam comes out the top.

Meanwhile, place asparagus tips in the boiling water from the potatoes for about 60 seconds, or until bright green. Drain and run cold water over them.

Place cream and 1 1/2 teaspoons Pecorino Romano in a small microwave proof dish -- microwave on high for 30 seconds. Add black pepper and stir to combine.

Taste soup for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with cream and asparagus tips.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Miso Tahini Soup

Simple and Kinda Sweet.
                         -My tombstone; also, this soup.

WARNING: It's about to get shmoopy as hell up on this blog.

There's nothing that makes my heart bounce about more joyously than a night of good friends sitting on my floor, having a major catch-up sesh. Kenneth, Katie and Erin joined me for this one, and oh did we gab. Gossipmongering for the ages. Some very important conversations were had, some decisions affirmed, some souls propped up, some friendships reinforced. The soup, tonight even more than usual, was secondary.

And that's as it should be. Soup is communal. Gathering around the pot, clutching a warm bowl in both hands, fueling a whole night of making memories. 

HELP, I've become one of those overlong greeting cards that always make me so angry! Like, um, you're really going to trust someone at the Hallmark -- or worse, AMERICAN GREETINGS?!? -- to earnestly express, in paragraph form, how you feel about someone? GROW A PERSONALITY!

Except this greeting card has been about soup. Not sure those exist, so you know the feeling is genuine. 

I'm so grateful for my loyal and beautiful friends, for their willingness to spend hours and hours in my tiny apartment, for the laughter I can count on, for the cookies and chocolates and wine they bring along. And I'm grateful for soup for at least kind of making it happen. 

THAT DOES IT. No more sentimentality for the rest of the month.

This soup takes about 20 minutes to make, all in. It takes cues from a standard miso soup, but it's hearty enough -- with the inclusion of rice, turnips, squash and avocado -- to serve as a meal with just a light salad on the side. The lemon zest is oh-so-important. I found myself liking the soup more as it cooled, because the acid and bitterness of the citrus zest was doing a smooth and delicate dance with the broth.

The squash adds a sweet element, and you get some nuttiness from the tahini. If you really like seaweed, I say go to town on it. I placed a little dish of extra nori on the table and personally couldn't get enough, adding just a little more after every bite.

I'm pretty sure the reason I was so into adding moremoreMORE seaweed is that this recipe uses water instead of dashi. I was skeptical of the recipe for that reason -- I think it tries to make up for it with the inclusion of tahini, but it doesn't quite work. For more depth of flavor without much more work, a simple dashi would go a long way. If I make this again (or something similar), it's going to be dashi dashi ohmygoshy.

That said: it was good, and it makes you feel good and healthy, eating it. Or maybe that was just from being around my sweet-cute-fun-fancy-adorable-nice-wonderful-loving-supercool friends. 

Okay, now no more sentimentality.

Miso Tahini Soup
Barely just a bit from 101cookbooks
Serves four

1 acorn squash, seeded, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch crescents
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
4 cups water
4 tablespoons white miso
1/4 cup tahini
1 teaspoon tamari, or to taste
zest of one lemon
3 cups of cooked brown rice
1 avocado, sliced thin
1 scallion, sliced
two sheets toasted nori, crumbled
toasted sesame seeds

Place your squash and turnips in your soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender -- about 10 minutes for me, but test with a fork.  

Remove the pot from heat. Place miso in a bowl and spoon in a few tablespoons of the hot water. Whisk to thin out the miso, then stir it into the water and vegetables.

Stir in the tahini, tamari and lemon zest. Taste for seasoning and add more miso, tamari or tahini until it tastes how you want it to. The lemon zest is going to develop and intensify as it melds with the other flavors, so don't go to crazy. Stir in one crumbled sheet of nori.

Divide the brown rice among four bowls. Ladle soup over the rice. Garnish with the remaining sheet of crumbled nori, the avocado, sesame seeds and scallions.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Vegetable Curry Rice Noodle Soup

And now, for a peek behind the curtain into my non-Soupruary life.


Who am I kidding? I don't have anything as classy as curtains.

We did have something as classy as graham crackers with frosting for dessert, though. Kelly provided; Corrie demolished. The stuff of heaven.

Sure, this is a soup, but it's also representative of my year-round go-to cooking style. If I don't have a particular dish in mind, a bunch of vegetables, curry and noodles is pretty much always what sounds good.

Don't have all the same vegetables I used? Have vegetables you prefer? Dude, go to town. This is really just a method more than a prescription. And it couldn't be easier or more cheater-y, since I used pre-prepared curry paste, broth and and lemongrass. This is a seriously hefty, throw-it-together, 30 minutes on a weeknight kind of meal. You know it would take just as long to order take-out.

Feel like you need some protein in there? You do you, babe. You do you. Short of trying to put in, like, sponge cake or Cheetos, I'm pretty sure you can't screw this up.

You can really amp-up the spice level just by your use of chili sauce and peppers. I kept it right on the verge of spicy, so as not to scare away my lovely dinner guest. Just adjust to taste if you yourself are a fire-breathing dragon in disguise, or, you know, if you're cooking dinner for Smaug (SMOWWWG!).

I used fish sauce here, which can certainly be left out to make it vegetarian. Dank as the stuff is, it sure does add an unmistakable, irreplaceable umami. If you leave it out for reasons of "IT'S MEAT!," be sure to check your curry paste -- a lot of the ones on the market have fish sauce as an ingredient. Why? There's just no fighting the pure MSG ecstasy of fermented fish. 

Part of the joy of Soupruary is in forcing myself to break my habits and explore the shockingly endless world of liquid-based calorie delivery mechanisms. But it comes down to this: if the food rut I'm in is this delicious, I'm not really clamoring to get out. 

How about everybody just be cool if this is what I make every night for the rest of the month. BRB, gonna go wallow in my rut some more.

Vegetable Curry Rice Noodle Soup
Serves four


1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (I used the emergency kind that comes in a tube, and guess what! It works!)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon curry powder

1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

8 ounces rice noodles of your choice (I used the pad thai sized ones, but rice vermicelli would work great too)
1 handful sugar snap peas, sliced thin lengthwise
6 spears of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" segments
1/4 of a red bell pepper,  sliced thin
1 cup peeled and diced yam
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved 
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 sliced green onions
chili of your choice, sliced thin (I used about a tablespoon of Fresno pepper, but would have used Thai bird chilies had I had them)
1 lime, quartered

Melt coconut oil in your soup pot over medium heat. Add minced onion, garlic, lemon grass and ginger and saute for 5 minutes. Add curry paste, sambal olek and curry powder and stir to coat. 

Add coconut milk and whisk to a smooth consistency (since the coconut milk separates into cream and water in the can). While whisking, add vegetable broth, fish sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover to keep warm. 

Bring a pot of water to boil and drop in sweet potatoes -- cook until tender (depends on the size of your dice, but mine took about 9 minutes). During approximately the last 2 minutes, place a strainer on top of the pot and fill with asparagus, snap peas and bell peppers, then cover to steam. (You can also just steam them separately if that's easier.)

Remove the strainer and, using a slotted spoon, add the cooked sweet potatoes to it, then set aside.

Put rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water. They should be al dente in about five minutes, depending on the size of the noodles you choose (check package directions).

Prepare the garnish -- toss together cilantro, sliced chili, green onion and red onion in a bowl. 

Drain rice noodles and divide among four bowls. Divide vegetables among the bowls, then ladle soup over the top. Top with grape tomatoes and onion/chili/herb mixture, and serve with lime wedges.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Potato Soup


This is straight-up comfort food of a type I don't tend to gravitate toward. But I can't lie: I had seconds.

Mind you, with a soup this filling, seconds are not the smartest idea. Tonight was yet another night that made me glad I stopped weighing myself years ago.

That said, for a potato soup, this isn't that heavy. It tastes almost like tortilla soup, which for me is a plus. Not something I'd order on a menu, but something I'm very glad to have eaten.

So if I'm so dismissive of this type of (delicious) comfort food, how did I end up making this tonight, you ask? It was all born of laziness. I stayed late at work, and thus didn't want to stop to get bread on the way home. Mama needs her some carbs, and mama [apparently a thing I now refer to myself as] has a veritable cornucopia of potatoes on the kitchen counter. 

 Here's where lazy part two comes in. I knew I had exactly 1.5 red bell peppers in the fridge, and that seemed to be a good starting place. I pulled out my phone on the walk home and typed in "roasted red pepper potato soup," and went no further than the first search result as the basis for this recipe. That's about as lazy as it gets, but you know, sometimes the first thought is the best thought. Go with your gut. Or go with your Google. Or Bing and decide (although I just checked and this was the third recipe on Bing. My night could have been so different! SLIDING DOORS).

 Of course, I made plenty of changes to the recipe, but the thing that makes this soup notable is not my doing. The combo of cumin, coriander and lemon brings an unexpected zippiness. You may think you know what roasted red pepper potato soup tastes like just from reading the title, but you'd be surprised when you took a bite. I mean, I was surprised. And I'm the one who made it.

Roasted Red Pepper Potato Soup
Adapted from A Taste of Home
Serves four 


olive oil
1 1/2 red bell peppers, cut into 2 inch strips
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 cup diced onion
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced 
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar, divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 green onion, sliced


Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Put bell pepper strips and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and toss around with a splash of olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until peppers are tender with nice black bubbly spots.

Meanwhile, heat another splash of olive oil in your soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook for about five minutes. Add in cumin, coriander and pepper flakes with a pinch of salt and cook for another 2 minutes. Add potatoes and broth, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.

When peppers are done, remove them from the oven and put them in a paper bag for a few minutes to cool and make the skins easier to remove. Peel garlic and give the roasted cloves a rough chop, then throw them in the soup pot. Peel skins off red pepper strips, then give them a rough chop and throw them in the pot.

When potatoes are tender (probably about 10 minutes), remove half the soup to a blender and add 2/3 cup cheddar. Blend until smooth, then mix it back in with the chunky, brothy soup. This provides a nice assortment of textures. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, then divide among four bowls. Top with green onion and remaining 1/3 cup cheddar.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Creamy Golden Beet Soup

Do you like beets?
[   ] yes, duh.        [   ] nah, man.

If you checked yes: Congratulations! You are correct.
If you checked no: "I weep for you," the Walrus said: "I deeply sympathize."

If there are beets on a menu, I'm going to order them. It's so dishearteningly predictable that I've started to wonder whether I've been Manchurian Candidated. "Beets are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful root vegetable I've ever known in my life." Beets --> Russia --> Communism --> Communist China. It all makes sense! Plus the real Red Scare is the first time you eat a whole messa beets and no one tells you what's going to happen when you have to pee.


Or insert picture.

So, we were at the market the other day and I saw these beautiful little golden beets. They practically put themselves in my basket. I didn't know what I was going to do with them, but they were coming home with me. [side note: I'm glad I have this feeling about vegetables and not, like, puppies.]

Since it's February, of course their destiny was more decided than I wanted to admit at the moment. "You can be anything you dream, little beets! You're gonna grow up to be President!"

As I was walking home after a hectic day at work, I started inventorying my refrigerator to decide what would end up in my mouth a few hours later. It was like a light from heaven was shining on the beets, right there in my mind's eye. Of course they were meant to be a soup. OF COURSE.

And this soup is a little bit of light from heaven. It's such a pure yellow that just looking at it forced a smile from deep within. And when I tasted it in all its glory, that smile got just a little deeper. It's lightly sweet and earthy: the two adjectives most applicable to a girl from California. But the texture is where it leaves earth for somewhere a bit more transcendent -- so smooth and creamy I wanted to put it in a lotion bottle and start selling it (remind me to never go into business).

Yes, I'm talking about beet soup as though it can induce an out-of-body expeience. No, I will not apologize. (Nah, man.)

To garnish this beety beauty, I grabbed some greens off the tops of some carrots I had in the crisper. Had the beet greens looked a bit better, I'd have sauteed some of those. But the carrot greens turned out to be a fun choice. I gave them a quick chop and fried them  in olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper until they were crispy and nutty. They added a tiny bit of texture and a hint of bitterness to the final product. 

I also plopped about a tablespoon of goat cheese on a hot pan, mashed it down and let it get melty on top with a nice brown crust on the bottom. You can never go wrong with burnt cheese, IMHO.

Mmmm, cheesy bubbles.

While I did like it a ton (I was quite vocal during dinner), I think there's a better garnish out there. I'll experiment some more, because I'm clearly making this soup again. As far as the base, I wouldn't change a thing -- and that's not a thing I say very often. In fact, if I'm being true to my personal tastes, this was my favorite of the year so far.

To sum up: Dope beets.

Golden Beet Soup
Serves two


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
splash of olive oil
4 small golden beets, peeled and diced
1 cup diced onion
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
grated rind of one lemon 
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
2 cups vegetable broth
juice of half lemon


Melt butter and olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add beets, onion, ginger, turmeric and lemon rind. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.

Uncover and pour in wine. Cook, stirring, until most of the wine evaporates, about 2 minutes.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for an hour or until beets are fork-tender.

Puree with immersion blender or in a blender (I used the Vitamix this time and it was perfect). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with a squeeze of lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and desired garnish.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tangy Lentil Soup

Piquancy is not a quality I generally expect in a lentil soup. 

This may look like a Standard Lentil Soup (SLS if yr reading this on your phone), but it's pungent. If I were Guy Fieri, I'd probably call this In-Your-Face Lentils. Actually, that's probably not obnoxious enough to be an accurate representation of his annoyance machine's naming process, but you get to picture. The flavor is not flaccid; these lentils are far from lackadaisical (and other alliterative adjectives). This soup insists you pay attention to each and every bite.

For that reason, this recipe may not be everyone's cup of tea soup. Classics are classics for a reason, and my go-to lentil soup recipe is still going to be this one. But that's the joy of Soupruary: every day means adding a new page to the recipe book of my life, and trying something different just because.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the whole point of this blog is to see how many pictures of carrots/onions/celery I can post in a single month.

Logan brought this recipe to me from work a few months ago and it's been hanging out on my fridge since then. When I came home for lunch today, unsure of what I'd be preparing tonight: blammo! Right under my nose. It was kismet (that took like 3 months to become serendipitous). 

Most of this recipe is totally SLS. The part where the flavor goes gonzo is the addition of tamari and unfiltered apple cider vinegar (with all its dubious (or dubiously dubious, depending on your beliefs) health benefits).

But really, the best part of this soup was that the soup didn't matter. Cooking tonight was just an excuse to spend time with some of my favorite people. Who even cares about dinner when there's a soul mate, an AWESOME baby, and one of history's best Daves?

Maya was a bit miffed I didn't make a puree.

Taking the time to sit down and share a meal with great people in a relaxed, home environment can sometimes be more memorable than the fanciest dinner out. That's a lesson I need to remember year-round. [DISENGAGE SAPPINESS DRIVE]

Don't forget some delicious Maya for dessert!

Tangy Lentil Soup
Adapted slightly from Whole Foods "Health Starts Here" Hearty Lentil Soup
Serves 6-8


2 quarts vegetable broth
1 large shallot, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
4 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1 pound brown lentils, rinsed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup tamari
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary


Put 1/2 cup vegetable broth in your soup pot over medium high heat. Add shallot, celery, carrot, and garlic, and cook about 5 minutes.

Add lentils and enough broth to cover lentils by an inch, and bring to a simmer for half an hour. Check on it every five minutes or so, adding more broth as needed to keep the lentils covered by an inch. Check at 30 minutes to be sure lentils are tender -- if they aren't, cook a bit longer.

If lentils are tender, add all remaining ingredients and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove thyme and rosemary sprigs and serve with a nice crusty bread.