Recently I find myself enchanted by an unusual number of the recipes I see in my blog reader. This salad. This pasta. This pizza. I want to make half the recipes I see every day. At first I wondered if I was just feeling hungry, but then I realized: corn is in season.As you know, summer and soup are not confined to separate seasons here in Seattle. Continue reading
You read that right: it’s soup weather in Seattle again. And you read the other part right, too: this soup is made from carrot tops. Don’t worry, Harold McGee says they’re probably safe to eat.
The recipe comes from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors and it’s my favorite kind of soup recipe. The star of the show here is a single bunch of young carrots, from top to root tip. Pick a perfect bunch next time you’re at the farmers market (a rainbow bunch is always attractive, but these delicate orange carrots came from our Nash’s CSA).
Show those carrots off by making such a simple soup that the carrot flavor gets to shine. The frilly, spring-green carrot leaves highlight the vegetal notes that underlie the carrots’ sweetness. A handful of herbs, a few spoonfuls of rice for body, and the soup makes the water you add into its own rich broth. Continue reading Carrot Top Soup (click for recipe)
Here’s my high-tech approach to tracking the many recipes I find online that I’d like to try: I open a new tab in my browser with the recipe I want to remember and leave it there until my computer slows to a crawl because I haven’t rebooted in days. Then I shut my computer down and start all over again. Efficient, right? (I do technically have a Pinterest account, but I guess I’m a slow adopter.) (There’s also this list.)
Luckily, this chilled broccoli soup recipe from Sassy Radish appeared at just the right moment in my life, and I was able to press it into action right away. Nash’s graced us with both broccoli and green garlic in our CSA box this week, Seattle provided us with soup weather today, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We ate the soup warm the first time, as eating a cold broccoli soup would have required either advance planning or patience, neither of which I could muster today. But now that it has thoroughly chilled in the fridge, I can confirm that it also makes an excellent chilled soup as intended. Either way, a crusty chunk of bread and a soft cheese alongside will make this a a nice summer meal. Continue reading Broccoli and Green Garlic Soup (click for recipe)
It’s not what you think. Dull? No. Bitter? No. Stodgy? No way! How did the poor turnip get such a bad reputation, anyway?
The spring turnips you may be seeing at your farmers market these days are delicate little morsels, and you should grab a bunch, along with their green tops, to make this sweet soup. I always want more greens than they have attached, though, so if you’re like me you should also grab a bunch of mustard greens and pluck the leaves off your radishes as well to enhance your pile of greens.
This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and she serves it with Gruyere croutons, which are lovely–but it’s also lovely without. If you want to make them, mash 1/2 c. grated cheese with a tsp. dijon mustard, 1 Tb. butter, and a few grinds of pepper. Spread onto baguette slices and toast until bubbly. You also couldn’t go wrong with a homemade bread here, maybe a soda bread (whole wheat? rye?) or an oat bread.
I haven’t posted a lentil soup here in weeks. Weeks! Hopefully you’ve been managing to get by alright with that red lentil soup from last month. And did I ever mention that you can and should make The Best Soup of 2011 with green lentils?
But what do you think I EAT around here, people? Oh, right, that kale salad. Every day. But also: lentil soup. And this week it’s this lentil soup. It’s a recipe that’s been in my life for a long time, but I never get tired of it. I try out a lot of recipes, as you might have noticed. Some are duds (you’ll never hear about those, shhh). Some are momentary infatuations. Some I make season after season, year after year. This soup falls into that last category.
And since it’s late April and I’m talking lentil soup, I guess it’s time to come clean about something: seasonality be damned, I make soup year-round. Avert your eyes if you must, or haul your laptop over to right in front of your air conditioner to read about it. I live in Seattle, after all, and feel that I am entitled to take advantage of the few meteorological perks available in this region. So I will be making soup as the weather permits (i.e., all summer long).
This is one of those recipes that I got from a friend a long time ago and I don’t know where it came from before that. So if you are the inventor of this precise combination of ingredients, thank you. It’s perfect. I haven’t changed a thing. My friend says the Parmesan rind is what makes it so good, which may be true, but if you don’t have one handy I imagine that you could add the flavor by stirring in some finely-grated Parmesan cheese at the end. And if you’re vegan I am pretty sure that you could get away with leaving the Parmesan rind out and adding one pinch more salt–but I haven’t tried that. I don’t want to mess with perfection.
Finally, don’t forget that in the time it takes this soup to cook you can easily bake a homemade bread. This week I’ve been baking this easy little oat bread, but a whole wheat soda bread or even a beer bread would be perfectly nice as well. Continue reading Simple Lentil Soup (click for recipe)
Well, almost free.
I like to make my own broth for many reasons. It tastes better, I can choose how to salt it, it’s environmentally friendly, and it doesn’t sit on a shelf in plastic for an indeterminate amount of time before it arrives in my soup pot. But, let me be honest, the biggest reason I make my own broth (or stock, maybe, if you want to get technical) is that it’s irresistibly cheap.
Buying mostly organic produce is good for the environment and, I believe, for my family’s health. But the price tag still rankles a bit, especially here in Seattle where the only things that appear to grow effortlessly are rosemary and moss. Making my own broth allows me to essentially use my vegetables twice: I eat the trimmed part the first time around, and save the peelings for the stock pot. At $3.50 a quart, I’m saving over twenty dollars every time I make my own broth. If I do it once a month, the savings really add up over the course of a year. Of course, you might not eat as much soup as we do…but still. It makes me feel better about how much I pay for organic produce.
[UPDATE: Many of the comments below mention composting veggie scraps or feeding them to the chickens. This, of course, is their third and final use after you have boiled them for stock!]
The basic method is to chop your selected organic vegetable trimmings into 1-2” pieces and save them in a bag in your freezer. (I wouldn’t do this with non-organic vegetables, because I’d be concerned about concentrating the pesticides that are in the peels. This is my completely unscientific personal opinion.) Add to the bag over time. When it’s full, put everything in a pot, cover it with water, add some seasonings, and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add salt until it tastes like something you’d like to drink by the mug. Strain and use your broth, or freeze it for later use. Get a new freezer bag of trimmings started and repeat.
The only mental effort required is the contemplation of whether the trimmings you have before you will taste good in your broth. Some are easy: Carrots? Yes. Broccoli rabe? Probably not. Turnips? Trick question! They’re great.
You want to aim for a balance of flavors in your stock pot. For me, the essentials are onion, celery, and carrots (or another sweet vegetable, like winter squash). If I don’t have some of each in my frozen mix, I will sacrifice a whole onion or a few stalks of celery to balance out the flavors. Beyond, that, though, the sky’s the limit. I have tried to list some of my favorites (and a few un-favorites) below, but if you want an opinion from me and/or your fellow readers about whether a particular vegetable would be good in a broth, please just ask in the comments.
One more note: this process has the added benefit of giving you seasonally-flavored broths. The vegetables I’m cooking this month are going into the freezer, and what goes into the freezer ends up in the stock, which means that my stocks reflect current seasonal flavors. Perfect, because my soups usually do as well. It’s a beautiful cycle. When cooking in the summer, I usually do want a light broth with corn and tomato flavors, and in winter I am glad to have a rich one full of mushrooms, root vegetables, and winter squash.
There was a thoughtful post today on The Yellow House that asked whether cooking has become so fetishized that it has begun to seem inaccessible to home cooks. It reminded me of the brouhaha over models’ bodies: if you see too many airbrushed glossy spreads, do you forget what normal looks like, and maybe start to doubt yourself for not looking so perfect? I don’t think it’s crazy to think that TV cooking shows and perfect Pinterest culinary glamshots might similarly intimidate novice or busy home cooks.
For my part, I try to remember that it can be easy to get nourishing food on the table quickly, and I try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Use what you have. Make it easy for yourself. While I have been trying to include a few photos of my recipes so you know what you’re getting yourself into, none of the food we love to eat is magazine-good-looking aside from the natural beauty of vegetables themselves. And if I zoomed out, most days you’d see photos that look a bit like Mama Nervosa’s This Is Not A Lifestyle Blog series.
Home cooking is messy and sometimes unglamorous. Home cooks don’t use mise en place unless everything has to go into the pan at the same instant. We’re clearing space for the cutting board on messy counters. And we sure don’t have dishwashers tidying up after us as we go. If you’re me, you might even burn three separate pots in one night trying to make one simple soup. (First: the butter. Second: the onions. Third: half the croutons.) Oh, well. Luckily I only set the fire alarm off once. To enjoy home cooking is to embrace these moments and circumstances.
And the soup was delicious.
Cauliflower and Cheddar Soup, adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day: Heat a knob of butter in a pan over medium-high heat (don’t burn it). Add a chopped onion and a couple of chopped shallots with a big pinch of salt and saute until the onion softens. Stir in a peeled, finely diced potato, cover, and cook for a few more minutes (check and stir your pot, don’t burn it). Uncover and add 2 minced cloves of garlic and 3 1/2 c. water or stock. (I was in a hurry so instead of defrosting stock I used boiling water and 1 cube of Rapunzel herb and sea salt bouillon.) Raise the heat, and once it boils, taste a potato. When potatoes are tender, stir in a small head of chopped-up cauliflower (or half of a big head) and cook about 5 more minutes until cauliflower is tender as well. Puree soup, then stir in 1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese and 1-2 Tbsp. dijon mustard. Taste and adjust flavors with additional salt, cheese, and/or mustard. Serve garnished with more cheese and butter-toasted croutons (don’t burn them!). I made my croutons from this Whole Wheat Spice Bread with Brown Sugar, Orange Zest, and Walnuts, of course, but if you weren’t able to save any of that I certainly understand. The croutons in the original recipe look great as well: 3 c. cubed bread bathed in 2 Tb. each melted butter and olive oil, whisked with 1 1/2 Tb. dijon and 1/4 tsp. salt. Bake 10-15 mins at 350, turning occasionally.
It’s no secret around here that I like to cook big when I can. A big pot of beans, a big pot of soup, a big pot of chili. Doubling a recipe saves time and isn’t much more work than making a single recipe. Usually when I double up, I’m feeding a crowd or making one meal for tonight’s dinner and another to freeze for another time. But then there are occasions when I make a huge pot of something and just eat it twice a day for a week. This soup is one of those somethings. It’s that good.
You might think that March 2 is a little early to be declaring anything the “Best of 2012.” But I’m pretty sure. I’ve had a go-to red lentil soup recipe for years (it was The Best Red Lentil Soup of 2008 or thereabouts, and has held the title since). This soup has replaced it with a vengeance.
I knew it would be good, because it was recommended to me by the same friend who gave me that amazing chilaquiles recipe. She is a great cook and discerning recipe collector, and when she tells me to try something I always do. This recipe is slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks, which is another good sign, because I always like Heidi Swanson’s flavorful and sometimes quirky cooking. In this case her stroke of genius is to add raisins to the soup, which plump up into barely-there bursting bits of sweetness mingled with the curry and coconut flavors. In case you are feeling cautious to begin with, I will give you the regular-size recipe and you can use your discretion as to doubling it. (You definitely will next time.)
The Best Red Lentil Soup of 2012: Bring 1 c. red lentils and 1 c. yellow split peas (both picked over and well-rinsed) to a boil in 7 c. water. Reduce heat to a simmer, add a chopped carrot and 2 tsp. finely minced ginger (I like to grate it with my Microplane), and simmer until split peas are entirely soft, 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a gob of coconut oil in a separate pan and saute a bunch of chopped green onions (reserve a handful for garnish) with 2 more Tbsp. minced ginger and 1/3 c. golden raisins. After two minutes, add 2 Tbsp. Indian curry powder and saute for another minute, stirring constantly, then add 1/3 c. tomato paste and stir for one minute more. When the lentils and peas are soft, add the tomato-spice mixture to the soup with a can of coconut milk and 2 tsp. salt. Simmer uncovered for a bit to blend the flavors and thicken the soup; you can adjust the consistency with more water or more cooking. Serve over cooked brown rice, garnished with those reserved chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. If you try this and know of a better red lentil soup recipe, please let me know in the comments. I never get tired of lentil soup.
I’d say that in the past few months, I’ve been quite successful in my quest to stop feeding my family scrambled eggs for dinner all the time. But I’m still not much of a planner. Which means that the dinner hour is often neigh by the time I roll into the kitchen, wondering how our evening meal is going to materialize.
At times like these, it helps to have a well-stocked pantry. And freezer. This is one of those recipes that you can spend all afternoon making–or it can take 30 minutes if you keep the right ingredients in stock. In this case, the right ingredients are an onion, a leafy green vegetable, a good vegetable broth, and some well-seasoned home-cooked white beans. (Of course you can substitute canned beans, but you must first brown an onion, then toss in a handful of chopped garlic and sage for a few minutes, then add the beans and cover with water or vegetable broth and simmer to let the flavors blend.)
Do you cook your own beans? Make your own broth? I do, because I find the homemade versions of these things so much better and SO much cheaper than anything I can buy. This might seem inconsistent with my professed inability to plan ahead, but I just do it every once in a while when I will be home on a Sunday afternoon: put a huge pot of beans on the stove or make eight quarts of stock. It helps that I have a large freezer to store these things in. What do you people do in Manhattan? Anyway, I will start sharing recipes for some of the pantry basics that make it easier for me to get a good meal on the table quickly. Another day.Today, White Bean and Spinach Soup: Grab a quart of good vegetable broth and a few cups of well-seasoned white beans from your freezer. Warm the beans in a soup pot with a cup or so of broth while you saute an onion over high heat in a separate pan. Once the onion is nearly golden and nearly caramelized, use a slotted spoon to scoop about half your beans into a blender and puree them with the onion and another cup of broth. Add the puree to your soup pot and stir in a big bunch of chopped spinach (chard, kale, or other greens would also be great). Simmer until the greens are tender, then thin the soup to your desired consistency with additional broth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve under a shower of Parmesan shavings or a drizzle of olive oil, with crusty rolls on the side. (The one pictured is a mini whole wheat soda bread, recipe to come after a little more experimentation.) And what’s that gorgeous salad, you ask? Radicchio? Endive? Apples? Blue cheese? Oh, yes. Hop on over to the lovely blog Salt On the Table for the full recipe.
Some days you need something delicious in a hurry. Preferably something warm, if it’s February and you live in Seattle. Preferably soup. In fact, hopefully you have some of this soup stashed in your freezer. If you don’t now, you will soon.
This is the kind of soup that can turn you from a recipes-only cook into a confidently-winging-it cook. It’s kind of foolproof that way.
Roasted Maple Squash Soup: Roast a winter squash. Any winter squash. Roast a few, while you’re at it. Cut each in half, rub the cut sides with oil, bake face down on a rimmed sheet at 400 degrees until soft. (Scoop out the seeds and save them in your freezer to make vegetable broth.) Scoop the roasted flesh into a soup pot. (Put the peel in the freezer with your seeds. Mmm, homemade veggie broth. That will be another post.) Cover your squash with broth, maybe one that you’ve made yourself. (Come to think of it, you could make a quick broth now with those seeds and peels: cover with water and add 3/4 tsp. salt per quart of water and maybe a chopped onion or some herbs, simmer 30 minutes and strain.) So: roasted squash, broth, salt and maple syrup to taste. Simmer, mash or puree the squash, adjust the seasonings. Maybe that’s it. Maybe you’re feeling indulgent? Try a splash of cream or coconut milk. Make sure you make some extra soup for the freezer.