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Archive for the ‘Soup’ Category

I’m actually not a soup person, really. Well, maybe it turns out that I am, but only sometimes, and with certain soups. Most soups leave me unfulfilled, dissatisfied, disgruntled, unhappy, discontent. (Hello, you’ve reached the winter of our discontent).  So many soups don’t have enough zing! Also, so many soups don’t leave me feeling full. Soup is not a meal, I say! Soup is a first course! Soup is a side dish! But I seem to have proven myself wrong, as of late. Soup can be a solid (liquid!) meal, and soup can have zing.

Shelling beans from CSA that went into my most recent pot of stone soup. The best part of these shelling beans is that you never know what will be inside each pod – a kidney bean? a white navy bean? a black bean? I feel like Forrest Gump on chocolates.

I don’t remember how it started. I think my renewed faith in soup started when I made this in September, and paired it with delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, rather than doing the cheddar lid thing. Then I thought my stone soup started when I had to provide 8 ladies with food for a book club meeting (Yes, I am a housewife in her 50s, what’s it to ya?) but then I remembered that wasn’t the first time I’d made this soup. The first time I made this soup was probably some late September Tuesday evening, when I got home after picking up my CSA and didn’t have much of an idea about what to make for dinner, so just threw some stuff in a pot and away we went. That’s what this is. But that night – a revelation – this soup was GOOD. While this soup is meant to be made with whatever veggies you have, and a bean or lentil to make it more of a complete meal, there are three four things that elevate this soup to delicious, and I will share them with you here.

Onions and carrots, the birth of soup.

Start this soup like any soup – sauté some onions, carrots and throw in some garlic. If you have celery or celery root, all the better. If you have ginger, go for it. If you have a can of tomatoes you want to throw in, by all means. There are no rules, really. Then I usually throw in some combination potatoes, sweet potatoes, and/or squash, all cut into relatively small cubes so that they don’t take too long to cook. I through in a half cup or more of a lentil, and then make sure I add enough broth/water to give all those things enough moisture to cook. Simmer away. Now here’s where the tricks come in.

1) Roast a pepper in your oven. I personally only like roasted peppers when they are made at home, rather than coming from a jar. My method is that I cut the pepper in half, rip out the seedy parts and rub both sides with oil – I usually use olive oil, but I’ve been meaning to start using sunflower oil because it has a higher smoking point and that way I won’t set off my smoke detector anytime I roast a pepper. Place the pepper skin side down on a small baking sheet and put it in the oven at 400. When the skin starts to become blistered and black (10-12 minutes?) flip the pepper and put it back in for another 5-10 minutes until it is all soft and wrinkly and roasty and good. As always, oven times may vary, so keep an eye on that bad boy. When it is done roasting, chop it up into a few pieces and set it aside. I’ll let you know what to do with it soon.

Some squash and a pepper to roast for soup. You don’t need to pre-roast your squash, I was just feeling sassy.

2) When your potatoes/squash/whatever and your lentils or beans are fully cooked and softened, ladle out a bit less than half of the soup into a large glass measuring cup.  Throw the roasted pepper into the soup that remains in the pot, and puree it with an immersion blender (I love my immersion blender so much!). Add the ladled-out soup back into the pot. Now you have a soup that is mostly smooth, but with some chunks still to give it texture! And also a roasted pepper is hiding in your soup!

3) Lemon juice. So much lemon juice. I don’t know an exact amount, because I just liberally glug it in until it tastes right, but I probably put almost 1/4 cup of lemon juice into a big pot of soup. Never underestimate the power of lemon juice. I didn’t go to culinary school, but I know people who did, and this is an age-old trick. They’ll tell you that it really “brightens” the flavours of your soup, and that is exactly what it does. Trust.

4) I just remembered a fourth trick, one that I only discovered on my most recent pot of soup, but it will now be part of my soup routine. Miso paste. Avoid seasoning your soup much while it is boiling all those veggies and lentils, and then dissolve a bunch of miso paste in some hot water or some of your broth, and mix it into your soup at the same time that you are adding your lemon juice. The miso adds quite a bit of salt and flavour (umami!) to the soup, so hold off on adding any salt (beyond what’s in your broth) until after you’ve done this. I still usually add some spices, but you may not need them.

And that is how you can turn an onion, carrots, garlic, lentils, a pepper and a bottle of lemon juice into dinner. That is stone soup, which I think is also one of the most beautiful folk tales that pretty much hits the nail right on the head when it comes to food security and building community. And if you want another way to build community, just walk around carrying something like what is pictured below. Strangers will talk to you, I promise.

Yes, that is a branch of brussel sprouts. And yes, I use my cat for scale.

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Last Monday Kat and I were unable to cook-n-blog together because I had to work in the evening, so I thought I’d delay the previous week’s post so as to space out the food porn until our next food adventure.  That sounds better than saying “I was too lazy to post something this week”, right? Anyway, the last time that Kat and I met I made the food that I had intended to make on our first Monday – a black bean soup using the crockpot that Kat has indefinitely lent me while she lives on the island.  Crockpots are so cool.  I’ve never owned one myself, and I don’t use Kat’s as much as I should, but I love the idea of being able to leave something simmering while you’re out all day without worrying about burning your whole house down.  I may have mentioned this in my last post, but I’m trying really hard to live more like a poor person these days, which mostly just means cooking more in the ways that I’d like to be anyways.  Meaning, less prepared foods – but to the max; i.e. I’ve been buying dried beans rather than canned ones, making my own bread in my awesome breadmachine that I got for Christmas, etc.  It requires a bit more planning, but you have so much more control over your food AND it saves money.

So I wanted to make a black bean soup, and I started out by wanting to make this one, because as you all know by now, I love the SmitKit.  Also, the cumin seed crema sounded amazing, and her soup just looks so…smooth. I wanted that smoothness.  But then, when I actually made the soup, I didn’t follow that recipe at all, but still complained when my soup didn’t look smooth at all.  Hey, I never said I was rational.  I think the biggest reason why my soup didn’t look like that is that Deb over at Smitten Kitchen COOKED her beans in the crockpot all together with the soup ingredients, so all that beany cooking liquid would be in there making it darker and more voluptuous.  But I cooked the beans beforehand, for reasons I just don’t know.  When I went to make the soup I looked at that Smitten Kitchen recipe, and the black bean soup recipe in my copy of Veganomicon, and then kind of made up my own that was inspired by each of those recipes.  Basically, I sauteed onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and some green and orange peppers and added spices and one of my reconstituted chipotle peppers from my summer CSA (the first time I actually used one of these peppers – so good!) and then dumped all that into the crockpot with some water and the beans and turned it on.  Later I pureed part of the soup in my teeny tiny food processor, which reminded me how much I miss having an immersion blender. Pureeing soup in any kind of blender or food processor is just the worst. THE WORST.

Portrait of the Cornbread as a Young Man

I did, however, follow Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for the cumin seed crema, and I used creme fraiche and OMG why don’t I buy/make creme fraiche all the time? I want to eat this cumin creme fraiche on everything! I will be honest – while Kat and I watched 90210 I ate several spoonfuls (or actually, finger-dipfuls) of that creme fraiche all on its own, and also drizzled mass quantities of it over the cornbread I made to go with the soup.  Everything and anything is a vehicle for this creme fraiche to get into my belly.

Anyways, though the soup didn’t look nearly as pretty as I may have wanted, it tasted quite good and it packed quite a spicy punch from that one tiny chipotle pepper.  I had tons of leftovers and it reheated very well.

P.S. You may be thinking “That’s an awfully full glass of wine” but while I would not be opposed to drinking such a glass of wine you should know that it is actually a portion of the very delicious (though sadly not Ontario-made) Creme Brulee Stout that we drank that night, and which I have enjoyed on other occasions as well.  Beer + Beans + Cornbread.  Not a bad Monday.  See you next week, when Kat and I put a bunch of cabbage in a bucket and see what happens.

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Alright, you heard about the pie, now I’ll tell you about the savoury things we ate before we ate the pie.

Most notably, I’ll tell you about the potatoes.  Sorry, I meant THE potatoes.  These potatoes have a reputation, and it is simultaneously good and bad.  Good reputation = they are delicious.  Bad reputation = they are totally disgusting (but not taste-wise).  I’m talking about the one and only Mormon Funeral Potatoes.  Some of you have eaten these potatoes, and some of you have probably heard of them, and others still have likely never heard of them at all and are wondering what that name is all about.  Well, I’ll tell you.  I am fairly sure I had an incarnation of these potatoes made by my Granny Hastings, on my Dad’s side, at many family gatherings when I was really little and we’d all eat in the living room off of TV-trays.  I always loved them then but never knew exactly what they were.  Then, when I was in high school, my mom and stepdad and I went to Utah to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins there.  They live in Utah, but are not Mormon, unlike basically everyone else.  They served us these potatoes with a big ham dinner, and told us that they were called Mormon Funeral Potatoes because they were an old standby dish for funerals in the LDS Church – they’re cheap and easy and a crowd-pleasing comfort food, basically perfect to go along with a ham or some other such relatively cheap thing you can serve a crowd of people that may or may not be in mourning.

In classic church-lady comfort food fashion, this recipe (likely created sometime in the 40s or 50s I imagine) involves condensed soup.  Oh yeah, condensed soup.  TWO CANS.  The recipe is as follows, or is about this as far as I can remember:

500ml Sour Cream

2 cans of Campbells condensed “Cream of” soups (I use one can cream of mushroom, one can cream of celery, because they’re both vegetarian and seem like a good combo in this dish)

a generous amount of grated cheddar (about a cup and a half I’d say)

some diced onion (in the past I’ve used real onion as well as green onion, this time I used a leek)

1/3-1/2 cup melted butter

1kg frozen hash brown cubes (go with Cavendish brand – McCain ones have about a million ingredients, including beef fat and all kinds of scary preservatives)

Basically you mix all the “liquid”-like ingredients together – the sour cream, the soups, the melted butter – then mix in the onion and the cheese, then the hash browns.  Spread all of this in a greased 9 by 13 pan and top with crushed cornflakes that have been mixed with about a tablespoon of melted butter.

 

Carly takes on the fun job of crushing cornflakes - she crushed the perfect amount!

 

Then, you bake it.  For about half an hour, at about 350.  Then eat, and discuss among yourselves how likely you may be to have a heart attack after eating them.  Or, you can talk about how some people have said that it is active church involvement that is making many Americans fat! Too many funerals and church gatherings! TOO MANY FUNERAL POTATOES! Because, much as I love these potatoes, they are totally disgusting, and while mixing up the condensed soup mixture it is not uncommon to have second thoughts about the dish.  But unlike many people, I don’t go to church, and I really almost never eat these.  For awhile my family used to make them with a ham on every Boxing Day, but we haven’t done that in a few years.  The last time I made these potatoes myself was for Thanksgiving 2007 in Montreal.  So, I think my health will survive the occasional indulgence.

In addition to these potatoes I made some vegetarian stuffing in Kat’s crockpot – Paul’s suggestion as this is how his family always does the veggie stuffing, and it’s totally brilliant! Baking it in a dish both dries it out AND takes up precious oven space during these kinds of feast-preparing days.  My mom usually handles the stuffing and leaves me to merely break up the bread pieces, so this was my first crack at it.  I bought store-bought bakery croutons from the Sobeys near my house (cheater!) and basically sauteed mushrooms in butter, set them aside, and then sauteed onion and celery in butter until nice and soft, and seasoned them with lots of fresh sage, thyme, a bit of savoury, a tiny pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

 

Have you noticed yet that I've been mixing things in my stockpot?

 

Toss all of that with the bread cubes and mushroom and throw in some chopped parsley and add broth.  Most recipes for stuffing say to add about a cup of broth, but that stuffing is going to be cooked in a juicy turkey, so I wasn’t sure how much liquid I needed to add to compensate.  I put about 2 cups of broth in and then added a bit more water once I got it in the crockpot.  To be honest, it was a bit wetter than I’d like, so I probably would have been fine without adding the extra water at all, and maybe using a touch less broth.  But you do want to check on it in the crockpot, because you don’t want it to dry out and burn.  I turned the crock to high for awhile, and then down to low.  Then basically I just checked on it all afternoon, with my trusty thermometer I acquired in my Food Handler’s Course.  When it was really really hot, I’d turn it off for awhile, and then if it started to get too cold, I’d turn it back up to keep it at a safe holding temperature.  Working in a kitchen really means you get crazy about these things.

Lastly, I roasted some veggies and chick peas.  I have a lot of carrots and beets and winter radishes and a turnip from my CSA, so I chopped them up small and put them in a pan with chickpeas, tossed them in some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper and thyme and roasted them at about 400 for 20-30 minutes or so.  Delightful.  Covered almost everything on my plate with a mushroom miso gravy and gobbled up.

See you next year, Thanksgiving!

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Alright, I could make a million excuses here again for why I haven’t posted as frequently as I’d like, but I don’t really have any good excuse.  Except that I got a kitty cat and I’ve been spending more of my spare time throwing crumpled up balls of paper down the hallway for her to chase! But I’ve still been cooking and taking photos, and have a backlog of things to tell you about.  I will try and post a lot in the next few days to get up to date and also since this weekend is Thanksgiving there’s sure to be some delectable treats being made in this lil’ apartment.

So, onwards! First off, I canned some tomatoes! See?

I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s exciting! I used Roma tomatoes, which are the best for canning since they’re meatier and not as watery, and I only got three 500ml jars out of them, but I’m excited to crack them open in the dead of winter to make something really delicious that tastes like summer.

Next up, I made a delicious pumpkin curry with a pie pumpkin from my CSA.  I’m very excited to actually make a pumpkin pie this week from an ACTUAL PUMPKIN because I’ve never done that.  We always used canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling, don’t insult me! We spiced it ourselves and all that, but never bothered with actually starting from a real pumpkin.  I don’t think I realized that there was such a thing as a pie pumpkin, but there is, and they’re much smaller than regular pumpkins.  As soon as I realized that pie pumpkins existed and that I didn’t have to try and cut a giant pumpkin in half, I was all for it!  But trust me, trying to work with a full-sized pumpkin is nutty – my mom and I once made a pumpkin risotto that was amazing, but had to enlist Jeff solely for the purpose of cutting the pumpkin because it was insanely hard to do.  Anyways, a few weeks ago I used a pie pumpkin for something other than pie, and made a curry with it!  This is not a recipe from a blog or a book, I just sort of made it up as I went along.  First, you cut the stem off of your pumpkin, cut it in half, and scoop out all the seeds and guck with an ice cream scoop.  Save the seeds, so that you can burn them later on in the oven! Then you cook your pumpkin.  I steamed mine, since it seemed like the method that was both the least time consuming (rather than roasting it) and the least gross (as opposed to microwaving it for 30 minutes – microwaves should not be left on for that long!).  It was super easy to steam it, and then once it’s cooked and cooled, you can easily slip the skin off.  Or, if you’re impatient like me, you can slip the skin off while it’s hot and burn your fingers a hundred times.

Then I cut the pumpkin into cubes (very mushy cubes) and brainstormed what to do with it.  A curry, I thought!  I figured a curry would also be a good way to use up a bunch of the CSA veggies that I’m always working to get through.  Actually, to be honest I think I used store-bought swiss chard in this curry, and then a few days later got the HUGEST bunch of swiss chard in my CSA share and struggled to use it all up.  But bygones.  All good curries start with onion, garlic, and ginger.  And, ideally, a chili pepper, but I didn’t have one so I skipped it – but I was sad that I did! You want to saute your onions and garlic and ginger until they’re looking really good and translucent, and then add a spice mix.  I’m no expert at Indian spice mixes, but I’m starting to get the hang of what you want in them – a bit of turmeric, a bit of cayenne, a lot of cumin, a lot of coriander, some garam masala – all good things to have in there.  I think this is basically what I used, and probably added in some cumin seeds as well.  Saute the spices with your onions – it will be really dry and gummy, but let them cook for a few minutes, and then add a bit of water or broth to it and scrape up the brown bits from the pot.  Then, add some tomatoes.

Basically, once you’ve got the tomatoes in there, you can add all the stuff you want, let it simmer, adjust your seasonings to your taste, and play with it until you’re ready to eat.  In this case we threw in some potatoes (which we boiled separately to start) and chick peas, along with the pumpkin and then, in the last moments of cooking, some chopped swiss chard.

It looked pretty much like this, which is to say, glop:

But, you know, glop is basically what I want out of my Indian food – I am fairly sure Paul and I remarked that it was the perfect consistency.  You want something that is saucy enough to be good on rice, but not so soupy that it’s, well, soup.  This was pretty successful, particularly for a made up recipe.  And pumpkin, like all squash really, is a delicious addition to curry.

Lastly, I will just quickly tell you about the potato leek soup I made – the first such soup that I’ve made without an immersion blender, since I no longer have one and absolutely refuse to puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor.  I did that once a long time ago, and frankly, it’s not worth the effort.

So, potato leek soup goes like this: you chop up some leek.  You saute it in butter, and season them a bit with salt and pepper and whatever else you’d like, such as thyme.  Then, you add a bunch of chopped up potatoes, Yukon Golds work best, and that was what came in my CSA (with the leek and the thyme) so that is what I used.  Add some water or broth until the potatoes are just covered, and boil away until they’re nice and tender.

When the potatoes were good and tender, I just mashed them with a potato masher, in the pot.  Mash away, until desired consistency – it will never be perfectly silky smooth, unless you blend it.  But I liked the hearty texture of it – it made it feel more like a meal then when it is pureed.

Once your potatoes are all mashed up, add more liquid until it is the consistency you’d like.  I added a bunch of milk, and also some buttermilk, because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Adjust your seasonings (i.e. add salt) and serve! Best if topped with grated aged cheddar and alongside some toasty buttery delicious bread.

That’s all for now, but stayed tuned for more catch-up posts in the next couple of days before I create a small feast on Monday for Thanksgiving!

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