Posts Tagged ‘soup’

Sometimes I wish being the person I want to be was as simple as setting the resolution and waking the next day to feel myself transformed. While self-reflection is at the heart of many successful practices like religion, meditation, sports performance and professional development it can sometimes feel less than rewarding.

Step 1- Set general and glorious expectation.
Step 2- Fail at executing expectation, or worse yet, forget the goal.
Step 3- Reprimand self for failing to meet above expectation.

Rinse and repeat. After repeated cycles one may begin to wonder if it’s the expectation or the lack of discipline in the execution. In reality, it’s likely that the goal itself is so big and so general that the project is doomed from the start, like willing oneself to grow an elephant foot. It just doesn’t work like that, and perhaps thankfully so. The challenge is to keep positive and keep persevering.

We had the windows open the other night as a gaggle of young humans were waddling by when we heard this:

Gramma, Grrrrramma! I love walking by this house, there’s always someone cooking!!

I brightened.
I blushed.
I beamed.

And I thought: Does cooking makes me a better version of myself? We should all be reminded what things we do that we can be proud of (even if it’s a child’s voice floating in the window)… that we wouldn’t mind people peeking into our lives and taking note. Much like taking stock of what’s on hand in the kitchen, we must also inventory our personal larder in order to know what makes us special and to continue growing and moving forward. Good recipes offer us a step by step instruction manual for success and we’re rewarded with an effort that is greater than the sum of its parts because it allows us to put into action simple values statements.

Food (finding or cooking) provides little moments that reinforce the things we do that define us. A daily pronouncement of what we believe, what we prioritize. That could be eating local, not eating meat, finding the best restaurants, doing the best you can on a budget, making sure your busy family comes together for dinner, focusing on fruits and vegetables, getting your kids involved in the kitchen…
For me, just making food, making good choices about where it comes from and putting on the table with love are my hallmarks. That’s an identity to channel everyday… and much easier than growing an elephant foot.

I‘m a Good Person Butternut Squash Soup with Life is Delicious Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches

For the soup:
Peel and cut into chunks two medium butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Meanwhile heat a medium pan over medium heat with two tablespoons butter, when it foams add thin slices of half a large onion, one chopped rib of celery, 1 chile de arbol, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, 1 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper. Sautee until lightly caramelized. Add squash pieces and stir. Turn the heat to medium high and splash in 1/4 cup dry sherry, reduce for 3 minutes. Add six cups of water to the pot and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Puree carefully and keep warm on the stove while finishing the sandwiches.

For the sandwiches:
Heat small sautee pan with 2 tablespoons butter, when it foams add thin slices of one half a large onion. Sautee on low heat stirring occasionally until deeply browned, about 30 minutes. Remove onions from pan and wipe with a paper towel.
Meanwhile slice a good quality loaf of bread, as much as you think you will need for as many people as you are serving. Lightly butter one side of each slice. Smear the other side of each bread with a thin layer of goat cheese (honey-lavender is amazing), carmelized onion, several pieces of spring mix (or spinach) and then top with another slice of bread with cheese facing the onion and buttered side facing up. Place in warm skillet over medium heat, cooking each side until golden brown and cheese is starting to melt.


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The term food paparazzi has arrived. It refers to people (let’s be honest – bloggers) who storm restaurants, often arriving in groups with fellow food documentarians, snapping photos of their meals. Tales of setting up tripods and flash-pops going off in sedate dining rooms give bloggers with cameras a bad name. Some fine restaurants have even forbidden picture-taking.

Photographing in restaurants always makes me self-conscious. And so seldom do the images turn out well. You could be about to enjoy the most delicious meal you’ve ever put in your mouth but the photo of the meal will, invariably, not do it justice. It isn’t easy to take great photos of food, especially in a dark restaurant where every dish ends up looking like brown lumps of some amorphous substance. Not a good look. And not fair to the chef.

I’ve hesitated from blogging about restaurant visits because I lacked pictures that I deemed good enough to accompany the post. Plus, snapping photos while sitting down to a great meal isn’t exactly relishing the moment, which is supposed to be the whole point, right?

If I believe that my experience is one that others might find interesting or enlightening or helpful I should be able to find another way of sharing my culinary adventure. Taking pictures of meals may be, at times, desirable, but the photos do not necessarily have to be of the food and not necessarily taken in the midst of an intimate dinner with my companions. Literal pictures cannot always translate an experience accurately. So, I aim to find ways to share my experiences without joining the paparazzi.

I don’t want to be that blogger when a live sweet shrimp scampers across my plate and throws my camera back in my face.

Here are some of my best/worst photos from my brief former life as a food paparazzo:

This was a succulent beyond succulent cassoulet that I enjoyed in the Bordeaux region of France. A family restaurant with long-cooked deliciously complex and heart-warming food in an old rustic space, serving fabulous wine. Would you want to go there based on this photo?

Same restaurant below. I guess I am glad to have this reminder of the barely-cooked tomatoes with mild grilled chiles – I like the idea of this dish. Maybe I’ll try it at home. But it was so much better than this lame picture.

I don’t know what this next one is or where it was taken but based on this photo I wouldn’t want to go back.

Ok, this one isn’t TOO bad; However, I felt stupid taking it because I was in Paris at a lovely sandwich shop and everyone else was just enjoying their meal with elegance and I was busy worrying about getting a good shot.

This is next one represents one of the best food experiences of my life. My husband and I arrived at this little inn, Auberge Basque, in the Basque region of France starving and exhausted. This is a highly regarded food inn run by chef star Cedric Bechade. We had a room reserved in the inn but no reservation that night for the restaurant. We sat in the bar and the chef INVENTED (!) this soup to warm our bellies. We had no idea how lucky we were. You can’t just show up without a reservation and be served anything at this place. We wept with our good fortune and the most remarkable soup we’ve ever enjoyed. But this picture, while I am glad to have it, is not going to give you even an inkling of our experience there. And I think the sommelier was giving us the hairy eyeball while I “subtly” readied my camera phone.

I like this one better. I clearly have a yen for pastry.

This is another amazing meal we had in the Basque region – this time in San Sebastian, Spain. Looks like a giant mess to me. I am sure it was lovely.

This risotto looks dirty:

I like this one of me perusing the tapas selection better.  I am thinking, “Chorizo… cheese…smoked fish. Ok, five of each!”

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This is about the eighth week in a row I’ve received parsnips in my CSA box. I usually roast them and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. This week I wanted to stretch them into something delicious that would keep in the fridge to pull out this week when we needed something.

Inspiration: I just finished reading Jam Today by Tod Davies – a book Erin lent me and we both love. Check it out. She makes the case for cooking without recipes and relaxing into the process. Really enjoying it. So that’s what I tried to do.

This is what I did:

I started by sauteing a slurp of olive oil and some red pepper flakes in a small soup pot (That is how I pretty much start any soup, sauce, vegetable saute. It’s my home-base. My G-chord). Added half an onion that I had stashed in the fridge, sliced, and two cloves of garlic, whole. Salt and pepper.

When it smelled fragrant and the onion was soft, I added about 8 chopped parnips (mine were small) and 2 large carrots, also chopped. I had an apple sitting on the cutting board so I added a handful of cut-up green apple. A few dashes of turmeric and one small dash of ground ginger. More salt and pepper.

When that looked browned and delicious, about 8 minutes, I got the urge to deglaze. This is my favorite technique. It makes me feel powerful and magical. What better than….dry sherry. This is my favorite thing! So a glug of sherry went into the pot. As that sizzled, I stirred, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. How is it possible that one can cook in a pot and clean it at the same time? It can only be magic!

After the sherry mostly evaporated, I added enough water to cover the vegetables. I was too lazy to get out the measuring cup so I just added a few full glasses worth. Some pieces of cooked sweet potato from last night’s dinner got added to the pot. Waste not! I couldn’t let well enough alone, so I added a 1 bay leaf and 1 clove and brought the whole thing to a boil. (The sweet potato made me think of Christmas which makes me think of cloves so I think that is how I came up with that one.)

I reduced the liquid to a simmer and checked my email, browsed the internet, watched some basketball, and finally did the computer work I needed to get done. By then, the vegetables were tender. Maybe it was 40 minutes – maybe it was 1 hour. I removed the bay leaf and clove. More salt and pepper.

Then, I employed my second favorite trick – the immersion blender. Whirred to the consistency that I like.

Then we ate it. The soup is sweet and exotically spicy. I think if you had a cold it would be especially soothing. Serve hot or chilled with a sprinkle of any fresh herb (I had dill on hand). Maybe you’d like yogurt or creme fraiche or croutons on yours. This is a Sunday soup that is perfect. Nourishing, satisfying, spicy and sweet, and very low-maintenance. If you want, serve with a salad and some good bread and no one will complain that they didn’t get a great Sunday night supper.

***Don’t stick to a recipe on this one – it that can and should change depending on what you have on hand. Any root vegetables would work. And any spices you like – but add them along with the vegetables so you get the benefit of heating them to bring out the flavors, rather than adding them in at the end.  Although, of course, that would work too. You don’t need sherry for deglazing, obviously. Wine, white or red, or even dark beer or just a splash of good-tasting vinegar. You certainly don’t need to deglaze the pan at all – it just adds more flavor but it isn’t worth cracking a bottle if it isn’t already open. If you don’t have an immersion blender, add into a regular blender when the soup has cooled a bit  and puree in batches. Don’t pour the whole thing in the blender hot or it will blow the top off the blender and you will be scraping soup off the ceiling and treating burns.

Below is a rough recipe for Root Vegetable Sunday Soup if you didn’t like my prose version:

Saute in soup pot over medium heat:

a few tablespoons olive oil

a few dashes of red pepper flakes

1 garlic clove, whole

Add and cook until soft:

1/2 onion, sliced

salt and pepper

Add and cook until browned and a bit tender:

6-8 parsnips, peeled and chopped

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1/2 apple, chopped (optional)

1/2 teaspoon dried ginger

2 teaspoons turmeric

salt and pepper

Pour into pot and cook until mostly evaporated:

1/2 cup good dry sherry or wine (optional)

Add and simmer until vegetables are tender:

enough water to cover vegetables plus a few more inches

1 clove

1 bay leaf

To finish:

Remove bay leaf and clove and blend soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot or cold with fresh herbs to garnish. Make a salad and heat some bread.

Listen to good music and relax. I suggest:

“Sara Smile” from Bird and the Bee’s Hall and Oates tribute album.

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