Archive for ‘First Course’

July 24, 2012

Despite the Heat | Tortilla Soup

Eating soup when it’s hot out can strike people as odd.  But think French-inspired Pho in steamy Vietnam, or British-influenced Mulligatawny in India.  There’s a point to eating something hot and spicy when it’s hot out: it makes you sweat (I glow).  And that helps you cool off.  So while it may seem counter-intuitive, now is certainly the season to give some spicy soup a go.

It’s always hot in Texas.  So it’s not surprising that tortilla soup is on just about every menu you peruse in San Antonio.   There’s something about it that San Antonians can’t seem to get enough of, no matter the season.   Perhaps it’s the mix of textures, but like Pho and Mulligatawny, it’s spicy and hot and a treat to eat.  (It also happens to the be the exact thing I was eating when Hades first fell in love with me fifteen years ago.  I even spilled it all over myself and he still loved me.  Magical stuff this is.)  And summertime is when the produce that comprises the bulk of the ingredients for tortilla soup are at their peak.

I like to play around with ingredients: if there’s corn, add some, if there’s not, no worries.  Zucchini and summer squashes work wonderfully, too.  Tomatoes, however are a requirement. 

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February 24, 2012

My Most Favorite Soup | Spicy Senegalese Peanut

This is truly and honestly my most favorite soup of all time.  It is creamy and comforting, spicy and flavorful.  It is African-influenced.  It is at once modern and familiar.  And while you’ll need a handful of spices (have you been building your spice cabinet?), the technique is simple and fairly quick.

I first came across this soup years and years ago when I lived in New Jersey.  Montclair, with its “winter views” of Manhattan, had an outpost of what was, for a brief shining moment, a wonderful little soup shop.  Initially, it was really great.  But then, the original owners dropped out after making a cookbook, someone else took over.   You know the story.  This shop was in a teeny what-used-to-probably-be-a-closet-for-maintenance-equipment underneath railroad tracks.

But this soup.  The combination of leeks and curry and peanuts and spice and goodness, well, it was worth it what I seem to recall being like nine bucks a bowl.

Here’s my take on all the warm toasty soup goodness with none of the pesky cost.  Enjoy it when it’s chilly and you want to skip the meat for a night or four.  This makes plenty.

Spicy Senegalese Peanut Soup, makes a whole bunch (inspired by a recipe in The Daily Soup Cookbook)

1  12 oz bag of roasted, salted peanuts (this is the size of a bag from Whole Foods)

2 T vegetable oil, (or preferably peanut oil)

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September 22, 2011

Farewell, Summer Garden | Gazpacho

Every so often you run across a recipe that begs to be made just as is, such as Spanish maestro José Andrés’s recipe for gazpacho.  Not a more perfect dish than this can be found to send summer off into its nine month hiatus.  Celebrate all that we are losing before the clock strikes 5:05 a.m. tomorrow.  Well, perhaps this post is a bit late for that, but rustle up some of these ingredients this weekend for a quick, albeit belated, goodbye.

I used some gorgeous, juicy yellow tomatoes from a Green B.E.A.N. Delivery box along with peppers and cucumbers from my back yard.  All gone now.

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

Playlist included Quiet Town, by Josh Rouse.

April 20, 2011

Backyard Foraging | Violet Salad with Goat Cheese in Phyllo

It’s early Spring, and there is an abundance of all sorts of young herbs, lettuces, and edible flowers.  They are tender, beautiful and delicious.  This is clearly the beginning of salad season.  Just pick, tear, and drizzle with the best possible olive oil.  Tonight I used dill, mint, picked thyme, parsley, baby lettuces and, as the pièce de résistance, purple and white violet flowers.

No need to source them, if you live in central Ohio and aren’t obsessive about weeding your lawn, you’ve probably got them snuggling in shady spots.  They are a most remarkable addition to a salad.  The ones in my backyard

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April 17, 2011

A Cheerful Starter | Golden Beetroot and Radish Salad

This is a joyous way to start a meal.  It’s a beautiful salad, with ribbons of fresh golden beetroot, bold red radishes, freshly picked mint, and wild and aromatic dill.  There’s an Eastern European soul in there, but those delicious and time-honored ingredients take on a brighter, more modern tone.  It’s very simple and unfussy to prepare, and it made me very happy to eat it.  All that’s left to be said is that it was inspired by a Michael Symon recipe in Vefa’s Kitchen.  Yes, that’s the Bible of Greek cooking.  No, borders don’t mean a whole lot when it comes to food.

As with any salad, there aren’t too many rules.  Peel the woody exterior off of 2 smallish golden beets.  No need to even cook them!  Then just shred them into ribbons using your peeler.  When the piece you’re holding becomes small enough, eat it.  Do the same with 2 largish radishes.  Then add your herbs: tear mint, parsley and dill roughly and in the proportion of your choosing.  Finally, make a simple dressing.  I would suggest 4 T of olive oil, 1 T of apple cider vinegar, 1 T of good mustard, a drizzle of honey or a pinch of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix the dressing into the veg and herbs to coat evenly.  Enjoy as a starter or a light lunch.

Playlist included For What It’s Worth, by the Cardigans.

April 6, 2011

A Shared Experience | Falafel

We’ve all been to the takeaway on a Friday or Saturday night in our blissful, hungry, after-the-pub or rock show moments.  We’ve all hit the kebab stand or the middle eastern place in the middle of the night.  As we stand cradling the foil wrapped object of our desire, cucumber sauce dripping down our chins, mouth full of onion, falafel, and tahini, we mumble to our friends, “This is so good!  Why do I only have this when I’m drunk after the bar?”

As it turns out, you can recreate this shared food experience at home, because it’s pretty easy.  Not only do you not have to precook the beans, there’s not even really a recipe to it.  Feel like including some parsley?  Do it.  Don’t have any onion?  Skip it.

Simply soak some chickpeas in water over night, drain and tip into a food processor.  Add in any combination of ground cumin, ground

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March 14, 2011

Irish Cooking | Quick Scallop Soup

In addition to being in love with Indian cuisine, English cuisine, Spanish cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Japanese cuisine and – I’m sensing a pattern here – all manner of cuisines, I figured it’d be a kindness to share a few Irish recipes that I love as well, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

This cream of scallop soup took nearly no time to cook (easy enough for lunch), had just a few ingredients (many already in the pantry and fridge) and tasted deliciously complex.  I’m banking on that it was the anchovies.

Yes, I know, you told me last time, you don’t like anchovies.  But here I am again, giving you another recipe that uses them and telling you, you’ll like it.  It’s delicious.  As my bowl was being licked clean, it occurred to me, that this soup base is fantastic for all manner of seafood; lobster would be equally at home here.  It would also serve as a perfect broth for a few potatoes and clams for a clam chowder.

Cream of Scallop Soup, Serves 3, Inspired by The Scottish-Irish Pub and Hearth Cookbook

1/2 pound small bay scallops

2 T butter

2 T onions, minced

1 1/2 T flour

3 c whole milk (I used Snowville, since the milk is crucial in this recipe)

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