Recently in Soup
Sunday, March 27, 2011

kale and white bean soup

kale & white bean soup

The other day I got a call from a headhunter. She was checking-in to see what I was doing with myself, and if I was looking for work. I explained her that no, I wasn’t, and instead I was trying to make a leap to the world of food writing, recipe development, and more blogging. There was a notable and uncomfortable pause before she stiffly wished me luck. Another step away from my old life.

These days, I get a lot of questions what it’s like to be a freelancer, to take a leap from a desk job, away from something steady and predictable into the unknown, where you are the one responsible for setting your schedule and your income isn’t set in stone. Is it hard? Yes. Is it emotionally challenging? Definitely. Do I get anxious? All the time. Have I regretted making the switch? Not even for an instant.

Continue reading kale and white bean soup.

Friday, January 28, 2011

red lentil soup with lemon

red lentil soup with lemon

I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, but only now is it becoming acceptable and even cool. I attribute this paradigm shift to age (not that I’m claiming to be old, not at all). As I get older, I enjoy puttering around my home more and more, and it’s finally become acceptable to say to friends, “We stayed in and made dinner on a Saturday night.” No one raises eye brows anymore, expecting you to regale them with a tale of an outing until four o’clock in the morning in the coolest lounge that has just opened – a lounge that doesn’t have a name or an entrance sign and has a password which you must tell to a faceless voice over the telephone nearby. Yes, we’ve all been there. I’m over it and I have been for some time.

red lentil soup with lemon

Last night, over dinner during our monthly book club meetings, one of my friends was telling us of one such night, which is now an aberration in her life. “A party,” she said, “that started at 10pm. I barely made it. I mean, I really had to remind myself that I had to go.” We all nodded because at this stage in our lives, a party that starts at ten in the evening, is indeed quite late. We’d have to be out, having a late dinner to motivate ourselves to actually attend. If we’re at home in our pajamas – forget about it. It won’t happen.

Continue reading red lentil soup with lemon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

cauliflower soup with parmesan and harissa

cauliflower soup

Maybe I got a little ahead of myself. I had intended for us to be fully unpacked and settled in five days. I thought, if we apply ourselves, we can get it all done in no time, like magic. But settling into a place doesn’t work that way. For one, you discover you need things. Things like shelves and shelf dividers and wall-mounting hooks. Things that help you organize, and if anyone from the Container Store executive team is reading this, we could really use one of your stores in our hood. Of course, the downside to that would mean that I would never, and I mean never, leave it – and Andrew have to explain to people that his girlfriend got lost somewhere between the Elfa shelving units and the kitchen stackables. It would be a sad tale of love and loss. I’d quickly become a cautionary tale, or an urban legend – or both!

Secondly, in the process of unpacking, you discover that there are things you no longer need, things you want to give away, things you want to sell. And so these things, until you find a proper place for them, sit in the middle of you living room/bedroom/hallway shamelessly staring at you as if to say, “You, you who no longer wants me, how could you do this to me? How could you just discard me?” Such is the state of things at the apartment.

Continue reading cauliflower soup with parmesan and harissa.

Monday, November 22, 2010

spiced butternut squash and carrot soup

spiced butternut squash and carrot soup

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Thanksgiving. I’m ready for Vermont, itching to get out of the city. And it’s not that I don’t love New York, but I need to be surrounded by trees and mountains for awhile. Brooklyn, you don’t count – you never wear me out. But Manhattan – I’m looking at you. Today’s commute alone was that final straw that made me want to be instantly transported to rural New England. I wanted to be in a rustic house, wearing wool socks and eating this soup. I think it could do lots of soothing things for my soul. And if yours needs soothing, might I suggest a bowlful?

Soup is a funny thing. It strikes me as a thing people can tolerate, or love. But apparently, there are people out there who hate soup. I don’t get it. It’s a little like hating “WALL-E”. How can anyone hate Wall-e with his Short Circuit physique and his love of “Hello, Dolly!” But I once overheard people discussing it on the subway, and called it pointless and silly. I wanted to interject and offer up my arguments for WALL-E’s innate genius, but thought better and kept my opinions to myself.

Continue reading spiced butternut squash and carrot soup.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

avgolemono soup

avgolemono soup

This is Andrew’s favorite soup and it took me six months to make it. You would think that as his girlfriend I’d feel compelled to rush to the kitchen to make his favorite things to woo him, but apparently I’m obstinate and run on the over-promise and under-deliver campaign. I am easily distracted and seasonal foods are the equivalent of ooh-shiny-what-were-we-talking-about-again? Andrew has been lovely and patient, acting as an obedient guinea-pig and sampling whatever dishes strike my fancy at a moment’s notice. Might it be because he knows which side his bread is buttered on? Possibly. But either way, he’s been lovely.

5 eggs

In discussing our favorite dishes, Andrew told me about this Greek diner in Boston he’d go to with family, and the diner would make this amazing Greek chicken lemon soup. I’ve heard of avgolemono soup, but I’d never had it before. The premise: chicken stock, intensely infused with lemon juice and thickened with eggs, sounded at once comforting, luxurious, and refreshing (with lemons how could it not?). But because I’ve never eaten it before, how would I know a good recipe from a dud? It’s one thing to make your boyfriend’s favorite dish that you have mastered, but a totally different one to venture into the terra incognita. You don’t want to fall flat on your face, and while you want to wow and impress, you, the you with a day job, also might not have the time to run all over New York (or wherever you happen to live) and sample avgolemono in a dozen different locations.

8 lemons

But over the past month, I have looked at many an Avgolemono recipe in preparation for Operation Boyfriend’s Favorite Soup, and realized that you can tell, by reading through a recipe, if it’s going to be a good soup. Maybe not the exact replica Andrew was used to, but a tasty bowl of soup nonetheless. After reading through over a dozen or so recipes, I could tell which version produced what. Some recipes came across as inadequately lemony (you need more than one lemon for a whole pot of soup to bear its name); some as too watery (quarter cup of rice does not exciting soup make); some as skimping on the chicken itself, if not avoiding it all together. From my research, I learned that classic avgolemono, should typically contain some rice and offer noticeable chicken presence. Since you’re eating chicken soup, it follows that you should see chicken meat in your bowl. The soup should taste rich, but not overbearingly thick or heavy. If you want your soup to be less filling, adjust your chicken accordingly, but if you prefer to have a meal instead, chicken meat should have its own spotlight.

avgolemono soup

The soup gets better the following day, as the flavors meld together and grow more intense. I had it for lunch yesterday and thought perhaps I might be unduly flattering myself. But Andrew, who also had it for lunch at work, noted the same, which makes me think that perhaps there’s something to the better-the-day-after theory. Unless, he is just flattering me and it’s some kind of a Jedi mind trick so that I make this soup soon again and not wait another six months. If it’s the latter, this is nothing short of brilliant strategery* on his part – flattery will get you everywhere.

*Yup, I went there.

Continue reading avgolemono soup.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

butternut squash and cider soup

butternut squash and cider soup

We got back from London, and I promptly came down with one of those post-long-plane rides colds. At first, it was kind of fun to have a sexy rock-star voice, but when it quickly deteriorated into lower octaves, I started to sound like I’ve been drinking for thirty years. The sexy was long gone, and I just wanted my regular high-pitched, I-still-sound-like-I’m-thirteen voice back. That, and the ability to finish a sentence before erupting in a coughing fit.

I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, unless I’m running a serious fever, I don’t sit still. I don’t wrap myself in blankets, make residence on the couch and watch countless Dr. Who re-runs unless I am nearly dead to the world and have resigned to Gatorade and saltines. (By the way, the new Dr. Who is just not doing it for me. Just wanted to share that.) Something about being sick coupled with a desire to be constantly moving about sets me in motion. And makes me want to make soup. And to be precise – pureed soup that tells me that autumn is here, and it’s high time for squash.

butternut squash and cider soup

This soup comes from a highly-anticipated book – The Essential New York Times Cook Book written diligently and thoughtfully over the last six years by Amanda Hesser. The Amanda Hesser of the Cooking for Mr. Latte and The Cook and the Gardener fame, among others. Years ago, when I was reading chapters of “Cooking for Mr. Latte” in the Sunday Magazine, I would imagine myself falling in love and winning over my future husband with one meal at a time. I imagined myself jettisoning my job, packing a suitcase and moving to France to attend La Varenne. The stories always sounded so lovely, and I liked to imagine myself in them. It was the ultimate romance: love through food and stories around it. So many of our memories are shaped by what we eat and who we eat with, even if a meal is just with yourself.

butternut squash and cider soup

I am so very grateful to the that same thoughtful soul (you know who you are!) who sent me the fantastic Melissa Clark and Bill Yosses book for sending me a review copy of this expansive tome. It was on my list of books to own and it is an absolute treasure. Painstakingly curated and lovingly put together, this book is encyclopedic in its scope with recipes dating back to 1880’s, comprehensive, and thorough. But beyond its offerings, it’s like a treasure trove of history – stories told through recipes of how this country has evolved in what we eat, and consequently what we might be concerned with: sustainability, health, frugality, or excess. There are dozens of recipes I’ve noted and set aside. I will be cooking from it for decades.

butternut squash and cider soup

I tweaked this soup quite a bit because I like to play with some spices in my squash, so I added some cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne. And I wanted to make the squash taste more um, should I say “squashy”, so I added a tiny bit of lemon juice just to brighten the flavor just a bit. I took out the apple garnish, adding instead some cumin-spiced sour cream, which can be swapped for crème fraîche or yogurt, if you like, and sprinkled a few cilantro leaves on top. But, darlings, the cider! The cider was bold, pronounced, and unexpected. On the one hand, there was an unmistakable taste of apples and fall, but on the other hand, the apples gave way to more savory flavors of the squash playing a supporting, rather than a leading role. It’s soup that is at once inspiring and comforting, bold and subdued, celebratory and casual. And it’s perfect for those evenings when you’ve all but lost your voice. For if you cannot exclaim out loud the admiration for the soup, your empty bowl will be declaration enough.

Continue reading butternut squash and cider soup.