Tag Archives: Soup

The eyes have it

So I made this carrot-tomato soup over the weekend, and we enjoyed it for dinner on Monday – along with grilled cheese sandwiches and a green salad. Fine, fine comfort food that seemed worth a review.

I couldn't get the texture smooth enough in the food processor, so he whirled an immersion blender through the last of it in the pot to remove lumps and bumps. The soup is very thick, even though I subbed in cream for the yogurt (since ours was still in the machine at finishing time), but beautifully spiced with basil, cracked black pepper, and the cumin-seasoned roasted veg.

If we hadn't been eating cheese-stuffed sandwiches along with (provolone, cheddar, and cranberry Wensleydale inside pumpernickel), I would have sprinkled shaved or crumbled cheddar over the soup as a mix-in, for a little sharpness over the top of the rest. As it was, the soup a great dipping consistency for our sandwiches.

I would make this again, albeit with a bit of something green thrown in – Garlic scapes, or some shredded cooked spinach – for a bit of contrast, and a bit of stock for thinning it out. And I can imagine tossing in a bit of roasted turnip, parsnip, beet, or potato when those come in season.

Do you have a favorite puréed or other root vegetable soup recipe?

How Firm a Foundation

A slushy, messy snowstorm began just as it was time to head out for Sunday afternoon errands. March was arriving like a very frosty lion. Still, we made all the stops we needed: groceries, pet supplies, and a new sink for the powder room were acquired without incident. In fact, our trusty Prius fared better than many all-wheel drive vehicles we saw sliding around.

Home and safe, unloaded, we set to work.

She stirred together a marinade of soy, Worcestershire, garlic, and spices in which a small London Broil was bathed.

I chopped aromatics while she browned some sausage; then the vegetables sautéed in the drippings. She added beef stock, water, and a simple-and-tasty red wine, red lentils, shaved carrots, and probably a spice or four.  The whole lot simmered, then chopped kale was added. Half an hour later, she asked how it looked.  I fought off the urge to stop what I was doing and eat the entire pot.

I’m not sure which spices or herbs she’d added to the soup, because I had moved onto my next project.  Strawberries had been on sale, but in a larger container than we usually buy. “Well, you could make shortcake for dessert,” she said. She may have been kidding, but I thought it was a good idea.  Besides, there was a little cream left in the fridge, and there is a new immersion blender. Whipping the cream was a snap. I added a little powdered sugar and a drop of vanilla to the whole batch, served a bit of it sprinkled with cocoa powder as a treat for her, and stowed the rest in the fridge.

I made a batch of biscuit dough, dividing it in half and adding a little sugar to one portion. I was improvising, here, because I had forgotten that the actual shortcake recipe is slightly different than the one for biscuits. I patted out each section of dough and used different sized cutters to differentiate the ones for shortcake from the unsweetened biscuits. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to make a breakfast sandwich on a sweetened biscuit, but the first bite might be a little strange. Both sets came out well, though a little darker than I’d intended, due to an oven-timer-setting error.

She scrubbed and roughly chopped some potatoes and set them to boil. When they were tender, she drained the pot, added butter and sour creme, and “smashed” them with a potato masher.

“Should I do the lamb now?” she asked.

Ground lamb, cooked in a tiny amount of oil and spiced heavily with cinnamon, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and paprika, will be topped with toasted pine nuts and accompany a batch of hummus made from the chick peas that spent hours in slow cooker. Scooped with bits of pita or crackers or really good toast, it’s one of our favorite Middle Eastern dishes.

I said she should go ahead. The kitchen was so fragrant by this point that one more batch of something wouldn’t make me any more likely to swoon than I already was.  Besides, I was pretty sure that once we cooked the steak, the day’s cooking events would be all over. Better to delay gratification a little and finish our homework.

She cooked and drained the lamb, and set it aside to cool, but we decided to make the hummus another day. She went off to fold a load of laundry while I turned my attention to tonight’s dinner.

I heated the cast-iron skillet, adjusted the temperature of the still-warm oven to 325F, and removed the steak from its marinade. It wasn’t a huge steak, but it was too long to fit in the skillet.  She cut it in half using the chef’s knife she was still holding after washing; she washed the knife again–probably the sixth or seventh time it had been washed during the afternoon–then dried it and finally put it away. I seared the steak on both sides, then slid the skillet into the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. And checked to be sure I had set it correctly.

While she folded a load of laundry, I got the chef’s knife again to trim a bunch of asparagus–then washed and dried it and put it away again again. The asparagus was wrapped, burrito-style, in a moist paper towel, and microwaved for a minute. We reserved a quarter-cup of the marinade when putting the steak in the rest of it; this reserved portion went into a skillet to reduce and be fortified with a bit of butter. While the sauce-to-be did its thing, I washed, hulled, and sliced some strawberries–using a paring knife for a change–and sprinkled them with a little sugar and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

Halving the steak had a side benefit: I could cook the halves to different temperatures.  The rare side came out and was tented with foil to rest while the rest stayed in the oven for another few minutes. When the second half came out and began its rest, I stirred the pan juices from the steak into the sauce, wiped the skillet and used it to slightly brown the par-cooked asparagus.

It was, at long last, dinner time, and the first time either of us sat down in many hours. We had juicy, spicy sliced steak, a mound of smashed potatoes, a lineup of intensely green asparagus spears. And the makings for lunches and quick dinners for days to come.

We enjoyed a little Sunday evening television, pausing during what would have been a commercial break save that we watched streaming video rather than broadcast TV for dessert assembly and kitchen tidying.

Late nights of work and rehearsal, takeout food, and exhaustion had left us a little dietarily grumpy last week. We had resolved that this week would be better, and Sunday was the foundation on which that resolution would stand. We didn’t end up listening to the audiobook she’d suggested. I’m sure there are plenty of things we didn’t get done, but we also didn’t cook so much food that anything is likely to go to waste. Even if we weren’t completely ready to face every challenge the week might present, we were well-fed, and we had spent the day in each other’s company. The snow might have stopped falling by this point.  We didn’t look.

All the Things

All the things: (Back row) Sausage and kale soup, chickpeas, spiced lamb, shortbread and biscuits. (Front) London Broil (rare and well-done), steak sauce, smashed potatoes, pan-grilled asparagus, whipped cream, macerated strawberries.

Every night does not warrant a fancy dessert. All things in moderation. Especially moderation.

Every night does not warrant a fancy dessert.
All things in moderation. Especially moderation.

Accidental Soup

When we merged kitchens, there were abundances of pantry staples, and far too many duplicate containers. Half a box of salt from one kitchen and three quarters of one from the other found a home together in a labeled glass jar. Baking soda, rice, flour–all into airtight containers, leaving us far less clutter, and a very pretty pantry. Not everything was identical, though, so some things stayed in their original containers; some went into small glass jars. Occasionally, a label didn’t stick, but every system has a couple of kinks to work out.

One night I emptied a cup of hearty looking oats into a dry saucepan to toast them, added three cups of boiling water, lidded the pan, and walked away. Morning came. Coffee and tea were brewed.  Lunches were packed.  She came into the kitchen as I was turning to breakfast. “You made oatmeal!” she said with delight.

I lifted the lid and was puzzled. “I thought I made oatmeal.”

She looked over my shoulder.

“You made barley.”

What I toasted had  looked different than I was used to seeing, but the jar wasn’t labeled, and it was in the oats-jar’s place.  I thought they were the last of a container of ritzy, organic, free-range oats that she’d kept separate from the everyday suburban oats.

I made barley. Dummy!

“It’s okay. I’ll pick up a bagel, and we’ll make soup.”

Saturday night, I chopped and she sweated onion, celery, and carrots in a little oil; beef stock, diced tomatoes, and some water were added, along with leftover pot roast, salt, pepper, bay leaf, oregano, and, yes, barley. In the half hour while everything simmered and the kitchen became warm and fragrant, we did a few chores: mopping up plaster dust that settled after the painter left, preparing cabinet doors to be re-hung.  Just before dinner time, I steamed some chopped kale.  She ladled the soup we hadn’t expected to cook and sprinkled on some parmesan cheese. We dug in.

A friend once told me the story of her young sister, who, while mixing batter, confused vinegar for vanilla.  My friend turned it into a reading lesson and helped her start over.  Another young woman I know mistook one canister for another and baked cookies with salt instead of sugar.  Her boyfriend gobbled them up. They didn’t stay together, but it wasn’t because of the cookies.

Mistakes are made.  What matters is how you correct them. How you recover.  What you learn.  We had accidental soup, and it was wonderful.

Accidental Soup

Not everyone likes kale in her soup, even accidentally.

The Second- or Third-Best-Laid Plans

Our plans began, as is so often the case, with an iMessage.

I know what to make for dinner! Mulligatawny Soup.  It’s usually served over rice, but crumbled cornbread will also do.

I was driving when the message came in, so I didn’t respond right away. I like her Mulligatawny Soup, rich with chicken, peppers, and spices, and thick with rice. I started trying to remember how many of the ingredients we had on hand.  When I arrived at the station to meet her train, our conversation didn’t go straight to food, though if it had, I might have said, “Mulligatawny is a good idea, but I could really go for a pile of vegetables, a little protein, and maybe a dinner roll.”

We headed off to the very large home improvement store to purchase electrical supplies. Her parents were arriving the next morning for a visit; her dad, a skilled electrician, was going to teach us how to install new electrical outlets. By the time we’d found everything on our shopping list, neither of us was in the mood for going to the market, much less cooking afterward.

“Let’s go out,” she said. “But to a place where it’s okay to be dressed like I am.” I was in dark jeans, a sweater, and a tweed jacket. She had worn jeans and a blouse to the office, and looked good enough to get into any restaurant I’d want to go to.

At a traffic light, the plans amended again. “We could just get take-out…”

We cruised slowly down Route 1, neither of us quite sure what would be on the menu. A favorite casual Italian place presented itself, and we stopped. And the plan amended again. “While we’re waiting for our entrees, let’s have a drink and an appetizer.”

“You’re going to laugh at me,” she said, looking up from the menu. (Plans were apparently changing again.) “Instead of a full meal, why don’t we share some appetizers and a salad?” I would never laugh at a girl who doesn’t particularly like vegetables ordering a salad. We considered the merits of the salad she had in mind, and settled instead on a sampler of appetizers–a few meatballs, a few chicken wings, and some breaded mozzarella–and a platter of roasted vegetables. We placed our order, and, as we sipped our drinks and toasted the good fortune of friends who’d just had a child, the waiter appeared with a bread basket.

It was my turn to smile. We had started by thinking about mulligatawny soup and ended up with a pile of vegetables, a little protein, and maybe a dinner roll. And we were both delighted with the evening.

A Tale of Three Soups

From her train ride home, she sent a message requesting tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I liked the idea instantly, even if it did mean the gravy would have to wait for another day.

We stopped at the market to pick up soup.  They didn’t have any, which was disappointing if not surprising. It’s not a market where you can find everything all the time; it has a great bakery, a garden-fresh produce section, their own coffee roaster, a trustworthy fish counter, and a not-particularly-wide variety of excellent prepared foods, but not aisles and aisle of canned goods. On this day, that not-particularly-wide variety did not include tomato soup. We considered some other dinner options and realized that we did in fact want soup and sandwiches, so moved on to the next-closest supermarket–where our tomato-soup options were nearly limitless.  We chose an organic variety with basil and soy milk instead of cream.

She put the soup in a saucepan, set two cast-iron skillets to heat, and set herself to meticulously prepare sandwiches.  I minced the leftover chicken she wanted to include while she spread molecularly-thin layers of the best mustard and mayonnaise perfectly from crust to crust. I’ve never seen a sandwich made with such precision, much less one I was going to get to eat.

The sandwiches were pressed between the two hot skillets for toasting, the soup was ladled into wide-mouthed mugs for sipping, spooning, or sandwich-dipping, and dinner was served: good soup and wonderful sandwiches. We agreed that the soup was a little bland, more like tomato-flavored soy milk. I heated a little bolognese sauce to be added as we each wished. I know that took the soup out of the realm of simple cream-of-tomato, but I was willing to accept the charge of fussiness.  I suggested that, next time, we make soup from scratch.

She looked incredulous.  “It takes seven hours to make tomato soup.”

I wondered how that was possible. She told me about finding a recipe when she was a girl, and asking the aunt she was visiting to teach her how to cook so as to make it. The good-humored aunt helped her slice many pounds of fresh tomatoes, slow-roast them in an oven for four hours, then skin and seed and dice them and simmer them with stock and gently cooked onions and garlic for another two hours, then puree in a blender, and add sour cream and basil before serving.

I admitted that a roasted-tomato soup was probably better than the one I had in mind, but wasn’t sure it was six hours and fifteen minutes better.

Faster Tomato Soup

2 (1 lb.) cans peeled, no-salt-added tomatoes
1 medium onion
1-1/2 T. butter
1-1/2 T. olive oil
A few basil leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Set a large saucepan over medium-low heat; add the oil and butter.
Coarsely chop the onion, sauté gently until translucent.
Set a strainer over a large bowl, and drain the juice from the canned tomatoes into it.
Cut each tomato in half, then squeeze gently over the strainer to remove seeds, collecting juice in bowl. Discard seeds. (Or don’t; if you want a little more rustic soup, skip the straining.)
When onion is ready, add tomatoes and juice to saucepan and simmer, covered, about 20 minutes.
Add basil, and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer about 5 minutes more.
Remove from heat and add cream.
Puree, using an immersion blender.
Serve with croutons or, better, grilled cheese sandwiches.

I can’t find her roasted-tomato soup recipe online, and she doesn’t still own the cookbook from which it came.  I believe her, of course, about the long roasting and simmering, but I wonder about investing that much cooking time–especially not with a hot oven in the height of summer when fresh tomatoes are abundant–to get tomato soup. Who knows? Maybe it is that much better. Some night we might consider the relative merits of various grilled cheese sandwich preparation methods, too.  And, maybe, next summer, we’ll have a taste test.