Me so happy to get this blog going again!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Alright, guys. It’s been nice, spring, summer and fall. But it’s getting cooler, and the time is ripe for us to make a little soup tonight. This is actually a throw-back several days, but most of the details are still fresh.

After the first cold day, we were well and truly ready for some soup. How excited was I?? This excited:

IMG_4763

And boy, was there a lot to prep (here is the obligatory photo of all the ingredients):

IMG_4761

If you note all those Asian ingredients – fresh seaweed, dope tofu, dank shrooms – it’s because we had just gone to the aptly named Asian Food Market.

Not pictured yet! the biggest carrot I’ve ever seen, shown next to my fat fist and a large julienned potato for some comparison:

IMG_4764

Luckily, what could have taken ages was helped by knife-wielding partner in soupscapades, Audrye, or as Abby inexplicably calls her, babygirl dre-dre.

We got to adding some noodles:

IMG_4766

Then, the aforementioned dank-ass toufu:

IMG_4768

Soon enough, we had that jawn bubblin‘:

IMG_4771

Meanwhile, we got a vinegar-whirlpool going – the whirlpool vortex is the key to keeping those poached eggs delicious!

Finally, here some photos of the finished products:

IMG_4773 IMG_4774

Yumm!

So, what are some important technical points to consider:

  1. Miso type: Shiro I like, for it’s mild flavor. This is what was used (in this exceptionally successful pot, btw) – however, we had already salty veg broth, so if using water, a stronger saltier ilk might be welcome.. there are several types.!!
  2. Mushrooms: yes, do it. So good w/ Miso, it’s insane. We ended up using oysters, but shiitakes might also be tight.
  3. Seaweed: be careful! So the salty, fishy, green was welcome, and added a tang to our broth. However, this is a strong flavor when boiled for a while: use as a garnish / in moderation, unless this is your centerpiece.. We avoided disaster, but I’d put less in next time.
  4. Noodles. A great way to make soup a meal.
  5. Tofu: Better when the label is in Chinese!

That’s all folks. Looking forward to a late fall and winter soup-naissance!

Logistics:

  1. Listened to while making: The night in Question, this American Life (but not boring!) twas’ a really interesting story
  2. Miso-to-water ratio: 1.33 tbsp/8 fl oz
Advertisements

How I learned to stop worrying and love the (Umami) Bomb

IMG_1362

I wanna get serious and acknowledge two things right from the top.

First of all, Mickey has lapped me and Meir in Step 2 of the Soup D’état Guidelines (1. Make soup 2. Document soup 3. Have fun). I’ve definitely been focusing more on Steps 1 and 3, and really appreciate the commitment Mikey’s made to regular posts.

Secondly: most of the best soups you have ever eaten contained bacon.

Bacon’s smoky, fatty, meaty, salty allure cannot be denied. And yet, it cannot be consumed by so many of us: the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Jain, the Weight Watcher, and the Strident Vegan, just to name a few.

This dietary prohibition strikes an especially sore nerve when making that Soup of Soups: Black Bean.

Native Philadelphian, (past) Food Network personality, and fellow Yalie Dave Lieberman practically rubs your face in it with his homage to New Haven’s Atticus (NOT vegetarian) version, asking for 10 strips of that cured and smoked pork. Dude (may I call you Dude? Mr. Dude?), of course that soup is going to be amazing. It’s got ten strips of bacon in it. You could put ten strips of bacon in a pot with a freezing cold gravel and that soup would be very fussable!

And so, like a Cook’s Illustrated Test Kitchenoid, I enter the Black Bean Fray with a guiding question: how do you achieve a flavorful, hearty black bean soup without bacon?

A quick preface. Bacon or no bacon, make sure the rest of your soup game is on point: sauté diced carrots, onions, and celery for sweetness, and prep up poppin’ accoutrements like crisp sliced radishes, creamy avocado, tortilla crunchies, bright cilantro, zesty green onion, limesss, and generous dabs of cooling crème fraîche.

Love On Top, by Beanyoncé

Love On Top, by Beanyoncé

Now onto the possibilities for vegetarian flavor punches. You’ll recall our experience with tare from our voyage into the great ramen yonder. But for black bean glory, you will need all zee secret umami weapons.

Umami so fat, we're in her now.

Umami so fat, we’re in her now.

Shrooms (N’ Soy)

I marinated chunks of shiitakes in soy sauce for double the umami fun and that oh-so-special flavor booster: salt.  Didn’t have to add any additional salt at the end.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes have a lot of natural umami. That’s why some people like to eat plain ketchup packets, a habit that is totally chill and definitely not weird at all. You can chase that Pomodo(ro) Dragon with raw diced tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, or the holy grail of tomatoes: sun-dried tomatoes. Slice ‘em up tiny and only you will know what’s making your soup taste so GOOD.

Beer

As our tradition teaches us: one for you, one for me. I find a black lager like this one is rather good as a cooking liquid: sturdy enough to add dimension but not too heavy or overpowering. And tasty to sip while everything simmers.

Pour one out for your homies.

Animal Products (not bacon)

Strident Vegans, cover your ears. A smoked cheese like Gouda or cheddar works wonders atop this soup.  And Parmesan rinds inside can really round things out, as a recent unblogged potato leek foray aptly demonstrated.

Other

If all else fails, use the nuclear option:

IMG_1356

Green Green Green Green

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Green is Jyothi's favorite color. So you know.

Green is Jyothi’s favorite color. So you know.

Maybe it was St Patrick’s Day that inspired me. Oh no wait, it wasn’t, but that’s apropos. I actually spent St Patty’s mostly reading about the potato famine and learned a lot. In the US, we kind of learn that the potatoes stopped growing properly in Ireland, which was all the food that was there, so everyone came to America, where their lives got better. Turns out that’s false on multiple counts, and by the end of my reading, I was pretty much in league with those who are seeking to have the famine years historically reassessed as a campaign of genocide perpetrated by the British.

But I digress.

This soup came about because I had some friends over on Sunday for dinner, and I wasn’t very decisive when I was shopping, so I just bought truckloads of stuff at the farmer’s market, and I didn’t prepare all the green stuff. It happens sometimes. So Thursday rolls around and I’m all like “what am I going to do with all this green stuff that’s about to go off?”

That's

That’s a lot of cellulose and clorophyll in action, y’all

MAKE SOUP! Duh.com

I don’t think a lot of people cook with lettuce that isn’t raw. This is a mistake. Lettuce is incredibly delicious when braised, for instance, and it sure does make a fantastic soup, as we’re about to discover. That said, you can’t just boil it down and expect any great results. Whereas it makes a nice addition to soups that kind of already have their own thing going on, if you’re looking to use it as a main ingredient, it needs a little help. Luckily, it’s nothing complicated.

First – as always – start with a mirepoix or as here, a modified version. Second, use a starch that will give the soup a nice body (sorry that might have wrecked your appetite). Unless puréed, the soup can be unattractive, and without a little starch it doesn’t really purée well, since the solids and liquids won’t bind together. I use rice, but small new potatos would work, too. Third, don’t skimp on spices that add brightness and depth of flavor. I think ground coriander and cayenne work especially well. Lastly, keep everything a nice color by adding some spinach at the very end of the cooking, right before you purée, ideally off the heat. This will insure your soup stays a vibrant, jade color that will impress everyone. Cuz that’s important.

Toast your rice, folks.

Toast your rice, folks.

Add the spinach at the last minute for the best color.

Add the spinach at the last minute for the best color.

The soup’s equally good hot or cold, too. Bonus points! So now you have a way to use up those greens you don’t know what to do with. Score. As in life, the answer’s always “make soup!”

Our soups aren't photographed like this often enough.

Our soups aren’t photographed like this often enough.

Green Soup from Heaven

  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large/2 small carrots, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons rice (I use arborio)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp (or less, to taste) cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3-4 cups veg stock
  • 2 heads green lettuce, coarsely chopped
  • 200g arugula, coarsely chopped
  • large handful of parsley, or other “bright” herb, coarsely chopped
  • 200 g baby spinach
  • yogurt or crème fraîche for garnish

Method:

  1. Sauté the onion and carrot in a little oil just until soft
  2. Add the rice, and toast until the grains give off a nutty aroma (2-3 min)
  3. Add the garlic, cook until fragrant (30 sec)
  4. Add the spices, and cook another 30-45 sec
  5. Add the stock, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan
  6. Add the lettuce, and bring up to the boil, then reduce to a simmer
  7. When the lettuce is wilted and settled, add the arugula and parsley
  8. Simmer for about 20 mins until all the vegetables are very soft, and the grains are soft enough to smash between your fingers
  9. Off the heat, add the spinach, and cover the pot. When the spinach is completely wilted, puree the soup with an immersion blender very well. You don’t want any solids left.
  10. Garnish with yogurt or crème fraîche and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve!

Savory Shrimp-Spinach Soup

Sssssoooo ssssavory

Sssssoooo ssssavory

Welcome to Soup d’Etat, S-edition. In a post that will surely scare severely sensitive sufferers of lispiness as would a snake or salamander, we’re making shrimp-spinach soup today.

I sampled something similar on a stroll through Chinatown (yes, technically, London has one) this week, and thought to myself “why haven’t I made a shrimp dish for the soup blog?”… well, now that’s all solved. And while I’ll never claim that this soup is authentically Chinese in the least, I kind of like how I arrived at it, and it turned out to be very tasty indeed.

It tastes immediately familiar as vaguely Chinese in a couple of ways, but it also makes use of some of my favorite ingredients from the European kitchen. Global connections through food! Brand new concept I just thought of in this blog post. You’re welcome. A little online research suggests some interesting side-notes about shrimp soup in China, and certainly about spinach, so that’s kind of a nerdy bonus. Of course, my fellow blogger Mr Alkon would be the authority on whether this is all a lot of hot air, but surely he’ll forgive me any transgressions.

So, re: shrimp soup in China… I can’t even begin to describe the variety of recipes one finds. It’s not even worth trying. BUT there are some things I noticed. (1) reading about the traditional broths of Chinese cuisine is something you could spend an entire afternoon on. Most of the shrimp soup recipes I found utilized basic chicken broth, but a few used fish broth, or even the distinguished “superior broth” or “clarified broth”. The key seems to be to let the sweetness of the shrimp sit in nice contrast with the salty elements of the soup, and to always include something to boost the backbone of the umami a bit, usually veggies or mushrooms.

Re: Spinach in China… one of those great silk road histories… apparently known as “persian vegetable” (菠菜) by way of its introduction through Nepal in the 7th century, the varieties that are grown and consumed in China today is pretty impressively varied compared to the familiar Western version (which I use in this soup to prove that it’s still a viable option). These include but are not limited to: Ipomoea aquatica, (蕹菜), Amaranthus dubius, (苋菜), and Malabar spinach, (落葵).

OK, so I knew I wanted at least these two ingredients to be bedfellows in my soup, but two is an awkward number (at least I think so, which is at least one reason I’m single). What was the third leg (haha) I was looking for here? Oh right, mushrooms, duh, my favorite thing ever with everything. Those three flavors sit really beautifully together, and in soup form, have a wonderful textural combination as well. The shrimp are plump and crisp, the mushrooms pliant, and the spinach silky. Lovely. To the broth, add a whack load of garlic and ginger, and a spot of fish-sauce for extra body. Oh, and some beautifully ribbony egg, for a little bit of onctuosité… top it all off with some sesame oil and spicy chili and you’ve a meal FOR REAL.

And not to forget the point of cross-cultural kitchens from earlier earlier… egg, spinach, mushroom and shellfish are a classic output of the French kitchen… just usually in omelette or en-cocotte form! So there you have it. Clearly, if the flavors can be independently agreed upon from opposite sides of the world, it must be good.

This soup is fast and economical to make, extremely delicious, and actually surprisingly sturdy. I enjoyed every spoonful, and you hopefully will, too.

IMG_0072

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 250 g shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 200 g spinach
  • 10-12 small shiitake mushrooms, dried or fresh (if dry, soaked and drained)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp dry ginger
  • 2 eggs, well-beaten until pale yellow
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil, to taste
  • 1/2-1 tsp hot chili oil, to taste
To make the egg come through nicely just pour it over the back of the spoon while you stir in a circular motion. The threads will be so delicate!

To make the egg come through nicely just pour it over the back of the spoon while you stir in a circular motion. The threads will be so delicate!

Method:

  • sauté the garlic in a very small amount of hot oil for about 30 sec until fragrant
  • add the stock, water, fish sauce, ginger, and mushrooms, and bring to the boil
  • reduce heat and simmer until flavors come together, and mushrooms have softened, about 5 mins
  • add the shrimp, and cook for about 2 mins, then add spinach, and continue to cook another 2-3 mins until shrimp are just pink
  • slowly drizzle in the egg while stirring to evenly incorporate the egg in delicate strands, and thicken the soup
  • simmer for 1-2 mins longer until flavors are blended and shrimp are fully cooked.
  • taste and correct for salt, then top with sesame oil/chili to taste!
Cross-cultural ingredient mashup deliciousness.

Cross-cultural ingredient mashup deliciousness.

Ribollita… or re-boot-lita, if you will

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

Resplendent ribollita!

Resplendent ribollita!

Well, if you’re reading this you must be perseverant. It may or may not be true that not one of our intrepid internet heroes has posted any saucy soup-related content here in about a month. Chalk it up to various challenges including but not limited to: learning how to communicate with children, jury duty, PhD exams, a very special wedding that brought us all together in revelry, and surviving Chicago during its coldest week this winter.

Well, I’m here today to re-boot. With ribollita. First some questions and answers:

Q: So what is this soup? Any why is it worthy of the blog?

A: Well, it’s a hearty soup, a potage even, with origins in the kitchens of renaissance-era Tuscan peasants. The name vaguely means “reboiled”, indicating it’s made out of whatever you have left over from last night – specifically bread. Some say the peasants would use the bread leftover from the banquet tables of their lords. People say a lot of things. It’s on the blog because it’s actually really easy and fast and it is SOUPER delicious and the renaissance connection is apt.

Q: What do I need to make it?

A: There are several key traditional ingredients. It can be flexible with really whatever veg you have lying around the kitchen, but traditionally, it’s built around kale (Lacinato), white beans (cannellini), a soffrito, and stale country bread. Inspired by a fellow blogger’s soup from the other side of the world, I topped mine with a delicious soft-boiled egg. Not traditionally done, but so good and perfect in this dish.

It's not pricey, but it sure tastes like a million bucks.

It’s not pricey, but it sure tastes like a million bucks.

Q: Gee whiz, that sounds great – how do I make it?

A: I thought you’d never ask. As mentioned before it’s really straightforward and if you use canned beans and tomatoes (fresh on both counts will be lovely, but do add quite a bit of time…) it can be done in about 35 minutes, prep included! Love that!

Ribollita

Ingredients:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 15 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 large handfuls of leftover/stale rustic bread, torn into small pieces (don’t use sandwich bread – it’ll break down too much)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 Bunch Lacinato Kale (about 100-200g)
  • 1 medium-large carrot
  • 1 onion (medium yellow works well)
  • 1 medium bunch parsley
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock, depending how chunky you like the soup
  • ½ cup grated parmesan or grana padano
  • flaked red pepper to taste (start with a pinch)
This is how you want the stuff 'fore it gets all cooked up real nice.

This is how you want the stuff ‘fore it gets all cooked up real nice.

Instructions:

  1. Sautée the onion (chopped) with the garlic (minced) in about 2 tbsp oil for 2-3 mins until soft. Add the carrot, a bit of salt and pepper, and cook for about 4 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the beans (drained and rinsed), the tomatoes (with juices), the kale (thinly sliced in a chiffonade), the red pepper, and the veg stock and bring up to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 6-8 mins, until reduced slightly.
  3. Stir in the bread bits, half the cheese, and half the parsley (chopped fine). Simmer for 5-7 mins, until the soup has thickened. Correct the seasoning for salt/pepper
  4. Soft boil the eggs while the soup simmers. I use the Cook’s Illustrated method and it works perfectly every time. Basically, use a small pot, only cover the eggs halfway in boiling water, and put a lid on the pot for exactly 6 mins. Even the peeling isn’t so bad – but do be careful, since they’ll be delicate.
  5. Top the soup with the remaining cheese and parsley, the peeled eggs, and eat up!
It's good w/o the egg, too. But I like it better with ^_^

It’s good w/o the egg, too. But I like it better with ^_^

Wiki: Leeks!

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Get your f-leek on!

Get your f-leek on!

It seems impossible that we’re this far along in our blog-o-rama without paying homage to the mighty leek. I think it’s the most aristocratic of the aromatics, and while delicious when buttered, baked, or braised, today it shall be dealt with in a most British fashion.

Wait, why would you do that?? Well, although the above ways of eating leeks are good, to me they really stand out in soup. Anyone who’s had a delicious bowl of vichyssoise or simple leek and potato probably would agree. But why especially soup? A quick look at preparation methods for leeks (in soup or otherwise) alongside their siblings hints that they’re a little different. Like, um, other things… people seem to like them done very slow and very moist. Let’s investigate.

Leeks are a member of the esteemed allium family, relatives of the lily that are indispensable in the kitchen for the zip and zing they give to our food. As we learn from the ever-esteemed Harold McGee, all alliums pack their punch by way of the sulfurous compounds that are released when the flesh is exposed to oxygen… for instance when chopped, crushed, mashed, smashed, etc. The way that those compounds are then treated in the cooking method determines how they’ll end up tasting – mellow or harsh, fresh or fruity, etc etc.

Leeks differ from their more common relatives such as garlic and onions in several ways, but most importantly for our soup-group, they don’t make use of a densely-packed bulb for energy storage, but rather spread their delicious sulfur-bombs throughout a big, beautiful stalk of tightly-packed, thinly-layered leaves. In parts of the world where they’re more popular (France, England, etc), farmers heap up the soil around the bases to get the whitest, tastiest, most “onion-y” part as long as possible… sometimes, it’s just amazing.

Anyway, the cool part about all this is that since leeks are big and leafy (unlike onions, which are 90% water, or garlic, which is 90% fructose), they are very high in everyone’s favorite long-string carbohydrate – CELLULOSE! As such, they benefit greatly from low-heat, long-duration, high-moisture cooking that breaks down the cellulose without any burning that would cause crystallization, and therefore bitterness. The result of the broken down cellulose in water is a wonderful, velvety texture alongside a mellow, sweet, and deeply fragrant flavor, developed by way of the patient treatment of the aforementioned sulfur compounds.

In the soup I made, I paired up leeks with traditional potatoes, herbs, and spices, but also a rutabaga (or swede, here in the UK), an un-sung hero of the root-vegetable kingdom that could (and may) have a post all to itself.

The trick (in my book) to making your leeks really great is cleaning them properly, and then sweating them in a mix of butter and olive oil with a bit of flour – this yields the most concentrated flavor with the best texture, and will make your soup f-leeking amazing.

Leeky Rooty Soupy:

  • leeks (as long on the white bit as you can find)
  • celery (for brightness)
  • potatoes and rutabaga (for earthy-savory-starchy body)
  • assorted herbs (thyme, parsley, chive)
  • butter/olive oil (tablespoon a piece)
  • a little flour (1 tablespoon should do it)
  • veg stock (just enough to cover the vegetables by about 1/4 inch)
  • salt/pepper
Like a Philly fan: Roots, chutes, and leaves

Like a Philly fan: fat, roots, chutes, and leaves

  1. sweat the leeks and celery on moderate heat in the fat until soft but not mushy or brown
  2. stir in the flour until combined, and you have a glossy sheen on the vegetables
  3. add in the potatoes/other root veggies and sautée a couple of minutes
  4. add the stock and herbs with a dash of salt and pepper
  5. simmer for 20-30 mins until everything’s cooked, the volume is reduced slightly, and the flavors have blended
  6. purée if desired, correct seasoning, garnish with herbs, eat with amazing bread of your choice

While cooking, I listened to: Andrea Chénier, simulcast from Covent Garden. Not my fav, but Jonas Kaufmann manages to be so frickin’ sexy even when you can see him.

Bread eaten with: super-seedy Scandanavian rye

“Historic” Snowstorm Hits Brooklyn?

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

A gif(t) from the gods. (ie, Caroline)

The blizzard fizzled, but we still seized the forecasted apocalypse as an opportunity to make homemade pho.

Pretty pho-togentic, amirite? Am I giving you…Pho-MO?

But pho real, I could go on pho-ever with this endless pho-untain of puns.

.

.

.

.

.

.

The pho was excellent.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try Ramen

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

IMG_0020

I spent the better part of MLK weekend in Boston with my sister Judy, brother-in-law Lucas, and Max, my almost-three-year-old nephew. Friday night, I rolled up and told them I was game for any activity, as long as it was indoors. (The city of Boston, while lovely, is located on a rare geological feature known as a polar volcano.) Saturday morning, when Max grabbed a cookbook off the shelf and it fell open to a recipe for ramen, I took it as a sign.

--Can I get a (r)Amen?!  --I testify!!

–Can I get a (r)Amen?!
–I testify!!

Folks all over Asia have been enjoying ramen for a minute now, but thanks to evangelists such as Momofuku’s Dave Chang and others, the soup has grown up in the American imagination from a cheap afterschool snack or dorm staple and into a rarefied culinary experience sought after by food cognoscenti. At its heart, ramen is a warming soup made of four things: a briny broth (usually dashi plus one or more porky, beefy, or seafoody layers), a soy/mirin flavor punch called tare, alkalized noodles, and an array of toppings. Like a classical theme and variations, ramen can be endlessly reimagined by swapping in different combinations of these components.

Since we had all day and a kiddo and ourselves to entertain, we decided to attempt the most elaborate (vegetarian) version possible. We would make everything from scratch, including our own homemade noodles.

The noodle making began early in the day and went a little like this:

Yeah, it was effing hard. Because of the alkalinization of the dough, it was tough to knead and manipulate. (? I guess? I actually really sucked at chemistry in high school–every time Mr. Brooks started to say “Avogadro’s Number” I would jolt alert with panic, fearing he was cold calling me, then immediately revert to my default state of slumped confusion in the second-to-last row.)

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards noodles." --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Come, all hands are needed.” – Mother Teresa (She was talking about noodles.)

From what I gather, we thermally decomposed baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to produce sodium carbonate (2 NaHCO3 → Na2CO3 + H2O + CO2), which, combined with flour and water, gives the finished ramen noodles their distinctive yellow hue and springy bite. (I also learned that besides being a key ingredient in ramen noodles, sodium carbonate is a compound used in taxidermy to remove flesh from the skull or bones of trophies. As Max would say: “whuuuuuuuuuuuuut.”)

Let’s move on.

Alkalized, not Alkonized

Alkalized, not Alkonized

In our quest for exciting vegetarian toppings, we went for a marinated soft-boiled egg. Leveraging simple technique (including Cook’s Illustrated fiendishly tested method for the egg boil) and lots of inactive cooking time, these eggies win for ratio of most flavor to least work (kinda the inverse of the noodles).

Eat, Drink, and Be Marinated

Unlike regular (unmarinated) eggs, where the whites are something you tolerate to get to the good (yolky) stuff, these were tasty all the way thorough, from sweet and salty outer bites to the custardy insides.

Lucas took the lead on the other accoutrements, lightly sautéing both shiitake mushrooms and leeks. For a meaty component without the meat, he made his famous (to me) chewy and spicy curry pan-fried tofu by browning up crispy half-inch slices of tofu in peanut oil, hitting them with a coating of curry powder, and then shaking everything together with a hiss of soy sauce.

While all this was happening, Max and I played “Trash Day.”

For the dashi, we kept it simple with kombu and bonito flakes. A pro tip, again from Lucas: pack the bonito into some reusable tea bags (or cheesecloth, or whatever you can rig together) and save yourself the trouble of straining out the water-logged fishy flakes!

For tare, we used soy sauce, rice wine, some sugar, sesame oil, and a little liquid smoke.

"I think we made ramen, you guys!"

“I think we made ramen, you guys!”

It had taken us five hours or so from start to finish (with breaks to talk on the phone with our parents, do the Times crossword, build a mouse house out of couch cushions, etc., etc.) Fairly famished and fatigued, we finally sat down with spoons and chopsticks. Verdict? The noodles were delectably slurp-able, the egg oozed richness into the broth, and it was thoroughly satisfying to taste the marriage domestic partnership of so many parts. And yet, the proportion of broth to noodles was a little off (a common challenge with noodley soups), and getting and keeping everything hot at the same time was tricky. (We ended up microwaving our bowls to the right temperature.)

So was it worth it? I am reminded that making soup, like parenting or being a toddler, is work that requires patience, persistence, and no small measure of failure. Just as Max needs to fall down and get up (and for goodness sake, get your fingers out of the way of the pasta machine!!), we needed to Try in order to Try Again.

The next day for lunch, we bumped up the broth by using mushroom stock in addition to dashi, added red and white miso to the tare, reheated the leftover toppings (including that dope egg and some escaped ‘shrooms), dropped in some dry noodles to boil, and even remembered the nori at the end. Everything came together fast, in under 30 minutes. The result was piping hot and popping with deeper and more intense flavors. I didn’t even miss the fresh noodles: dry ones took <.001% of the time and effort and I couldn’t discern a huge difference.

Try One was a fun family experiment in noodling, and Try Two was an easier and equally comforting bowl of soup. I’m psyched for Try Three through Try (n+1). (Next time: mung bean sprouts! Bamboo shoots!!)

I’ll keep ya posted.

IMG_0021

Cover image of my upcoming doctoral thesis/cookbook “(Soup)raxis Makes Sou(perfect): Iterative Cooking As Liberatory Strategy”

Music listened to: seriously fun dance party to the aptly titled Have A Great Day playlist; Wheels on the Bus long jams.

Lentil Liberation

Tags

, , , , , ,

DSCF1141

The people (as here expressed by lentils) achieve liberation

Lentil soup is much-maligned for good reason. It was a kind of flag-sh*t for the horrible “health food” prepared by 60’s and 70’s hippies who refused to microwave an establishment TV-dinner, but also had no idea how to cook. In mixed company, its taste is credibly described as “grey” or “I’d rather not.”

But that’s just the weight of historical materialism bearing down on our palates. Let’s shrug this off, comrades! Judging by the staggering number of available lentil recipes (note: I do not say ‘freely’ available… Google is a questionable ally of the proletariat)there really is an end to history, and that is a damn good thing.

Lentils are, for lack of a better word, lovely. They are, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (surprise, surprise), “a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, niacin and vitamin K, but are particularly rich in dietary fiber, lean protein, folate and iron.” Oh, they also taste amazing and come in DOZENS of different varieties. Maybe this is why humans from everywhere have been eating them as domesticated crops for about 13,000 years.

The reserve army of FLAVOR! Not labor. It's a joke.

The reserve army of FLAVOR! Not labor. It’s a joke.

As such, you can have a lentil soup every which way from Sunday. Better yet, provided you give this potent little pulse the flavor-foundation it deserves, it’ll likely be quite delicious. I’ve made loads of lentil soups over the years, and the one I made tonight isn’t frankly all that special within that canon. It just plays by a few rules that are worth remembering. Here’s a rough sketch of (my) rules, which await your adaptation, improvement, and general rhapsody:

  • Choose the right lentil: some cook straight into paste, while some stay firm; some taste nutty, white others taste sweet. When overcooked, they almost all taste like chalk. Keep an eye on that. I personally keep two main types in my pantry: red, for a softer or mushier texture, and green for a firmer or toothier texture.
  • The Holy Trinity Giveth Life: mince up a mirepoix, slice up a soffritto, do what you must – building a good flavor base of aromatics and sugary root vegetables will give you a sturdy foundation on which your lentils can stand, resplendent in all their glory
  • Have some herbs handy: certain herbs really amplify the flavor of lentils. European classics include bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Parsley and sage work well, too. Although I always prefer using them fresh, they work quite well when dried, if added at the end of the vegetable sautée yet before the liquid
  • Spices, spices, spices: similarly, there are dozens, maybe hundreds of spices that pair well with lentils, acting as their complement rather than their flavor-beard. Hot and earthy flavors, such as red pepper and cumin, are natural bedfellows – use them liberally
  • Don’t rush it, but don’t ignore it either: although lentils can be cooked in as little as 20 or 30 minutes, they should be left to simmer long enough to both break down their proteins a bit (thus releasing all their wonderful flavor) and to take in taste from whatever you’re cooking them in. Likewise, when they overcook, they (like many things) lose all their flavor, burst, and turn into something really sad. Just keep an eye on them, and taste along the way.
  • Dress up for the main event: don’t hesitate to garnish the soup at the end with something that speaks to your flavors! A dollop of créme fraîche if it’s spicy, or a whack of balsamic if it’s savory – olive oil’s always a good idea! It could be the best day of the year, if you treat yo self. 

So here’s to lorry-loads of luscious lentils with you lot in the future… which, as we have learned, is also the past, at least from a dietary perspective.

Check out the rapeseed oil - something actually invented by British people, that isn't stolen from somewhere else, and that tastes great!

Check out the rapeseed oil – something British that actually isn’t stolen from somewhere else, and that tastes great! Made in the Cotswolds!

Tuesday’s Lentil Soup

  • some carrots, minced up
  • red or white onion, minced up
  • garlic
  • a bit of tomato paste
  • thyme & rosemary
  • ~ 1 cup of speckled green lentils
  • flaked red pepper
  • espelette pepper or paprika
  • cumin
  • balsamic vinegar

Order of operations:

  • sautée the mirepoix
  • add the garlic/spices and fry for a minute, along with thickeners like tomato paste
  • deglaze the pan with some liquid (could even be wine!)
  • add in the lentils with enough liquid (could be stock or water) to cover, along with any fresh herbs
  • simmer until you reach your nirvana or texture and flavor; decide at this juncture if you want to purée it a bit – sometimes, that’s nice
  • finish with your chosen piéce de résistance, be it honey, vinegar, dairy product, or other thing we haven’t thought of yet
  • know you’re making, consuming, and eventually disposing of 13,000 years of human history

While cooking I listened to: an important coming-together of history’s leading philosophical minds, and a fair little bit of Michael McDonald, but you probably figured that out already…

Not your mom’s chicken noodle. Unless your mom is Sichuanese.

Tags

, , , , , , ,

glory shot

As one of the esteemed founders of this here blog attested to, there is quite a nip in the air in our beloved Brooklyn. But rather than complain about it, why not use the opportunity to join the hottest, most flavorful soup group around, the one that defies all ladles! I mean labels. Aside from the title of this blog, of course.

So after a day outdoors enjoying the more pungent ‘hoods in the area, my betrothed and I were looking for something to undo the damage mother nature had inflicted upon us. Obviously soup was the answer, but what type would not only warm our chilled bones, but provide the fiery heat our palates prefer?

We turned to the region most readily associated with spice: Asia. Non-specific, yes, but we had to start somewhere. A quick Google search led us to this woefully slow loading but very informative article.

After much debate on the pros and cons of various regional cuisines, we decided on the Sichuan-Style Chicken Noodle Soup, to satisy one party’s love of Sichuan pepper, the other’s love of fowl and carbs, and a common love of mushrooms and interesting spices.

The process was pretty simple:

  • Boil the noodles
Boiled noodles! How exciting!

Boiled noodles! How exciting!

  • Chop and sauté the aromatics
Requisite cutting board shot

Requisite cutting board shot

  • Add in broth, soy sauce, rice wine, and spices and bring to boil
  • Simmer for a bit for flavors to combine
  • Add in noodles and chicken
Store-bought, hand-shredded

Store-bought, hand-shredded

  • Top with some accouterments and serve!
Spoon to prove that it's soup

Spoon to prove that it’s soup

Some notes on the recipe:

  • If you’re exhausted from a day of walking around, exploring hidden away micromuseums, eating pie, and drinking cocktails, consider taking a shortcut on the chicken: buy a simple (ie, no seasoning beyond S&P) half rotisserie chicken. $5 at Whole Foods to save an hours work.
  • We also added in some garlic, because, as has been said, who doesn’t love garlic?!

Overall, the soup was just what we were looking for – warm, filling, but not without an added kick.

Accompaniments: Due to the high noodle content, none needed beyond a nice glass of cold white wine or a presumably delicious IPA.

Things we would do differently:

  • We played pretty fast and loose with the proportions on this recipe to suit our tastes – many more mushrooms, chicken, and noodles than what was called for. In retrospect, we probably should have added more broth to land the final product unquestioningly in the “soup” category.
  • Due a noodle water salting oversight, we added some extra salt at the finish.
  • Also, while the jalapeno garnish was good, some scallions would be a welcome addition.

What we listened to: Songza’s Today’s R&B and Rap Hits. Gotta love them raps.