Posts tagged: soup
March 2, 2010

Winter Squash, Red Lentil, and Chickpea Stew

winter-squash-red-lentil-chickpea-stew

Can I tell you a secret? This winter I made a discovery born completely out of pure, unadulterated laziness. One of my most abhorred kitchen tasks is peeling butternut squash. I hate the thick skin, the irregular shape. Just writing about it my nose has assumed a position of crinkled-up-in-annoyance. See, I don’t even like to think about it. Which is a shame, really, because I love the stuff once the hard work is done. That is why, when I once saw butternut squash already peeled and chopped in the grocery store, it was the kind of convenience food I could really get behind. When I didn’t see it again, though, I decided to just stop peeling. That’s right. Whether roasting (which Sara Rose convinced me was a-ok) or chopping up for a soup, I just left the skin on. What’s a little bit of extra fiber?

And that, my friends, is the only way I could bring myself to make this vegetarian winter stew. And it’s a good thing I found a work-around, because I really loved this, rich as it is with red lentils and topped with a smattering of chopped peanuts, yogurt, and cilantro. It’s the sort of decadent yet basically healthy food that gets me through winter without consuming a truckload of extra sharp New York State cheddar cheese and 40 gallons of tea.

Come to think of it — holy hey, it’s March! Did you read your Astrologyzone horoscope? Are you hanging in, or so deeply sick of winter that if you have to pull on your tights once more you just might yip?

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February 19, 2010

French Friday: Onion Soup Gratinée

french-onion-soup

There was once a restaurant in our neighborhood where I loved to go on snowy days. Inside, it was what I imagine a Swiss ski lodge is like — all dark wood, tall paned windows, and a roaring fire. I would sit on the wooden bench, wrapped in a scarf, and order a bowl of their French onion soup. At brunch, a basket of sweet, yeasty breads and orange-scented butter would come out first. And then the soup would arrive, crusty with just enough melted cheese to make a point (but not create a stomachache) and I would break the surface and dip down into a rich brown broth. It was, until the restaurant closed a few years ago, one of my favorite weekend lunches.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a friend or foe who didn’t care for French onion soup. It’s one of those foods that’s pretty delicious even when it’s not it’s best (though I’ve never been one to grumble over too much cheese), and it’s blissfully simple to make. I confess I’ve gone into a bit of a panic in the last couple weeks over all the wintery foods I still want to make before the first asparagus crops up. There is the truffle mac and cheese beckoning and the fondue (and do I see a fromagey theme here?), but what I would say to you is: this should make your winter short list. If you’ve never made French onion soup it’s absolutely worth a whirl, and such a comfort on a snowy night when you are hunkered down on the couch this weekend watching Doctor Zhivago.

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January 6, 2010

Leek, Mushroom, and Barley Stew

leek-barley-mushroom-stew

This time of year is so strange, isn’t it? Even hardened pessimists have a glint in their eye of possibility. And yet even the most Sally Sunshine among us can probably not help but be reminded of our past “failings,” rife as this time of year is with talk of resolutions and beginning again. Perhaps we have tried and failed before to change something about ourselves and even if we want to give up the cycle of “New Year, New Me,” the pull of possibility is mighty strong.

Of all the resolutions you’ve shared thus far, I found myself thinking most about is Anne’s: “I am stealing a friend’s resolution to ‘make my body sing.’ This could be going to yoga. Or not. Eating chocolate. Or roasted veggies. Saying yes. Or saying no and reading at home, alone on the couch. It just might be the perfect resolution…”

It might just be, and it seems to hit on the head of what it means to be our best selves: to always be tuned in to what will be best thing for us at any given moment. That necessitates a really developed self-knowledge, as well as some will. A piece of dark chocolate might make my body sing; a bag of drugstore chocolate? Not so much. There is also the matter of what’s best for us not always being the most appealing or easy option. And why can it be so hard to do what what will make us happiest? This is a conundrum I might be struggling with till my dying day.

There are some good choices, though, ones that are nourishing, sustaining, that are easy to make. Like feeling, after one too many glasses of wine last night, that your body would sing were it given a soup filled with dark greens, mellow with earthy flavors and brightened, perhaps, by a squeeze of lemon. You can practically feel the brain cells rebuilding as you lift your spoon and sip.

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November 9, 2009

Splendid Split Pea Soup

split-pea-soup

Sadly, I learned upon returning from my honeymoon that the local branch of my library closed and the iron gates outside will remain locked for two years during renovations. I love that library. I love its creaky old wooden floors, the open second floor, the inoperable fire place. This news was devastating to me, but I decided to face the future by walking to the main branch on a gray Thursday. I put on my pale swingy coat with big black buttons that makes me feel like Catherine Deneuve, wrapped a vintage silk scarf around my neck and headed off in my sensible red clogs. On the way, I passed a bodega with an enviable selection of flowers. The branches of bittersweet looked like a Chinese painting of berries in the snow with its sudden shock of red. I stopped to look at dahlias, considered the $8 price tag, and settled for getting them on the way home if I their dark velvety petals still seemed like a necessity. As I was walking along, I glanced up a brownstone-lined street flush with turning leaves, and a school bus drove by. I hadn’t set out to have a quintessential fall day, but it was turning out that way.

And then I stepped out of the wind and into the library. The quiet hush of studious productivity reminded me of college days settled into library armchairs in front of snowy windows. I was in heaven. Then I started to browse, which I never do at the library, and here’s the Duh Discovery of the Week: the library cookbook section blows your bookstore’s out of the water. There are shelves of cookery books that are old, unpopular, out-of-print, strange, delightful, and deeply charming. They also have Rachael Ray, of course, but it is all the other books — the slim volumes devoted to the cooking of Massachusetts and old, hard-to-find favorites that won my heart. There, between the stacks, I fell in love with one such charmer: The Supper Book. Filled with delightful illustrations, historical context, and personal asides, Marion Cunningham, who revised and updated Fanny Farmer, fills her cookbook with the single-course suppers that are simple, honest, and good. On my day in the library, tucked out of the weather’s way, nothing seemed more appealing than a bowl of her split pea soup, and the timing couldn’t be better — this marks the beginning of National Split Pea Soup Week. Though split pea soup won’t be winning any beauty contests, it does have a certain humble, unassuming appeal that makes it one of the coziest soups for fall.

Let me leave you also with a sense of her voice and her thoughts on dinner for one which convince me Cunningham is a kindred:

Sometimes eating supper alone feels private, quiet, and blessedly liberating. You may eat anything you want; you needn’t be conventional. I like a baked potato with olive oil and coarse salt and pepper followed by vanilla ice cream, which proves to me that money doesn’t buy a good meal. One night not long ago I had freshly baked cookies and milk, and found that uplifting.

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Taking food and drink is a great enjoyment for healthy people, and those who do not enjoy eating seldom have much capacity for enjoyment of any sort.
- Charles W. Eliot