Soup

Battle Inflammation: Carrot Ginger Soup and Little Bits of Good!

There are many little bits of good out there in the world.

Let’s make sure we keep celebrating them!

Today I’m very lucky to be featured on my friend Kelly’s blog, Little Bits of Good. There she’s counting her blessings with fellow “Celebrationists”, looking for the good things in life to focus on and “lifting up the amazing humans who are making the world a brighter place to play”. I’m honored she considers me to be one of those people, and I spent two lovely hours working on her interview, which focuses on my living with Lyme and the things I do to make life rewarding and so beautiful despite the many hiccups a chronic illness puts in one’s way.

It was both really emotional and really empowering to write, and the best start to a long writing day a gal could ask for. Head on over there for my favorite super-foods, the habits I’ve built that keep me focused on good things, and stories from some really special people who have turned their struggles into superpowers, and whose stories have lifted me up and inspired me weekly!! Continue reading

Rhode Island Clam Chowder – Dairy Free

Clam Chowder2

There’s a clam chowder made at a restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, that I start to think about a tad too much this time of year.

It’s cold and rainy in New York City but lacking the joy of fluffy snow that makes all the mushy street corners and sopping subway cars worth the mess. I’m dreaming of soup.

This time of year, along with the slush, I get Robert Frost poems stuck in my head (often sung by a madrigal choir) and daydream about the cookies I don’t have enough time to make (I think my neighbors are getting “Happy New Year” cookies this time around). I drag my computer to the living room so I can look at this while I work:

My roommate's cat under our tree.

My roommate’s cat under our tree.

Snow and cookies and Robert Frost and wrapping presents may have to wait, but this soup I just couldn’t shake.

I’ve always been a fan of the lesser known Rhode Island version of clam chowder. The Manhattan version is too tomato-y and rather flat-tasting for my likes. And the New England take is obviously loaded in dairy, which I can’t eat. So when I stumbled into that restaurant in CT one day with a friend and found a variation that not only was allergy-friendly but that tasted just what I want a seafood soup to be, I was hooked. Now I make excuses to stop in there when I go see my family this time of year, and I often buy it by the 2-lb jug. Which is quite silly because, as you can see here, it’s incredibly easy to make myself.

Yesterday was a quiet private chef-fing day, and I wanted to provide something nourishing for my lady-boss, who’s a bit under the weather. There were already a few pureed soups in the fridge, but she needed something with a bit more sustenance. She loves veggies and corn and seafood, so it was the perfect combo to hit the spot.

This is an incredibly easy, quick, flavorful soup to make. In the minimal growing season you can completely get by with high-quality canned clams and corn. You don’t have to peel the potatoes. It only takes a few sprigs of thyme to get some amazing flavors outta it. You don’t even need butter! There are measurements here, of course, but you can eyeball things and taste as you go. Easy peasy.

Soon I’ll get to slow down, wrap those presents, make those cookies, and spend a day watching the Christmas movies I just bought to round out my collection. Until then, I’ll relish in the quiet moments at work where I get to make someone feel just a tiny bit better with a big mug of soup.

It’s the week before Christmas. I hope you’re not sweating the small stuff, that you’re relishing in the happy things you get to do, and that with the coming holidays you get to rest and recharge.

Happy Monday,

- Jacqueline

Clam Chowder1

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 small red potatoes, diced small
1 15-oz can corn, with juice
3 6.5-oz cans clams, with juice
1 cup clam juice or fish broth
2 Tbsp chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until almost brown, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, celery and remaining olive oil and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the potatoes, corn, clams, clam juice/broth and thyme. Fill with enough water to cover, and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to a simmer, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Onion and Thyme Soup and Living with Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection. I got it when I was around 12 years old. We don’t exactly know when I got it, because it was months after I started feeling ill that we got a diagnosis. This was in the early nineties, when Lyme’s existence in the medical field was only about 20 years old and not nearly as quantifiable as it is today (though many aspects of it are still incredibly difficult and under-researched). I’ve had serious flares 3 times (meaning periods when I’ve been so ill I’ve been unable to work and merely “waited” out courses of antibiotics and immune building until my list of symptoms abated). During my “recessive” periods, I still battle digestive issues, joint pain, feelings of paralysis on one side of my face, sleep problems… symptoms that come and go and can be light or severe, depending on many factors.

Since my last serious flare, which ended around 3 years ago, I’ve had a good run.

But now things are changing again, I can feel it. And it’s scary. My body hurts, on a daily basis. Lights seem harsher, sounds seem louder, the world seems to be pulsing at a higher speed.

I can feel my body screaming, “stop, pause, rest, be still. And I’m trying to slow it down. But when you have a day-job that pays so well you can actually see yourself clearing up that medical debt (I’m definitely pro Obamacare) and writing work that is soclose to being enough to sustain you financially, it’s hard to know what to give up. I work in a kitchen. I interview chefs for a weekly column. I review food events. I’ve got a crazy/awesome month of giveaways and features set for the Easy Eats blog. I go to CT to help out in my family office. I (attempt to) keep this blog going because I enjoy it. I love what I get to do. But once again I’m worried that my body can’t keep up with the “if you can make it there…” pace in the city I love so much.

This post may seem gratuitous the week of Thanksgiving, but it’s because of giving thanks and the joy of the holidays (that I adore and which give me so much inspiration) that I wanted to express this. This blog was inspired by my history with Lyme, but the past few years my symptoms have been a regular but manageable part of my life, so Lyme’s presence here has been relatively absent. Now it’s taking a bit more of my thoughts. I am so thankful for my health, especially for my ability to walk from A to B after not having been able to during my first bout as a child. But there are so many symptoms and ins-and-outs of living for so long with an intricate, changeable and painful illness. I want people to talk with about it. Because when we talk we process, and share ways to help, and ways to move forward.

Saturday I spent 7 beautiful hours talking through things with a good friend with Crohn’s. Yesterday I got a wonderful/heartbreaking email from someone reaching out about her 19-year old son dealing with his third year of Lyme. It’s important that those of us with chronic but not overtly visible illnesses have people to talk with. So please, if you know someone with Lyme, R.A., Crohn’s or similar immune illnesses and they need an ear, send em my way.

This soup I made at work a few weeks ago, in love with the idea of making something simple and warming with only a few ingredients. It’s incredibly basic: yellow onions, chicken broth, garlic, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. I love it. I made it at home again recently as it doesn’t threaten the stomach and got my body warm again, inside and out.

Stay warm, and thankful.

Thanks for reading,

- Jacqueline

Onion and Thyme Soup

Feeds 4-6

The key to this soup is slicing the onions into thin strips and cooking them low and slow until they practically melt. Then just fill with broth and season with some fresh thyme and salt and pepper!

3 large yellow or Spanish onions
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock or broth, or more to desired liquid level
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
Cut the onions into quarters and then thinly slice.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and toss to coat. Add around 1 tsp salt, garlic and thyme, a toss to coat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook until soft (stirring occasionally), about 30 minutes or more, until they practically melt with pressure from a spatula.

Fill with broth until it just covers the onions. Bring up to a simmer and simmer around 30 minutes, until the onions have softened into the soup completely. Taste and season with salt, pepper and more thyme as desired.

Carrot Soup with Tarragon, Ginger and Toasted Pepitas: Private Chef-ing By the Book with Seamus Mullen

Funny story:

Last April I was soaking my arthritic bones in a deep bath full of Epsom salts and essential oils, melting away the wet of Spring, with Seamus Mullen’s soon-to-be-released Hero Food cookbook. I was interviewing Chef Mullen for my column on Serious Eats NY, and the book had been messengered over for my research. As I flipped through the intro, I was flabbergasted: Seamus has rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic immune disease that manifests with symptoms and patterns similar to my own with Lyme. I jumped out of the tub, threw on a robe and, dripping, held the book up to my roommate, with a “you’ll never guess what this cookbook is about!!”

Which was an unfair proclamation.

Because while, indeed, Chef Mullen battles RA, the book isn’t about that. It’s about delicious food that also happens to be good for you.

When I was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease at 12 years old, massive amounts of antibiotics weren’t cutting it. I couldn’t walk for a long period, I couldn’t eat, I attended school sporadically when I could, and in general my brain and body were in Lala land seemingly without end. It wasn’t until my mom found a nutritionist who put me on a strict diet, lots of supplements and IV vitamin drips that my immune system got so strong that my symptoms went away – relatively speaking – even though the Lyme did not.

Growing up with Lyme – including dealing with two serious flairs again in adulthood – taught me a lot about food. There were many I had to avoid – some incredibly strictly during certain periods but in moderation in others – and some that to this day I can’t touch. But there were also some that I needed to load my diet with so that my digestive tract, immune system and joints had a bit of extra help.

Seamus calls them hero foods.

Two decades later, I’m a private chef in a household with no dietary restrictions. Actually, I call myself a “private cook”, because a chef I am not. I am adept at making delicious things and, yes, can cook without guidance. But for inspiration and to widen my skill-set I often take advantage of my job and bring favorite books I want to explore to work with me. And as my blogging time has been diminished by my cooking, interviewing and event-covering time, I figured I should let my professions overlap when possible.

Hence this new series, “Private Chef-ing By the Book”.

It’s fitting that I’m starting with Hero Food because this time of year I’m back in the tub often. My job is physical, and I have to medicate, soak and sleep more often to battle the pain it brings my joints. 

Just reading through Mullen’s Spanish-based recipes brings me comfort; not only do I love the ingredients he focuses on (olive oil, almonds, anchovies, good eggs, good birds, parsley etc.), but reminding myself why they’re healing for me helps me connect more intimately with them, reminding me to give them more attention when I’m frantically cooking in someone’s kitchen.

In Hero Foods this carrot soup is made to celebrate summer, with gorgeous fresh carrots and a splash of citrus. But since it’s chilly and damp in NYC I’ve made a few tiny adjustments. In the original recipe Chef Mullen blanches the carrots: I’ve chosen to roast them. He tops his with yogurt: for my boss-family I stirred some creme fraiche in instead, and for my holiday dinner-party I’ll serve it with tangy goat yogurt so I can enjoy it too. And because it’s autumn now in New York City, I toasted some pepitas and tossed them in cinnamon and a pinch of sugar to sweeten the deal a bit. I adjusted some ingredients a tad and served the soup hot rather than chilled.

This soup is delicious. I’d never thought to add orange juice or zest to a carrot or squash soup, and it brightens and enlivens the rooty vegetables. Streaming in olive oil at the end emulsified it to a smooth cream. And not using chicken stock – which is my go-to for adding flavor and depth – really let the carrots remain the star and the gentle garlic, ginger and tumeric do the flavoring. And while I love tarragon and use it often, serving it on top rather than blending it in as I usually do helps it stand out rather than meld with a pluthera of equally-amazing flavors.

I’ve cooked from Chef Mullen’s book a few times already. And on top of the deep flavors I’ve created, it’s given me mindful time in the kitchen with ingredients that should be constantly in my rotation. Soon I’ll be pickling mushrooms to add to my cheese plate and pan-roasting Brussels sprouts with some (Portuguese… sorry Mullen) chorico for Thanksgiving. At work next week I’m going to make his tender lamb meatballs in a gentle tomato sauce and ricotta. And when the weather warms up again, I’m going to utilize the grill in my boss-family’s summer home to do more smoking, which I can’t do in my tiny NYC apartment.

But, until then…

There’s Hero Soup.

Stay warm and dry, East Coasters,

- Jacqueline

** Note: Chef Mullen is also the owner of Tertulia, in NYC. I took my friend Nikk – the chef whose job I took on – for his going away / birthday dinner. It’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and is one of my favorite restaurants around. If you love flavor-packed food, salty fish, cured meats, incredible cheeses, bright vegetables and potent wine, go there soon. If you don’t… um…

Carrot Soup with Tarragon, Ginger and Toasted Pepitas

Based on Seamus Mullen’s Chilled Carrot Soup with Yogurt and Tarragon from Hero Food.
Serves 4-6 depending on serving sizes

Ingredients:

2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 cup olive oil (the book specified Arebquina, which happens to be what I had on hand!)
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/4 tsp whole tumeric
Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
Creme fraiche, if desired, or whatever yogurt you can digest (or omit completely to make vegan)
About 4 tarragon fronds or 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped tarragon

For the Pepitas:

Note: Thanks go to Chef Anthony Ricco at The Spice Market, NYC, for this pepitas idea. He serves it on an incredible sweet butternut squash soup that I’ll be for Thanksgiving. His interview coming up in a few weeks on Serious Eats.

1/4 cup pepitas (small hulled pumpkin seeds)
1 Tbsp olive oil 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sugar, if desired

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°.

Combine carrots and about 2 Tbsp oliver oil on a large baking tray. Sprinkle with salt, cover loosely with foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, until almost steamed and completely soft, and slightly browned on bottom. Remove to cool slightly.

While the carrots are roasting, prepare the pepitas: place pepitas and olive oil in a cold skillet and place over medium/high heat. As the temperature starts to rise stir and then start tossing until they crackle, pop and expand. When they’re equally lightly browned and full in size, remove quickly to a bowl. Toss with a pinch of salt, cinnamon and sugar (if desired – you don’t need to).

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shallots, and cook to sweat, 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and toss quickly to warm and slightly sweat, about another minute more.

Place cooked carrots, shallots, garlic, vinegar, orange juice and zest, tumeric, and ginger in a blender, food processor or large pot (and use a hand blender). Start running the blender on high and slowly add warm water until you get to the “velvety” consistency you desire, about 2 cups. Reduce the speed of your blender/mixer, and stream in about 1/2-1 cup olive oil until emulsified and gorgeously smooth.

Adjust taste with salt and pepper, and add more acid from vinegar or orange if desired.

Pour into serving bowls and top with a dallop of creme fraiche / yogurt, a few fronds of tarragon, a swirl of olive oil and some toasted pepitas.

Summer of Soups – Shrimp, Corn and Crab Chowder

I’m now officially out east cooking for a family for the summer, tapping my fingers away on an iPad and hoping this post comes out alright. In the few weeks since I’ve joined the private chef field I’ve had moments both of panic / anxiety and major food triumph – my cooking skills are back to where they were before going more fully into pastry, if not better.

The family loves a rich or bright soup as their first course. So after frantically packing up their apartment, heading east, unpacking, marketing and running out repeatedly for odds and ends, I threw together this soup – start to finish – in about forty minutes. Longer simmering or letting it sit overnight would have made it even better, but it was pretty darned delicious, and a great start to cooking by the water for the summer.

Happy Friday,
Jacqueline

Shrimp, Corn and Crab Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 cans crab meat (I used one fine lump and one regular)
16 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
3 ears of corn
3 cups fish stock plus more as needed
4 Tbsp unsealed butter
1/4 cup olive oil plus more as needed
1 large red bell pepper, diced small
1 large red onion, diced small
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin with 1/2 inch of greens
5 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped fine
6 small fingerling potatoes, peeled and diced small
Salt and pepper to taste (kosher or large-flake salt and freshly cracked pepper are best)

Directions

In a soup pot, bring oil up to a low/medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add red pepper and sauté until just softening. Add crab meat and toss to combine. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Add diced potatoes and stock, bring up to a low boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are just softening.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a small sauce or fry pan. Cook shrimp in batches on medium/high heat, about 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove to a cutting board and cut in two or three pieces each.

Remove corn kernels from cobs, reserving cobs. In remaining butter, sauté corn on high heat in batches, cooking until crispy and slightly golden. Remove with melted butter to a boil.

When potatoes are softened but not yet mushy, add corn to soup. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, use the sharp edge of a knife to scrape any extra raw corn kernel remains from the cobs directly into pot,then fold in shrimp and bring up to heat for a few minutes.

* Note, that scallop was leftover from what I seared for them, and therefore the little treat that topped my tiny bowl of the chowder.

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