Soup

Battle Inflammation: Carrot Ginger Soup

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

Advertisements

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, major fatigue, sensory overload, 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

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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!

Ingredients:

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.

Sofrito Bean Soup – a Burwell General Store Recipe Swap

Sofrito Bean Soup

It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog.

Freelancing can be awesome – no crushing subway commute, the ability to cook my meals three times a day, and relative quiet to work in that my uptown neighborhood gives me.

But it also means constantly scrambling for work, juggling many projects at once and sometimes a feeling of isolation. Topping it off with a body that requires more time than I sometimes feel I have to give it, and the days start to run together without relief.

I admit to being a bit stressed, bloggereaders. But still content, overall.

Because there are days like today, when work and words and food and people come together.  It’s recipe swap time again, and the Burwell General Store swap was the first I joined, over a year ago now. Through it I’ve met and befriended some incredibly talented people, and joining monthly with our shared love of food has been one of my favorite things about this lil ol site.

This is this swap’s recipe:

I had been daydreaming making a condiment using this recipe as a base, but then a new book fell into my hands, Chef Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food. It comes out next week, and I was to review it for one client and interview Chef Mullen for my column on Serious Eats NY. The review fell through today, contributing to the slight melancholia. But I’m particularly psyched about interviewing Chef Mullen tomorrow because his beautiful book on primarily Spanish cuisine is based around the foods he, as someone living with rheumatoid arthritis, tries to incorporate into his diet as much as possible for optimum health.

I’m getting tested for RA soon, because while many things about my health are right back on track, I’m still losing cartilage in my joints and my white blood cell count is usually a bit higher than average. I’m not too concerned by what the diagnosis or lack of diagnosis will mean – I regulate what’s going on in my body rather tightly and am generally feeling in a good space. But I don’t want my knees and back to keep disintegrating, and want to continue to use my food as medicine. So the timing of this book in my life was, well, sweet.

I’m also generally trying to cut back on the pastry a tad, because I’m still very hypoglycemic and need to keep that in check. So, in continuing my desire for more balance in my life, I wanted to shy away from adding that much sugar to something savory.

The compromise for this swap was to use a tomato reduction as the base / condiment to something nourishing and fortifying, using some of what I’ve been reading in Hero Food as inspiration and the swap recipe as the core. The result is a dish that’s incredibly dynamic in flavor, emotionally comforting, and packed with little heroes to keep body and mind strong.

I highly recommend this recipe, both the sofrito to have on hand as a base for a braise or soup, and this soup in its entirety. And I recommend grabbing Chef Mullen’s book as soon as it comes out on the 24th: it’s not written like a “health book”. It’s an incredible collection of techniques and recipes from a seasoned chef that also happens to also fill you in on the health benefits of the heroic foods included. My interview with him will be up on Serious Eats NY that day.

And I recommend checking out the recipes from my fellow swappers by clicking on the little blue frog below. Knowing that there are such beautiful people out there is quite fortifying too.

– Happy swapping, Jacqueline xoxo

Small Lima beans, sofrito, greens, olive oil, pepper and sausage.

Sofrito Bean Soup

Sofrito is an incredibly rich reduction of onions, tomato, bell peppers and garlic, simmered to bring out the vegetables’ dynamic sweetness. You can make up a batch as a basis for soups, stocks, risottos… endless possibilities. I didn’t have as many onions on hand as is usual, but I wanted my base to be more focused on the tomato anyway, in keeping up with the spirit of the swap. Whip up a batch for the soup recipe, or just to freeze in small batches for added flavor to an abundant variety of dishes.

The more time the flavors have to meld with this soup, the better. Let it sit overnight when possible.

Sofrito

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large onions, finely chopped (I used 3 Vidalia and one Spanish yellow)
  • 4 vine tomatoes, grated into a pulp (basically cut the tomatoes width-wise in half, then use a box grater to puree the pulp out of them, leaving the skins aside)
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted (I chop the bottom of the bulb off, then lay it cut side down in a ramekin of about 1 tbsp olive oil, then let it cook in the oven as I’m roasting vegetables or baking or something. It packs ridiculous flavor into recipes and I generally like to have it on hand. If you don’t, then just finely mince about 6-8 cloves of garlic)
  • 2 large bell peppers, finely chopped (I used one red and one orange)
  • a glug of white wine vinegar (about 2 Tbsp, red wine or cider would work too)
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes or preferred chili pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste

Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat. Bring the oil up to temperature and add the onions, sauteing gently until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add the onion, grated tomato pulp, garlic and pepper, and cook on medium heat partially covered for at least two hours. During that time, stir occasionally and add salt, pepper and chili / red pepper flakes as desired.  When ready to use, stir in tomato paste and cook for 20 minutes more. Freeze in batches or use in the Sofrito Bean Soup, below.

Sofrito Bean Soup

I love using a pressure cooker for how much flavor get seeped into things like beans. I got mine at a Portuguese cooking supply store, but they’re pretty easy to find and wonderfully inexpensive. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, combine the ingredients in the same order below, just simmer on the stove until tender.

  • 2 cups dried lima beans, soaked very well for at least 24 hours and rinsed
  • 2 cups chicken or clear vegetable stock
  • 1 small Abruzzese sausage or chorico (about 4oz), sliced into thin rounds
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup sofrito
  • 1 handful greens (kale, mustard, or even a salad green like arugula)
  • Olive oil and red pepper flakes to taste

In a pressure cooker combine beans, stock, 1/2 of the sliced sausage and garlic cloves. Fit lid, and heat on high until it whistles. Lower to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes. Reduce pressure (either by releasing the steam valve or letting it come down naturally) and check on the beans; there should still be a little liquid left, but the beans should be incredibly soft. If they’re not, bring back up to heat and have another go for 10 or so minutes.

When soft and creamy, stir in the sofrito, combining gently. The beans should break down a bit and thicken the soup. Set the heat onto a simmer, and stir in the remaining sausage and greens, cooking for a few minutes just until they wilt.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of crushed red pepper.

Green and Garlic Soup (Vegan and quite scrumptious)

Green Soup - Kale, Chard, Sweet Potato

I don’t diet.  I probably should, sometimes, but I hate any negative relationship with food, having grown up in a culture and country that over-indulges and then punishes itself on a rotating basis.  And as I’ve had complications with my digestion because of Lyme Disease from the itty bitty age of 12, I embrace what foods I can eat and try to celebrate them as wholly, fully and naturally as possible.

So with the abundance of sweet things in my kitchen comes a love for incredibly clean, simple foods that are fortifying and cleansing.

Hence green soup now and then.

I love this soup.  I love soup in general, but one of my favorite things about the glory of vegetables and a hand mixer is just throwing stuff together and seeing what comes up.

So, here it is, one of my favorite staples in the particularly cold months.   I served this ladeled over millet and enjoyed with a hot mug of gyokuro, one of my favorite green teas.

Green and Garlic Soup

Ingredients:

Equipment: a hand blender.  If you don’t have one, get one.  Really. Worth it.

  • 2 Tbsp (large swirl) olive oil
  • 1 large vidalia or sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, pressed and roughly chopped
  • 2 yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
  • 2 cups water or broth (more if you need later)
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of kale, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of green chard, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, rinsed and chopped
  • 3 Tbsp vinegar (apple cider, red or white wine)

Directions:

  • In a 5-quart heavy pot, bring olive oil to medium heat.  Reduce to low and cook garlic and onion until soft, about 6 minutes.
  • Add  yams water/broth and salt and pepper and bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the yams are slightly soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the kale, chard, parsley and vinegar and cook until all vegetables are soft.
  • Blend with a hand mixer until smooth (or pour progressively into a blender, being extremely careful when blending as the heat might make the top pop off!).  Add more vinegar and spices as desired.

Chicken Coconut Soup

Chicken Coconut Soup

It’s warm in NYC today, but the boyfriend and I are a bit under the weather.  So we need a soup that’s light but also complex in flavor and filling to our Day-4-cold bodies, and I need something that’s extremely easy to make.  Enter Chicken Coconut Soup.  The boyfriend doesn’t eat much meat (sniff), so he often requests chicken when asked what I should make for dinner.  Conveniently I had some boneless thighs in the fridge and a can of coconut milk and coconut cream as well as a bunch of leftover lemons.  A container of mushrooms, some green onions and some fresh basil – voila!  This is an extremely affordable soup that – when served over rice – can comfortably feed four hungry bellies.  Weakened condition optional.

Since I have a bit of baking to do and know my energy waxes and wanes on its own schedule when I’m sick, I’m preparing the soup early, then I’ll let it sit in the fridge and the flavors meld.  Tonight I’ll cook up some jasmine rice, bring the soup up to temp and we’ll be good to go.

I decided to poach the chicken as my new best friend Jacques Pépin learned from his buddy Danny Kaye (who I love, sigh).  I also added oyster mushrooms to this recipe out of inspiration from Jacques.  If you want to learn tricks of the trade, read chef memoirs.  And they’re just so much fun!

Ingredients:

  • About 1 – 1 1/2 pound chicken.  I used boneless thighs to give the soup a bit more fat and flavor, but breasts work as well.
  • 2 whole lemons
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 3/4 can coconut cream (NOT cream of coconut).  If you can’t find this, just use 3 cans of coconut milk in lieu of as much water.
  • 1 bunch of green onions, tough greens removed, chopped.
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • About 3 oz mushrooms (optional).  I used oyster mushrooms, but any delicate mushroom will do.

Directions:

  • Spread chicken in a (preferably cast-iron) soup or stock pot.  Add coconut milk and enough water to cover chicken by 1/2 inch.  If you’re not using coconut cream as well, use 2 more cans coconut milk and add water to top.
  • Add salt, peppercorns and 1/2 of the chopped green onions.
  • Turn on heat and start to bring liquid up to a boil.
  • While the pot heats up, juice one lemon and add to the broth.  Take the other lemon and slice into 1/2 inch rounds, then dice.  Add to soup in entirety.
  • When the liquid is at a strong boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.  This should poach the chicken to a perfect level.
  • After fifteen minutes, remove chicken and check to see that it’s done.  If not, return to pot.  If so, remove all chicken and allow to cool.
  • Meanwhile, whisk in enough coconut cream to thicken the broth a bit and enhance the flavor.  I added about 1/4 cup at a time, and my perfect level was 3/4 of the can.
  • Add almost the rest of the green onions.
  • Chop 3/4 of the mushrooms and add.
  • Reserve remaining green onions, mushrooms and lemon rind.
  • When the chicken is lukewarm, shred it with your hands along the “grain” of the meat (much easier than cutting, promise) and return to pot.  Bring back up to a simmer and serve immediately or cover and put in fridge until ready to eat.
  • Garnish with remaining green onions, mushrooms and lemon rind.

Serving suggestion: try it over some rice noodles or jasmine rice.  Adding a bit of crushed red pepper would also be delightful.

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup

It has come – that time in February when my body just won’t let my brain ignore it.  As anyone with a chronic illness can attest, there are some times of the year that you go into bracing yourself, no matter the positive attitude you live by nor the years of knowledge you’ve accumulated to date.  That time for me is now, when my body screams “hibernate!”

Lily and I backstage for FALL OF HEAVEN

Last year at this time I was in Cincinnati, Ohio working at the Cincinnati Playhouse on the premiere of Walter Mosely’s FALL OF HEAVEN, directed by the incomparable Marion McClinton and featuring a cast of some of the loveliest people I have had the privilege to work with.  I did stage-crew for this show, meaning every night at about 10 minutes to curtain I threw on what we called “The Liza Minnelli Choir for the God of Smurfs” costume.  Or some variation on that combination of ideas.  The pants were puffy and brown, covered in glitter.  Over that was a soft, sky-blue choir robe, hemmed above the knee, with bell sleeves and a darker blue hood, also covered in glitter.  Very comfy and warm!  My partner Lily and I would do one onstage costume-change with an actor, then spent the rest of the show moving set pieces, holding curtains during entrances / exits and sitting behind the scrim reading books and drinking tea, our blackberries on the table in front of us.  I haven’t done crew for a show in years, but didn’t mind it one bit.  In fact, I had a whole 25 minutes in the first act when I’d go to my dressing room and either nap under my dressing table or watch 90210 on my computer (the original, on DVD, courtesy of Lily).

Why relay these (somewhat shameful) tales?  Because being part of this company gave me a whole new group of people to meet and adore.  And to bake for.  It was cold in Cincinnati, horribly cold.  So only rarely would we go out after shows for a drink, as was the norm with other casts.  I was only working on this show, whereas throughout the rest of the year I’d be memorizing lines for one show while rehearsing or performing in another.  So I had my days free to huddle in bed, my space heater nearby, and, well, hibernate.

Along with black bean brownies and cinnamon pan bars, I made a lot of soup during this time.  I needed to get nutrients without much food, because when I’m run down my body doesn’t seem to want to eat.  So this soup recipe, now lovingly titled “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup”, was the perfect answer to this need.  It contains edamame for protein, peas for vitamins, a good veggie stock for all things that are good, and seaweed for nutrients.  It’s both light and filling.  And I utilized the amazing frozen vegetable and stock selection that my neighborhood Kroger was stellar in supplying, so there was no chopping or lengthy simmering.  And this soup is simple enough that it can be sipped from a mug, backstage, with footlights blaring while you read Julia Child’s memoirs and an audience sits enthralled on the other side of a scrim.

Enjoy.

Clear Day Soup

In a large, cast iron pot combine:

  • 1 pint good, clear vegetable stock
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup frozen edamame (shelled, obviously)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 Tbsp. wakame seaweed
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Bring up to a boil, then turn to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the edamame is soft.  Season with black pepper to taste.  I poured this over rice noodles for a heartier version.

Vegan Barbecue Soup

I think I’m coming down with something.  My body’s hot, my brain is cloudy, and I have a certain feeling of existential bewilderment that usually comes before a cold / flu / general feeling of nastiness.  I shake my fist to the universe – “what’s the point of anything?  Why should I cook?  Why wake up early for an audition tomorrow?  Who really cares?!?!”

Then I cook myself some soup, staple my resume to my headshot, and grab my computer.  As Sam the Eagle of the Muppet persuasion says, “It is the American way”.

Now this picture does NOT justify the deliciousness of this soup.  It’s adapted from the recipe Lemon and Lima Bean Soup I got from Bloodroot restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut – a vegetarian joint that’s been around since the 70s and serves up some of the most scrumptious, natural food I’ve ever had in a wonderfully women-centric environment.  I tend to use a bit more liquid and seasonings and a dash of something more to get the flavor I want, but their original recipe and cookbooks are highly recommended.

The first time I had this soup I was BLOWN away and ate up two servings of it with gusto.  So I HAD to buy the book, and have often made this soup when feeling a bit run down but wanting something more substantial than my ol’ veggie medley soup.

Have fun with the amount of flavors.  I like to call it Barbecue soup because the combination of tamari and tomato paste tastes like the best part of a bbq to my happy tastebuds.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of baby dry baby lima beans, picked through
  • 2 large red onions, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Marsala wine
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more to taste
  • 4 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) (optional)
  • roasted walnuts (optional)

Directions

  • Soak the lima beans overnight or for at least 6 hours.  Drain and rinse thoroughly, then place in a large (preferably cast iron) pot and cover with water at least 3 inches higher than beans.  Add about 2 tsp salt.  Bring up to a boil, low to medium heat and cook until soft, about 2 hours.
  • After the beans have been cooking for about an hour, heat oil in a large skillet and cook onions and garlic on low until soft, about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Season onions with salt and pepper, add Marsala wine.
  • When beans are soft, remove about 1/3 into saucepan.
  • With a hand blender, blend the remaining beans with their broth until smooth.
  • Add onion / garlic mix with beans into large pot, add tamari, lemon juice and tomato paste.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and olive oil or ghee if desired.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Serve with swirls of olive oil and toasted walnuts.

Makes four servings.

%d bloggers like this: