Soup #3: Watercress Soup with Crab Toasts

Phoebe:it wos dscusdeg

Jess: This was the soup I’d been waiting for, after browsing quickly through my new book on Mother’s Day. It was bright green and was supposed to be served with crab paté. I suspected the family wouldn’t be too excited about the color or the watercress—as you see above, I was right.

Fortunately I had read far enough ahead to make a shopping list, so I bought a whole chicken at King Soopers. This soup calls for a quart of chicken broth, and I didn’t think I had that much in the freezer. Tuesday night I stuck the chicken (still a bit frozen) into the crock pot I got for my wedding from Aunt Nancy’s stuffed tiger, Hermetroid. (It might be better not to ask.) I added a carrot, a stalk of celery, and half an onion. I learned somewhere along the line that you want to include the onion skin when you make chicken stock, since it helps dye the stock yellow. After 45 minutes of simmering away, some of the innards had floated out of the chicken; I hadn’t been able to get them out while it was partially frozen. I left the chicken out to cool for 20 minutes while the stock bubbled. I pulled the meat off the chicken, stored it in a Tupperware, and put the carcass back into the pot. I let it simmer for a while longer and then turned off the heat; it would cool down overnight. Wednesday morning I set aside a quart of stock and then bagged up the rest to freeze in 2-cup increments.

The recipe called for crab paté, which is obviously something people buy in little jars in England. I chose a recipe online called Karen’s Life-of-the-Party Crab Paté. Later in the week I realized that the Life of the Party was supposed to set up over several hours, so it wouldn’t work all that well to put the whole meal together Thursday night, as I’d been planning. Instead, we ordered some pizza and watched Nova. Thursday night I put together the paté, a somewhat disgusting-looking blend of cream cheese, condiments, and (in my case, not Karen’s) imitation crab flakes. You had to knead this concoction, ball it onto a plate, and let it sit while you mixed together a coating of butter, milk, and Knox gelatin. That liquid was then drizzled over the paté ball, where it immediately hardened, sort of like Smucker’s Magic Shell. Back into the fridge to sit overnight. I also baked some lemon squares, in case we had to turn to those for sustenance.

King Soopers hadn’t stocked watercress, so I’d stopped at Sprouts on Thursday to get some. (How do people make tea sandwiches?) It turned out that Sprouts actually had Upland Cress (isn’t that a Billy Joel song?), so I investigated. The Great Google said that the two were very similar, down to the fresh, peppery taste. That sounded quite good.

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The soup itself was pretty easy to make. You sauté onion and potato in butter and then simmer them in the chicken stock.

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In the meantime, you pick the watercress leaves from the stems. That part was fussy and felt like it took forever. Dave pitched in at the end, which sped it up a bit. You simmer the watercress stems in the broth and then take everything off the heat to add the watercress leaves.

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It all goes immediately into the blender to produce a vivid green broth. Mine was a more electric green than the photo in the book, which was fairly exciting, considering how shocking the photo looks.

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I poured the soup into Pyrex ramekins so we’d be able to admire it while we ate. I served the lumpy, glistening crab paté with the leftover Viva crackers from last week.

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The soup tasted exactly like chicken stock, though it had a bit more body. I didn’t get a sense of the peppery herbs. It was enlivened by salt and pepper, but not much. It was still brighter in hue than flavor. Benjamin ate two bowls and about six servings of paté. Phoebe ate an obligatory spoonful and switched to Cup-a-Soup. As far as the paté goes, while I found the mixed-in condiments and the chunks of crab tasty, the cream cheese ruined the whole thing. Dave was ambivalent, leaning slightly toward “ick.” We all agreed not to have this one again. It did make me feel terribly British!

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Soup #2: Roasted Cherry Tomato Soup with Salsa & Flatbreads

Phoebe: it was delicious. tmatow soup and solsa!

Jess: This recipe is accompanied by a photo of a tiny glass of yellowish-orange soup with a piece of bread or cracker balanced artistically on top of the glass. On top of the bread is piled a spoonful of fresh salsa. It looks fussy, like something you might be offered at a party or reception. I didn’t feel too confident about it, especially since I basically ignored the title in favor of looking suspiciously at the photo. I made the vegetable stock from scratch the night before; I do know that a good stock is the base of a good soup. It filled the house with a pungent aroma. I know we’re not that crazy about thyme, but I consistently use more than we’re really going to want. It never looks like enough!

This is another pretty quick recipe (presumably why it’s included in the “quick fixes” section. I guess I’d better gird up my loins for later on.). I was lucky to find a pint of heritage cherry tomatoes at King Soopers, but only one of the three available pints didn’t have goo in the bottom, so I bought that one and a pint of grape tomatoes. Even with a portion of a pint we already had, they didn’t equal the 1 lb 2 oz of tomatoes I was supposed to have, so I mixed in slightly less of the hot vegetable stock and tomato puree. It’s an inexact science. Once again, this recipe serves 2, so I mostly doubled it. The roasting tomatoes drizzled with balsalmic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon zest spilled into the oven, setting off the smoke detector, but they “soften[ed] in the residual heat” nicely.

Recipe frustration: Are flatbreads crackers? After looking it up, I realized that of course I’ve heard of flatbread pizza. I still couldn’t find anything like that in the grocery store.

I ended up buying Vinta 8 Grains and Seeds crackers to eat with the salsa, which turned out to be delicious. It was very simple: just chopped tomatoes, shallot, and capers. (It was supposed to be a scallion, but I didn’t buy one since I had some shallots lying around that needed to be used.)

I guess I shouldn’t admit that I was kind of surprised when, after going through the blender, this was actually just fancy tomato soup. The kids love tomato soup. Phoebe ate three servings. Benjamin was less enthusiastic (partly because it’s still hard for him to eat soup with a spoon, and I forgot to serve it in a little cup), so he mostly ate bread and jelly. Dave liked it, and I loved the summery tomato flavor. I didn’t mind the seeds, but I could’ve done without the little shreds of tomato skin. I ate almost all the salsa by myself. There were no leftovers!

Soup left in the blender after being portioned out for dinner.

Soup left in the blender after being portioned out for dinner.

Towel covering the smoke detector.

Towel covering the smoke detector.

Soup #1: Caldo Verde

Phoebe:  I  thenk  It kode uos a lattle more flavred broth. acsapd that its dleshes.

Jess: This soup features kale, potatoes, and Spanish chorizo. I had to ask The Great Google where to find Spanish chorizo; I should’ve known I could get it at Whole Foods. We postponed our first attempt on Friday night when we realized it was the first Art Night Out of the season; we ate food truck hot dogs instead while listening to a band in Lafayette’s festival square. This wasn’t a particularly difficult soup to prepare; of course you could use boxed chicken stock, but I was lucky to have homemade stock in the freezer. The recipe said it serves 2, so I doubled it, except that I’d bought only one leek. I also couldn’t find tomato puree at the store, so I followed some Internet instructions to create it using 2 Tablespoons tomato paste to 1 cup of water. (The recipe only calls for 1/2 Tablespoon tomato puree.) It smelled good right away from the onions and garlic cooking gently in butter and olive oil. By dinnertime, the house smelled like frying chorizo. The soup turned out to be even better than I expected. It was full of complex flavors, and despite what Phoebe says above, I thought the watery broth held its own. The chorizo added some welcome saltiness, and the potatoes gave it some substance. Even Dave, who doesn’t like kale and would’ve liked it chopped up even finer, said he’d eat this again. Benjamin eats everything in great quantities right now, and he asked for a second bowl.

I’m such a novice at this food blogging stuff, I forgot to take photos of our home cooking. You’ll have to wait until next time for a visual.

Our Project

For Mother’s Day, the kids got me a new cookbook: Magic Soup: 100 Recipes for Health and Happiness, by Nicole Pisani and Kate Adams. We cooked up the idea of trying one soup per week and blogging about it. After some discussion, we decided to make the soups in order, not counting the five stocks at the beginning. We hope you enjoy reading about our experiment as much as we’ll enjoy eating it!