Tag Archives: lemon zest

Soup #13: Leek and New Potato Soup with Calçots

We’re back! We took the school year off because it was impossible to find a night on which we could regularly make a new soup. However, first grade and preschool ends for the kids on Friday, and our evenings have opened up. I turned to the bookmarked page and found “Leek and New Potato Soup with Calçots.” We actually had potato leek soup fairly recently from a vegetarian crock pot cookbook. This soup is a little different. First of all, it calls for calçots, which I’d never heard of. I read an interesting article about the Calçotada Festival in Valls, Spain, in which people grill and eat hundreds of pounds of calçots.

I, on the other hand, didn’t even call around to see if there were any calçots to be had. The cookbook said that red salad onions are a good alternative, so I bought a red onion. I had to do some further research to figure out what black onion seeds are (no relation to onions whatsoever), but once I figured out that they’re used in Indian food, I knew I could get them at Krishna Groceries down the street.

This soup wasn’t too time-consuming, actually. I chopped leeks and cooked them in butter as instructed. However, there I met my first recipe frustration: the instructions said to melt half the butter in a saucepan, add the leeks and cook for a few minutes until they soften. But it never said what to do with the other half of the butter. I read it three times, but it truly wasn’t there. I guess less butter is okay. I bought new potatoes in all different colors; it was fun to cut the purple ones in half and admire their vibrant hue. The soup came together pretty easily; the potatoes and leeks simmered in soy milk, black onion seeds, and lemon zest for a while and then got pureéd in the blender.

Chopped raw new potatoes.

Sauteeing leeks.

The recipe wanted me to cook calçot onions on the side, and there I discovered the second recipe frustration; it didn’t say how to handle the red onion I was allowed to substitute. Since it said that the calçots were going to be soft and slightly caramelized, I cut the onion into chunks and sauteéd it in olive oil until it was soft and slightly caramelized. Benjamin, who was helping me, sat on the counter and ate chunks of raw onion until his eyes got all red and puffy. He washed it down with milk.

Eating raw onions.

The soup was different from other potato soups I’ve had. It turned a greenish gray because of the different colors of potatoes, and the lemon zest came through. It was pretty bland, though the onions and some salt helped a lot. I liked it, but then I tend to like vegetables cooked any way. Dave didn’t mind it, Benjamin only ate a bite, and Phoebe wasn’t feeling well, so she skipped dinner.

Onions and apples for pie.

Finished soup.

It was a rainy, chilly evening, so I offered to make chocolate-chip cookies. No takers. But Benjamin said he wanted pie, and I happened to have enough apples, so we made an apple pie while we worked on the soup. The kitchen was a mess, but it’s so great to have hot food on a cool night. Phoebe roused herself from the couch to do the latticework on the pie.

Stirring pie dough.

Apple pie.

Soup #9: Salmon & Orzo

Jess: This soup didn’t quite come together as the recipe intended. I thought I had fennel seeds; while I like black licorice, I don’t like fennel much, and I had this memory of having a spice in the cupboard that always makes me think “ick.” So I didn’t buy any. I had to buy sumac online, and I meant to go back to Sprouts to look for baby gem lettuce, but I forgot. I forgot to stop by the community garden for fresh dill, and there was no hope for nasturtium leaves (we’re in the United States!) or pea shoots (too late in the summer).

The recipe says to spread out the fennel seeds and strips of lemon zest on an oven tray and dry-roast in the oven. After taking every spice out of the cupboard, I discovered I had fenugreek (no help at all) and anise, which the Great Google informed me wasn’t really the same thing. So I spread out about a quarter measurement of anise seeds (versus the fennel I was supposed to have) and the lemon. At the prescribed time, some of the lemon had dried almost to burning, and some was still shiny and damp. The wet zest refused to be ground in the mortar, so I ended up popping the mixture back into the oven three times to finish drying the lemon. Nothing in the recipe says whether it’s going to turn brown or not, so I had no idea if that was okay. I also had no way to keep it from turning brown, so that’s what ended up in the food: a mixture of anise seeds, ground-up dried brown lemon peel, and sumac.

Basically, you spread salmon fillets with mustard and the aforementioned spice mixture and cook them. I bought frozen fillets because they’re cheaper, and we don’t like fish well enough to splurge. (Though the kids and I do sometimes eat salmon on Dave’s golf nights.) The recipe called for leaving the salmon soft and dark pink in the middle, but we like ours the consistency of tuna, so I cooked the fillets longer than recommended.

While the salmon is cooking, you cook orzo in boiling water and then tip it into hot chicken stock. While both those things are cooking, you toss the baby gem lettuce and dill in olive oil and sea salt. When you’re ready to serve everything, you put the salmon in the orzo broth and top it all with the lettuce and nasturtium leaves. I made the little salad with baby mixed greens (I left out all the purple stuff, since gem lettuce must be green), olive oil, salt, and dried dill.

In the end, it was pretty good! I don’t cook with salt, so the broth needed lots of added salt. No one else wanted salad in their soup, but the oily, salty bitterness of the lettuce really added flavor to the soup, which was pretty bland without it. Both kids asked for seconds! Frankly, this would be a very fast meal without the fussy topping for the salmon. It was tasty, but I think you could approximate it with mustard, lemon pepper, and sumac (once you buy a whole bag of the stuff). I only tasted the anise once—I don’t know if that’s because I used so little or because it was overwhelmed by other flavors.

Something strikes me as odd about chicken soup with fish, but I’ll say it again—the oily, salty salad really complimented the soup. I’d eat this again, but I might tinker with it a bit.

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.