Tag Archives: olive oil

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 #8: Chana Masala

Jess: This won’t be my last apology on this website, I’m sure, but it’s deeply felt. Once again, I’m two weeks late writing these posts (numbers 8 and 9), and I completely forgot to take photos as I cooked. So you’re stuck with what would be my long-windedness, except that both these soups were pretty darn quick and easy.

We eat chana masala (an Indian dish made with chickpeas in a thick tomato sauce) pretty frequently, and Dave loves it, so he was excited for this “soup.” Basically, you cook onion in oil until it softens and then add spices. Then you add the chickpeas and the sauce ingredients; this recipe uses coconut milk and tomato puree, so it’s quite rich. After two recipes for which I manufactured tomato puree, I finally stumbled on it in the grocery store. They only had one name-brand variety, but expense is no barrier for this project, as you can tell from my wanton online ordering of Middle Eastern spices. After almost boiling the chickpea mixture, you simmer it for 30 minutes. I was actually able to find all the ingredients for this recipe, and there were no frustrations. Because we frequently cook Indian food, most of the ingredients are staples at our house. This recipe is quick, easy, and delicious. It’s served with spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, which works well with the thick sauce.

Dave said he prefers our usual recipe, although he liked this one, and I liked it better than the usual. I’m the one who eats leftovers for lunch, so I’m the one lucky to report that it’s even better after marinating in the fridge for two days—like most other Indian dishes I’ve cooked. Skip the yogurt, and this is easily made vegan.

Soup #7: Drop an Egg

Jess: Again, no photos. But you could almost make this again for the sole purpose of adding them. It’s the easiest one yet!

This time, the recipe frustration came right at the beginning. “Remove the tough stalks from the mushrooms, finely slice them, then mix them with the olive oil in a large bowl.” So…is that the mushroom caps or the stalks you’re supposed to slice? I opted for the caps, figuring it didn’t make much sense to buy a bunch of mushrooms and then use the parts called “tough” in the recipe. Language specificity, please!

Roast mushrooms. Make a stock, ginger, and tamari broth with mushrooms. Drop in scrambled eggs so they turn into threads. Serve over scallions.

This was fast, tasty, and worth eating again. Dave has been such a good sport about this project—he doesn’t eat mushrooms, but when I offered to make the weekly soup on the night he’s golfing, he said he wanted to remain part of the experiment. Phoebe threw a little fit about it on the way home from daycare, so she’d already decided not to like it. Benjamin asked for thirds!

I served this with bread and olive oil with dukkah for dipping. We’ve got most of a bag of dukkah on our hands! It’s quite good that way, as the Internet suggested it would be.

I just noticed there’s a section in the cookbook called “feasts,” so I’m going to keep enjoying preparing the “quick fixes.”

Soup #5: Zucchini & Za’atar

Jess: I forgot to take photos of this soup, and we ate it a long time ago, so this will be a bare-bones review. Which is fine, because this one is easy and yummy. Phoebe has basically decided not to like anything new, so she fussed, but Benjamin and I had seconds. Dave found it so-so. Although soup tends to be healthy, eating the dregs out of everyone else’s bowls probably isn’t!

This is really so simple. You cut up zucchini, cook the pieces in oil, add za’atar, and soften the zucchini in broth. In the meantime, you fry panko with salt and lemon thyme. This cookbook basically requires you to have Stan Hewett’s herb garden (that’s a reference to a beloved old Ohio mansion), so of course I couldn’t find lemon thyme. I used regular thyme and remembered—again—that I only like it in very small quantities.

And what’s za’atar, you say? According to Magic Soup, “An herb that grows in the Syrian-Lebanese mountains, sometimes called wild thyme in English, since it has a thyme-like flavor. It’s also a Middle Eastern spice blend, often made with wild thyme, olive oil, toasted sesame seeds, and sumac.” I was certain that a friend of ours had mentioned that Whole Foods had been promoting their A–Z spice selection and asked if we had heard of za’atar, so I drove from work at lunchtime to the Whole Foods in Superior. No luck. The very helpful help desk lady said I should go to the Middle Eastern store in Boulder, but I didn’t feel like making another trip out of it, so I ordered it on Amazon.

The soup was chunky and vegetable-y, and the fried panko added a delightful crunch.

Realizing that I hadn’t taken any photos of the soup as I made it, I took a photo of the frozen block of leftovers.

CIMG2078

Soup #4: Greens and Grains

phoebe it was disgusting because. the barley taste disgusting .the barley looks disgusting. the barley feels disgusting.

Jess: This soup looks nothing like soup; it’s more like a fancy salad. When I looked over the recipe ahead of making it on Thursday, I was pleased to discover that we already had almost all the ingredients. I’d need another bag of barley, since I was doubling the recipe (serves 2), and I’d get a few more “flaked” almonds in case ours were too old. We’re fortunate to be participating in the Sanchez community garden, where the spinach is bright green and bushy. We can take as much as we need, and you can’t even tell it’s been harvested.

Hot chicken stock and a cup of pearled barley.

Hot chicken stock and a cup of pearled barley.

Shredded spinach and tahini mixture.

Shredded spinach and tahini mixture.

This is a truly simple recipe to prepare, although we were all hard-pressed to call it soup. It didn’t have any broth! You toast the quinoa and cook it with the farro (alternatively pearl barley or freekeh) in stock and then use the rest of the ingredients for topping.

Simmering barley.

Simmering barley.

A few recipe frustrations:

1. The written recipe says that the farro will take about 10 minutes to cook if it’s semipearled. I chose barley instead of farro (as allowed in the recipe) because I already had some and because it was 4 times as cheap to buy a little bit more. However, when I looked at the package, I discovered it was going to take 45 minutes to cook. It would’ve been helpful to mention that in the recipe more specifically than “check the package directions, as cooking times vary.”

2. After the grains are cooked, the recipe says to “turn off the heat, add the kale and leave it to sit until wilted…. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the kale and tahini sauce…” I spent quite a while deciding if I was supposed to scoop the spinach (an approved substitute for kale, and free from the garden) off the top or do some magic to get the grains into the bowl with the spinach somehow on top. A quick “remove the wilted spinach to a bowl” would’ve helped.

3. It’s not the right season for pomegranates. However, while trying to figure out if I could get them anyway, I learned that the seeds are called arils. Cool.

I set out bowls of shaved almonds, the tahini paste, craisins (to substitute for pomegranate arils), and the wilted spinach. I didn’t bother trying to find/buy red amaranth or purple shiso, even though they look lovely in the photo. They were listed as optional.

The consistency of the barley was just wonderful, dense and toothy. I skipped the craisins (I don’t like to mix sweet and savory), but the nuts, spinach, and tahini were all delicious. The nuts added even more crunch, and the spinach added a fresh, vegetable-y taste. The tahini was surprisingly bitter, but a few grinds of sea salt helped immensely. Dave pronounced it our second-best recipe so far. Benjamin ate three bowls (he particularly loved the spinach). You can see Phoebe’s judicious and balanced take above. (I swear we’ll find one she likes!)

Notes:

I listed this as both “soup with meat” and “vegan” because I used chicken stock instead of vegetable. That simple substitution will quickly make this vegan.

To write her comment, Phoebe learned to use the copy/paste function. Even if she never eats Greens and Grains again, she’ll be using copy/paste her whole life.

In related soup news, I had a scoop of leftover barley in the middle of leftover watercress soup for lunch today. It was, frankly, wonderful! The soup had matured from its previous watery, brothy flavor to the slightly peppery herbal flavor it’s clearly supposed to have. Adding the barley gave it some consistency. I’m glad I have one more serving of each left for tomorrow.

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.