Soup


from Momofuku, pp. 40-41.

An eight- or nine-hour ramen broth is as likely strike you as excessive and obsessive as it did me when I first read the recipe. But I do love a good ramen broth. This looked promising. Not only did I want to make a bowl of ramen that stood a chance of comparing favorably with broth in a ramen shop, I also recognized that it was a necessary component of David Chang’s absolutely scrumptious Shrimp & Grits recipe (to follow).  This recipe’s essential virtue is umami, which, to the degree that I can describe it, is Japanese for “pretty frickin’ delicious,” as distinct from “salty,” “sweet,” or “sour.” Chang builds the broth in layers of flavor: first the konbu, then the mushrooms, followed by the chicken and then the pork bones. The result is a deep, complex broth whose flavor turned out to be less fragile and more stable than I anticipated it would be. Following Change’s advice, I reduced the final broth by half to save space in my freezer. If you boil it down, you can reconstitute it with an equal amount of water.

However, I’m going to provide here an adulterated version that no doubt you will still find excessive in the amount of time it takes. If you want the complete recipe, buy the book. It’s worth it. Here, you get a second-rate broth that is not such a big production as the full version. Smaller amount and a bit less work may lead you to make it more often. David Chang would probably spit on my efforts, but that’s ok. We need purists like him against which we measure what we do.

So, I’ll begin by cutting the quantities in half:

1 piece of konbu (the thick square seaweed that is the basis of the Japanese broth, dashi)

3 quarts water

1 cup dried shiitakes, rinsed

2 pounds chicken (bone-in breast, leg and thigh, back or rib cage with meat still attached)

3 pounds meaty pork bones

Shadowcook: If you can’t find organic pork bones, try using smoked ham hocks and skip the smoked bacon. It would be a good idea to have a butcher cut the hocks in two or three pieces, depending on their size, since you’ll be roasting them.

1/2 pound smoked bacon

Shadowcook: Towards the end of making the full version, as I tasted the broth and adjusted the seasoning, I thought the smoky flavor dominated the other subtler ingredients. I still do, although the smokiness calmed down by the time I got to straining the broth. So, be aware of how strong the smoky flavor of the bacon is.

3 or 4 scallions

half a medium onion

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)

kosher salt

1. Rinse the konbu under running water, then combine it with the water in a stockpot. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat and turn off the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.

2. Remove the konbu from the pot and add the shiitakes. Turn the heat back up to high and bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down so the liquid simmers gently. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are plumped and rehydrated and have lent the broth their color and aroma.

3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the pork bones or ham hocks on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and roast for an hour. Turn them over after 30 minutes.

4. Right after putting the pork bones in the oven, remove the mushrooms from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon. Add the chicken pieces to the pot. Keep the liquid at a gentle simmer. Skim and discard any froth, foam, or fat that rises to the surface of the broth. Replenish the water as necessary to keep the chicken covered. After about 1 hour, test the chicken: the meat should pull away from the bones easily. If it doesn’t, simmer until it does. Then remove it from the pot.

5. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the pork bones or hocks to the broth, along with the bacon (if you’re using pork bones). Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the broth at a steady simmer; skim the scum and replenish the water as needed. After 45 minutes, scoop out the bacon and discard it. Then gently simmer the pork bones for 6 to 7 hours. Stop adding water to replenish the pot after hour 5 or so.

Shadowcook: Does it need that long? I’m skeptical. But I went whole hog anyway. When I made the abbreviated version, however, I stopped after four hours. The broth was fine. Follow your tastes buds and please yourself.

6. Add the scallions, onion, and carrots to the pot and simmer for the final 45 minutes.

7. Remove the bones and vegetables. Strain the broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. At this point, either use the broth or reduce it by half to freeze. Reconstitute with equal amounts of water.

Shadowcook: At this point, Chang instructs you to finish the sauce with a bit of taré, a concentrate of salt, soy sauce, mirin and the gook that accumulates around roasted chicken backs. Sorry, I own up to not having made this sauce, which is its own recipe. Finding chicken backs — much less organic ones — is tough even in our Asian markets. So, to finish the broth, I seasoned it with the tablespoons of dark soy sauce and mirin and adjusted the salt. I was happy.

Chang concludes this recipe with a sentiment in which I heartily concur: Underseasoned broth is a crime.

You can find the original recipe here. Suggestions for a vegetarian version appear at the end of this post.

I swore off buying new appliances, sold quite a few of them at a driveway sale last summer, and scaled back on my cooking once I embarked on another long course of Weight Watchers. My appliance abstinence lasted all of two months. Last week, I bought a small Cuisinart three-quart slow cooker. It’s a perfect size for this single-eater household.

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published this recipe. It calls for skipping the pre-soaking part of bean cooking. I liked that idea, especially since lately I switched to using Rancho Gordo’s heirloom dried beans, which are much fresher than most store-bought kind. Not only did I not pre-soak the Rancho Gordo beans, but the stew  finished in under 8 hours on the Low setting. The amount of water needed will vary according to the freshness of the beans and your preference for soupy stews or stewy soups. However, the recipe does not call for a slow-cooker, so I’ve had to adapt it. Perhaps it works best on a weekend morning, when you can do the prep cooking without rushing. A vegetarian adaptation appears at the end.

The result is a rich, smoky, and flavorful pot of beans and sausage:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for serving

1 pound fresh sweet Italian sausages, sliced 3/4-inch thick

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 medium carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound Great Northern beans, rinsed and picked through

Shadowcook: Or canellini or mayacoba bean. In any case, a white bean that holds its shape.

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

Shadowcook: Interesting that whoever thought this up has you put kosher salt into the pot with the beans at the beginning of their cooking. Most cooks claim salt retards absorption of water in a hard bean. I suspect the older the bean, the more likely that’s true. But if you’re using recently dried beans, salt may not impede the softening process as much. I followed the directions and the beans cooked quickly.

2 thyme sprigs

1 large rosemary sprig

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, more for serving

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown until through, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Shadowcook: Don’t crowd the sausage rounds. Insufficient space around anything that is sauteeing creates steam. Food needs room to brown and fry properly.

2. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans, 8 cups water, salt, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more water if needed to make sure the beans remain submerged.

Shadowcook: For the slow cooker, after you have cooked the tomato paste, cumin, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, transfer it all to a slow cooker. Make bring you all the oil and bits with the vegetables to the ceramic pot. Then add the beans and herbs to the pot. Pour in 6-7 cups of water. The rule of thumb in converting recipes to slow-cookers is to reduce the liquid by half. I began this stew with 4 cups and within 4 hours (the beans still hard) I had to add another 3 cups. Set the temperature to Low for 10 hours. Walk away, but come back in four or five hours to check the beans.

3. When the beans are tender, return the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into warm bowls and serve drizzled with additional vinegar and olive oil.

Shadowcook: For a vegetarian version, substitute a bunch of chopped Swiss chard leaves and 2 chopped leeks for the sausage. Sauté the chopped chard and leeks in olive oil, add the remaining ingredients to the sauteed leaves, and proceed with the recipe.

For another meat version, consider adding a ham hock to the beans and water, after you’ve sauteed the vegetables in olive oil.

From The Observer/Guardian, September 10, 2010.

It’s a good day when a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe fits within my Weight Watchers diet. Ottolenghi comes up with ideas that work better on paper than in the pan. This one is a keeper. In this spice fantasy of his, he takes summer (corn) and winter (squash) on a vacation to Southeast Asia. The directions are straightforward. The ingredients are not as outré as you might first think. Yotam offers good substitutions, if you can’t come up with lime leaves, like I can.

A bit of chopping but otherwise easy…

Serves 6

Amount per serving: 1 and a half cups

Weight Watchers points per serving: 5

Calories per serving: 350

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 shallots (100g), peeled and chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

3 celery sticks, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

400g [14 oz] peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 1 cm [1/4 inch] dice

2 bay leaves

3 lime leaves, or a few shaved strips of lime zest

1 liter [4.2 cups] water

1 chipotle chilli, soaks in boiling water for 15 minutes

Shadowcook: Or, if you can’t find dried chipotles, buy a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, rinse off the sauce, and chop. The more seeds you remove, the less heat you’ll taste in the soup.

4 sweetcorn cobs, kernels shaved off

160g [about half a cup] soured cream [that’s sour cream]

3 limes, halved

1 handful torn coriander [cilantro] leaves

Salt

Heat the oil in a medium pot, add the shallots, garlic, celery, ground cumin, ground coriander and a little salt, and sauté on low heat for 12 minutes, to soften the vegetables.

Add the pumpkin (or squash), bay leaves, lime leaves (or zest), and water. Squeeze the water of out of the chipotle chilli, remove and discard the seeds, chop roughly and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the corn and cook for five minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out about half of the vegetables, and removed and discard the bay and lime leaves. Blitz the remaining soup until smooth, then return to the vegetables to the pot and bring to a light simmer. Add a little water if you find it too thick. Stir in half the soured cream and taste for seasoning.

Shadowcook: I used my blender. A food processor works just as well.

Divide the soup into six bowls, squeeze the juice of half a lime into each portion, drop about a tablespoonful of soured cream in the middle and scatter over the torn coriander leaves.

Shadowcook: Or, for all you singletons, freeze in 4 or 5 small containers all but a cup and a half. A bowl of this soup in winter will remind you of August.

from The Kitchen Diaries, pp. 372-74.

I had an organic Mary’s duck in my freezer. The temperatures are soaring into the 100s. That frozen bird, I knew, would not last until fall. I had to roast it no matter how hot it made the house. Not only is roast duck out of season, but the recipe I chose to make — because it’s the most straightforward — is Nigel’s early Christmas lunch. You can’t get much less seasonal than that at the end of June. Oh, well. In for a penny, in for a pound.

But I also decided to eke as many meals out of that one duck as I could. I’ve managed four: roast duck and potatoes; pasta with duck; another pasta with duck; and duck broth for soup. Plus, I saved all the fat (you can strain it, if you’re fussy about the clarity of your duck fat).

First, Nigel’s basic recipe (bookmark this for the fall holidays):

a large duckling, weighing about 2.5 kg [or 5 1/2 pounds]

potatoes, such as Maris Piper — 6 medium [I used Yukon Gold]

pancetta — 150 g [or about 5 oz; or the same amount in unsmoked bacon]

olive oil, mild, not fruity [this means not extra-virgin]

onions — 2 medium

thyme — 5 or 6 sprigs

bay leaves — a couple

a wine glass of Marsala [Shadowcook: I used Madeira]

Preheat the oven to 200 C [or 400 F]. Remove the giblets from the duck, rinse the bird inside and out and pat it dry with kitchen paper. If you can do this an hour or so before you begin to cook. leaving the duck in a cool place, then all to the good.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into finger-thick slices, dropping them into cold water as you go. Cut the pancetta into cubes, then put it into a large roasting tin [or pan] with a tablespoon of oil. [Shadowcook: Use as little oil as possible; the duck will release rivers of its own.] Warm it over a low heat, letter the pancetta flavour the oil but without letter it colour. Introduce the slices of potato, shaken dry, into the fat and let them cook slowly.

Whilst this is going on, peel and cut the onions first in half, then each half into about six. Add them to the potatoes along with the thyme leaves stripped from their stems.

[Shadowcook: It’s sweet of Nigel to give us the benefit of the doubt and order the steps of this recipe as if we were all flash peelers like he no doubt is. But if I were you, I’d peel and cut up the onions before I started sweating the pancetta and frying the onions. Get all your ducks in a row, as they say, before you begin cooking.]

Turn everything over gently as it cooks, letting the potatoes and onions colour very slightly. Season with salt and pepper and a couple of bay leaves, then remove from heat.

[Shadowcook: Actually, I put the bay leaves into the cavity of the bird.]

Price the skin of the duck all over with a fork, then season it inside and out with salt. Lay the duck on top of the potatoes, then put it in the oven and roast for an hour and a half, until the potatoes are soft and both they and the duck are golden. From time to time, push the spuds, particularly those that are browning too quickly, to one side, and spoon a little of the cooking juices over any that appear dry. During the cooking, carefully tip off most of the fat taht is pour out of the duck and that has not been absorbed by the potatoes.

[Shadowcook: The danger here is that the potatoes will burn, like some of mine did. In addition to keeping a close eye on the roasting pan, pouring off the fat will help avert the danger of burnt potatoes.]

Test to see that the duck is done. there should be no sign of blood in the juices and the skin should be crisp and singing. Remove the potatoes to a warm serving dish.

[Shadowcook: And then again, there’s the meat thermometer. At this step, I’d remove the bird at 165-170 F and proceed.]

Turn the oven up to 220 C [425 F]. Put the duck back in the oven and let it crisp for five minutes or so, then transfer it to a warm dish. Quickly pour the Marsala [or Madeira] into the roasting tin [or pan] and place it over a moderately high heat (you don’t want it to boil away), scraping at any stuck bits in the tin [or pan]. The idea is to get any pan stickings and sediment to dissolve into the gravy. Whilst the sauce is bubbling, carve the duck and serve it with the potatoes. Check the pan juices for seasoning — they may need a little salt — then spoon over the duck.

Enough to serve 2 generously. [Shadowcook: I’ll say! I carved off a leg and saved the rest for the following recipes.]

Now, my turn:

1. Sauteed cherry tomatoes and duck meat over fresh pasta

1 serving

1 – 2 teaspoons duck fat and NO MORE

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

somewhere between a 1/2 quart to 1 quart cherry tomatoes, as many as you would like, halved

[In the photo above, most of what you see is cherry tomatoes reduced to a sauce]

the meat of one of the breasts from leftover carcass of roasted duck, chopped or sliced into thin strips

salt and pepper

3 oz fresh pasta

flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

1 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese

First, put a big pot of salted water on to boil. Then put a pasta bowl into a warm oven to keep it warm.

Then, in a smallish skillet, heat the 1 or so teaspoon of duck fat over medium low heat. Add the minced garlic and shallot. Sauté until softened. Add the halved cherry tomatoes, turn the heat up a little, and leave to sauté for 3-5 mins. As they soften, mash some of the tomatoes with the back of the wooden spoon, and stir. When the tomatoes have released juices and created a sauce, turn down the heat, and add the chopped duck meat. Season to taste. Simmer on low until the pasta until sauce is reduced to your liking. Keep warm until pasta is ready.

Cook the fresh pasta 4-5 minutes, drain, and without shaking the extra water off immediately transfer the pasta to the skillet. Sprinkle chopped parsley over and stir. Transfer to warmed pasta bowl and grate parmesan over. Eat.

2. Sautéed artichokes, duck, and sorrel over fresh pasta

several small artichokes

quarter of a lemon

1-2 teaspoons duck fat

1 shallot, minced

the meat from one breast of a roasted duck

1/4 to 1/2 cup white white, preferably a sauvignon blanc, not an oaky wine

French sorrel or flat-leaf parsley, chopped

3 oz fresh or dried pasta

Don’t start the water until you’re ready to sauté the artichokes. Put a small bowl of water to the side. You’ll put your artichoke pieces in it to prevent them from turning brown. Squeeze into it the juice of a quarter or half lemon.

To prepare the artichokes, break off all the leaves until you get close to the center, where the leaves are more yellow than green. Cut off the top part, above the rim of the artichoke heart. With a small paring knife, peel the stem and smooth the underside of the artichoke where you’ve broken off the leaves. Then cut out the center of the choke so that you have a small hollow. Your little artichoke should look like a baseless goblet. Cut it into quarters or eighths, depending on how big it is. Drop into a bowl of lemon water.

Now, put a pot of salted water on to boil. Go on with the recipe, but put the pasta in the water whenever it’s ready. Heat the oven to its lowest setting and put a pasta bowl in to warm it.

Put one teaspoon (or more, depending on how many artichokes you use, but a little goes a long way) in a skillet over a medium low flame. Add the chopped shallot and stir. Watch to make sure it doesn’t brown. When the shallot has softened, drain the artichoke pieces, shake off the excess water, and then add to the skillet. Stir to coat them with the fat. Turn the heat up a little and sauté them for about 5 minutes. When the artichokes have softened a little, add the duck meat. Stir to coat the meat and let cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the wine and adjust heat so that the liquid reduces but only so fast as to keep pace with the cooking pasta. If necessary, add water to keep it all moist.

Drain the pasta. Try not to shake off the excess water, if the artichokes and duck are a little on the dry side. Add the pasta to the skillet, toss, let it heat, and sprinkle the sorrel or parsley over it. Pull the warmed pasta bowl out of the oven and tip the sauce over the pasta. If you want to add parmesan, go ahead, but I prefer it without.

3. Vietnamese Duck Soup with Noodles


The broth:

1 duck carass with lots of shaggy meat on it (although you should cut off chunks or slices to put in the soup at the end)

1 onion sliced up

2 cloves

1 star anise

the seeds of 1 cardomon pod

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce

Put all the ingredients in a stock pot. Fill with water to a couple of inches above the carcass. As the liquid heats, skim the scum off the surface of the broth. Bring to a boil. Once it’s at a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.

When the broth is ready, strain the broth through a fine-meshed sieve lined with either cheesecloth or a paper towel.

You’ll have more than you’ll need for a big bowl, so pour into a saucepan four cups of the broth. Freeze the rest of keep it in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.

The soup:

4 cups duck broth

1 serving size fresh ramen noodles or any other fresh Asian noodles you like

1 serrano chile, minced

cilantro leaves, whole

green onions, sliced thin

bean sprouts

Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Lightly untease the fresh noodles and drop them into the water. I prefer what Ramen Fanatics (of which I am merely a wannbee) call “less boiled.” Fresh noodles should not take more than 2 minutes. I keep testing the noodles a little before and after four minutes.

[Shadowcook commenting on myself: The James Beard of Japanese Cooking, Shizuo Tsuji, author of Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, recommends bringing the water back to a boil after you’ve added the ramen, then adding a cup of cold water, and bringing it back to the boil again. After 3 or 4 times of this routine, taste the noodles. Why does he boil them this way? I’m not sure but I think it has something to do with the preference of Japanese cooks to avoid boiling their food. A gentle, rolling simmer to broth and stew preserves the delicate flavors of Japanese soups. Boiling, I gather, leaves bruises. Then again, I could be making that up.]

Drain the noodles quickly and rinse them in cold water. Make sure they are not clumpy. Put the ramen in a big soup bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the 4 cups of broth, adding minced serrano chile to taste. When the broth is not but not boiling, pour it over the noodles in the soup bowl. Add the cilantro leaves, scallions, and any scraps of duck left over from the carcass. Don’t burn yourself carrying it to the table.

[Shadowcook: Next time I make this — I have about 6 more cups of broth, after all — I want to punch up the broth. Maybe some minced ginger. More fish sauce, less salt. It’s a rich soup. so this entire post is worth bookmarking and returning to in the fall.]

Manresa, 320 Village Lane (just off North Santa Cruz Avenue), Los Gatos, CA 95030
408.354.4330

No, I have no lost my mind and added diced bell pepper and cucumber to strawberry gelato. But I am mad enough about gazpacho to eat it in any form. And if there were ever a season for strawberries, now would be it. Until the real gazpacho season comes along, the strawberry version will do very well.

Two particularly generous friends treated my sister to a birthday dinner at Manresa in Los Gatos. Manresa is one of the relatively few restaurants in the United States to receive two Michelin stars — for what that’s worth. These diners reported that they had an excellent four-course dinner, among which were two amuse-bouches. The first was a soft-boiled egg yolk at the bottom of an empty egg shell, topped with sherry-vinegar whipped cream, chives, maple syrup, and salt. You can find a version of that recipe here. The strawberry gazpacho was the second amuse-bouche. Clearly, David Kinch, the chef, is a chemist. This recipe defies logic, I suppose, only if you don’t understand the chemical reactions of incompatible ingredients, which I certainly don’t. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This recipe is dead simple:

1 pound, 4 ounces strawberries, hulled and lightly crushed

4 ounces white onions, thinly sliced

4 ounces red bell peppers, thinly sliced

5 ounces cucumber, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced

1 half clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup tarragon leaves

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

Strawberries, hulled and finely diced

Chives, finely minced

Red bell pepper, finely diced

English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced

1-2 tablespoons almond oil

Chervil sprigs (if you can find them)

Put first 8 ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, puree the ingredients in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Thin with water if too thick. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving.

To garnish, mix together all the minced vegetables and fruit with almond oil. Mound in the center of a soup plate; top with chervil sprigs.

Shadowcook: The only observation I would contribute to this recipe is that it is easy to overdo the garnish. The garnish only exists for crunch, although the almond oil is a nice touch. You’ll appreciate the silky smooth texture of the gazpacho if you remember that less is more.

Update: watch the salt.

Up-update: David Kinch’s recipe is posted online. He provided it to a TV show in which he appeared. Google it, if you feel the need to check me.

This afternoon, I looked at the big heads of broccoli, abundant sorrel, numerous zucchini, and heads of butter lettuce in my raised beds and thought, “How the hell am I going to eat all this?” I didn’t expect to reach this state of affairs quite so early in the summer. I am barely keeping up with the lettuce, which the rising temperatures are soon going to fry.

The pleasant challenge of vegetable gardening, however, is to find congruent flavors in disperate plants. Today, I decided to pair broccoli with sorrel in a cream soup. The lemon in sorrel, I thought, would complement the broccoli. And I turned out to be right. But first I looked for a model recipe to adapt. For the first time in a while, my cookbooks let me down. Not even ol’Basics, by Ludkin and Russo, had a cream of broccoli recipe. Time to wing it.

I used what I had in my fridge:

About 2 ounces of smoked bacon, cut into lardons

1 yellow onion

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

6 cups chicken stock

Water as needed

2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets and the stemmed trimmed of touch outside skin

a bunch of sorrel with stems removed and leaves roughly chopped

1/2 cup cream

1 ounce soft goat cheese (optional)

In a large 5- or 7-quart pot, fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel. Nibble at them, if you want a velvety smooth soup. Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté a few minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and continue to sauté for a few minutes. Add broccoli and sorrel. Stir to coat with fat. Add the stock and enough water to cover all the vegetables. Bring to steady boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the broccoli is soft.

Before pureeing in a blender, let the soup cool a bit. When the stock is cooler, puree the stock and vegetables in a blender in several batches. Do not fill your blender jar more than a third of the way up. Pour the pureed soup into a small soup pot. When the entire soup has been pureed and poured into the soup pot, pour in cream and stir to blend. Adjust seasoning at this point. Be careful not to add too much, since the smoked bacon will contribute salt to the soup. Having said that, however, try and adjust the seasoning just so. Salt will enhance ever so slightly the flavor of the bacon in the background.

I’ve had this soup hot for dinner and, the next day, cold. At dinner, I crumbled a little soft goat cheese on top before I took my first spoonful.

DSC05256

from Love Soup, pp. 70-71.

Oh, the weather is gloriously, snuggily foul. Rain descending in sheets, wind gusts between 40 and 50 miles per hour, and I’m nearly recovered from the flu but not so much that I can’t luxuriate under a thick throw on the couch. It’s the perfect weather for soup.

One of my dearest friends gave me a new cookbook of vegetarian soups whose title, I must admit, struck me as so saccharine that I didn’t look through it until the flu imposed on me time to read idly. Anna Thomas has collected 160 soup recipes, of which I counted over 20 that I intend to make. The recipes embody creative and bold combinations of flavors unusual, in my experience, in vegetarian cooking. Even the variety of vegetables broths seem feasibly flavorful. I admit I cheated, though. Instead of using a vegetable broth here, I pulled out of the freezer one of the bigger tubs of frozen chicken stock. It had the predictable effect of enriching the flavor at the expense of poultry’s lives. The only other change I made was to substitute fresh pasillas for the poblanos, since this week that was all I could find in the stores. More fiery than the poblanos but still edible for a capiscum-wimp like myself.

Serves 6

about 6 fresh poblano chiles (1 1/2 lbs; 700 g)

Shadowcook: As I wrote above, I used fresh pasillas, which are hotter than poblanos. I also saw fresh Anaheim chiles in the market, but regardless of the heat they would be a sacrifice in color.

1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter

1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil

2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped (1 lb; 450 g)

1 clove garlic, minced

sea salt

6 cups (1 1/2 liters) basic light vegetable broth

Shadowcook: Or chicken broth dare I say.

1/2 cup (20 g) chopped cilantro

5 or 6 fresh epazote leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried crumbled epazote

Shadowcook: Not surprisingly, the only place I found this was in my local Latino mercado in the produce section. Wikipedia has a little article on it.

4 oz (120 g) creamy white goat cheese

3 tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts

Roast the chiles under a broiler, in a dry skillet over high heat, or on a charcoal grill, turning them from time to time until the skin is charred and blistered all over. Place them in a paper bag for about 10 minutes to let them sweat and then peel off the skins and remove the stems and seeds. cut the peeled chiles into strips; you should have about 1 1/2 cups of peeled poblano strips.

In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the butter and olive oil and sauté the onions, stirring often, until they are translucent. Add the minced garlic and some salt and cook over low heat, stirring often, until the onions are golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

When the onions and garlic are very soft, combine them in a soup pot with the chile strips, broth, cilantro, and epazote. Cover the pot and simmer everything for about 20 minutes, then puree in a blender, in batches, or with an immersion blender until the soup is perfectly smoooth.

Shadowcook: Yes, well, my blender got a little excited, even though the container was less than halfway filled. As the soup finished up on the stove, I was wiping down my kitchen wals and counters. Lots of liquid. Be careful.

Add the goat cheese to the pureed soup, stirring over low heat until the cheese has melted into the soup. Taste, and correct the seasoning with a pinch more salt if needed.

Shadowcook: Oddly, I thought the soup needed a lot more salt. Add the salt slowly, but don’t be surprised if it absorbs quite a bit more than the recipe calls for.

Serve the soup hot, with lightly toasted pine nuts scattered over each bowl. Because of its deep, intense flavor and spicy edge, this soup is best served in smaller portions as a first course — although people may ask for more.

Shadowcook: And pass around the kleenex for mopping the brow… But absolutely worth it.

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