post-passover tradition

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Growing up as an Ashkenazi Jew, kitniyot (legumes and legume-like foods — soy, peanuts, rice, beans, corn, etc.) were forbidden on Passover, so it became tradition for me to go overboard once it was over. As of December 2015, kitniyot are permitted, so this doesn’t have quite the same bang as it once did, but…

This is a soup without a recipe, an exercise in international pantry-clearing. Starting with a mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion), I added some pre-soaked beans (mung, kidney, black-eyed peas, yellow split peas) and grains (farro, barley), some water/broth, a can of diced tomatoes, and a some ras al hanout. Near the end, I added a diced zucchini so it wouldn’t get too mushy. Adjust for salt and… dinner.

Served with apple and (not pictured) rye bread toasted with oaxaca cheese because this really was an international event.

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lentil soup with caraway

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Last month’s Saveur was full of all sorts of good things, but what did I immediately decide I was going to make first? Any of the glorious maple syrup recipes? The Sicilian fare? The lentil soup.

It’s perhaps also just as telling that I had caraway seeds and coriander seeds to hand, but had to wait until I went and bought a carrot.

 

Lentil Soup with Caraway
(adapted from Saveur)

1-2 tbsp. canola oil
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground
1 tsp. caraway seeds, toasted and finely ground
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 cups stock
1.5 cups red lentils, rinsed and drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

1. Heat oil in a good-sized pot. Add onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add coriander, caraway, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Add stock and lentils and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft, 15–20 minutes.

2. Using a blender or food processor, purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

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There’s a shallot here, you might notice. I had a few extra and my onions were tiny.

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I toasted the caraway and coriander on the stovetop until they were fragrant, then tossed them into my non-coffee grinder.

IMG_3585 These are the lentils that look pretty dry and then lose their color once cooked. I used these because I had them, but I think next time, I will just go with the regular brown/green ones and just cook everything longer.

IMG_3589 All done but the shouting (or the immersion blender). The original recipe calls for vegetable stock and I used chicken – half bouillon and half rich homemade. The end result was definitely a little meatier than what you would have ended up with just the bouillon or straight veggie stock. I think for warmer weather, I’d go with bouillon or veggie stock.

IMG_3590 This is not a soup one makes for looks or texture. 

The original recipe calls for mint and greek yogurt, which is certainly an option. But I thought an apple (a pinata apple!) was a nice complement – sweet and tart.

carrot-ginger soup

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Easy, tasty, low-maintenance, and good for winter when there’s not much in season. One of the standards in my soup repertoire (I think there’s a mention of it somewhere in the archives, but it bears repeating here).

Carrot-Ginger Soup (adapted from here)

1 diced medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

4 tablespoons of minced fresh ginger
2-3 cloves minced garlic

1.5 cups chopped carrots
1-2 potatoes, scrubbed and chunked into medium pieces
3 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
1/4 cup orange juice

salt and pepper
cream or milk (optional)

 

Heat the oil in a stock pot, then add onion, sautéing until they’re soft and translucent. Throw in a little salt.

Add garlic and ginger and continue sautéing until they’re soft, 2-3 minutes. Don’t let the garlic burn.

Add carrots, potatoes, broth, and juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let this go until the carrots and potatoes are soft, 20-30 minutes depending on size.

Puree soup either in batches in a blender or in situ with an immersion blender. Add milk/cream if using, pepper, and correct for salt.

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I was trebling the recipe, so this is much more than you’ll need – about three pounds of carrots here.

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Which means a lot of peels.

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The solids. The garlic is under the ginger in the middle bowl.

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A lot of soup. A lot of leftovers – I froze 8 pints.

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Which is why I had to immediately roast the chicken I’d bought because there was no way a seven-pound bird was fitting in here.

Serving suggestion:

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…with some leftover veggies…

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…and some freshly made bread.

chicken stock

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After the roasting and the eating comes the making-stuff-with-the-scraps.

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This…

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…became this…

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…became this.

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I treated myself to a fine mesh strainer a couple of months ago; I make lemon curd enough that it was cheaper than restocking the cheesecloth, which I don’t really use for anything else.

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Still warm…

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…and cooled off for skimming a day or three later.

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I got better on the back half.

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Packed and ready for soup.

… all told, I think this chicken did its duty – at least a half-dozen meals, then stock. Not bad.

soup!

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I’m really not exaggerating when I say that I live on soup in the winter. For weeknight dinners, it can’t be beat – it’s fast, it’s easy, and there’s practically no cleanup. It’s all the advantages of takeout but homemade.

My freezer was getting kind of bare a few weeks ago – I could almost see the rear wall – and so I went a little soup-nuts one weekend. Of course, the following day my oil burner broke down and I had to run the oven for warmth and I had very little space left in the freezer for more soup… so I made smaller batches. See above.

One of my stand-bys is carrot-ginger, which can be vegan, vegetarian, or neither depending on how you prepare it.

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There’s not much to the prep. I should point out that I was… trebling? the recipe here. That container on the right is my orange juice concentrate.

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It’s low-maintenance once it’s on the stove and, depending on how you slice your carrots, quite fast. I usually throw in a couple of potatoes, cut small, to thicken things up.

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A quick dip of the immersion blender makes it all pretty.

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I mentioned trebling the recipe, right? It’s very good soup and my freezer was looking awfully empty.

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Right after that, I made some leek soup. There’s nothing easier than leek soup… except if you’re my best friend, who has to call people up at work and ask them what to do with the leek. (I mock because I love.)

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For as long as I can remember, my father’s kept a container in the freezer to collect the nutrient-rich liquid at the bottom of the pot/bowl left from steamed vegetables to be recycled into other dishes. He calls it ursuppe. This is my ursuppe, which is almost entirely swiss chard juice. It went into the tomato-cilantro soup, I think.

One of my other favorite soups is pumpkin soup with smoked paprika, which I don’t think I’ve tried to feed Dad because he does not like pumpkin. But this soup might change his mind. It’s also really, really good and extremely easy. Especially when you use canned pumpkin puree, which is more consistent in quality than fresh and far, far easier to get in quantity.

Pumpkin puree is sold right next to the pumpkin pie filling in the baking needs aisle, so make sure you don’t pick up the wrong one. I use it here and also in a spicy Jamaican pumpkin soup and, especially in a strongly-flavored soup, I don’t think you’re missing too much by foregoing the hacking-seeding-roasting-peeling-mashing process.

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As a digression, I miss the old Libby’sLibby’sLibby’s logo.

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Smoked paprika is a fabulous spice to have around. If you’re just used to the bland plain stuff you get in the supermarket aisle, you’re in for a treat. McCormick’s sells a small bottle (for a ridiculous amount) as part of their ‘gourmet’ collection (green/black bottle instead of red), so you might consider ordering online through Penzeys or somewhere else. I replenished my supply with a sack from Kalustyan’s, so a certain leek illiterate is welcome to bum some.

Smoked paprika works exceptionally well with apples in any format – I like adding it to roasted or broiled apples when serving them as part of a meal. Here, they’re together in the soup.

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This is a very thick soup even before you blend it.

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It looks very orange here, but the previous picture is more accurate – I don’t really mistake it with the carrot in the freezer. At least not often or in good light.

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curried (way too) sweet potato apricot soup

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Mark Bittman ran a recipe the other week that sounded intriguing — Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Apricots. It’s pretty simple and eminently do-able for a weeknight and I had some sweet potatoes I’d lugged home Thanksgiving week. My only concern was that the soup would be too sweet — and it was. Oh, it was.

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I actually used more sweet potato and less apricot than suggested, more curry powder (because mine is ancient and takes more). The apricot flavor came through nicely and the curry was a nice complement, but it was just way too sweet. Inedibly sweet (for me) at first; I cut it with milk, added more curry powder, but it’s still not really working for me.

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I have a few more pints to burn off and I’ve been experimenting with what to do. One got doctored with a little cayenne and served as a vehicle for some leftover steamed veggies.

lentil soups

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My ummah cookbook’s got a lot of lentil recipes. A lot. And I suspect I’ll be trying out all of them eventually. Especially the soups, of which there are more than half a dozen. I’ve already tried the tamarind soup and a couple of weekends ago, I tried two more. One was the Marrakesh Rice and Lentil Soup and the other was the tomato-based Egyptian Lentil Soup with a couple of modifications that apparently turned it Bahraini.

I like how the Marrakesh version came out more, I think, although both are quite edible. The flour and butter add a richness that complements the spice nicely; I’m more used to tomato-based lentil soups, so the thrill was maybe a little gone there. On the other hand, I got to add spaghetti. marrakesh_bowl

Marrakesh Rice and Lentil Soup

from Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa

3/4 C lentils, rinsed
7 C water or broth
2 TB olive oil
1/2 C finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 C rice, rinsed
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

2 TB flour dissolved in 1/2 C water
1/4 C lemon juice
4 TB butter

Put the first group of ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cover for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Add second group of ingredients and, again, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked. Don’t let the rice disintegrate.

Remove the pot from the heat, add the third group of ingredients, then return to the heat and bring up to a boil. Serve.

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Bahraini Lentil Soup

adapted from Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa

5 C vegetable stock
1 C lentils, rinsed
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes)
4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 C broken vermicelli (or spaghetti/linguine)
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

4 TB butter
2 teaspoons cumin
4 teaspoons lemon juice

Bring the first group of ingredients to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes, or until lentils are done.

Near the end of the cooking time, add the second group. Make sure the pasta doesn’t get overdone.

Add the third group just before serving.