Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hail to Kale Soup

If the first thing you do at work is go to The New York Times' online Health Section too, then you and I both know that kale is the new "It" vegetable. Shari Hern writes: "And yes, a vegetable can be amazing. Particularly when it's loaded with substances that can help protect one from cancer, cataracts, emphysema, and rheumatoid arthritis."

Hey Austin Brey, can your Trader Joe's frozen pizza do that? No. For more on the superiority of soup over Trader Joe's frozen pizza, please check back next week.

Anyway. If you love something you are going to fight for it and that's exactly what Alayna and I did.

First Soup Fight
Alayna: when are you posting it???
ML: soon I just got back from Jackson Heights.
Alayna: you're doing kale first, right?
ML: nah, I'm doing last night's
Alayna: but the kale is so wintery!
ML: nope, next week
Alayna: please?
Alayna: please, please, please
ML: nope. unless you want to write the blog

Alayna's First Blog Post

As you may have noticed, I have a mild obsession with soup. Actually, I wouldn't even say obsession with soup (although this blog makes it appear otherwise)... mostly I have an obsession with being secretly lazy.

Secret laziness means this: having home-cooked meals, but not having to cook (okay, really do the dishes) every night. Having nutritious food but only having to use one dish to eat it. Either way, I make so much soup because it's easy to make a huge quantity at once, it stores well, and you can put all kinds of good-for-you stuff into it.

Which brings us to kale. Mary and I only recently discovered kale because she read some article about how essentially it's mega-powered spinach. Fiber, iron, vitamins, whatever. It's all there. We like spinach, so kale seems like a good idea.

So far our relationship with kale has gone well. It's tougher than spinach, which means it holds up to cooking without becoming mushy if you walk away for a minute. It's also really good sauteed with fresh ginger, garlic and rock salt. And delicious in this soup. Other things delicious in this soup? Barley (fiber!), potatoes (vitamin C!) and mushrooms (the porcinis give that great earthy taste and the baby bella's keep the texture interesting.)

Wow Alayna, what an educational blog post.

And Now, Please Help Us Welcome Our New Friend, Kale

And welcome KZimm's first appearance on Monday's Soups.

Before you head to work put 3/4 cups of dried barley into cold water to soak for the day
When you get home, microwave 2 cups of water for 3 minutes
Then poor onto 1/2 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
Let them sit for 30 minutes and put on sweatpants

Chop up about a handful and a half of baby red potatoes into bite sized pieces and boil in a separate pot.
Take off heat once they are mostly soft.
Saute about 5 cloves of garlic and 1 medium yellow onion in olive oil until translucent
Add 3/4 of a packet of sliced baby portabella mushrooms
(which are the same as cremini!)
and a handful of sliced shitake mushrooms to the mix and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are getting soft and everything is fragrant

Add in soaked barley, reconstituted mushrooms (with the soaking liquid!),
chicken broth,
a handful of parsley, rosemary and thyme
and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste
Clean and de-stem a bunch of kale and add it into the pot with the potatoes for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking time.

P.S. This soup was strongly inspired by a New York Times recipe. Thank you New York Times.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sausage Sweet Potato Soup

Zizi likes food high in iron and fiber, like spinach.

Not to pat our own backs, but there is a lot of goodness in this soup blog besides the soup recipes alone. Lets note what Martha Rose Shulman (not related to that other set of Shulmans some of you might know...) said on March 16th in the New York Times.

"I'm convinced that one of the reasons the French diet is such a healthy one, despite the butter and cheese, is that dinner in France is often a simple vegetable soup made with whatever ingredients are fresh. Soups fill you up, they're comforting, and they offer a lot of concentrated nutrition in a bowl at a reasonable cost, both caloric and monetary. They're simple to make and forgiving."

Amen sister. Take that "This Is Why You're Fat."

Moving on. This week's soup is a marriage of two good things. Sweet potatoes and sausage. What a lovely union brought together in our soup pot. I was excited about the idea of the soup when Alayna and I were discussing it this past week and I was even more excited about the final product. Which was lighter than you'd imagine because we didn't puree the soup, so it was broth based. A good light broth which mixed well with the sweet potato and sausage, which, er, are heavier creatures. But lovely nonetheless.

I was SO excited about the final product that even as I sensed a numbing sensation in my cheeks that was slowly spreading towards my ears, I still decided on a second bowl. Alayna and I finished up and I went to do the dishes while neurotically poking my face. "I still don't feel my face," I thought quietly becoming more and more frantic. (I'm a slightly neurotic person, p.s.).
A short while later when my tongue started to itch and I was in my bedroom googling how much time I had before my throat closed I decided I should tell Alayna my situation so she would be ready to call 911 when airways were blocked. Which at this point I deemed inevitable.
Alayna, ever calm, told me I have eaten everything in the soup a million times so it probably wasn't a food allergy. She gave me a Benadryl and told me maybe I should make tea.
I thought for a moment.
"Why would tea help open my air passages?"
"Well, it probably won't. But I would really like a cup."

I survived the night. Surprise, surprise. And I don't blame the soup. I'm not sure what I blame but as Martha Rose Shulman says, soup is forgiving. And so am I.

(Update: After talking to a nurse I have concluded that my reaction was due to sushi I ate a while before, and NOT the soup. Do not fear, soup fans.)

Everything You Have Been Waiting For:
The Recipe

Sausages always look jokey.

In a big pot saute six cloves of garlic and one medium onion (chopped)
Add in about six small white potatoes and two medium sized yams (or one big one) and simmer covered until they start getting soft.
Once they are getting soft, cover, add chicken broth and bring up the heat to a low boil
In a separate pan, saute seven spicy Italian sausages, cut into bite sized pieces until cooked through.
When potatoes are almost cooked through (check by stabbing with a fork), add the sausages.

For extra wonderful taste add their delicious, delicious juices (aka scrap the grease off the pan into the soup.)

Tear up about three big handfuls of spinach and put directly into the soup, cooking for about another five minutes.

Let it be known Alayna is wearing sweatpants under her dress.

And I make soup after I come home from the gym. I'm training for a 1/2 marathon! April 26th! Who-hoo.

Souper Cheap:
All ingredients were purchased at the Essex Street Market, total cost was $10.58

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lime Soup

I first had lime soup when Alayna made it in France for a dinner party. Because we used to live in France and have dinner parties where I would shove white candles in old Champagne bottles and the guests would do all the dishes. Insert sigh here.

Either way, if you happen to have a cold, or feel a cold coming on, Lime Soup is the thing to do. Because by your third spoonful you'll notice your nose is running. And by the end of the bowl you're all cleared up.

Alayna would like to insert a tip here: "I hate doing dishes [she does, it's true], so I like to chop all the fruits/veggies/herbs first then the chicken. That way I don't have to switch knives, meaning I use my favorite knife the whole time and only one chopping board!"
Nice tip. For those of you who don't get why that's a tip it's because you don't chop raw chicken with the same knife you are going to use for the other stuff. Duh.

Okay, aprons on! Here we go:

Start by taking 3 to 4 tortillas and cutting them into strips, set aside.
Dice 6 to 8 cloves of garlic and sauttee in olive oil in your soup pot with 3 to 4 whole dried chili peppers
Chop 1 large yellow onion and add to garlic
When onion is getting translucent, dump in 1 large can of plain diced tomatoes with juice
Add 2 more cans of water and chicken bullion (or chicken broth)
Put on medium heat and allow to slowly come to a boil.

Chop a generous handful of cilantro and set aside until soup broth is hot, then add
Slice 2 small limes into wedges and set aside
Cut open another 4 limes (that's 6 limes you'll need total) for squeezing into the broth and do so immediately
Slice up 1 avocado and set it aside.

Chop 3 chicken thighs into bite size pieces and sauttee in a separate pan in olive oil until cooked through, adding a few shakes of salt and some black pepper.

Since this is all kind of happening at the same time, watch your pot! Once the broth is getting hot, add your cilantro, and then once it's really hot and the chicken is cooked through, add the chicken to the broth (Make sure you've left enough space!)
Let it all cook together on med-high for five minutes
Bring the temp down to med-low and throw in the lime slices for the last five minutes

Top: Frying the tortilla strips / Bottom: Adding fresh limes to soup

Don't wash your chicken pan! Instead, put in some more olive oil and fry up your tortilla strips (rotating once) until golden and crispy
Lay them on a paper towel to soak up extra oil, this will probably take a few batches to get enough done (and they are delicious).

Once you have all the elements of your soup, put the soup in bowls, shred pepper jack cheese in the soup, some sliced avocados on top of the cheese and the tortilla strips on top of that (so they don't get soggy fast!)
It all sounds complicated, but it isn't! I promise!

Important Note: If you're storing the soup to eat through the week, take out the extra lime rinds they can make the broth bitter when they're re-heated.

Alayna in a work outfit she was proud of, with soup, in living room.

Note: Mary Lorraine chose not to be featured in this week's soup post because she realized she wears the same orange sweatshirt every Monday night.

Monday, March 2, 2009

This Is How You Figure Out How to Make Soup / Asparagus Soup

That is what Zizi looks like when she is really excited about the soup.

Email message sent at 9:21 AM, Monday.

Alayna: I think it is essential that we incorporate the pate from book club into soup night. Also, we have very little room in the refrigerator. SO, I suggest we make an asparagus soup and pate/cheese sandwiches to dip into it.

Email message sent at 10:04 AM

Mary Lorraine: I think that sounds wonderful. What should I buy? So last night... (Author's note: I am cutting out said boy drama because it is not relevant to soup)

Email message sent at 12:01 PM

Alayna: We need baguettes. That's right, plural. I think two. That way we have our pate sandwiches both today and for lunch tomorrow. Uhm. Not that I like planning ahead. Other than that, if you can buy leeks, asparagus and some half and half, we should be good! Get from Key Foods, cheaper. 
Um, that sounds awkward did you... (removed).

Email message sent at 12:23PM

Mary Lorraine: On it.. Um, yeah. We had a little disagreement about... (more message removed.)
See you tonight!

Here's What You Do:

Sauttee a medium sized yellow onion and three leeks (only the white parts) in olive oil until translucent
Add in thyme at some point (fresh or dry)
Chop up 2 bunches of asparagus into small pieces, toss 'em in and mix
Add half a stick of butter and squeeze 1 lemon
Also throw in a few handfuls of spinach to add more iron!
When they turn bright green and are no longer super crunchy add enough chicken broth (or water with a chicken broth packet) to cover (not too watery!)
Add salt and pepper to taste
Let cook until soft all the way through

Now it should look like this:

Throw it into a blender in parts and blend to whatever consistency suits your taste.
Add half and half to taste. 

Adding pate sandwiches with different sorts of nice cheeses is a good addition. 
Or make little tea sandwiches where you cut off the crusts because that is classy and this is a classy soup.
Finished product!