Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mushroom Soup with Parsley Dumplings

So Alayna had a board meeting and in a strange swing of ambition I decided that I'd tackle a hard soup all by myself. And tackle is exactly what I did. I feel like this soup and I had a love hate relationship for the entire 2.5 hour cooking process. Maybe it was after going to the food store and spending $35 mostly all on ingredients (dried mushrooms, $8- actually you can remove this step if you want and just add 2 more cups of broth- it is less of an earthy taste but I mean, I'm cheap and sort of regret it, so just sayin.' Also, note I bitch that I spent $35 on soup supplies, which is way more than we normally spend, but still I have 6+ meals out of it. Not bad.)

Or maybe it was getting home, exhausted with 5 bags in my hands from work/gym/grocery store (this is essentially my gym/tan/laundry only it ends with a book in my bed and not a makeout in the bar) and the prospect of starting this big cooking process seemed daunting.

But I knew if just gave up and put veggies and lentils in a soup pot again and called it a different soup because I added say, both kale and chard, Alayna would kill me. So I embarked.

Note in this picture how I'm using all my burners. Then note how the cabinet above my stove which holds pots is totally empty. God bless dishwashers. All in all this soup was really good. I sort of butchered those dumplings because I never used an electric mixer or processor and instead did it all with fork and bowl. So they were eh, a little lumpy. Whatever, I'd eat lumpy dumplings over washing two more things any day. This soup was souper good though. At 10:30pm when I finally sat down with my bowl of mushroom soup and dumplings I was pretty proud of myself. Soups up laddles!

  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 big onion
  • 3 thinly sliced leeks
  • 4cups vegetable broth (such as Swanson)
  • A big pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a couple handfuls of carrots
  • 1/2 bag of spinach

Parsley Dumplings

  • 3/4 cup (scant) low-fat cottage cheese
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature, divided
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley



  • Bring 2 cups water and dried mushrooms to boil in small saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Put aside (with liquid)
  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds. Add baby bella mushrooms and thyme; sprinkle with sea salt and sauté until mushrooms are browned, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Add wine; stir until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Set mushroom mixture aside.
  • Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in another heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until translucent and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add leeks and carrots reduce heat to medium, sprinkle with sea salt, and sauté until vegetables are soft and golden, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
  • Bring broth to simmer in large pot over medium-high heat. Pour in reserved mushroom cooking liquid, leaving sediment behind. Add all mushrooms, onion mixture, and cayenne. Add spinach. Keep this pot simmering while you make your dumplings, occasionally giving it a stir.

Parsley Dumplings

  • Puree cottage cheese in mini processor until smooth. Using electric mixer, beat 3 tablespoons butter and eggs in medium bowl. Add cottage cheese, 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and nutmeg; beat on low speed just to blend. Stir in 1/2 cup flour, cheese, and parsley.
  • Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Using teaspoon, scoop piece of dough about size of cherry. Holding spoon just above boiling water, use second spoon to push dough into water. Working quickly, repeat about 10 more times. When dumplings rise to surface, simmer until cooked through, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to large plate. Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, add dumplings to skillet. Cook until brown in spots, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  • Bring soup to simmer. Divide dumplings among wide shallow bowls. Divide soup among bowls and serve.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Split Pea Soup

New York has had a series of disappointing snowstorms in the last couple of weeks... the kind that make you sit inside because instead of sticking to the ground they just melt and slush on impact. Last week some people even had a snow day (which pretty much never happens), although I'm pretty sure that was out of jealousy over Washington D.C. since it barely even snowed and trains were delayed less than they are when it rains. I never thought that living in New York I'd be wishing for snowstorms like they have in the South, but stranger things have happened, right?

Anyway, Mary went off to her skiing in Vermont and I had a not incredibly productive but very relaxing weekend in the city, hanging out with coworkers, watching terrible movies, throwing some pots at the studio and finding a new (to me) speakeasy in my neighborhood. After a visit to the MOMA Monday, split pea soup, a kitten on the lap and a few hours to get work done were just what the doctor ordered. And the best part about this soup is that it only involves about ten minutes of actual work, then two hours of cooking, so you can wander off and cozy up until you get hungry. So without further ado...

Split Pea Soup
  • Warm up your dutch oven (or regular soup pot) on low heat.
  • Saute about five finely chopped cloves of garlic in a little olive oil, adding one chopped white onion when they are getting translucent.
  • When the onion is translucent, add three chopped leeks (white and light green parts only) and one or two large chopped carrots
  • Add 2lbs of dried split peas and fill the pot with broth to about 2 inches below the rim (I used home-made broth from a chicken I roasted earlier in the weekend, this time with the addition of LEMON which was phenomenal, but if you're not using home-made broth, at this point I would also throw in a few sprigs of rosemary, thyme and oregano, and one whole lemon, cut in half)
  • Cover and let simmer for about two hours, adding water if necessary, until peas are mushy and delicious
  • After about an hour and a half, add in the leaves of one bunch of swiss chard, torn into bite sized pieces.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chunky Veggie Barley

Look how big my new soup pot is! It's the size of my torso!

In Michael Pollan's new book, "On Food Rules," he separates "food products" from "food." When did feeding ourselves become so complicated? Pollan's main thesis is to "Eat real food, not too much of it, and more plants than meat." Alayna and I discussed this while eating our soup last night.

The thing I can't wrap my head around is the fact that I am 27 years old. I have a graduate degree. For most of the last decade I've had a moderate interest in eating well and yet I still don't feel like I'm close to mastering it. I've spent years thinking about this and reading books and articles. I feel like I have a strong basis about the world of marketing tricks and how food marketers get you. Yet I still fall for traps (sugar free jam with fiber anyone?) So how on earth do people who aren't neurotic nutbags like me even stand a chance?

It is a rare day when I can confidently say nothing I ingested was processed. Even last night we had pearl barley in our soup, which is more processed than hull barley. But I don't even know where to find hull barley. The thing that annoys me about Pollan is that he makes me feel like such an idiot for having these moments. He makes it sound so simple. But it's not. I've been working on my cooking for a solid two years and I still feel like I'm at the very, very beginning of it. The crest of the wave (of soup!).

Maybe it's because unlike Alayna, I didn't grow up in a cooking household. My mom claims it used to be a cooking household when I was young, but as I often bring up, when I was 11 my mom gave up cooking for Lent and then never looked back. No one yelled at me for drinking Cokes in the morning and Oreos after school (Eileen and Jessica, please confirm). I know there are some underlying issues here, like how it wasn't even an option that my dad would ever pick up the cooking slack for my mom, but my point is I didn't have a strong cooking mentor growing up, so for much of this I feel like I'm learning things for the first time now.

I like Pollan's idea of eating in moderation. That feeling of can't-move-full is obviously not a healthy feeling. It's akin to putting ourselves into a comatose state. We aren't alert. (But have you noticed eating too much homecooked food is a different feel entirely from eating too much processed food?)

But I get uncomfortable when his stuff starts to sound like deprivation (i.e. eat sweets on days that start with an S) I like saying, "Hara Hachi Bu," mainly because it's funny to say outloud but also because it means "eat until 80 percent full." A cultural habit, practiced on the island of Okinawa; the healthiest place on earth. Pollan highlights an old wive's tale: If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you're not hungry.

I actually just ate an apple and I'm still hungry.

Clearly folks, I have issues with Micheal Pollan that perhaps I should just keep in the closet. Maybe I just want more of a gold star from him and less of a long sigh and shrug that I have so much left to do. I don't know. I'm interested in your thoughts. Are your current eating habits reflective of how you were raised? Do you often to cook for yourself? Do you even care? What are your food rules?

Chew on that and then go ahead and chew (and slurp!) on this...

Chunky Veggie Barley OR Ain't got no Gout Soup
  • in a separate pot, cook one cup of barley as suggested (should take about 45 minutes)
  • roughly chop 3 cloves of garlic and saute in olive oil with herbs des provence
  • add one onion, thinly sliced, and saute until lightly browned
  • add two parsnips (chopped) and a handful of carrots (chopped) and cook covered until they begin to get soft, adding more olive oil if needed
  • add two bunches of chopped brocollini and stir, then cover again until brocollini are a little cooked through (2-3 minutes)
  • add a handful of kale and stir and a box of chopped mushrooms
  • once kale, brocollini and parsnips are mostly cooked through, add the barley with it's hot water to the pot, filling the rest with water and chicken boullion for flava
  • bring to a simmer, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Greek Wedding Soup

Sit down folks. Today marks the first day that we cooked soup with ground beef! I think Alayna and I are going to become mega carnivores now. Like Acrocanthosaurus-type carnivores. Because meat tastes good. I also discovered some weird satisfaction from the feeling of rolling the meatballs in my palm.

Which was when, actually, Alayna said something casually like, "Who doesn't love the taste of raw meat?" I was taken aback as I had already washed my hands 3 times because of my close proximity to raw meat which I assumed if I didn't continually clean myself I'd obviously, you know, die. I probed further and Alayna admited that though she wouldn't eat "a whole raw meatball" she would "lick her hands afterwards.*"

Just like a cat. Which makes sense because for the first half of this soup I read Alayna's cat behavoir book outloud. We learned all sorts of helpful tips about what cats are trying to say when they bunt your hand and turn back their ears. I also began to feel super guilty that Toaster is an indoor cat and had a moment where I vowed I'd buy one of those cat climbing towers for her.

That'd just be awesome. Little meaty Mary with that cat climbing tower in her apartment. What a prize I'm becoming.

Anyway, this soup is really good. I know I say that every week. But this week I really, really mean it.

I love meatballs!

*Editorial Note: Alayna would like to point out that it is perfectly acceptable, even FANCY, to eat your steak practically raw, and that it's all cow anyways. Also, sushi.

Greek Wedding Soup!
  • Bring about three quarts of chicken broth to a boil, then down to a simmer (we used a combo of leftover real chicken broth from last week and water/fake broth)
  • In the meantime, combine about a pound of ground beef or lamb, two eggs, a handful of finely chopped parsley, about four finely chopped garlic cloves, 1/3 a cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 a cup of crumbled feta cheese and 2-3 sprigs of finely chopped oregano into a bowl
  • Use your hand to mix up the ingredients until smooth, and then roll up 1 inch balls and set aside on a plate
  • Once your broth is boiling, add the meatballs and about a mug and a half of orzo to cook for about 8 minutes
  • Bring down the heat and add any leftover parseley, a handful of roughly chopped mint, the grated rind of one lemon, one large grated carrot and a box of arugula. Let cook another five minutes and serve!