Category Archives: soup

Will Run For This Soup

Full [seven] times hath Phoebus’ cart gone round
Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbed ground

…since last I wrote anything here. It has been BUSY!
Lentil Roasted Garlic Soup with Chard

Not necessarily with cooking and baking, but with writing and dreaming and planning (also good things). Oh, and running. Yes, there has been an awful lot of running around here lately, due to my winning the lottery of DC runners: Cherry Blossom Ten-Mile Race on April 1st. In the spirit of spontaneity, I put my name in for the race in December, and heard back a couple of weeks later that I had gotten “lucky,” and would have the rare opportunity to run 10 miles before most people had gotten out of bed on a Saturday morning. So I have been training, and the arm incident did not stop me for long.

As of this week, I’ve gotten up to 7.7 miles at a stretch, which took me 1 hour and 24 minutes. So, I’m getting close!

If I take a moment to reflect (tasting life in retrospection, as it were) on what voice inside me made me put my name on that list, I would say that running a race is a great example of setting a goal, devising a strategy, challenging yourself to meet your own expectations, and, I predict, feeling elated upon conquering what might have looked like an unconquerable mountain mere months before.

It’s good practice, is what I’m getting at, for launching other types of efforts.

Consider this your encouragement from me, and let me know if you’d like more!

Now I see why they’re called ‘aromatic vegetables’…

Since I’ve been paying more attention to my digestion and eating habits lately (advisable when you rise early and run before eating), I’ve decided to try to go as vegetarian as possible in these last few weeks leading up to the race. In that vein, I made this recipe from The Daily Soup Cookbook, which has been bookmarked with a sticky note for-ev-er:
Lentil Roasted Garlic Soup.
The ingredients and procedure are below, modified for my special scaling-down (some in the fridge, some in the freezer) and wasn’t-in-the-cupboard (only a puny amount of Puy lentils left, and didn’t want to mix them) techniques:

  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 1 Bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound 1/3 cup of french lentils
  • 8 cups 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 half of one 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • about 3/4 cup chopped chard
  • 3 Tablespoons 1 rough tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 Italian Parsley, chopped

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degree F. When it comes to temperature, loosely wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil and place in oven for 15-20 minutes, allowing it to roast. Remove from the oven, and let cool long enough to skin the cloves, placing the cloves into a food processor. Pulse to a near-paste. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot. When nice and slithery, add the onions, celery and carrots. Allow the aromatic vegetables to cook in the pot for 5-7 minutes, adding a slick more oil if necessary. Add the rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, incorporating them into the vegetables. Allow to cook for 2-3 more minutes.
Add the lentils, broth, tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and partially cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for one hour.
After the hour, stir in the chopped chard, roasted garlic paste, the minced garlic and balsamic vinegar. Simmer for 5-7 more minutes in order to have the soup incorporate the new ingredients and wilt the greens.
Remove bay leaf and serve.
Serves 5-6.

The First Literary Tea ‘salon’

If you read this blog fairly regularly, you may have noticed a gap over the last month.

Not too much content.
Not so big on the typing of words.
Not even pictures for a distraction!

This may be all the more disappointing after the momentum I had built up in December. Sorry, folks, for dropping the ball. I don’t think the fractured arm completely accounts for it, either. I switched gears from an external, writing-focused effusion about upcoming changes in my life to an internal and social-based incubation of projects to prepare for those upcoming changes. So the stew is still stewing, I just turned the heat down and put the lid on- ya follow me? (another metaphor?!)

So, what have I been doing with my time? Not much cooking, unfortunately. I probably could be doing more, but that would entail visualizing each step of the cooking process in advance and then arranging for someone to do the parts that I can’t manage (chopping, mixing, jar-opening, etc.) ahead of time, which is just too much planning, even for moi.

I made mujaddara (found first here, before it became a celeb and was posted here), a dish long on The List, and appealing in its super-easiness. Highly recommended.

Braised Fennel with Balsamic

And then a couple of weeks ago, I had to follow through on an idea I had back in November, involving a fair amount of cooking and advance shopping. In this case, I did have to ask a friend over to chop some onions and fennel and wash some dishes… The reason I felt so committed to hosting this soiree was that its goal was to raise some funds for a non-profit that was having real difficulties financially. It was founded by a good friend of mine and three other education reformers who were looking to take stock of where we are in the U.S. and around the world, and make education systems better for all those involved (donate here if you believe in the importance of this cause!).

I had a great theme for the party too: a Literary Tea. I was reading about bygone food cultures when a tossed-out reference to Literary Teas of the 1960s caught my imagination. It described them as cocktail hours for the New York publishing world, another pushy scene where writers and agents and publishers acted out the social version of Darwinism. Ech. Not my crowd. But ‘Literary Tea’ had promise, and I crafted my own theme, reclaiming and repurposing the name for better use.

I had grand plans for cooking soups and baking breads and whipping up desserts, but in the end, I admitted it was not realistic to think I would make all these things for 9 people- the max that would fit in my living room!  So I did some make-ahead things (twice-baked shortbread, Saltine toffee bars) and then relied on 1) fire-under-the-feet inspiration, fueled by 2) clean-out-the-refrigerator spirit. It worked out great! The stew (main course) that resulted included the following ingredients, roughly in order of throwing in:
vegetable broth
chopped carrots
tomato paste
cooked butternut squash
microwaved sweet potato
Trader Joe’s precooked lentils
hot Italian sausage (farmer’s market find!)

I asked my friends to contribute what they would have spent on bringing something to the dinner party, since I was taking care of everything (and replacing wine with tea, an AWESOME idea), and they went far beyond that, which was amazing. I was proud to contribute the amount that my friends had pitched in, topping it off with my own contribution, which amounted to $355. Amazing.
Along with the food and drinks, this salon was literary-themed, meaning:
I broke the ice with softball questions about favorite books of all-time and current books being perused. That went pretty well. After that, we dove into a long, involved round of The Origin of Expressions, which I was very excited about for this group. The game requires 1) the ability to bring forth useless factoids of world history and/or 2) the ability to fool people into thinking you know what you’re talking about. Perfect activity for all these friends from grad school days, where you hone both of the above skills. One round was enough because of the complex scoring process, then we were on to Boggle, which a friend had brought- several lightning rounds ensued, and in closing, I can’t believe I never played the game before. Awesome.

I hope you didn’t think I’ve been idle. I hope you knew there must have been some close-to-the-heart reason that kept me from updating this blog more closely, because there was. But my Literary Tea was a success! and soon there will be lots more where that came from.

**cast coming off in 1 week! Happy Valentine’s, indeed!**

Good Chinese

October 28th.
Friends assembled for a fun foodie night out.
In Rockville, MD.
At A&J.

Much to my surprise, not 1 of our group, but 3 of our 4 knew some Chinese (yes, I was the neanderthal here), which made for some hilarity taking turns asking the waitress things….like: how do you say “to go” ?

It was a rockin’ restaurant, with great variety, great flavor, and the decor was… well, the food was awesome.
To the left we have for appetizers Spicy Cucumbers and a dish with soybeans, greens, and bamboo shoots- a table favorite.
Below we have spicy beef soup on the left and congee on the right (‘jook‘ for Koreans, and my first time tasting either). The Spicy Beef was too spicy for me, even with plenty of congee. The congee helped my mouth calm down, but on its own was plain to the point of paper paste. Not my favorite, but I’m sure it’s best when paired with the right fiery dish (for someone who could handle it, that is!)

Sesame noodles, very tasty, being expertly tossed by Sabina.
We also sampled Ground Pork and Noodle, Potstickers (a different, fat-cigar shape), Thousand-Layer Pancake, Scallion Pancake, and copious amounts of fresh green tea, poured by each other as kind friends do. The Thousand-Layer Pancake lived up to its intriguing taste reputation- not sweet but not just grease, either- and stole my heart.
And there was no chance for dessert, we barely rolled ourselves out of there in time for making it to this pool hall/bar on Connecticut Ave for a scant hour before we were spent. Or at least I was!
So many good memories over Good Chinese.