Jan. 12: Chicken and Dumpling Soup

The only chicken and dumplings I’d had before making this were from a Cracker Barrel in Indiana, and they were straight-up gross. (I was able to buy a huge box of Moon Pies there, though, so it was kind of worth it.) I’ve pretty much had some kind of bastard cold/flu/whatever since Christmas, and I was feeling particularly in need of TLC in a bowl. So I swore off karaoke for the night, put on my holey wool sweater, and combined recipes from two TV food personalities of whom I generally have a pretty low opinion but who nevertheless make great recipes on occasion: Bobby Flay (eh) and Rachael Ray (vom). 

I followed Rachael’s recipe for the soup part and, lacking in biscuit mix but possessing a shred or two of dignity, made Bobby’s dumplings from scratch. That’s them-to-be in the pot on the lower left. With all the butter. Yeah. 

Dudes, this was so fucking good. I’m reduced to crude slang just thinking about those tender, buttery dumplings — like biscuits if they were noodles! I’d also forgotten how great it is to have frozen peas on hand. They’ll make another appearance when I boeuf bourguignon it up soon.  

Jan. 11: Triple-Shroom Soup with Farro

Friends!

I was super psyched to procure a 5-lb. bag of Cayuga Pure Organics’ farro — and that my acquisition coincided with the presence of three kinds of mushrooms at my disposal.

Smitten Kitchen strikes again with this recipe; I tweaked it by adding about half a pound of sliced shiitake caps along with the criminis, and the mushroom broth was made with about twice as much of the dried mushrooms Deb recommends — and what they are is a mystery; we’ve had a jar of dried mushrooms and seasoning that one of my roommates was given long ago — its own soup mix with the recipe long lost. Also used about a cup of frozen stewed tomatoes in place of the paste, which we were somehow out of.

 

I omitted the sherry vinegar, but managed to procure some sherry (and a big-ass bottle of sale Rex Goliath to go alond with it). I’ve been using it in place of vermouth in any soup since that needed a little alcohol deglaze before the stock goes in. View the original recipe here.

Jan. 10: Red Lentil and Collard Green Soup

Brothy, beany, and greeny, this dish was universally loved by my household and pretty simple to make.


 

I had a few bunches of collard greens — part of the dregs used to assemble my CSA share this week — and was determined to make something with them that didn’t involve the immersion blender. Most root veggie soups do, and it’s not my favorite texture. Plus, these soups are pretty formulaic. Nothing wrong with that — mirepoix plus stock plus other stuff is pretty much how soup works — but I’m glad I found a few recipes that were a little different.


No idea what the real name of this soup is. I found a few versions that just called it a take on a Lebanese specialty. It’s a bit less muddy than a straight-up lentil soup but heartier than a cabbage-and-broth style joint, which can sometimes feel a bit watery. The cinnamon and cumin really blend well with the musky sweetness of the stewed collards.


I followed this one pretty much to a T (and forgot to take any pics of the finished product, durr) — so check out the original post.

Jan. 9: Spicy Mystery Pho

To occasionally take a break from soup (or at least divert my attention), I’ve noticed a tendency to throw myself in a few other directions over the course of this project. One is pear desserts — I’ve had tons of almost-too-ripe pears to process, and made some awesome cakes and even a soup (TBA) with them. Another was cheese: when I happened by Tallulah’s Table in Kennet Square for work, I jumped at the chance to buy up a bunch of their ends (cheese babies, they call them) to bring to a session of Settlers of Catan (along with a bowlful of tender Seckel pears, of course).



Which means, with a work road trip and a Catan game scheduled for one day, that soup was going to have to make itself easy and simple enough to be made not only quickly, but at my boyfriend’s house, where the only ingredients (that are his) are milk, coffee, and, um, more ramen.

 

Enter this cute little pack of mystery rice noodles. All I could tell is that it was pho. There were three packets: One of dehydrated veggies and spices, and two of seasoning that were fused together — one section printed with little chili peppers. Thank god for pictograms: I put about half the spicy powder in and could barely take the heat.

They have this mystery pho, as they do so many things you need for a good soup (organic lentils, cheesecloth (!), classy sea salt boullion cubes), at Fu Wah.

Jan. 8: Carrot-Ginger Soup with Miso

Because I am a person who likes to cook and bake and drool over gorgeous food pics, I obviously love Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made entire meals out of Deb’s recipes, and I always include them in CSA newsletters — not only because her ideas are delicious and her posts entertaining, but also because she tends to cook seasonally, and her current recipes often jibe perfectly with what’s in the share.

 



I also love Smitten Kitchen because amid painstaking-but-adorable projects like Apple Pie Cookies (totally made those), there are some good, quick, dinner-in-a-hurry recipes that you can learn and dash off right quick. I whipped up this evening’s recipe, Carrot Soup with Miso, in the early evening shortly before jetting off to co-host this. Next one is Jan. 22 at Dahlak!

 

I stuck relatively closely to Deb’s recipe, with a few minor changes: I threw in a gold beet instead of one of the carrots (the sweetness definitely showed up in the final product, but I’m not sure how I would have liked it better); added a way bigger piece of ginger; forgot the sesame drizzle; and (of course, because I never have them on hand) left out the scallions. And probably made my boullion too salty for the amount of miso I added, but it was still delicious.

Jan. 7: Apple-Parsnip-Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

So far, this has been the only soup that wasn’t devoured within a day by me/roommates/friends, and it’s because the Jerusalem artis aren’t really supposed to be in the picture. I subbed them out for about half the parsnips in the original recipe because I was short — aaaand then ended up throwing in a bunch more, since I had them lying around. They were also little tiny tuber-nuggets that would have taken hours to peel, so I left their skins on — maybe that skankified the flavor a bit?


 
Wah-waaaah.

That’s not to say I didn’t eat two bowls’ worth — it’s just that the sweetness from the apple and parsnip really bumped up against the artis’ flavor. If you’re used to the flavor of the artis, it’s not bad — but if you’re not, I have a feeling that this soup would taste about a day away from rancid. Sad face.

It still looked pretty.

So I won’t post my recipe, but I will encourage you to try what will no doubt be a milder, sweeter, tastier original recipe.

Jan. 6: Post-Comedy Post-Bar Ramen

Ingredients:

One standup show, story slam, open mic, or other event where people who are hopefully funny perform for your entertainment

One companion of your choice 

One neighborhood Ethiopian bar

Several Citywides

Directions:

See John Oliver (or other comedian of your choice; they will probably not be as good) at Helium with your companion. As with all standup shows, you have to pee the entire time but refuse to get up or stop ordering $2 Heinekens.  Still manage to laugh a whole bunch. Make your way home via diners, CVS (where you buy a box of puppy-themed temporary tattoo valentines, OBVIOUSLY, and 2 bags of cat food because it’s on sale), and lastly, the bar a block and a half from your house. Proceed to make questionable choices on the jukebox. Get slobbery with companion (optional).

Head home, walk past your kitchen, and remember that you’ve committed to making goddamn soup every day, WHY, uhghghghgh. Take five minutes, make chili ramen happen (hint: package directions), and put into Ball jars for later. Try not to spill. Microwave one of these babies for breakfast in the morning. You’ll need the electrolytes.  

Jan. 5: Shiitake Miso Soup

 

After the coconut soup, I had a stash of ingredients — gobo, cilantro, lemongrass — that steered my soup choices for the next few days. Waverly grabbed the shiitakes at the same time as the previous soup’s enoki mushrooms, and these were pretty massive. Shiitakes stand up well to simmering in soups without getting spongy, so I took the risk of cooking them a bit with garlic, ginger, and lemongrass before tossing in stock. (I probably should have used less chicken broth, or just plain water, but I kind of forgot that salty broth+miso might be overwhelming. In my house, however, we’re salt fiends, so it worked out.)

 

The result was a quick, simple, Thai-inflected miso with a little more going on than your usual seaweed and tofu affair. The garnishes just add a hint of sweetness (in the case of the scapes) and crunch/freshness (the kohlrabi, pictured below).  

 

Shiitake Miso Soup

 

A bit of your fave cooking oil

A stalk of lemongrass, sliced thinly

A fat thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped

3 big cloves of garlic, sliced

One dried cayenne pepper, crushed (or a fresh chopped jalapeno, or crushed red pepper to taste, whatever you have around)

At least half a pound of shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and sliced

One quart of water or stock (be careful if your stock is salty)

¼ cup white miso, more if you like

A handful of cilantro, chopped

Juice of one lime

Pickled kohlrabi slices and/or pickled garlic scapes (optional)

Put oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and peppers; let it go for 5 or so minutes. Add your sliced mushrooms and let them get flavory for a few minutes. When stuff smells good, add your water/stock, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Mix your miso separately with a bit of the soup broth, then add to the pot with cilantro and lime juice. Stir, serve, and garnish with chopped pickled kohlrabi or scapes.

Jan. 4: Tom Kha Gai

I promise y’all I’ve been sticking to my Fun-A-Day pledge — and it’s true: I haven’t gone a day in January without making soup. But nowhere in the rules does it say I have to update this joint on time, does it? Part of the reason I got backed up was because this recipe is a little complex but SO worth it, and once you get a few key ingredients, you can make it any time you want with little time and fuss. Can also be made with shrimp!

I’ve had Thai food twice in the past few weeks, which is more than I’d had it in pretty much all of 2011. (One was the bamboo stew at Vientiane — brothy, hearty and delicious with chunks of acorn squash.) Four soups into this project and I had a craving for something with coconut milk. Two Asian grocery stores later and I was equipped with the few simple ingredients you need to get signature Thai flavors.


Galangal and kaffir lime leaves are, it turns out, not an Asian market staple, but the kindly old woman at the teeny grocery on Locust between 43rd and 44th dug bags of both out of a huge chest freezer in the back of her shop. Blink and you’ll miss this spot — its windows are covered in metal gratings even when open, and the sign on the door simply reads “Thailand.” Its official name is P&P Grocery, but you’d never know it.



My roommate, Waverly, procured the rest of the key ingredients (enoki mushrooms, lemongrass, coconut milk) from H-Mart. I got distracted at one of the shops I stopped at to look for galangal and bought a two-foot-long bundle of burdock root (gobo in Japan), which is great for your liver and ends up tasting and feeling a bit like bamboo shoots when peeled, sliced, soaked, and boiled. A jalapeno was substituted for dried Thai chiles, and I cobbled together ingredients and a method from two recipes I found online, one at Instructables and one from Rachel Cooks Thai.

 

Tom Kha Gai

Adapted and loosely doubled from Rachel Cooks Thai


4 cups water

4 cups chicken stock

10 torn kaffir lime leaves

A few thick slices of galangal, chopped (fresh or frozen)

Two stalks of lemongrass, sliced thinly

Two cans of coconut milk, full fat

Two sticks of gobo/burdock root, peeled, sliced into inch-long rhombuses, soaked in cold water, boiled separately for 10 minutes, and drained

However much boneless chicken meat you want, sliced thinly

1-2 jalapenos, diced

A couple squirts of fish sauce

Juice of one lime

2 spoonfuls roasted chili paste

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 little packs of enoki mushrooms, bottoms trimmed

One onion, sliced thinly

A handful of chopped cilantro


Get your big pot and simmer your water, stock, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass until they smell really good (like 20 minutes). While this is happening, chop all the other stuff that needs chopping and start a pot of your favorite kind of rice. When you’ve chopped your gobo/burdock, toss it into a bowl of cold water for a few minutes, then put it in another pot of water, boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. The cold soak helps keep it crisp and not discolored, and the simmer is part of a two-step cooking process. Drain the gobo.


 

Add gobo, chicken, and jalapenos to the pot. Wait a few minutes for the chicken to cook — you’ll know it’s done when it’s white instead of pink inside. Add everything but onions, enoki, and cilantro, then taste for seasoning. Adjust as needed, then add onions and enokis. Simmer till cooked.  


 

When onions and enokis are cooked, add cilantro. Serve immediately over rice.

Jan. 3: Random Ramen with Beets and Greens

Is it a bad sign that by day 3 of Soup-A-Day, I resorted to one of my semi-cheats? While procuring split peas at Fu Wah, I also grabbed several random packs of ramen and udon noodles. I don’t ever plan to crack open a can of Campbell’s and call it a day, but I’ll allow a little brothy packet goodness to speed me on my mission.
There’s a demo raised bed full of veggies at my work that was installed last spring by the Backyard Farmers; since the end of the season, it’s been limping along in the cold. This winter, I’ve harvested mini heads of bok choy and the occasional handful of snow peas and lettuce to go with my lunch. Sick with a cold on Tuesday, I knew I’d want to collapse into bed after work, so I got my souping out of the way at lunchtime. I found three radish-sized Chioggia beets (and their tops) and a handful of baby kale and collard green leaves.


Winter Garden Ramen
 
A root vegetable (my beets ended up being a scant handful, but your average ramen recipe can accommodate a whole beet, turnip, rutabaga, carrot, whatever), chopped smallish and peeled if you want
Some greens (arugula, spinach, kale, chard, collards, mustards, radish tops, beet greens, bok choy…), sliced thin
A packet of ramen, whatever kind
Your favorite Asian cuisine amendments (soy sauce, hoi sin, va
 
Boil some water, a little more than you like your ramen to have. Toss your roots in until a little firmer than tender. Add greens and ramen according to package directions. When the noodles are ready, serve. Pat yourself on the back for only taking 10 minutes to semi-homemake lunch.
 
Up next: Hella delicious tom kha gai.