Posts filed under 'Soup'
With February upon us and January behind us, I think I can finally bring you a recipe that is truly a beacon of health, without running the risk of appearing to be a New Year’s resolution cliche. With grains and greens and beans and citrus, this soup is certainly January fare. I would know. I ate the soup for lunch and dinner umpteen times last month.
I cooked what felt like a million things over the weekend, and I’ll eat almost none of them. Instead, the dishes are stashed in my parents’ freezer—a stockpile for my mother’s recovery from back surgery, which will be slow and tough for her, but (by god!) she will not be hungry.
On Saturday, I chopped and simmered and stirred all day, making a spectacular mess with which my sister tried to keep up (she’s a saint). I was on my feet for hours and hours, at my mother’s stove, her counter, her sink, using her knives, her pots and pans, her pantry ingredients. All the while, she was in bed.
It’s that time of August when you realize that the end of summer is near, even if you can’t see it—like the moment after you pull the drain-stopper from a sink full of suds, just before the dishwater starts to twirl down the drain. All is still and calm, before it unstoppably slips away. Right now, in this moment, it’s not yet unstoppable.
Really, it’s a sweet spot of sorts. The overnight temperatures have started to dip, granting a crisp early-morning reprieve from the sweltering weeks gone by. But the evenings are still long and warm, sun-streaked and scented with grill smoke. The markets are resplendent with tomatoes and melons and peaches and corn; we won’t be apple-picking for a few more weeks yet. Hydrangea bushes heave with great big poms and the lush leaves atop the trees on either side of the street meet in the middle, arching into a sun-dappled canopy. Those same leaves will go golden and crimson soon, before they the carpet sidewalks below.
I am no great football fan. I lose interest in the days between the weekly games; I waver in my allegiance to my childhood hometown team and my current hometown team (a transition that amounts to treason, depending on who you ask); and a conversation about the various positions usually sounds more like a discussion about pocket change than a starting line-up to me.
There are other things about the game, though, that I do love: the excitement (running errands this morning, I saw no fewer than two dozen Bears jersey-clad Chicagoans, all before the hour of 10 am; kick-off, it should be noted, is 7 pm); sunshiney afternoons on the couch; and, most of all, the food.
Soup, I have come to realize, feeds two very different needs. The first is the need to make soup—a craving that’s strongest for me in late fall, when the weather is sliding slowly into winter. During this early winter onset, other symptoms of mine include proclivities for wool socks, turtleneck sweaters and mugs of steaming hot beverages. In these times, the act of making soup—hearing the flame flick on below the soup pot, slowly coaxing flavor out of a humble mix of ingredients, the feel of the counter against my hip as I lean and stir, lean and stir—is just what the doctor ordered.
The second need that soup feeds is perhaps more obvious: the need to eat the soup. For me, this urge is at its peak on the rainy days of spring, with their damp chill and gloomy horizons. Summer, we know, is around the corner, but it’s not here yet. We’re like a little kid at her birthday party, blowing out the candles, only to realize, with a sinking feeling, that the candles are trick candles: the candles, like winter, will disappear momentarily, only to flare back up before you know it. In my grown-up mind, I want to scream, just give me the damn cake (the summer) already! To tide myself over until it’s really-truly-warm, I like to hunch over a bowl of soup, spooning up brothy bites, letting the steam warm my face.
It snowed a few inches on Saturday morning—a real wallop. While Kevin hated it, seeing it as a sign that winter was digging its heels in, I quite liked it. The snow itself was pretty—big, snowglobe flakes that floated lazily to the already blanketed earth. And, besides that, it provided a perfect excuse to spend the day inside, hunkered down.
So hunker we did. Kevin watched a Chicago Bulls championship series game from the late nineties on TV (I am so not kidding) and I puttered around the kitchen. It was quiet and relaxing and a just perfect Saturday. One of the best things to emerge from the day (aside from, surprise!, a Bulls win), was a steaming, simmering pot of soup.
Making this soup felt a little like cheating. Not A-Rod-style cheating or anything: just too easy. To make it, I chopped up a few vegetables (sad looking ones, at that: a misshapen onion, a droopy stalk of celery, a lone carrot tucked in the back of the crisper drawer), cranked open a few cans, tore into a bag of frozen corn kernels and, presto!, a soup was born.
And a good soup, too: one that’s shot through with a warm, smoky heat and brightened up with a squeeze of lime juice. Not just that, but it’s pretty! Sunny corn niblets, bright orange chunks of carrot, and whisps of minced cilantro all bob in the rosy broth, alongside purple-black beans.
The past two mornings, I have actually been grateful for the mirrored elevators that usher me up 43 floors to my office everyday. Usually, I find these mirrored elevators to be a real conundrum. How do I abide by the socially-acceptable (totally SNL-skit-ish) custom of staring straight at the closed elevator doors, carefully avoiding all eye contact with my fellow elevator passengers when doing so leaves me staring directly at, well, myself? It’s weird. But the last two mornings, as I said, have been different. I have stepped onto the elevators, heard the recorded elevator lady saying “Going Up” in her ambiguous, international accented English, felt the doors slide quickly closed and said a silent thank you as I looked directly into the mirrored walls. Because doing so allowed me to confirm that no, my face had not actually frozen off during my brief walk from the gym to the office.
It’s been that cold.
Okay, people, let’s hear it: how are you holding up? Is cookie fatigue setting in? I mean in your own kitchens, though I suppose you could catch a slight case of cookie fatigue just from hanging around here this week. First it was pistachio-dried cherry cookies and then it was chocolate-espresso snowcaps. And now it’s these peanut butter pinwheels, which—let me tell you—nearly gave me cookie fatigue and them some. In fact, it had me ready to throw in the spatula.
Thankfully, I recovered and the confections will continue to emerge from the oven. But for a short time on Sunday, when I made these stripey cookies, it was dicey. You see, I committed the cardinal sin of cooking/baking: I didn’t read the recipe through before baking the cookies. There, I said it.
So, I’ve had a lot to say about Thanksgiving dinner: the pies, the cranberries, the whole darn line-up. But would you believe that there was another meal last weekend that had me even more excited? On Friday night, my sister, Kevin and I had a family dinner—just like all those we shared in Chicago during the year my sister lived here, before moving back to Minnesota a couple months ago.
This one was in Minnesota (at my sister’s beautiful new apartment) and we had some extra generations of the family around the table, but it was a family dinner nonetheless. My sister thought soup would be a good bet—something light to ease the inevitable day-after-Thanksgiving guilt.