Tag Archives: Soup

Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme

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Near the end of my spring term, my biochemistry professor began a week on both an uplifting and cynical note: he encouraged us not to stress about the class or final too much and then relayed the stark truth that we never know what the next day will bring and we should make the most of enjoying the present. I could tell from the weeks previous that something was happening in his personal life that was challenging, and though he shared only a hint beyond that particular day, his words really stirred me.

 

I’ve shared only a little of it here, but in the past couple years I’ve been going through somewhat of a personal growing up/life upheaval. Above all, I guess I’m slowly learning to simplify and downsize what I accomplish in a day and opt for a little less stress and “striving to.” I’m also working on letting go of a manic hold on the future and just let it happen. My mantra of High Intention, Low Attachment, one I learned from a Running on Om podcast, is one I have to remind myself daily. In the spare moments I have now, I’ve been trying to take it all in with all my senses: the colors, the scents, the sounds, and yes, the flavors.

 

I can for sure say I fail as much as I succeed, but I think it’s a growing up kind of pursuit that I need in the way that only big life challenges can ask of us.

 

One way I’ve been achieving more of living in the moment is by moving many meals outside. The other is by working with the freshest produce, whether it’s from our own garden, harvested right before dinner, or from local farms. We are truly spoiled in this season and getting to walk outside and harvest a basket of something different each day has me being reminded that being able to do so was both a major priority for William and I, and that we are so privileged to do so. It is a privilege I do not take for granted.

 

Wherever you’re at in this season within the grand scheme of things, whether everything is wonderful or larger struggles have come your way, I hope you take a little moment to stop and look around, and find simple joy in the process.

 

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Creamy Fennel Soup with Honey + Thyme, serves 4-5
Soup might seem an ironic thing to eat in this warm season, but energetically, it is helpful to our bodies to be heated mildly so we can use our internal thermostat to self-regulate back to a comfortable state. It is much less harsh and draining than eating very cold foods, like ice cream or large helpings of cold melon, to cool down quickly. For this reason I think, I tend to favor light soups more in the summer than in other seasons. This one, with its emphasis on fennel, is quite light and simple. The flavor of the fennel really shines through, and there is just a sweet hint of the honey and thyme with each bite. You’ll want to serve it as starter or on days when only a light meal is preferred. As I note in the directions, taste and adjust flavors at the end. Depending on preference, you might want to add more or less salt, honey, lemon, or even cashew butter. 

1/2 tsp. coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 large fennel bulbs, diced
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3/4 cup cooked white beans or garbanzos
1 tsp. salt + more to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbs. cashew butter
2 tsp. honey

  • Melt the oil over a medium heat in a large pot. Add in the diced onions, celery, fennel, and thyme. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened but haven’t yet browned. Add a splash or two of water as needed.
  • Add in the garlic and cook, uncovered, for about a minute more. Add in the beans, then pour in the broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • When the soup is done simmering, pour it into a blender in batches, to bring it to a smooth puree. On the last batch, spoon in the cashew butter and puree in.
  • Add all the now pureed soup back into the pot and then bring up to a simmer again. Add the lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and honey. Taste to check for seasoning and adjust as needed. You might find it needs more salt, pepper, lemon juice, or honey. Add a small amount of whatever it needs until it tastes balance and “right.” You’ll know and it will be lovely.
  • Ladle into bowls, and serve with warm bread as desired.

Roasted Sweet Potato + Beet Soup

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Sometime in the early months of 2013, I discovered a whole new genre of food blogs. At the time, I was coming home from work to an always empty house, laying on the floor for an hour to re-calibrate from my day, working myself into a 30 minute or so run, and then reading a couple food blogs over dinner (usually a sweet potato, roasted during that run, with black beans, salsa, and a pile of greens), working another couple hours just to survive the next school day, and falling into bed into a deep and dreamless sleep before my alarm clock wrenched me out and up and into another day that was much the same. I was exhausted and unhappy — but I was learning so much and I could tell if I could just keep putting one foot in front of another and trust my intuition, I’d end up in a better place. Also, I was learning a new way to eat and cook and it’s safe to say in my years-long shift in eating, a major one was slowly taking place.

One of the blogs I discovered during that time was Sarah Britton’s My New Roots, and it was from her that I first learned about the “holy trinity of flavor,” or what I’ve now learned is referred to as FASS. Personally, I like to call it the four corners of cooking.

Sarah shared about an experience in her cookbook of a chef thinking her soup was bland and teaching her that every dish needs to have an acid, a salt, and a sugar, or will taste a little less than ideal. This is Sarah’s holy trinity of flavor. In the four corners, a fat is added to that trio, to make FASS. For each of the four components, a little can go a long way.

 

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It was soup week this last week in my cooking lab for nutrition, and we experimented with refining the four corners of our recipes. Flavor is a very personal thing, but I found that very simple recipes with few ingredients, a little fat, an acid, a sweet note, and some salt can work wonders in making a recipe taste delicious. After eating different types of soup for several days and using William as my second taste-tester, I felt the need to share the humblest of soups from this week. I say it is humble but it was also the one that absolutely hit the spot, more than once, after coming home late from long days of work, hard runs, and commuting.

I wrote up a description about working with the four corners of flavor for class this week, and because I think everyone should cook with flavor, I’ll share a rendition of it here: First, when refining flavors, make sure the dish is at the temperature you will serve it at, as the flavors will change, depending on whether you are tasting it hot or cold.

 

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For any given recipe, it is likely that a fat source as either butter or an oil will likely be used in building the base. The fat type can add flavor, if it is intended to, or if added near the end as either a cream or nut cream, can add mouth feel and a change in texture as well. Adding a fat such as lightly toasted and chopped nuts can also be a flavor-enhancing garnish to round out a finished recipe.

As an acid component, a squeeze or two of lemon juice or one of the many types of vinegar can be added. The small amount of acid added at the end of cooking will enhance and sharpen the other flavors of the dish.

Salt, the third component, is likely the most important, and can really heighten the other flavors. The right amount of salt is a very personal thing, and it can easily be overdone to the recipe’s detriment, so add it in small amounts and taste as you go. You will know when you’ve added the right amount.

The fourth corner is sugar. Depending on ingredients, you might already have a sugar component. For instance, in this roasted vegetable soup, the roasting of the vegetables prior to adding them to the broth brought out their natural sugars through the process of caramelization. For this soup, I did not need to add any additional sweetener. The sweet flavor balances and rounds the soup and also will satiate the appetite, which is why if it is missing from a meal, we often finish wanting more, even though we’re physically full.

 

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Roasted Sweet Potato + Beet Soup, serves 2-3
Feel free to use whatever root vegetables and beans are on hand or desired. Recipe adapted from Eleonora Gafton. 

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 sweet potato, medium dice
1-2 large beets, medium dice
1 large carrot, roll cut
2-3 small turnips, medium dice
1/2 large yellow onion, medium dice
1 clove of garlic, minced
4-5 cups vegetable broth
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
sea salt to taste
ground black pepper
a squeeze of lemon juice, as necessary

  • Place all diced vegetables on a large baking pan and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  • Roast them in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
  • In a large pot, add the roasted vegetables and herbs, along with the broth and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Season as needed with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve with fresh chopped parsley, and if you’re in the mood, fresh baked scones or cornbread.

Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts

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Be willing to move forward and find out what happens next.                 – Frank Shorter

 

December. There have been dinner parties, holiday parties, office-gifting, coffee catch-ups, super big deal good news, all-day baking sessions, making food with 100+ teenagers with differing food tastes, several nights and days of not enough sleep and feeling too tired, and then news that is challenging, both personally and in the world. Last week was my last big work-related push of the year and each morning I woke feeling like I could sleep for another five hours. Then in my morning runs, I could tell my body was a little “down” in a way that is not depression or hard workout related. When the going gets tough and I’ve too many things on my plate, I tend to put my head down and stubbornly power through. Alone with myself in the dark and the cold and the rain, I could tell when I stopped powering through and listened that I really needed a break that involves not socializing or busy-bodying but genuine self-care, reading a good book, journaling, wearing slippers and workout tights all day, sleeping in, listening to good music, eating and drinking warm foods, and practicing “being gentle“.

 

Fortunately, I took the weekend and did some of the above. I’m banking those slow days now particularly, as there are giant changes looming ahead. Somehow, I’ve come to one of those transitory periods when all the big life things are shifting at the same time. I’ve only shared pieces of these changes with a few of my closest and I haven’t processed yet. Instead, I’m keeping my head by focusing on this step I’m in. The rest will figure itself out.

 

In the meantime, it’s Recipe Redux day, and like last year, we’re cooking from books. If you read regularly, it’ll be fairly obvious that I’m a mega-fan of David and Luise at Green Kitchen Stories. I love both their cookbooks and I’ve been cooking from their latest, Green Kitchen Travels, all year long. One of the recipes I’ve made several times is their super vegetable-heavy chili with dark chocolate and walnuts. I’m quite experimental with food and will gladly make something new every single day but I’ll periodically circle back to recipes if I find them particularly good. This chili is my absolute favorite and it is also infinitely variable. I’ve changed up the types of veggies used each batch depending on the season and what I’ve got. I tend to stuff it with more of the root vegetables this time of year like parsnips, celeriac, turnips, and rutabagas.

 

This is a chili to warm hearts and revive during this busy season of dark nights. William and I gobble it up when the need for chili strikes — and it is a great one to serve to a crowd.

 

Cheers. I hope your December is merry.

 

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Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts, adapted from Green Kitchen Travels

serves 6-8

2 Tbs. olive or coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. cumin 
1  fresh chili, minced (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 celeriac (winter), peeled and chopped or 2 bell peppers, (summer) red & yellow, finely chopped 
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped
2 large stalks of celery with top greens, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried mixed beans (adzuki, kidney, black eye, borlotti), soaked and cooked or 3 14-oz. cans
2 14-oz. cans whole plum tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
1-2 ounces 80% dark chocolate, broken in pieces

  • Start by preparing all the vegetables.
  • Heat oil in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, cumin, chili, paprika and oregano, and let fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spices smell fragrant. Be careful so they don’t burn.
  • Add celeriac, carrot, parsnip and celery, and let cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the chopped walnuts, beans, tomatoes, water and salt and let cook for 30 minutes or more.
  • Now add the chocolate, starting with a lesser amount and tasting as you go until it is “enough.” I usually use about 1 1/2 ounces. Stir the chocolate around carefully and let cook for 5 more minutes. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Serve in bowls with fresh cilantro, if desired, and homemade cornbread.


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