Carrot and Chickpea Soup

We had lunch at 4pm today.  Is it still lunch when you eat at 4pm?  Is it still lunch if you eat it after an afternoon nap?  Regardless, it was the second meal of the day, so we’re going to call it lunch.

Earlier in the week I cooked a whole mess o’ chickpeas.  I intended to make a dish from my new Essential New York Times Cookbook, but the beef I pulled out of the freezer was a bit past freezer burned.  Oops.  Instead the chickpeas lingered in the fridge until this morning, when I was determined to find something delicious to do with them.  Enter this soup.

Roasted Carrot Soup with Smoked Paprika
Photo by HealthHomeHappy.com

The photo above is of a different carrot soup, so please just imagine the paprika coloring the soup a deep orange-red, rather than serving as a garnish.  And the creaminess? Just as pictured.  Credit for the cray-cray creaminess of this soup goes to Shane, who cranked the hell out of the food mill to force a pound each of chickpeas and carrots into a velvet puree.  We could’ve used the food processor, but the last few times I’ve put soup through it, I’ve ended up with liquid everywhere.  So good work, Shane!

Creamy Carrot and Chickpea Soup
Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook, as posted on Mark Bittman’s website

2 tablespoons olive oil – reduced from 1/4 cup
2 onions, chopped
1 pound carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (pimenton)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock – reduced from 6 cups
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas – instead of 1 cup uncooked
1 cup orange juice

1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions, carrots, garlic, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and carrots have colored, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the cumin and paprika and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds or so. Add the stock and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily. Cook until the chickpeas are very soft, 20-30 minutes. When the chickpeas are very tender, add the orange juice, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, food processor, or food mill if you’re crazy.

Bittman suggests serving garnished with chopped (toasted?) almonds and parsley – we ate it with crusty bread and a drizzle (or more) of olive oil. The recipe yielded 8 cups soup, half of which we’ve frozen for later. Good stuff!

25 Recipes #2: Goulash

I’ve been cooking up a storm since we got home from Cleveland last Wednesday – I just haven’t been blogging about it. I made hummus and fresh pita bread for our friends’ New Year’s party – the latter was perfect, unlike earlier pita efforts. We were both somewhat worse for wear on Saturday, and the Barefoot Contessa’s fresh pea soup was just the thing for our troubled stomachs. On Sunday, I made the first recipe from my new Essential New York Times Cookbook: mushroom caps stuffed with sausage and duxelles – simple but incredibly flavorful, and destined to be on our table many times in the future. I also took on the second recipe from my 25 Recipes list: goulash.

Goulash!

I’m not sure how goulash got on our list exactly. I approached it with a bit of trepidation, as Shane grew up in a city whose cuisine is as influenced by Eastern Europeans as my hometown’s is by the Swedes.

I was concerned because there seems to be a great deal of disagreement about what constitutes authentic Hungarian Gulyás. Many recipes call for tomatoes, while others swear that goulash never contains tomatoes. Some recipes call for potatoes to thicken the stew. Others suggest serving the stew over dumplings or egg noodles. The goulash I remember from my childhood always involved ground beef and elbow macaroni, and is apparently known as American Chop Suey in some parts of the country..

Browning the beef

Fortunately for me, Shane doesn’t have any particular memory of a specific goulash, so I was safe to proceed. The one thing all goulash recipes seem to agree on is the paprika, which gives goulash its characteristic color and savory smoky flavor. The paprika differentiates goulash from more pedestrian (but no less delicious) beef stew. In this goulash, the paprika is cooked in bacon fat already used to brown your beef and saute onions and garlic.

Sauteeing onions and garlic

Add everything to the pot – the browned beef and bacon, plus stock, diced red peppers, tomato paste (oh, the heresy!), seasonings, and water (or beer) enough to get the right consistency. Let it all simmer for an hour or so – enough time for me to shred and then prepare some pasta – and you’ve got a warm and hearty dinner. I was going to add ‘flavorful’ to that list of adjectives, but I was honestly underwhelmed by this recipe. It was good but not remarkable, which is probably the case with most comfort foods.

Kitchen Assistant

Either way, Mina was happy to supervise, Shane was happy to eat it up, and I’ll be happy to make it again. Maybe we’ll try a more authentic recipe next time.

Recipe:
Goulash from Smitten Kitchen – 1/4 recipe with egg noodles and some bread was enough for three portions

1215 Pork Posole

I’ve had an intense avocado craving since Sonya mentioned that Octavia would be trying her first banana and avocado last week.  Bananas and avocados are two of my local food failings – I love both intensely, and it makes me very sad that neither can be grown anywhere close to the Mitten. Two years ago, in the first blush of locavore fever, my prized souvenir from our Christmas trip to California was a big bag of avocados from an Ocean Beach co-op.  We’re less strict now – we prefer local and seasonal, but if the occasional avocado, banana, or out-of-season pepper means the difference between a happy dinner or the continuation of the winter slump, it’s worth the food miles to me.

I mention this because I was convinced to make tonight’s dinner – pork posole – almost entirely because it was topped with slices of fresh avocado.  I started dinner while Shane was working out, and as he walked into the kitchen, he told me that he kept smelling delicious smells and hoping that they were coming from our kitchen.  Delicious smells indeed!  The soup was simple but hearty, making good use of a couple of cups of leftover corn, pork chops from the freezer, and tomatoes that I canned at the end of the summer.  I would season more aggressively next time – why are magazine recipes so conservative?! – and probably halve the recipe, as we had enough for two big bowls for dinner plus four cups of leftovers.  Oh, and I’d buy more avocados.  Definitely more avocados.

Recipe:
Pork Posole with Avocado and Lime from Fitness

1206 The New Austerity

You know what I’m talking about, right?  Thanksgiving was about two weeks ago, and Christmas is coming in just under three.  Hanukkah, replete with gorgeous fried things, started on Thursday.  If you live in North America, as 91.9% of you readers do, chances are very good that you’re right in the middle of six weeks of extravagant eating.  I know.  I’m right there with you.

Unfortunately for all those delicious foods, however, I’d like to fit into my cute clothes when my 31st birthday rolls around next month.  I think Shane would appreciate that too.  After spending an afternoon archiving photos from the last three years, he’s similarly motivated.  So while austerity measures aren’t fully in effect, we are trying to watch what we’re eating while concurrently getting our butts into the basement gym more often.

Tonight was a step in the right direction.  It was cold and we were hungry when we got home, so I made a pot of corn chowder – warm, hearty but not heavy, and full of things that are good for us.  Shane proclaimed that it was the best version of this soup yet!  Later in the evening, he spent some quality time on the cycling trainer, while I made a point of going to bed early in an attempt to recoup some of the sleep stolen from me by Basil’s disruptive bedtime behavior.  We were both hungry later, but we stuck to healthy snacks: toast for me and a protein shake for Shane.

If the new austerity involves big bowls of soup, tasty snacks, and going to bed early, sign me up.

1117 Pumpkin Soup

There’s certainly no shortage of pumpkin recipes this time of year – like pumpkin bread pudding or cakes made of pumpkin (and other) pies – but we’ll get enough of that at/around the actual holiday.  I picked up a couple of wee pumpkins at the market the other weekend with good intentions of making soup or something else savory – but then they sat on the windowsill for a week, and then another week, and then I just gave up and roasted them on Sunday, packing the softened caramelized flesh into a container for another day.

Tonight I used about half of the mashed pumpkin in a curried pumpkin soup, adapted from an Epicurious recipe that called for far too much liquid and far too few seasonings. I halved the recipe, upped the spices, and completely eliminated the extra water – and was rewarded with a creamy and savory soup with just a bit of heat.   We paired it with crusty farm bread and a New Glarus Apple Ale, a fantastically effervescent candy apple of a beer.  Happy days.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Epicurious

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 generous teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 generous teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 generous teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 cups roasted fresh pumpkin or 15 oz canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Saute onions in butter in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute, then add the rest of the spices and cook 1 more minute. Stir in pumpkin, broth, and coconut milk and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Purée soup in batches in a blender or food mill until smooth. Makes 4 generous servings.

1113 Tomato Bisque

Shane’s gone for the weekend – more moped stuff in Cleveland – and I’ve got a whole lot of nothing planned.  This morning I drank coffee, made a trip to the garden, and made a lovely soup for a late lunch while watching the Iowa game which, by the way, I don’t want to talk about.  I would, however, like to talk about this soup.

Lo these many years ago, in an apartment on 12th Street in Rockford, I started to get interested in food.  I knew enough to be dangerous to myself and others – I could scramble eggs, make an awesome batch of mashed potatoes, and follow the instructions on packaged food.  I had been vegetarian for a few years, so anything I might’ve known about preparing meat had long escaped my mind.  I was living with my boyfriend and two coworker friends, and while we all liked to eat, none of us liked to do the dishes.

When my roommates moved out and I didn’t have automatic Must See TV pineapple pizza ordering companions, I started to give the whole cooking thing a go.  This tomato bisque was one of the first things I mastered, one of the first recipes I could make without frantic trips to the store (where the hell are the pine nuts?) or phone calls to my mom (what’s something easy I can do with chicken?).  Paired with Jeff Perri’s grilled cheese sandwiches, it was my go to meal for the longest time.

So that’s what I did for lunch this afternoon: tomato bisque made from a whole bunch of the green tomatoes that finally ripened, with a bit of purloined dill for a more complex flavor.  I didn’t have cream on hand, so I whisked in a bit of yogurt – not the same, but good enough.  Add some crusty bread and a Spotted Cow, and you’ve got yourself a great afternoon.

Recipe:
Tomato Bisque from Fine Cooking

1107 Post-Bakefest Dinner

So see, we had these for breakfast:

Chocolate + Sprinkles

That’s right.

An Array of Wonders

Homemade donuts. And a lot of them, including this beauty that I dipped myself:

A Perfect Donut

All made by the usual bakefest crew while we ate breakfast burritos and Matt and Shane stoked the fire in Olivia’s woodburning stove.

Boys at work

So you can imagine that we were on a bit of a sugar high for a few hours. And when we came down, our brains and bellies aching from too many sweets, we needed something simple and healthy. This soup wasn’t quite as creamy and wonderful as the one Suz made the other week, but it was filling without feeling heavy. Next time I think I’ll roast the cauliflower instead of boiling it, and maybe use a bit of cream in addition to the cup of shredded parmesan that Suz recommended.  So very good.

Recipes:
Cauliflower Soup from Whole Living (Nov ’10 issue)