1030 Beef Barley Soup

Despite my previous enthusiasm, I’ve decided that I’m done with this recipe.  It’s just – boring. And it makes WAY TOO MUCH. And those two things are a bad combination in my book.  Let me back up.

Beef, barley, and leek soup from Smitten Kitchen
Photo by citymama

The weather was brisk today, and I anticipated spending most of the day helping my friend Olivia move into her new house. I knew I wouldn’t want to have to think about dinner when I got home – and that Shane wouldn’t be home until later either. In hopes of avoiding a fast food dinner and also stocking the fridge for a week of solo eating, I took half an hour to prep dinner and get it in the crockpot before leaving for the day.

After a morning of heavy lifting and maneuvering, a fair amount of pizza, and an invigorating moped blast around town, I arrived home not particularly hungry despite the wonderful smells coming out of the crockpot. I turned the temperature down and took a long hot bath. I read for a while. I pulled the short ribs out of the crockpot, coarsely chopped the meat, and added it back into the soup. And then I measured out THREE QUARTS, ONE PINT, AND ONE SMALL BOWL of beef barley soup.

Make that boring beef barley soup. I’m finding that it’s really difficult to accurately season large quantities of liquid destined to be in the crockpot for several hours. I’m not shy with seasoning, but I am concerned about over seasoning when the cooking is going to take place when I’m not around. As a result, this soup was a total snooze. I’m going to pick up some sherry to see if it will improve the flavor profile – but even if it does, we are going to be eating this soup all winter. How boring.

Recipe:
Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup from Smitten Kitchen

1028 Fancied Up Sandwiches

Another half-homemade dinner.   While Shane worked out in our basement gym, I zipped up to Plum to do the week’s grocery shopping – Shane will be in Cleveland with the car all weekend – including the components of a grilled cheese and tomato soup dinner.

Tomato Soup
Photo by Arnold Goodway

I used the last of the basil from the garden to make a wee batch of pesto, which I spread, along with a thin layer of cream cheese on two slices of French bread, which were then topped with a few slices of deli ham. Not traditional grilled cheese fare – more like a panini? – but packed with flavor and a great complement to the store-bought tomato soup. I make a mean tomato bisque, which, thanks to the archives, I realize I haven’t made all year, but tonight I was more interested in making a good sandwich.  Given Shane’s grumbles of pleasure, I think I succeeded.  And I also think I need to make tomato bisque soon.

1021 Tummy Troubles

I sincerely hope the celeriac fries aren’t to blame, but I’ve had the worst stomachache since this morning, and nothing seems to be making it better.  I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but I will note that I’ve spent a lot of time with the heating pad and cups of ginger tea this afternoon and evening. Shane came into some free cheese at Zingerman’s the other night – he mentioned that his last cheese purchase tasted a little soapy, and they gifted him with Brebis d’Iraty in exchange – so he had cheese, crackers, and a Lil’ Sumpin Wild, but I stuck to chicken noodle soup:

Chicken Noodle Soup
Photo by essgee51

And here’s more evidence of Shane’s bestness: when he stopped at Plum for soup for me, he called me with all of the options (including nutritional information), and came home with not one but two soup choices – the chicken noodle, which I’d requested, and an absolutely delicious container of butternut squash and apple, which I’ll be taking for my lunch tomorrow.

With cold and flu season squarely upon us, what are YOUR food remedies?

0928 A Refined Squash Soup

The winter squash from our garden may never materialize, but winter squash has arrived in the market in spades.  And I couldn’t be happier.  The winter months are long and lean in these parts, but butternut squash never fails to put a smile on my face and a healthy dose of beta carotene in my system.

curry butternut squash soup with fresh bread & baked pumpkin seeds
Photo by valkyrieh116

We fell in love with our friend Bill’s butternut squash soup recipe last year, but I have to say that tonight, through my fevered zombie haze, I kicked it up a notch.  I’ve given up on our immersion blender, and had I realized how easily I could do the same things with my food mill, I would’ve done so a long time ago.  While the onion and apple sweat, I pressed the roasted squash into a thick paste using the mill’s coarse plate.  I stirred the squash paste into the onion and apple, added a couple of cups of broth, and let everything simmer a bit.  Once the soup was heated through, I passed it all through the fine plate, which resulted in an impossibly silky texture enhanced by a bit of half and half (in lieu of the whole milk).  Next time I’ll amp up the seasoning a bit during the roasting and sweating steps – I roasted the squash with a dusting of cinnamon and curry, but both flavors were almost lost in the final product – but otherwise, I have to say that this was a damned fine bowl of soup.

Recipe:
Butternut Squash Soup a la Bill Jusino from my other blog

0925 Corn Chowder and an Attempted Robbery!

Another quiet Saturday.  Shane got home last night, tired and sick after a week away.  We went to Corner on our way back from the airport, had beers and fish tacos, and went to bed early.  Seriously, he was sawing logs by 9pm – well deserved after a long day of travel while under the weather.

To his credit, he dragged himself out of bed in time to go to the market with me – on the condition that we go to Comet first so that he could get his first good coffee in a week or more.  Apparently Viennese coffee is all weak or sweetened or both – not the bracing fantastic espressos and cappuccinos from SF, alas.  Comet cappuccinos followed by pumpkin donuts and several random friend meetings at the market makes for a nice fall morning.

And so we spent the Saturday – a few chores, a little moped work, a lot of getting caught up on new tv, and another batch of corn chowder with more sweet ears of market corn.  I’ve been buying a few extra each time so that our freezer is nicely stocked for the months to come.  I just hope we have enough…

Oh, and because several people have requested more biography and less straight-up food blogging, I should mention that at the end of a very relaxing and laid-back fall day, some JERK tried to steal one of the mopeds off the porch!  I was in the bathroom, so I didn’t witness any of this, but Shane was sitting on the couch and heard a weird noise outside, and when he got up to check on it, he found some dude trying to pick up one of the mopeds.  That alone is a feat since they aren’t light vehicles and they’re kind of packed in on the porch, and probably should’ve indicated his frame of mind.  Shane yelled at the guy, who backed off of the porch as if he were getting kicked out of the club “yeah, yeah, I’m going”.  Some further yelling took place as the guy walked away down the driveway and Shane followed, phone in hand and dialing the cops all the while.

By the time I looked outside to see what the hubbub was about, both Shane and the dude were across the street and Shane had reached the cops – in time for the dude to sort of attempt to chase Shane off?  I guess?  The cops were at our place within about 10 minutes, reporting that they’d caught the guy – a homeless(?) teen or 20something from an area familiar to the cops – so all’s well that ends well, though we’re newly paranoid about the (locked up) mopeds on the porch and our general safety in the area.

0911 Corn Chowder

It was rainy and cool today – a perfect opportunity to make soup.  With corn still in season, I was inspired to riff on my mom’s corn chowder.

Honestly, there’s nothing special about this recipe.  No exotic ingredients, no amped up flavors, no designated pairings – just the warmth and comfort of root vegetables, homemade chicken stock, and the crunch of corn freshly cut from the cob.  My family eats this soup out of bread bowls after Christmas Eve church.  There’s usually a platter of cheese slices and Pepperidge Farm crackers.  Later in the evening we might have a hot toddy.  Again, nothing fancy – just familiar, and after ten days away from home, familiar was just right.

Corn Chowder

2 tbsp butter
1 small white onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 small white potatoes, diced
1-2 small carrots, sliced into coins
kernels from 1 ear of corn (around 1 cup corn)
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp flour, or enough to reach desired consistency

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and saute until golden. Add the potatoes and carrots and continue to saute until soft. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir everything around, then add the corn, broth, and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then whisk in the flour. Start with one tablespoon and increase a little at a time until the broth thickens. You don’t want it to go all the way to a gravy – just a wee bit thicker, so that it clings to the vegetables a bit in the spoon. Let it simmer for a while – maybe 10 more minutes – stirring occasionally, then serve with crusty bread.

0720 Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp

I’m a little in love with Sprouted Kitchen.  Their food photography is consistently wonderful – to the point that when I showed Shane tonight’s recipe on the blog, he asked “do they cook outside?”.  Seriously, they must be blessed with the best lighting in all of Southern California.

This dish feels very Southern Californian to me  in that it embraces seasonal produce while also throwing in a bit of seafood and velvety avocado.  Of course, I live far from the origin of both the shrimp and the avocado, so it’s not terribly seasonal for me, but occasionally those splurges are worth it.  Like here:

Shrimp and Avocado

I didn’t love the corn soup, but I did love the contrast between the warmth and richness of the soup and the texture and freshness of the shrimp and avocado.

Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp

If you make this recipe, I suggest cutting way back on the oregano.  In fact, that’s the only thing I’d really recommend changing, though I look forward to trying this with my mom’s corn chowder recipe.  Maybe I can even talk my brother into bringing some avocados home from LA…

Recipe:
Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp from Sprouted Kitchen