Archive | August, 2009

A Note From Vancouver & Alaska

30 Aug

Soup at the Granville Island’s Public Market, Vancouver

While I was traveling from Seattle to Vancouver to a cruise through Alaska (Thank you Shulmans!) I was reading Thomas McNamee’s “Alice Waters & Chez Panisse,” about Alice and her friends starting up her restaurant in Berkley and then beginning the organic, local and slow food revolution. It was good and led me to a slew of cookbooks I want to read next (The French Menu Cookbook, French Provincial Cooking as well as Water’s stuff and MLK Fisher– thank you, Erin.) 
I ate a lot of soup in Alaska. There was a mango soup, and a cold pink thing with cherries, a navy three bean soup and lobster bisque. The best meal I had in Alaska however, wasn’t the soup. It was a quick meal we had after kayaking in Ketchikan. It had been raining and we just had kayaked out to a nest of bald eagles and there was a teenage eagle sitting in her nest and the father looking on from another branch. When we kayaked back to the small boat that had taken us out to the sound the owner of the boat made an easy smoked salmon spread with capers and cream cheese and onion. And it was lovely and well deserved. Food taste better when it’s deserved.
This is part of Water’s note on the restaurant’s philosophy. “At the table we are nourished and gladdened, put in touch with the source of life … It is central to both the deepest and most joyous of human activities: generosity, companionship, nourishment, growth.”
I feel a big shift from summer to autumn. I love autumn. So does my grandmother. It’s our favorite season. In the beginning of fall it feels as if you have great potential to make changes. To try harder and to be better. 
So here we begin again.

Friendly Fennel

25 Aug

People often ask me how I come up with recipes for the soup blog. Honestly, it’s a hodgepodge. Sometimes Mary will send me something she wants to try (that’s how we discovered kale! And porcini mushrooms!), sometimes it’s something I ate in a restaurant (watermelon mint), and sometimes its opening my fridge and saying, “well, I have x, y, and z and am too lazy to go to the store (hello too many bbqs leading to a veggie detox). Although I follow recipes more closely when I’m working with a new ingredient (hey, fish sauce can be scary), they never make it through the cooking process untouched. This week, as Mary is still out of town, my sister agreed to soup with me and had an extra fennel bulb (who doesn’t?). She reeeeally wanted a cold soup that our mother makes (which I’m pretty sure I’ve never had).

This was her response to me asking for the recipe:


hi alayna-

i will bring a fennel bulb and an onion tomorrow for cold fennel soup! other ingredients are chicken broth, lemon juice, and cream.


your sister

…. And you wonder where I get it from

Friendly Fennel

  • Chop 1.5 medium sized yellow onions (or one small) and sauté in olive oil
  • And the 3 bulbs of fennel (only the white parts) roughly chopped, but small enough to cook quickly, and cover
  • Add five medium-small red potatoes (you can skip this step if serving as an appetizer, but I like the weight it gives the soup if you’re having it as a full meal)
  • Once the fennel and potatoes are cooked through, add room temperature vegetable broth, the juice of 1.5 lemons and salt and pepper to taste
  • Blend and let sit in the fridge (or freezer) until cold


      • This soup is also delicious warm (as long as it’s not too hot out)
      • I think it would be even more delicious if you added leeks with the onions
      • For some reason I made a LOT more soup this week than normal… for a normal sized recipe, just use 2 fennel bulbs and 3 potatoes, one lemon

More happy soupers!

Watermelon Wonder

19 Aug

Ah summer, when you get up and have a slow breakfast, purposefully wait for your coffee to get cold before you take your first sip, lounge around reading, go to the beach, nap when you get tired and eat only what is cold, refreshing, or astonishingly easy to make.

As ‘grown-ups’, we never quite re-capture that summer feeling, but I got to come pretty close this past week while on vacation. I tagged along with my mom and her lovely friend Marlene to Cape Cod before heading down to Texas to see my good friend Mo. I saw seals at the beach, ate a lobster the size of my head, and enjoyed the best snow cone of my life standing in a steaming hot parking lot in a swimsuit in the middle of Austin.

And of course, there was soup. My mom happened to bring four of the five ingredients necessary for a soup I’ve been wanting to make, and the last, mint, was growing in the yard of our beach house. It couldn’t have been more perfect or better after a long day at the beach. And so I present, the Watermelon Wonder… don’t be weirded out by the garlic, it keeps the soup from tasting like juice (although you can still drink it out of a cup if you’re lazy and/or hot):

  • Chop the red parts of half a very ripe, large, seedless watermelon into chunks and to half a very ripe cantaloupe, de-seeding it first
  • Also chop one large cucumber
  • Dice two cloves of garlic and large handful of mint

  • Blend all of these things in a blender (HINT: start with watermelon at the bottom of the blender with a LITTLE bit of water and things will get liquid fast, then just reserve some for the next batch)

  • Salt and pepper to taste and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour before eating.
VOILA!… happy soupers!

And happy snow-coners!

Penne al la Summer Minestrone

11 Aug

Maybe it’s because Monday’s Soups is rounding to it’s 6 month anniversary, that is a lot of soup, folks, but I find myself bursting with soup thoughts on a daily basis… So with that in mind, here I go.

Jamie came over to my apartment last night because Alayna is vacationing in Texas. This means that Yes, this was the first soup that was ever made outside of Alayna’s apartment for the blog. And it went well. It was a little less smooth than when Alayna cooks. She has mastered the art of chopping, sauteing and knowing what goes in the pot next while talking. I can’t do that so well. Thus, I would realize I forgot to add the cannellini beans five steps later. Or I added the green beans too early. But because soup forgives, none of this mattered. This soup also brought me back to my never ending question, Why do we blanch vegetables? I was afraid of kale for so long because blanching seemed like such a pain. But I soon realized that kale really doesn’t need to be blanched at all. I don’t taste a difference. Can a foodie help a soupie out?

The New York Times reported yesterday that obesity rates are going up based on a nationwide survey from 2005 to 2009. Nothing is new here. Seven of the 10 states with the highest poverty levels are also among the 10 states with the highest obesity rate. In Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia more than 30% of adults are obese. And—this is crazy—in 30 states, 30% or more of children are overweight or obese. That’s insane. It’s insane and it’s stupid. And it probably gets on my nerves more than it should but I can’t help it.

Jamie asked me what I was learning through this blog. I’m learning that cooking brings together people and conversations in a very authentic way. And that heady, karma part of me—that was born in college—believes that these are the real things you put into your food when you cook.

I know I’m getting annoying, and I’m trying not to fall over the line of being too preachy. This means a lot to me, and I feel like I learn more each week.

This is what I know.

A friend who I was very close to when I was a child, who I slipped away from as we grew older and we fell into life and trying to figure out who we were and who we certainly were not and all that, and then, only recently we began to inch back together. And the dialogue that brought us back was food. Was, stuff like, Yes, oh my gosh kale is wonderful and how do you bake a spaghetti squash and all of that. And while we were in the process of coming back to one another a tragedy happened in her family and it was awful and it broke my heart. I did the dance of all those awkward words that don’t feel like your own. I’m So Sorry and Is There Anything I Can Do and All My Sympathy. We put together those words and it felt strange and not right. And then it began to come back. It came back with, ML, I’m going to the market to make your soup.

Really?? Which soup?

Thai! I already have most of the ingredients.

And that is how we started to feed each other back to ourselves.


Now, lets eat… Summer Minestrone with Penne (or whatever pasta is in your cabinet

My first kitchen picture!

This is one of those soups where veggies can be swapped in and out. It doesn’t matter. Throw in whatever you have around or is in season.

-Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 medium yellow onion chopped into a soup pot over medium heat

-Add 4 chopped carrots and 4 chopped stalks of celery, add a pinch of salt, mix around for 10 minutes or until veggies soften.

-Throw in 6 cloves of garlic chopped and a few shakes of thyme (or fresh, obvi!)

-Dump in a big can of chopped tomatoes with juices, fill up half the tomato can with water, dump that in too.

-Chop up some fresh parsley and add it. Turn the heat to simmer. Throw in a basil leaf or two if you have them.

-Rinse 1 can of cannellini beans and add them to the soup.

-Meanwhile in a separate small pot boil a few cups of water, once boiling add about one pound of fresh green beans (with the ends snapped off, cut into bite size pieces.) Leave them boiling for 5 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Put to the side.

-Rinse out the pot and boil more water. Once boiling add a cup of penne pasta. Cook for ten minutes.

-Add the green beans while the pasta is cooking, taste the soup add salt or pepper or whatever you think.

-When pasta is done throw that in and you’re done!

-Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and more parsley just because that looks pretty.

Note: If you are going to make a bunch of this soup and not eat right away might want to add the pasta separate because it will get mushy in the soup after a day or so.

Look at those lovely bowls. Thanks Alayna.


4 Aug

I know. I’m bringing up Michael Pollan again. Sorry. But he did just write a long piece in the New York Times Magazine about why America likes cooking shows but doesn’t actually cook. This is all brought on by the Julie & Julia marketing onslaught that at first reminded me that I’m intrigued by Julia Child, (I acted on this- frustratingly asking the bookstore clerk if they had any copies of “My Life In France,” without the movie cover. No. Forget that then.) And now as the Julie & Julia attack drums on in every media outlet known to man I find myself, sadly, sick of Julia Child before I could even decide for myself whether she uses too much butter.

What am I talking about? Right. Pollan. Pollan poses the question, After having gross corporations cook for us, and by cooking, I mean pumping processed stuff up with butter and salt and sugar can we go back?

“Can we ever put the genie back into the bottle? Once it has been destroyed, can a culture of everyday cooking be rebuilt? One in which men share equally in the work? One in which the cooking shows on television once again teach people how to cook from scratch and, as Julia Child once did, actually empower them to do it?”

Sure can, Michael…

I had to run a few errands in different directions around the Lower East Side for this soup. I forgot a red onion at the grocery store and stopped at a corner bodega. I asked the Arab man if I could open a bag of six red onions because the single onion looked bad- he raised an eyebrow then went, Sure, sure. I had to get white wine off Ludlow and then realized I forgot to get bread on Clinton street where they make sandwiches but Amal discovered the bread itself is good. “Just three loaves.” The Italian guy looks at me, “Just bread?” Yes, please.

I cleaned dirt off basil in the sink and Alayna chopped onions and we drank white wine and talked about going to Colombia for a bit.

These are the things we eat here at Monday’s Soups. Interactions and conversations and good salt and chili pepper tea. And it’s all very tasty.

We can put the genie back in the bottle by… and I don’t mean to tap into our tag-line… not being afraid of cooking. Alayna has been cooking long before me. She’d make me big dinners in France and I would happily eat it all and that’s where our friendship started. But for me, making soup was the real start of my tender and caring relationship with Cooking. Soup is a good starting point. You put real foods together and play around and 99% of the time it’ll taste good. Even when you don’t have some ingreidents. Even when you throw in something random from the fridge.

So I would answer Micheal Pollan with a Yes, we can go back. And a good start is by not being afriad of soup.

Now go make your Gazpacho my empowered Soupies!

P.S. We had a friend guest soupie, Keith, yogi and potter. We talked about art and books instead of watching terrible television. For that Keith we thank you, come back soon. And can I get a free yoga class?

  • fill a medium sized sauce pot halfway with water and bring to a boil
  • turn the pot off and add two dried chiles anchos, chopped and seeds/stems removed and two chiles arboles (same)… let this steep until the water has cooled (you’re making chile tea!)
  • before it cools, add vegetarian broth powder (or just use veg broth instead of water) until salty
  • chop about 8-10 very fresh vine ripened tomatoes, one large cucumber (deseeded), a large cucumber, a small red onion, 8 cloves of garlic and a large handful of fresh basil into smallish pieces and set aside

  • pour about 1-2 cups of your cooled down ‘chile tea’ into the blender and add as many chopped veggies as you can fit, disposing into your large soup bowl
  • Repeat until done, watching to make sure it doesn’t get too liquidy or too solid
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • let sit for AT LEAST an hour (it’s better the longer it sits)
  • serve with sliced avocado and fresh goat cheese on top!