Monday, 4 March 2013 | 76 comments

A yellow split pea soup + some questions for you

At night, we bundle up and go down to the cellar. We decided to get hardcore about seed-starting this year and bought grow-lights. In the past, I’ve started seeds on windowsills, which works, sure, but the seedlings end up a bit leggy, and real estate is limited. Now, improbably, our windowless, 52-degree cellar is the home of seed-starting operations, spread across a big table with lights that shine 16 hours a day. We put on music, drink steaming tea, and get lost in the rhythm of poking holes, dropping in seeds, covering them up, watering them. All at 9 or 10 PM. It’s a little counterintuitive, and lends a certain drama to the work, like we’re growing something illicit in our basement.
It’s that silly time of year where we’re all pretty done with winter, but there’s still an interminable stretch until it’s honest-to-goodness spring. Even winter itself seems wan and ready to be put to bed, allowing some warming sun to poke through. On one or two afternoons, we’ve been able to move the garden prep outside for a few hours. But the nights still get very, very cold. The dirt still has a hard, frozen crust on its surface. I am still eating pantry-staple legumes. It is definitely not yet spring. » Click to read more

Friday, 11 November 2011 | 15 comments

Mushroom barley soup with rosemary oil

In the last months of my mom’s life, she spent a lot of time at home, unable to get around very easily. She watched a lot of TV. After she passed away, I found a notebook. The first twenty pages or so were filled with lists of ingredients and, sometimes, half-scribbled directions. It would seem that Mama had been watching some cooking shows.My mother was a great cook, but outside of a few indulgences—prosciutto comes to mind—she had a fairly straightforward, American-fare cooking style. The recipes in this notebook, though, were beautiful, celebration recipes. Roast chicken with morels and madeira, french bread pudding with sweet italian sausage, ragout with escarole and chardonnay. Recipes for big dinners or brunch, shared with other people. I wept over that notebook. What had my mom been planning when she wrote those recipes? With whom did she want to share them? They were just jotted-down recipes—but she was never able to make them. » Click to read more

Thursday, 10 November 2011 | 17 comments

Three-grain veggie chili

The evenings stretch out ahead these days from such an early hour. By the time I leave the office, it’s already dark, and those wonderfully mammalian curl-up-in-your-house-and-eat-and-stay-warm instincts kick in pretty quickly.This three-grain chili fits the bill nicely on these evenings (I’m calling it three grain even though lentils are not a grain, technically. Oh well.) Chuck stirred it while it was on the stove and exclaimed, “There’s so much in there!” And there is. I find that a meatless chili needs a good variety of textures to reach that not-quite-soup, not-quite-stew grey area that chili must straddle. Millet in soups is a recent discovery and is fantastic; but with all these liquid-sucking grains, beware that upon reheating, you might need to add a bit more liquid to reconstitute it. It’s also a great canvas for any mixture of your favorite beans; here, I threw some adzuki beans in with pinto. » Click to read more

Friday, 4 November 2011 | 16 comments

Gypsy soup

Mollie Katzen’s “gypsy soup” caught my eye for its name and name alone. The word gypsy is so evocative of something rustic, hearty, romantic and a bit tragic. I didn’t even look at the ingredients list before I decided I would make it. (This impulsiveness will likely get me into trouble someday.) According to the recipe, gypsy soup can be varied by subbing in various green and orange vegetables for the ones listed. (Incidentally, if anyone knows why this is, let me know. I became really curious about gypsy soup and did some research, and can’t find anything.) I decided on an autumnal riff on gypsy soup: acorn squash provided the orange, and some great kales and mustards that are happily growing in the cool November weather brought the green. » Click to read more

Thursday, 3 November 2011 | 11 comments

A week of soups: Fennel soup with julienned carrots

Ben and I have recently been toying with the idea of scrounging up an enormous, cast-iron kettle that can hang over a fire (think pioneer-era Americana). We’ve somehow latched onto this notion of a vessel in which we could simmer and ladle out a bottomless supply of good soup for a crowd of friends. The autumn air, especially, has us dreaming of a “BYOB” lunch or dinner—”bring your own bowl.” Is it weird to admit that you and your significant other want to buy primitive cooking paraphernalia for your next dinner party? The more I think about it, though, the more it seems to appropriately embody the reason soups are so great. There are few dishes that come together as gracefully, with such simple ingredients and easy effort, as soups. Soups and stews exemplify my favorite kind of cooking: deeply sensory, as minimal or dressed up as you like, and most importantly, easy to share (en masse, if necessary). Moreover, everyone equates soup with comfort. I like that. One of my resolutions this year was that I’d start making more foods to freeze. I am not the kind of girl who has trouble finding the energy or making the time to cook for herself, but cooking-for-later is a bit addicting. It may seem like work with no gratification when you make something to put away, untouched—-until the day when you reap the benefits. The first forkful of whatever you made for yourself ahead of time is a little pat on the back. It’s kind of like magic! Good job, self, you think, grateful to the past-you for having the foresight to store away. In that vein, I’ve been planning to take a few days to make a lot of soups to keep through the winter. » Click to read more

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