Archives for category: soups
painting depicts meal of bread, soup and salad for January

January Feast. 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

In January I crave greens. After the excesses of the winter holidays with their meat, squash, bread, potatoes and sweets, I want things sharp and bright-tasting while still needing warm dishes to chase away the chill. Thursday I cooked all day and hit upon that classic meal of soup, salad and bread.

I started with the oven on for Savoring Every Bite’s caramelized oranges and made some granola while I was at it, plus roasted a kabocha squash. Then I cleaned leeks and peeled potatoes for soup, scrubbing the potatoes first so that I could toss the peels and tough leek greens into a stock pot for vegetable stock. While that boiled, I sauteed 3 sliced leeks, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of minced ham and some crumbled dried rosemary (use fresh if you grow it) in 2 Tbsp butter. As that cooked I peeled and diced about 1 pound of yellow Finn potatoes and added them to the pan to brown a bit. I then covered them with a pint of chicken stock and four cups of water, covered the pot and let them cook. Then I got out the mandoline to shred Savoy cabbage — I shredded nearly half a head of cabbage and set the mandoline aside for another use later.

When the potatoes were tender I mashed some of them and left some chunks. The soup was a little watery, so I seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it continue to cook uncovered.

Meanwhile, I got out three small fennel bulbs, whacking off the stalks and fronds for the vegetable stock pot, along with the tough outer pieces. Then I cut each bulb in half and shredded it with the mandoline over a salad bowl. I scored the peel of 1 large navel orange into quarters, saving the peel to candy another day, and segmented the orange and sliced the segments, putting them into the bowl with the fennel. Then I took my remaining orange-sesame vinaigrette and poured it over the oranges and fennel and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator.

I turned off the soup and let it sit (I added the cabbage ten minutes before reheating and serving it).

Then I turned my attention to bread, an orange-cumin yeast bread adapted from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe cookbook. The warm oven from caramelized oranges, granola and roasted squash would help the bread rise. Here’s my modified recipe

Orange Cumin Bread

Juice and zest 1 large orange (about 1/2 cup juice)

Scald 1/2 cup milk and set off heat to cool.

Dissolve 2 packages active dry yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water (or measure 4 and 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast).

Into large bowl of stand mixer, measure

1/2 cup sugar (any kind will do)

4 Tbsp corn oil

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 Tbsp ground cumin, plus the scalded milk and the orange juice and zest.

1/2 cup warm water

Mix to combine and then add dissolved yeast. Mix again.

Now add 4 cups unbleached flour and

1 scant Tbsp kosher salt

Switch to dough hook, or knead by hand, remembering to knead for at least ten minutes to develop the gluten. This dough can be sticky so you may need to add a little extra flour a tablespoon at a time or keep flouring your kneading surface.

Put dough in large bowl (I use the same one I mixed in) greased with a little oil or vegetable shortening. Cover dough with damp smooth kitchen towel (I warm my towel in the microwave for twenty seconds) and set bowl in warm place to rise until double (about an hour). Punch down and let rise again until doubled (thirty minutes this time). Meanwhile grease two standard loaf pans.

When bread dough has risen for the second time, deflate it and shape into two loaves. Put loaves in prepared pans and let rise until dough is even with the edge of the pan. Fifteen minutes before it gets there, slash the dough with a sharp knife — I make two parallel diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf — and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for forty minutes, until crust is brown and tapped loaf sounds hollow. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

Now you can heat up your soup, toss in the cabbage, take the salad from the fridge and feed some happy people.

Soup notes: Any kind of potatoes will do for this soup — just don’t use purple ones! If you are a vegetarian, omit the ham and chicken broth in the soup and prepare it with vegetable stock or milk and water. If you are an omnivore and don’t have ham on hand, you could substitute bacon or prosciutto. If you don’t have leeks, substitute onions. If you don’t have Savoy cabbage, use another kind — anything but red or purple which will give you an undesirable color.

Bread notes: Mark Miller’s recipe calls for dried milk and orange juice concentrate — I have adapted it to use whole foods instead. He also calls for starting with whole cumin seed, toasting it and grinding it. I have done this and it is good, but if your cumin is fresh or you can’t get cumin seed, you can just use ground cumin. If your cumin has been around for awhile, toast it in a dry skillet. This bread is light and wheaty: for a variation, try reversing the proportions of cornmeal and whole wheat flour. Like most breads with fruit in them, it makes excellent toast.

This month I am participating in citruslove, a glorious collection of seasonal citrus recipes, #citruslove. Check ’em out here at the bottom of the post. Click on Linky tools there to see all the submissions.

painting of red kabocha squash, soup ingredients

Red Kabocha Soup 8″x8″ gouache and watercolor pencil Sharyn Dimmick

In Wednesday’s veggie box we got a giant red kabocha squash. I was thinking of making it into a Thai-style soup with coconut milk and lemongrass, red chili and Thai basil. I asked Mom if she wanted chunky soup — i.e with vegetables floating in it — or a puree.

“Make the smooth soup,” she said. “We haven’t had it for a long time.”

I realized she was thinking of the butternut squash soup I make. I checked.

“You mean you just want me to make it with milk and ginger the usual way?”

She did. There went my exotic soup plans.

I had roasted the kabocha whole the previous night, acting on a tip from the farm newsletter that recommended roasting the whole squash and then cutting it open and scooping out the seeds and strings. I scooped the seeds and strings into a  pot, along with the roasted skins, setting the squash flesh aside, covered the squash innards and skin with water and set them to simmering while I peeled and diced two onions and took our ginger root out of the freezer.

After I strained the squash stock into a bowl, I got out my microplane to grate the ginger.The microplane is a handy tool you will find at any hardware store — I find mine indispensable for grating Parmesan and ginger and zesting citrus.

Using a stock pot, I heated a little olive oil and butter over low heat. In that I sauteed my onions, grating the ginger directly over the pot, and adding some crumbled thyme leaves.. Next up, squash stock and squash: into the stock pot they go. Cook for awhile and and add a sploosh of tamari (wheat-free soy sauce).

When the squash is soft I puree the hot soup in a blender in two or three batches,, pouring it back into the stockpot as I go. I add milk to taste or until I like the consistency, somewhere between a cup and a quart, depending on how large the squash was. I usually use one-percent milk, but you can use anything up to and including whipping cream, depending on your proclivities. Just don’t use skim milk if you are going to say it is my recipe. Or dried milk.

Roasted Red Kambocha Soup (or Butternut Squash Soup)

Roast 1 large whole red kambocha squash in a 350 oven until it is fully soft. (You can do this a day or two ahead like I did)

OR cut open 1 large butternut squash lengthwise, scoop strings and seeds into a saucepan, cover with water and cook for stock, and roast squash cut side down in a baking pan. If using butternut, deglaze the baking pan with water and add the results to your saucepan.

Separate your roasted squash flesh from your seeds, strings and skins.

Cover seeds, strings and skins with water and simmer in a saucepan for stock.

Meanwhile, peel and dice 2 medium or 1 large onion.

Heat 2 tsp, olive oil and 2 tsp butter in a stockpot over low heat.

Add onions.

Grate 1 Tbsp fresh ginger over sauteeing onions (easiest with your trusty microplane)

Crumble in dried thyme to taste. (We home-dry ours, letting bundles of fresh dry exposed to the air).

Strain stock through mesh strainer into stockpot. Discard solids.

Add squash flesh to stockpot. Cook for fifteen or twenty minutes until everything is soft

Add tamari to taste. Start with 2 tsp. (This is providing your salty taste — no need for salt).

Puree soup in blender in two or three batches, adding pureed soup back to stockpot.

Add milk to taste or to achieve desired thickness or thinness. If the soup gets thick while sitting, you can add more milk when you heat it.

Food notes: I developed this recipe originally for butternut squash and it makes lovely butternut squash soup. The kabocha soup is similar, but lighter in color. You could make it with any winter squash you like.

Because the ingredients are few, the preparation methods make a difference. Once you roast squash for soup, you will never want to mess with soup recipes calling for raw winter squash again. If you make the stock from skins, seeds and strings, your winter squash soup will have a depth of flavor unachievable if you just pour vegetable stock or chicken stock into it. Please try it once. If it sounds difficult, allow yourself to roast the squash one day, make the stock another day and make the soup a third, but it really doesn’t take long all told. If you are in a hurry, save the squash seeds and skins in the freezer to make stock with next time and use water, milk or some kind of stock — just know it won’t be as good.  I often mix up yeast bread dough while the squash is roasting to take advantage of the warm oven for the rise — there is nothing better than hot soup with homemade bread.

I have used evaporated milk, low-fat milk, whole milk and half and half in this soup at different times. If you use richer milk, it is richer. We find one-percent milk fine for everyday soup. If we were inviting celebrities to dinner, we might add a little half and half.

Tamari is less salty than regular soy sauce. I like the flavor better. If I had been making Thai style soup I would have used coconut milk for the milk and fish sauce for the tamari.

Obviously, you can make large or small batches of this soup, according to how much squash you start with: if you use a small squash, it will not yield as much flesh or stock and you can use less milk and one small onion. Use more squash, get more soup. You’ll have to taste it to know how much milk you like.

After I originally posted this I ran across the “No Croutons Required” October soup event, which requires bloggers to submit their delicious squash soups to Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, http://www.tinnedtomatoes.com/2011/10/no-croutons-required-october-2011.html I am excited to submit this variation on one of my favorite soups to this long-running event.

* My little joke: I keep confusing “kabocha” and “kambocha.” The one with the “m” might be deadly in soup.

Painting note: For further information about “Red Kabocha Soup” or any other painting, please contact me here.

painting depicts onion soup and fall vegetables

Onion Soup, 8″ x8″ watercolor pencil and gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

Today we had our first real fall day: when it dawned with blue sky and white clouds there was a distinct chill in the air, a crispness. By 11:30 I was digging cashmere sweaters and long underwear out of my camphor chest. When I went down to the kitchen for lunch, I grabbed the last bowl of vegetable soup from the refrigerator.

Because I have been gone for three days I looked around the counter and into all of the covered pots in the fridge. First I found a pan of meat brownings. Then my eye fell on two large onions from last week’s farm box and a half-loaf of crusty sourdough. The butter plate with a smidge of unsalted butter clinched it: we would have French onion soup for dinner and because I would need to brown the croutons in the oven we would have another Gravenstein apple pie. I’ll roast delicata squash while I’m at it and there is some Swiss chard with our name on it. Dinner will come together in a snap.

I began by peeling and slicing the two large onions as thinly as I could, while I heated a skillet and added a little olive oil and all of the butter I could scrape off the butter plate. After I put them in the pan I cleaned the cutting board, composted the onion scraps and took four large apples from fridge, checking to make sure we still had pie crust. By this time, Mom was back from errands and made tea so I turned off the browning onions and retreated upstairs for a cup of tea. By then it was raining, making me glad to be inside cooking and puttering.

Tea finished, I peeled apples for the pie and cut the squash open. I started scooping seeds into the compost and then realized I could start a vegetable stock with apple peels and squash innards, not to mention the tough ends of Swiss chard, so I covered the seeds and strings from the second squash with some water in a saucepan and set it to simmer with the apple peelings and trimmings.

Classic onion soup uses Gruyere. Gruyere is rare in our house, as is any kind of French or Swiss cheese. What we have is Parmesan, since throwing the lemon Stilton in the tomato tart last week, so I will shave Parmesan onto croutons to top the soup. Browned Parmesan is delicious (sometimes I eat it on buttered whole wheat toast) so I don’t see this as a problem.

French Onion Soup

Put on a skillet to heat over medium heat.

While skillet heats, peel and slice thinly:

2 large onions

Add about 1 Tbsp olive oil to skillet, plus a little butter — maybe 1 tsp

Brown onions slowly over medium heat — if you don’t stir them much they will brown faster.

While onions brown, slice

4 slices of crusty bread and

Slice cheese to taste (I used an ounce or two of Parmesan, but you can use anything you like)

Add 1 tsp thyme to onions

Season with black pepper and salt to taste.

Put browned onions in oven-proof casserole with a broad opening.

De-glaze onion pan with 2 Tbsp of wine and add to onions in casserole.

Add 1 pint chicken stock. If you have brownings from another project, add them too.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place slices of bread on top of onions and broth. Add cheese. Bake until cheese browns.

Serves four, or two very hungry people.

If you want to emulate my style of cooking, consider what else you can bake in a 375-degree oven. In my case, it was apple pie and two delicata squash, which I baked cut side down in a Pyrex pan. When they were done, I flipped them cavity side up, added a dot of butter, a tsp of homemade syrup (brown sugar, honey, water and the dregs from a bottle of maple syrup) and black pepper and let them bake for five more minutes. You could also add ginger jam or chutney to season the squash instead of syrup, or just use brown sugar and butter.

While everything baked, I cleaned and chopped a bunch of Swiss chard, separating the stems from the leaves. Using the onion skillet, I heated about 1 tsp of olive oil and cooked the stems first for a minute or two, then added the shredded leaves, covered and steamed for five minutes in the water that was clinging to the leaves.

After we ate the squash I added the roasted skins to the stock pot — I’ll boil it again tomorrow. Eventually, I’ll reduce it, strain it and freeze it and have it on hand for the first batch of butternut squash soup later in the fall.

Painting Note: For information on “Onion Soup” or any watercolor painting, please go here.

original watercolor of kale, tomatoes, onions, pen and ink bottle.

The Kale Chronicles. 8″x8″ watercolor pencil and gouache by Sharyn Dimmick

Few things reliably capture my interest more than messing with food and telling stories, whether in song, in images or on the page. I subscribe to a community-supported agriculture program each week, receiving a box of organically grown fruits and vegetables from Riverdog Farm in Guinda, CA. I began subscribing in 2007 and remember rhapsodizing over the taste of iceberg lettuce, green and fresh, picked that morning.

I also remember that first June when kale showed up in the box. I had never eaten kale. I had never seen kale. My friend Elaine loves it, steams it in the microwave and gets out her fork, but I did not fall in love with minimalist kale. I pored over cookbooks, learning to remove the ribs and stems before cooking it. I tamed it with acids: tomato sauce and lemon, vinegar. I added Indian spices and raisins. I chopped it into red lentil soup with plenty of garlic and fresh ginger (It gave my Mom gas and I had to eat it all myself. Ahem).

I do not hate kale. I have aversions to avocado and asparagus, tuna, mayonnaise, hard-cooked eggs and okra. Instead I consider kale to be a worthy adversary, something to be struggled with and mastered. I strike up conversations about it: “Do you eat kale?” “How do you cook it?” Kale keeps me on the lookout for new preparations, new techniques.

I have eaten red Russian kale, dino kale, curly kale in the last four years. I have combined it with spinach in lasagna. Two weeks ago I made an African peanut soup featuring onions, peanut butter, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, garbanzo beans, kale, cilantro and lime. Everything but the peanut butter, lime, garbanzo beans and sweet potatoes came from the farm box — the sweet potatoes came from a farm stand in Suisun near where my sister-in-law lives. The soup was so good that I took it to a music potluck and when they ate it all I made another batch with the last of the ingredients. Here’s to Africa where they know how to cook kale!

African Peanut Soup (adapted from a recipe from yummly.com)

Saute 1 chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, 1 minced chile pepper in 1 Tbsp peanut oil. While that cooks, chop 4 fresh tomatoes. Add 1 Tbsp curry powder to saute mixture and stir to toast it. Add tomatoes, plus 1/2 cup peanut butter, 8 cups water or stock, 1 Tbsp tamari. Stir well and bring to boil.

While the soup cooks, chop 2 carrots and 2 large sweet potatoes. Add them, plus 1 can of garbanzo beans. Cook until tender while stemming and chopping a large handful of green beans and half a bunch of kale. Add green beans. Cook for 10 minutes. Add chopped kale and juice of 1 lime. Cook 10 minutes more. Garnish with chopped cilantro.