November 25, 2011

turkey soup

For my third and final soup this month, I present the ubiquitous turkey soup. Most families who traditionally cook a turkey for Thanksgiving have some form of this recipe, and mine is no exception. But this is the first year I've made it myself, tweaking my mom's recipe to my own preferences and making it entirely from scratch. I even fashioned my own poultry seasoning and have included that recipe here too. The thing that's great about a basic dish like soup is that you can change it up any number of ways. I've kept this version of turkey soup pretty basic, but you can be sure that when I discover another way to switch it up I'll be all over it. For the turkey stock I used the recipe for "Classic Chicken Stock" by Chef André Soltner featured in the November issue of Food & Wine magazine. I substituted turkey bones and skin for the chicken and added an extra quart of water to cover. To create a stronger flavor base for the soup, I sautéed the onions, carrots and celery in butter until they were starting to leave nice little caramelized bits on the bottom of the stockpot, then de-glazed with a dry white wine. This gave the soup a little more body and added a nice depth to the overall flavor.

In the meantime, I hope you had a great meal with family and friends. Though these days may be financially stringent for many of us, there are never limits on sharing with the people we care about, and that will always include the tradition of a meal together.

November 18, 2011

chickpea, chorizo & greens soup

Though it's been almost twenty years since I visited Spain, I still remember the food we ate. Of all the places we visited, between Madrid in central Spain or farther south in Cordoba, Seville, Granada or Marbella, my favorite food was in northwest Spain. While driving north to Galacia from Madrid, we stopped in a small town for a snack and ate a tuna empanada rich with olive oil in a flaky pastry crust. For a late night dinner in A Coruña, we ate sizzling garlic shrimp in a small earthenware dish and an earthy, crusty bread we couldn't find anywhere south of that area. In Santiago de Compostela on a Sunday afternoon, we wandered into a bar, closed for drinks but willing to serve us food in the back, and ate deep-fried calamari with salad greens. While visiting my husband's cousins, we tasted aguardente, or firewater, a very strong alcohol made from cherries that they lit on fire before drinking. In Lalín, my husband's great aunts served us a typical homemade Caldo Gallego, with potatoes, greens, white beans and meat in a broth. All of the food was simple, fresh, and amazingly good.

For this Galacian-style soup I've adapted Penelope Casa's "Spinach and Chickpea Soup" from her cookbook The Foods and Wines of Spain. It's a faster version that uses canned chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, and two types of greens instead of spinach alone. One of the greens I used is curly dock, an edible wild green that I discovered while walking around our neighborhood. It was a good find for a first-time forage, and I'll share more about that in another post. If you're not quite into foraging your own greens, chard or kale will work well too. To finish off the soup, I added some leftover slices of cured chorizo. This soup is perfect for colder weather, loaded with healthy greens, and thickened with fried bread that creates a rich, flavorful broth. Just a simple bowl of soup, and I'm stepping into a little cafe in northern Spain once again.

November 11, 2011

rutabaga bisque

Every Monday through Friday I send my husband off to work with a thermos full of hot homemade soup and a slice of bread. He believes soup is one of the healthier things you can eat, and has often mentioned how his paternal grandfather always had a bowl of soup at the beginning of a meal. Who am I to disagree? In fact, I often eat homemade soup for lunch now as well, so for the month of November I thought I'd share three soup recipes. If you are a big fan of soup and want a cookbook with an abundance of soup recipes, I'd also highly recommend Anna Thomas' Love Soup cookbook. Although the soup recipes are vegetarian, I'm not, so I tweak them by using homemade chicken stock. I do this because making my own soup stock or bone broth gives the soup additional beneficial minerals, and it helps me use up leftover bones and scraps from the meat that we cook.

This first soup recipe is from a little restaurant called Presto's, where my husband and I used to eat often when we lived in California. The owner, Ron Paine, let me apprentice for a short time in his kitchen on a very casual basis. Though I was usually there during the off hours of the restaurant, it gave me a glimpse of what it's like to cook for a living and the hard work it involves, with most of the time spent on your feet. At Presto's I first learned of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and it was there that I baked my first serious loaf of bread and shared it with friends. Ron was also very generous in sharing his recipes with us, and the rutabaga bisque was one of our favorites. Although the restaurant is no longer there and we've since moved away, I owe a debt of thanks to Ron and his generosity. You never know how certain experiences may plant a seed that grows into something else later in your life, and this was certainly one of those. So thank you, Ron, wherever you may be. I hope you're still cooking.

An obvious benefit of my time at Presto's is of course the rutabaga bisque. My husband has adapted the recipe down from its larger bulk version, and I substituted a thick greek yogurt for the heavy cream called for in the original recipe. If you have the stock already made, it's a simple matter of prepping, cooking, puréeing and stirring. In less than two hours you have a luxuriously rich first course that tastes like you might have spent all day making it. It's perfect for a holiday dinner, or anytime you want to feel like you're indulging just a little bit.

November 4, 2011

a winter's rest

If you have never gardened before, you might not realize that soil is a living thing. How we steward the soil is how it will reward us, and its gift is a resource that sustains us. Tending the earth, however large or small in scale, is like reading a good book. Just like an interesting story, in the garden there is discovery, adversity, triumph and loss. In this unpredictable world, if you grow things you can expect to experience failure, but you can also experience success, and in a way that just might exceed your expectations. And like life, there is also a season to work and a season to rest.

This is the first year I've grown our own food, and it's also the first time I've wintered the garden. I can't claim I've found the best way to do this, because only the next few months will tell how beneficial the approach I used has been for our garden's soil. But at least I can share what I've done. Anyway, it seems every gardener has their own approach to wintering, and there isn't a universal consensus on which materials work best. Straw, compost, mulched grass clippings, leaves, or growing a ground cover crop like winter rye are all different things I've read about as options. It is generally agreed, though, that if you are going to give your garden a winter's rest, the soil needs to be replenished in some way so it is healthy for the next planting season.