My husband woke up not feeling well this morning. He only ate a little of his scrambled eggs, didn’t finish his coffee, and really looked like he should be going back to bed instead of getting in the car and driving to work.
I wondered if I’d see him home earlier than usual.
Sure enough, a couple of hours earlier then his normal arrival time, Bill pulled into the driveway. He changed into comfier clothes and crashed on the couch with the tv on.
There wasn’t a whole lot I could do for him at that point other than let him fall asleep. I picked up the kids, got them squared away with snacks and homework and so forth, and got started on dinner.
Nearly a year ago I posted a recipe and photos for a version of Caldo Verde, Portuguese Kale Soup, that came from our neighbors when I was a kid. You can read that post here.
I received a bunch of comments from readers of Portuguese descent – not to mention a phone call from a friend of ours – letting me know that the version I’d posted was only ONE way of making this much-loved national dish.
And one reader, Ana Rocha, provided (in the comments) a recipe that she said was a version very close to the original Caldo Verde. Here’s the comment, which includes the recipe:
I've got a cold...congestion, aches, bit of a sore throat...nothing fancy, just feeling kind of lousy. Yesterday, thinking about what to make for dinner, I nixed the idea of something like pasta and homemade sauce in favor of something a bit more soothing. Soup.
You know how it is when you aren't feeling well. You just want to feel better. And in the meantime, you want to feel...nurtured. Wrapped up in a blanket. Cozy. Cared for.
So then it was on to what kind of soup I should make. I thought about miso soup with little cubes of tofu...or chicken noodle (no chicken on hand, though, so never mind that)...some sort of bean soup...butternut squash....
I settled on carrot. I'd bought a big bag of carrots to make my nephew's birthday cake a couple of weeks ago, and I still had a ton left. They're big carrots.
So, okay, I'd make some sort of carrot soup. What else would I put in there? Besides the obvious - onion, celery...a little butter...garlic? yeah, garlic is good for you...what else...carrots are sweet...what would work with that...maybe some ginger? yes, ginger and carrots...nice balance there...but it still needed something more...what else would go nicely with that...sweet and kind of sharp/spicy...ooh - curry kinds of flavors...cumin and coriander! Yesssssss, that should do nicely. I had some chicken stock in the fridge, too. Perfect.
So here's what I came up with:
1/4 stick of butter (you could use less)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
a 1" knob (approx) of fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped to coins about 1/2 inch thick or so
3 1/4 cups chicken stock (that's what I had)
3/4 cup white wine
salt to taste
Got that? Okay.
Melt the butter in a large pot, then add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes or so until the onion and celery soften.
Add the garlic and ginger, saute a minute or so, then add in the coriander and cumin. Stir around for another minute.
Add everything else - the carrots, wine, and chicken stock.
Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer and cook until the carrots are soft - about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your carrots.
Once the carrots are soft, puree the mixture (I started out using an immersion blender but ended up putting everything in my food processor) until smooth. Taste, and add salt if you want to.
I think I should have cooked mine a bit longer. The carrots could have been a bit softer, and I think my final product would have been smoother as a result.
But still. It tasted very good. The ginger and carrot are a nice combination, and the cumin and coriander provided a mild, warming undercurrent of flavor.
I also made some little rolls to go along with it. You can see that recipe here.
The verdict? Bill and I liked it, Julia said she liked it, but I think she was saying that to look good in front of Daddy, because Alex definitely did NOT like it and was quite vocal and dramatic about the whole thing.
Anyway. If you've got a big bag of carrots in the fridge, some fresh ginger kicking around, and are in need of warmth and comfort, give this little soup a try. (P.S. - I garnished the soup with a few dried ginger chips.)
If nothing else, it'll be great for your eyesight, right?
Bill has bronchitis and a sinus infection, both of which were accompanied by a bad sore throat for two days. Ever since I've known him, there have been two things that soothe his throat and make him feel better mentally, if not physically. One is tea with honey and fresh ginger. The other is a bowl of miso soup. And so, when Bill was feeling at his lowest earlier this week, I put together some soup for him.
The lovely thing about making a miso soup is that all the flavor is right there, waiting for you in the miso paste.
Miso paste is made from fermented rice, soybeans (and/or barley), salt, and Aspergillus oryzae, which is a fungus or mold used in the fermentation process in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. There are a variety of miso pastes available, usually packaged according to color - white, yellow, red and brown are the ones I've seen and used. For miso soup, we usually use brown, but this week I couldn't get brown at the store I was in, so I used red.
Here are the ingredients:
Left to right - about half a package of firm tofu, cubed...4 tablespoons of red miso paste (you can use brown)...3 scallions, chopped.
The other ingredient, not pictured above, is water.
Pour 4 cups of water into a pan and bring to just under a boil.
Yes, me and my pictures of bubbles again.
Aren't they interesting? Like teeny tiny ball bearings, except they're air bubbles.
I almost got out my little close-up lens attachment to see how I'd do with that, but then I remembered...
"A watched pot never boils."
So I looked away until I could hear the bubbling begin.
At that point I shut off the heat and stirred in the miso.
Ordinarily I strain the miso by dunking the strainer into the hot water, pressing the paste through with a small rubber spatula. But this time when I started to do that, the mesh broke and lumps of miso paste dropped into the water. Ah well. So I just dumped the rest in and whisked it until the paste had dissolved.
It's not really necessary to strain the miso paste - all you're removing are the husks and small solid bits of the rice and soybeans and/or other solid ingredients from the fermentation process. All are edible, so if you don't mind them, you can leave them in.
Once there are no more lumps of miso paste in your pot, add in the tofu and turn the heat back on just long enough to heat the tofu through.
Now you want to ladle some of the broth and tofu into a bowl, sprinkle on some of the chopped scallions, and serve.
Mmmm...can you smell it? Warm and savory and slightly salty. Smooth and comforting with just a bit of zing and crunch from the scallions. Healthy as can be.
Quick and easy comfort food. Good for whatever ails you.
I used to make this a LOT years ago. I probably started making it when I was a vegetarian - the book it comes from is all vegetarian - and after making it once, apparently I started making it in larger and larger batches, because right next to the list of ingredients/measurements - there are columns with my increased amounts - for double, triple, and quadruple the recipe.
It's really good, and even better, it's incredibly easy.
The recipe comes from an old (okay, 1975 - but the book is falling apart, so it seems older) small press cookbook entitled "Cooking with Conscience," by Alice Benjamin and Harriet Corrigan. It was published by Vineyard Books in CT, and at the time this was published, it cost $2.00. On the cover, it reads "A book for people concerned about world hunger."
There are 52 recipes in this slim volume. The one I'm featuring is number Twenty-Two. To be honest, I don't know if I ever bothered trying anything else besides this wonderful lentil dish.
Anyway, here's what the authors wrote about this dish:
"We couldn't resist having one dish called "A Mess of Pottage." According to some Biblical translations, Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for "a mess of pottage." Other translations say "bread and lentiles" and still others say "bread and lentil soup." In any case, it was lentils and probably cooked with onions, butter, and a few herbs. Who knows? -- this might even be somewhere close to the original. (Except those were red lentils, and brown ones are easier for us to find. And he certainly didn't add powdered milk.) Serve with any whole grain bread to help complete the protein and a plate of raw vegetables such as carrot sticks and celerey. Serves 3 or 4."
I served this for dinner with a salad of mixed greens, sliced fennel, fresh basil, and diced roasted chicken (left from the previous night's dinner), and a warm baguette, some olive oil, and a couple of cheeses. Alex, predictably, didn't like it on sight. Julia tried it, liked it, but didn't eat much. My husband liked it eNORmously. And I took my first spoonful and wondered why it's taken me so long to make this again.
Here's all you need:
1 cup lentils
3 large onions, chopped (I sliced mine)
(Oops! Those darned onions - they made my eyes water and I couldn't see clearly. I'll try again...)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1 tsp cumin powder
3 T dried parsley
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup powdered milk (I used liquid milk from the fridge. I didn't have any powdered.)
And here's all you need to do:
Put lentils in large pot with a quart of water.
Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Meanwhile, cook onions and garlic in butter until golden
and add them and all other ingredients,
except the milk, to the soup.
Cook until lentils are tender and stir in powdered milk.
Isn't that simple? And lentils cook pretty quickly, so really, in the time it takes for the lentils to finish cooking, you can throw together a salad. And if you start warming some bread when you start cooking the lentils, it'll be nice and crusty (and perfect for dunking) by the time everything is ready. For very little cost or effort, you get a hearty, delicious, healthy meal. Definitely worth trying.
I love leeks. I love everyone in the onion family, but I have a special affection for leeks. I tried to describe why, but it sounded like really bad middle school creative writing, so I deleted it. So we'll just skip that and move on to the cooking part.
I bought a couple bunches of leeks at the store earlier in the week, and potatoes, so that at some point this week I could throw together the soup. It's one of the simplest things to make, and it's warm and comforting on a cold wintery evening.
The recipe I followed is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I., by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. It's the first entry in Chapter One - Soup.
Potage Parmentier (Leek or Onion and Potato Soup)
"Leek and potato soup smells good, tastes good, and is simplicity itself to make. It is also versatile as a soup base; add water cress and you have a water-cress souop, or stir in cream and chill it for a vichyssoise. To change the formula a bit, add carrots, string beans, cauliflower, broccoli, or anything else you think would go with it, and vary the proportions as you wish."
Here's what you need:
3 cups or 1 lb leeks,
thinly sliced, including the tender green
* A few things to keep in mind about leeks - first of all, you want to trim the darkest green parts away - easiest way is to cut them on an angle while you rotate the leek on your cutting board. You can see that inside the darker parts the green is lighter and kind of yellowish - this part is okay to use. The darkest part tends to be drier, kind of like the skin you peel off of an onion, only not AS dry.
Also, leeks tend to have dirt or sand in between their layers, and the best way to get rid of that is to slice the leek cross-wise
and soak it all in a deep bowl of cold water.
Swish the leeks around in the water to help loosen the dirt. The leek will float, and the dirt and sand will sink to the bottom.
And you'll also need
2 quarts of water
1 T salt
And that's IT. How simple can you get?
Place everything in a 3-4 quart sauce pot
and bring to a boil.
Drop the heat down, partially cover the pot and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Mash the vegetables with a fork or run them through a food mill - or use a food processor an immersion blender to puree everything.
Taste it, and add more salt if you think it needs it, and add pepper to taste. Ta da! You're done!
Now, if I had thought ahead, I would have picked up a baguette to serve with the soup. But I didn't think that far ahead, and I didn't have time to make bread, so I found a recipe for a Quick Onion Flat Bread in a little cookbook called "Fast Breads!" by Howard Early and Glenda Morris. It was published in 1986 and I think it's now out of print. I've posted that recipe after this one, in case you don't remember to get a baguette while you're buying the leeks.
Oh - and below - I swirled in some half & half to make it look pretty. The book calls for whipping cream or sweet butter stirred in before serving, and a sprinkling of parsley on top, but I didn't sprinkle parsley. Sorry.
Before we had kids, Bill and I used to cook meals together a lot. When we had kids, that kind of fell by the wayside for a while because someone usually had to tend to a baby or a small toddler or a baby AND a small toddler or two small toddlers...until now. Now, we've got a kindergartener and a preschooler, and they are amazingly tolerant of their parents' desire to both work on something AT THE SAME TIME.
So we've started doing that, mainly on weekends. Sometimes one of us does more of the cooking, and the other one is kind of the assistant and will maybe take charge of one dish. But still - it's nice to be elbowing each other out of the way and fighting over burner space on the stove top again.
The weekend before last, we did up some Asian dishes. Now, sometimes we'll stick to a particular country, like Japan or Thailand, when we pick recipes. Other times, it's just whatever sounds good to us or whatever we have ingredients for. Bill actually planned ahead for this meal, and went to one of the local Asian markets on Saturday so we'd have everything we needed to cook on Sunday.
Here's some of the haul:
That brownish bud-shaped thing to the right of the limes is a bud from a banana tree. You peel away the petals and underneath are little skinny banana blossoms that (obviously) haven't bloomed. They're a couple inches long and the same color as the outer petals. They don't taste like much, but you can detect a little sweetness. You could use them like lily buds, though lily buds, to me, have a distinct apricot flavor.
Anyway. That's what Bill likes to do - he'll pick a couple of items he's never seen before (usually labled "Fresh Vegetable" in English and something in Thai that he can't read. And sometimes he'll ask what it is, and other times he won't. It's fun.
He did most of the cooking that Sunday. My job was the spring rolls. We got our ideas and actual recipes from two books: Keo's Thai Cuisine, by Keo Sananikone and published by Ten Speed Press, and Classic Oriental Dishes, edited by Lisa Dyer - a bargain book put out by Smithmark years ago. We've had these for about ten years - along with a couple of other Thai and Japanese cookbooks we bought one day. They all bear the splatter stains from frequent use.
One of the nice things about having a garden (and growing a variety of hot peppers) is that we can make up batches of green and red Thai curries and freeze them in ice cube trays, to use all through the winter. (I say "we," but this is really Bill's territory.) So one of the easiest things to do for this meal was the green curry Chicken. (Extremely easy for me because Bill cooked it.) All Bill had to do was take out a couple of cubes of the green curry...
thaw them, and cut up some chicken,
and throw the whole thing together. (Those skinny brown things in the upper right are the banana buds, which he used in his soup.)
It's a delicious, hot/spicy, fragrant dish, and the recipe actually calls for shrimp, but you can use chicken, pork would work, and we've also used tempeh, which is a fermented soybean and grain product that's got a nice non-meat but meaty texture. For this meal, Bill also added in sliced red chilis (hot), mushrooms, scallions, cilantro, and baby corn. Here's a little glimpse of the final product....
Bill also made sesame noodles, primarily because if the kids didn't like any of the other stuff, sesame noodles are a sure bet. He's made these so often he doesn't use a recipe.
And the soup...it was kind of a thrown-together noodle soup using rice noodles and shrimp, cilantro, scallions, banana blossoms and a chicken stock.
I made the Thai spring rolls, as I mentioned, which I've put up in a separate post so it's easier to find later. But for now...some snapshots of the evening...
Bill at his "station" - the wok and the pot on the back burner are his. He'd already made the sauce for the sesame noodles, and the noodles themselves were in the warming drawer of our stove. Those bowls over on the right, near the glass of beer, are all his too. I have to juggle all my stuff in order to deep fry the spring rolls. He hogs the whole place....
This is the green curry chicken coming together in the wok.
And these (above) are some spring rolls just after I put them in the oil.
Time to eat...
We serve the soup in this...with some sterno in the center to keep it hot and to scare the heck out of Alex when the flame flares up. Heh heh. Dinner should be exciting, we say.
And speaking of exciting, we always put out chopsticks for the kids to use when we have any kind of Asian meals. Their techniques vary a bit....
They do love their sesame noodles...
They both tried a spring roll and some of the soup. Julia liked the mushrooms in the soup. Alex didn't like the soup or the spring rolls - he's a sesame noodles guy, and that's that. Julia also tried one of the baby corn from the green curry chicken dish, but didn't like the heat from the chilis. We don't force them to eat everything, especially the spicier dishes, but they can try anything they want. Sometimes if we don't put something on their plate, they'll want to try it, which is nicer for us than if they just see something odd we've put on their plates and they reject it without even knowing what it is. Alex will sometimes take a look at a new dish and just tell us he doesn't like it. But as long as it's not spicy, he has to try it. Just have a taste. If he doesn't like it, fine. But the point is to always try new foods. To be adventurous.
I've been trying to dig out forgotten food items from the depths of the freezer so we can utilize them before they get freezer burn and become inedible.
I found a large square plastic container with something brown in it, so I figured I should thaw that just to see what it was about. Turned out to be leftover beef stew.
And Bill had mentioned that we had one remaining frozen bag of soft-shell clams in their broth, plus another bag of clam broth.
So I thawed the bag with the clams in it and decided to make clam cakes to accompany the beef stew. Weird combination, I know, but, well, sometimes that happens.
The clamcake recipe was Bill's mom's - it's written on a little torn-out page from a notebook; the fringes along one edge where it ripped through the spiral binding are discolored and raggedy looking. The first part of the word "Clamcakes" is torn off - it's more like "lamcakes."
Clamcakes or lamcakes - they were pretty good. And pretty simple.
First, in one bowl, whisk together 2 1/4 cups of flour and 4 teaspoons of baking powder.
In another bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups clam broth with 2 eggs.
Chop up the clams. (Ours were already cooked. Normally you'd use quahogs anyway, but hey, any port in a storm. Or something like that. Steamers worked just fine.)
Fill a large pot about a third to half way with vegetable oil and heat to 360 degrees F - 375 degrees F.
As the oil is heating up, combine the clam broth and egg with the flour and baking powder. Whisk together to get rid of any lumps. Then stir in the chopped clams. Set aside until the oil has reached temperature.
Also, have a couple of plates ready with several layers of paper towels on them and some salt, and a large slotted metal spoon.
Here's how the batter will look after it has been sitting a few minutes:
When the oil is at the right temperature, get a large spoon (tablespoon or bigger), or, if you have it, a 2 tablespoon size measuring spoon. Scoop up some of the batter with your big spoon and lower it to just above the surface of the hot oil. Scrape the batter into the oil with another spoon. Scoop 4-6 clamcakes-to-be into the oil. You want them to have room to move around a bit, and you'll need move to turn them over so they brown evenly.
Here are some partway through the frying...
They're still too pale, but they're getting closer. All those little straggly bits of batter can be scooped out and discarded.
As they reach a dark golden color, take one out and cut it in half to make sure the batter has cooked all the way through. If it has, pull the other clamcakes out and set them on one of the plates with the paper towels to drain. Sprinkle right away with a little salt - it will stick better while they are still hot and a bit oily. You can keep them warm in a low oven or under a dish towel. You don't want to wrap them in foil - that will steam them and they'll lose their crispness.
Here's a tantalizing close-up of some of the finished ones from last night:
They go nicely with leftover beef stew.