Monday, September 27, 2010

soups and stews: the official beginning of fall

Hello again! As usual, much has happened in the world of FBTS since you last heard from us. Most important for this blog, Noah went back to New York in search of greener employment pastures (there's not too much around here in terms of full-time work), so we are cooking and eating separately. But we're still doing a lot of cooking and eating, of course! Here is what's going on over on my side of things.

To start with, I love cookbooks. Noah isn't so much of a fan, he prefers to make things off-the-cuff, but while I enjoy doing that too, for the most part I love picking through cookbooks and getting new inspiration. There will be days when large portions of my day are spent rummaging around in cookbooks and food blogs looking for new and delicious things to do! Those are the best kinds of days. :-) My cookbook library is steadily growing, with plenty of standbys as well as new and quirky additions (I recently picked up two childrens' cookbooks from Goodwill--I don't have any kids, but childrens' cookbooks appealed strongly to the five-year-old inside me).

A little while after I moved into the house where I live with three other young people (who also love food, so we're getting along great), I was flipping through a cookbook called Ethnic Cuisine, which Noah gave to me as a Christmas present a couple years back. All the recipes look great-in fact, as I flip through it now I find several more I want to tackle soon-but when I looked through it a few weeks ago I didn't even get past the first couple pages, because the first two recipes in the book looked so good. Here are my takes on a couple of her soup recipes. Check out the actual book for the real versions, because mine were sometimes altered significantly based on what I had lying around.

Turmeric Yogurt Soup (adapted from Ethnic Cuisine, by Lorraine Turner):
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (she suggests gram flour, but I didn't have any. You miss some of the deeper taste by using AP, but it's definitely doable)
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups plain yogurt
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (you can also use peanut oil, or, even better, ghee)
3 cups water

I didn't really garnish it with anything, she suggests oil, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and whole fresh red chilies.

1. Mix the flour, turmeric, chili powder, and salt together, then beat in the yogurt with a whisk (or fork) until there are no more lumps.
2. Heat the oil (or melt the ghee) in a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat. Mix in the yogurt mixture and then the water, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat way down and simmer for about 8 minutes (keep whisking it fairly frequently; I didn't hover over it whisking it and it still turned out fine), until the soup thickens slightly. Taste and season!

I was worried originally that my soup wasn't thick enough (it didn't look nearly as thick as the soup in the picture, but it thickens up after a little while, and significantly more in the fridge. I didn't garnish it at all, and ate it with bread to mop it all up. The tangy yogurt made for a very unique soup that was different from anything I'd ever had before (especially since I hadn't eaten much plain yogurt before this year; I'm switching over to organic plain yogurt with fruit instead of store-bought yogurt because I want fewer additives in my food).

Tunisian Garlic and Chickpea Soup (adapted from Ethnic Cuisine, by Lorraine Turner):
8 tbsp. olive oil (or appx.; I didn't measure)
12 garlic cloves, very finely chopped (I only used 8 because I ran out of garlic)
3 cups chickpeas, soaked overnight (I think I only used 2 cups because I ran out of chickpeas--clearly I was unprepared for this soup)
2 1/2 quarts water
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander (both of those are her measures, again I just put in "some" of each)
1 or 2 carrots, very finely chopped (smaller measures are what I had on hand)
1 or 2 onions, very finely chopped
4 or 6 celery stalks, very finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (it doesn't say it's optional but it totally is; I skipped it)
4 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra sprigs to garnish (I forgot to add it, so I used it solely as a garnish)
salt and pepper

1.Heat half the oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan over low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas (drain them first), water, cumin, and ground coriander. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender (she says 2 1/2 hours, but it's really based on your stove. I'm pretty sure mine was done in a little over an hour, though I did use fewer than the stated ingredients).
2. While that's cooking, heat the rest of the oil in a separate pan. Add the carrots, onions, and celery, then cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
3. Stir the vegetables into the pan of chickpeas. Transfer about half the soup to a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. (This step shouldn't be skipped! It gives the soup a cool variation in texture.) Mix the puree back in with the rest of the soup, and add in the lemon juice little by little, tasting all the way, if you used it. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cilantro!

This soup was a total winner in my book! It was hearty and filling, and even with reducing the ingredients it made enough soup to last me for days. I will definitely be making it again as we go into fall and winter.

The last recipe I wanted to share with you is actually a link to a recipe. While Noah's food niche tends to lean toward the Asian food side of cooking, I have always been interested in traditional Latin American recipes. It's hard to find these written down in many places, but I did find a gorgeous Ecuadorian food blog called Laylita's Recipes, and I want to cook practically everything she writes about! The blog appears to be defunct, because she hasn't updated in a long time, but paging through the back entries of the blog has given me a lot of great ideas. I hope to try lots of her recipes in the coming weeks! This week, I was going to make a large quantity of her menestra de porotos, or bean stew, to eat by myself; in an unexpected turn of events, though, Noah surprised me with a visit this week, so we got to try the recipe out together. :-) I loved it! It was a good, filling stew that is sure to turn into a staple winter meal for me. I served it with the fried egg on top, and avocado slices on the side--over rice, of course. Since then I've been eating the leftovers over pasta, and tonight for dinner I'm probably going to bake a couple potatoes and spoon more bean stew over those! Check out the link and try it for yourselves!

That's all for now! Until next time!

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