Everybody Soup

February 21, 2020

You beautiful readers sick of soup yet?

Me too.

Bad News: New and different reason for supporting my soup habit, which is getting tiresome as f*&k.

Good News: It doesn’t involve barfing. Well, not yet anyways.

News That Makes Me Want to Hide Under a Rock: Just as I’ve kinda sorta gotten things figured out a little with my peevish stomach, my jaw and ears decided to join the party. As some of you might have seen, I now have TMJ, because for some reason I’m gnashing my teeth like a woodchuck in my sleep and having these weirdo anxiety dreams so I guess I never relax and it’s causing snapcracklepop of my jaw. And now it’s migrated to my right ear, which is zinging with pain and ringing LOUD and fast and constantly. If I don’t get it figured out, vertigo won’t be far behind. Which means barfing again.

Because I am a lazy cow and also cheap, I consulted Doctor Google about what to do for my TMJ in the comfort of my own home. Ice and heat, alternating (pain in arse. Who has time to lie down on the couch all day making their ear shiver and sweat?) Jaw massage (looks damn ridiculous.) Limited use of a straw (no biggie). Sleeping on my back (I’m a stomach sleeper. Inconceivable.) Avoidance of things that require chewing or crunching (Get outta here, Jokers!)

The lazy cow part of me thinks I can handle this on my own before I haul butt to the dentist, even though this is making me wolverine-style cranky. So I’m trying all of those dinglebutt home remedies, including consuming mainly foods that don’t require chewing.

^^^predicament = more blasted, bothersome bowls of soup.

 

Every time I go out with the Mozz-man to take a walk, I envision myself actually sloshing around, my insides constantly full of soup. Squish, slosh, splash and splatter.

Soup Girl getting tired of this.

 

Good News: This particular soup, deemed “Everybody Soup” because everyone likes it, is a good recipe to add to your arsenal, whether your ailment be viral, stomach or jaw-related. Seriously, everybody who voluntarily consumes soup likes this recipe. What in it is objectionable at all? I mean, okay if you are vegan, this might not be the soup for you but who else would object to a bowl of creamy potato-leek soup with delectable toppings like cheese, bacon, chives and HELLO! crushed Kettle-cooked potato chips?

Nobody in their right mind, that’s who.

I did make/eat this soup before the dang TMJ hit, so I tried it with the potato chips and they. are. genius. Perhaps all soup recipes should contain kettle chips as a possible garnish, because it makes this soup a lot more than a blank canvas. Try it. You won’t be sad. Just don’t tell me about it because then I will be jealous.

I’m currently making another batch, sans the kettle chip garnish. And pouting.

Is winter over yet?

Everybody Soup

serves 8

slightly adapted from Food and Wine

 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 large leeks (white and light green parts only), well cleaned and cut into strips (about 8 cups)

4 large celery stalks, chopped (about 2 cups)

6 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled if desired, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

7 cups water

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon jarred chicken stock base (Better than Bouillion)

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

dash of freshly grated nutmeg

Finely chopped fresh chives/parsley and crushed kettle-style potato chips, for garnish (if you don’t have *&^%ing TMJ)

optional: chopped cooked bacon and shredded sharp cheddar cheese

 

Melt butter with olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add celery; cook, stirring often about 8 minutes. Add potatoes and stir to coat. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until potatoes are shiny and coated, about 5 minutes. Stir in water and chicken stock base; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Let soup cool for 30 minutes.

Stir in milk, cream and grated nutmeg and puree soup with an immersion blender.

Top with chopped fresh chives/parsley, crushed potato chips and chopped cooked bacon, if desired.

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I do not make friends easily. It’s always been that way. Growing up, my sister was like the pied piper; she always had a gaggle of girls following her around. If I had one friend, I counted myself lucky. If anything, I tend to repel people. There are a million reasons–I’m shy; I’m awkward; when I do speak, the words don’t come out right and I end up with my foot in my mouth or outright insulting somebody. I’m overly sensitive; I take everything personally; I hate to leave my house; blahblahblah.  Over the years, I’ve learned that examining the reasons really doesn’t matter. I’m just a woman of few friends. That’s the way it is.

The good news is, the friends I do have are fucking aces. They are generous, kind, loyal and brave enough to stick around, which is no small thing.

This past weekend, I had two of my oldest and most stalwart of friends over for lunch. These women have known me since junior high school, seen me in all my awkward and spazzy glory, through break-ups and giddy crushes and broken engagements and career changes and high-lows and Fuck You Linda’s and Cracker Barrels and they love me anyways. We are the Three Musketeers of Oddness and Shenanigans.

I cherish that we’ve remained friends this long, because we really had no business becoming friends in the first place. I’d be hard-pressed to find more different teenagers: my friend C. was ferocious. A rebel, with spiky hair and boots that could kick your ass and dangerous older boyfriends. My friend J. was the confident, bubbly, loved-by-everyone girl. And then there was me. Miss goody-two-shoes-dorkus-maximus. I walked down the school hallways with my books stacked in front of me, almost like a safety barrier. Eye contact? Forget it. All skinny legs and zero game.

Looking back on things, it would be hard to find a more unlikely trio, but we connected through music and theatre (like many adolescent misanthropes) and we’ve stood the test of time. We embrace the weird because let’s face it, this world is jacked.

Now, our lives are more similar than they are different, revolving around kids and school schedules and responsibilities. We still have our quirks–C. is still the devil-may-care artistic type, J. remains confident and grounded and well, I’m still a dork.

Because I’m a relative hermit, when we get together, the Musketeers come to me. They’re so generous about it, you guys. They pack up and make the trek over and in return, I make lunch. This is the best freaking deal in America, because they’re a joy to cook for. They’ll dig into whatever I come up with curiosity and appetite and that’s exciting for me, because it’s so different from what I get when I cook for my children. Cooking for children is drop-dead boring. Gaaa. I’ll cook for these tremendous women any day.

Last weekend, I got my grubby hands on some fresh Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass at the market, and I was so thrilled that I sent the following message: “Guess which bitch got her hands on some fresh lime leaves? This bitch, that’s who! Woot! I hope you like Tom Yum soup?”

They said they did, which was happy news.

And then because I cannot leave anything well enough alone, I totally bastardized the recipe. I ended up with some kind of weirdo amalgam of Thai, Vietnamese and Indian flavors but guess what? It worked. It was pungent and salty and sweet and puckery and deeply rich with coconut milk and spice. C., who arrived with a crashing headache and zero sleep the night before dug into her bowl and closed her eyes. “I honestly feel like this soup is going to heal me,” she said.

I’m not sure if it was the soup or the conversation or the honesty or the laughter, but by the end of those few hours, we all felt healed. That’s what good and forgiving company does for a girl. It reminds you that everything’s kinda sorta okay. That it’s worth it. WE are worth it.

Bastardized Coconut-Curry Soup

serves 6

 

1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots or onion

1 tablespoon red curry paste, such as Thai Kitchen (if you are scared of spice, start with 2 teaspoons and then adjust to your taste)

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (get yourself a fresh container; it matters)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 stalk lemongrass, bashed up with the side of a knife

4 fresh Kaffir lime leaves (if you can’t find these, substitute 1 teaspoon fresh lime zest. But dang, if you can find ’em, get ’em. The flavor is like nothing else.)

2 minced garlic cloves

2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger or galangal

6 cups rich chicken stock, preferable low sodium or homemade

1 1/2 cans coconut milk, shaken (do not use low fat, okay? Pretty please? You will be sad if you do.)

2 star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper

3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 cups sliced mushrooms, preferably a mix of shiitake and button

1 head baby bok choy, sliced thin

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup sliced scallion

1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots (optional)

Lime wedges, to serve

 

Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add next 9 ingredients (through ginger/galangal) to hot oil and cook, stirring, until fragrant and spices begin to bloom, about 2 minutes. Add next six ingredients (through fish sauce) and bring to a boil. Cover pot, lower heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Take pot off heat and let steep for another 15 minutes. Remove lemongrass, lime leaves, star anise and cinnamon stick from pot. Bring soup back to a simmer and add jalapeno, chicken, mushrooms, bok choy. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and bok choy has wilted. Stir in cilantro, scallion and bamboo shoots, if using. Serve with lime wedges.

 

If you are so inclined, feel free to add rice noodles to this soup to give it more heft. Are noodles ever a bad thing?

 

 

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Winter Days and Garbage Soup

January 15, 2020

 

 

January and February are long-ass months in the Rocky Mountains. Actually, March sucks pretty hard, too but at least there’s a leeetle light at the end of the March tunnel. I probably shouldn’t bitch about this January because we really haven’t had much snow to speak of, but damn, the mornings are cold. It’s an everyday battle to drag this old arse out of bed in the morning, and the early AM walks with the Mozz-man turn my keister to ice. Of course, Mr. Fluffernuts has to smell everything on a fresh winter morning, so I fruitlessly try to hustle him along and he resists mightily. I can almost hear him thinking, “Bitch, why you trying to rush me along, huh?”

Because mommy’s butt is a glacier, but he doesn’t give me an ounce of sympathy. Sheesh.

The only thing that gets me through those morning constitutionals is the knowledge that I have a piping hot bowl of soup waiting for me at home. For breakfast. As weird as it is to eat soup for breakfast, I’m firmly rooted to the habit in winter months. Nothing sustains or warms the bones quite like a bowl of soup, and I give myself extra bonus points if it’s a somewhat healthy offering.

Thus: the birth of Garbage Soup.

In the summer, I breakfast on Garbage Salads–bowls of greens and other odds and ends of gardenly delights tossed together with abandon. In the winter, it’s Garbage Soup, which is pretty much the same thing but in liquid form. I pillage the crisper drawer and throw whatever I’ve got lolling about in there into a pot. Homemade chicken stock from the freezer is definitely welcome but if I’m out, I always have a quart of chicken broth in the pantry and in it goes. Leftover bits of cheese and leafy herbs? In they go. A lone potato or two adds some heft, if I’ve got it around. A half-dead onion? Sure thing. You get the idea.

I’ve been making a pot or two of soup a week since November, and while I sometimes go full-effort and make something with a real name, like minestrone or pasta fagioli or curried butternut squash, many times it’s Garbage Soup. Because I am awesome at keeping plenty of vegetables in the house but not so awesome at thinking of creative ways to use them, so soup it is. Plus, with this stomach assholery, it’s one way to get cruciferous things like broccoli and cauliflower into my belly without a trip to the barf bucket. That’s a good thing.

Garbage soup is not so much a recipe as a method.

Take the broccoli/cauliflower/cheese chowder I made this week.

Here’s what I threw in the pot:

olive oil

half an onion, chopped

one Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced

two peeled garlic cloves

several cups of broccoli flowerets

chopped celery

chopped carrot

a bag of cauliflower rice

several sprigs of fresh thyme

chicken stock (about a quart, maybe more…enough to cover all the veggies in the pot) or you can use vegetable stock

6 ounces of garlic and herb cream cheese or neufatchel cheese (like alouette or, in this instance, a tub of whipped garlic/herb cream cheese from Einsten’s bagels)

a fistful or two of sharp cheddar cheese shreds

salt and pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

 

Here’s what I did:

Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic cloves and saute until softened. Throw remaining vegetables, herbs and chicken stock into the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer soup for about a half an hour. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Whir mixture in a blender or use an immersion blender to get it to the consistency you want. Sometimes I make it chunky like a chowder and sometimes I blitz the whole business into a creamy liquid. Throw in whatever extra cheese and seasonings you want to taste.

Consume. Repeat.

If the garlic cream cheese weirds you out, just use regular cream cheese. It adds a nice richness to the soup but it isn’t heavy. Or if you’d rather just use a nice melting cheese like jack or American, that’s cool too. Huck it in there. I almost always add some Parmiggiano-reggiano on top but anything works, even pepper jack.

 

Is it glamorous? No. Is it particularly attractive? Eh, not so much. Depends on the ratio of vegetables although if I throw in some spinach, it’s a lively green color. Does it taste good on a bitterly cold day? Absolutely. Especially if you’ve got a nice piece of toasty baguette to lop up the extra bits in the bowl.

 

 

It’s January. We’ll make it through. Whatever we need to do to get ourselves there, we’ll hunker down and do it. I’ll do it with Garbage Soup in hand.

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