Growing up, I was never a big soup person. I preferred things you could chew, and soup never struck me as particularly filling. But things change and over the years, while I’m not a huge fan, I’ve learned to appreciate soups. But until this week, I’d never actually made any myself. Mostly just because I could simply buy tomato soup, but also cause I had no way to blend it. Well, for my birthday, I got an immersion blender, and it was motherf-ing cold all weekend, so clearly soup needed to be made. Since I love carrots, and the always reliable Greens cookbook had two carrot soup recipes, I decided to roll with “Carrot soup with North African spices.” I have no idea how authentic the recipe is and ginger is not the only spice, so I’m calling it “North African-ish”
North African-ish Carrot Soup
2 1/2 – 3 cup vegetable stock
8 thin slices of ginger
1/3 onion, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 1/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground coriander
5 large carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 a large sweet potato, thinly sliced
Stick the thin ginger slices in the stock and set aside. Coat the bottom of your soup pot with olive oil and heat it. When the oil is warm, add the onion and sautee for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, and coriander and cook until the onions are soft, 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the carrots, the sweet potato, and 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock. Made sure the ginger that was in the stock gets into the soup pot. Bring to a boil (no watching it though or it won’t happen) and then decrease heat to a simmer. Cover the pot, or mostly cover if you don’t have the right sized lid like me, and let it simmer for 15 or so minutes, or until the veggies are soft. The veggies are the correct level of soft when they start to mush/break in half if you smush them against the side of the pot with a spoon. Turn off the heat. Now, if you have a normal blender, you blend the soup to the desired consistency in batches in it. If you have an immersion blender, you stick the thing into the pot and blend it that way. Once the soup is the desired consistency, serve it warm.
This soup was surprisingly good. I mean, I assumed it would be good, but I was expecting like a seven and it was a nine. Clearly more proof I should never underestimate Greens – they always pull through for me. The flavor balance was extremely good, spices and carrots came through, and nothing got overpowered. Also the immersion blender was awesome – go invest in one, they are only like 40 bucks. Like I said, no idea how authentic this is, having never been to North Africa (yet – it’s on the list!) but it’s yummy so who cares. Song of the week: the Glee version of Baby it’s Cold Outside. Because it seriously is. And I love Darren Criss singing.
A religious history lesson from an atheist: In eastern Europe, the week leading up to Lent (because Lent begins on a Monday, not Ash Wednesday like it does in Western Christianity) is known as Pancake week. This is because Orthodox are hard-core and you needed to get rid of all milk, eggs, and butter before Lent began and you couldn’t eat them anymore. I may be an atheist, but I’m still Russian and I love pancakes so… I didn’t have time to make bliny this year, so I went with more straight-forward potato pancakes with a twist – kale. I love potato pancakes, but they never seem very healthy to me, so adding some green veggie (I’ve also done spinach and cabbage) makes me happy, and feel less guilty. Also, it’s extremely tasty!
2 large kale leaves, chopped
1 large russet potato
1/3 onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons flour
Canola oil for frying
Put the kale and onions in a large bowl. Grate the potato, and mix it in with the other veggies. Add the salt and flour and mix all together. The mixture should stick together somewhat. Crack the egg into the mixture, and mix the entire thing throughly. In theory you should beat the egg separately first, but I’ve always found that to be unnecessary. Heat maybe 1/2 an inch of canola oil in a large frying pan. You really want to use canola or vegetable oil for the frying, as other oils will change the taste of the dish subtly. Once the oil is very hot (like nearly boiling) add small bits of the mixture, and flatten it out into pancake form. I’m bad with exact measurements, but a medium-sized frying pan should fit 2, 3 if you make them very small. Fry until golden on one side – the edges will be crispy – and flip and fry the other side. Remove and place on paper towels to soak up the extra oil. Serve hot.
So, so good. Anything fried is good, but these were really awesome. Lask week I made different kale pancakes, but these were much better. The key to a quality pancake, is that you shouldn’t need to add anything to it. Adding things can be awesome, but it should taste delicious all on its own. These met that criteria. I had this with Blue Moon’s First Peach ale, which I really like. I get crap for drinking Blue Moon because it’s owned by Coors, but they make good stuff. And I see it as a victory for the craft beer movement that one of the giants of shitty American beer is jumping on the band-wagon. Song of the week: Uptown Funk/Lips are Moving by Sam Tsui. Every time I hang out with one of my friends, he introduces me to some pop song I quickly get obsessed with – this time it was Uptown Funk. But I love Sam Tsui, and this version is better.
Ok, so it’s not really spring yet. But there were a couple nice days and spring normally begins in February, right? Just in NorCal I guess. However, the weather encouraged me to flip through the spring section of my nifty new cookbook, and I found a recipe for Green Pancakes. I adjusted slightly based on what was in my fridge, as per usual, namely substituting kale for chard, but the basic concept is the same.
1/2 cup flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup milk
2-3 large kale leaves, chopped into little pieces
Mix the flour, salt, and pepper together. Add the eggs, garlic, and milk, and beat until smooth. Let the batter rest a little bit. While the batter is resting, chop the onions and the kale. After about 30 minutes, fold both of those into the batter. Heat olive oil on a frying pan. Place some of the batter (about a 1/3 cup) on the frying pan and spread it out so its flat and pancake-shaped. Once the bottom begins to brown, flip it over and cook the other side. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up extra oil. Serve warm.
These were good, and very light, but oddly bland. Maybe I didn’t add enough salt and pepper, or garlic. I added ketchup or blue cheese to the pancakes, and that improved them immensely. I feel like I should recommend the blue cheese in particular, but, honestly, I love ketchup so its up to you. I had this with red wine, a Bordeaux actually, but white might be better. Song of week: La Tortura by Shakira. Anyone who has been in a confusing, doomed, or complicated relationship or couldn’t stop with the feelings even when they wanted to (aka basically everyone) can appreciate this song. Also, it’s just awesome.
I finally bought a new cookbook. First time in about two years, so I bought the French Market Cookbook, which I have been lusting after for about six months now. So lust eventually won, as it always does, and I have a new cookbook to play with! The cool thing about this cookbook is that it’s divided up not by recipe type, but by season. So I looked up various winter recipes, and found “Cauliflower Gratin with Hazelnuts and Turmeric.” A few adjustments based on what I had in my fridge, and a lovely new recipe was made.
1/2 a head of cauliflower
1/3 head of broccoli
1/2 cup of hazelnuts
Cheese sauce (below)
Take the hazelnuts and spread on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or so. Pull them out of the oven and, once cooled a bit, rub the skins off the nuts. Roughly chop and set aside for later. In the meantime, chop the cauliflower and broccoli into florets, and steam until slightly tender but still a bit on the crunchy side. Set aside.
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup and a bit of milk
1/2 cup or so strong French cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once its melted add the flour and mix it in. Pour in the milk and whisk continuously – making sure the butter-flour mixture melts completely into the milk. Its important to stir constantly, to prevent any sticking on the bottom, or lumps. Once the sauce has thickened, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg – a pinch or two of each, according to your taste. Then add the cheese, as stir it in until it is all melted into the sauce. The recipe suggests Gruyere or Comte, but I used raclette. Pour the hazelnuts in as well and mix. Put the veggies in a baking dish, and pour the cheese-hazelnut sauce on it. Mix so that the veggies are coated. Pour bread crumbs on top, and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.
Tasty! Less guilt than one would normally feel because the cheese sauce is on vegetables, not pasta or bread or anything. The recipe called for turmeric, which I actually have, but couldn’t bring myself to use as the sauce just tasted so good already. I didn’t want to mess with that. I served this with a French red bordeaux, naturally. I’m sure a California red would have worked too, but I felt the need to go with a French wine for authenticity’s sake. Song of the week: Coin Operated Boy by Dresden Dolls. We’ve all been there – it’d be so much easier that the messiness and confusion that comes with real boys and girls. Bonus – this comes as a fun Buffy fanvid!