Resurrecting a Dinosaur. (and soup!)

Well, Hello! It’s been a while.

When I first started this blog, I wanted to convey the creative and experiential process I underwent when it came to cooking. These inspirational endeavors stemmed from a desire to create something; to share my talent and passion with loved ones and friends, old and new.

A blog seemed infinitely more manageable than a cookbook per se, as I’ve always had a yearning to branch out into more culinary or holistic endeavors, and served as a platform for me to explore the creating process as it pertained to the things I loved most: making something sumptuous to be enjoyed by myself and those around me. For me, cooking is one of the many ways I express joy. 

This last year had me growing and stretching myself in incredible ways. I relocated to a new city, got a new job, new climate, new life. Finding community in a new space and navigating social situation was at times very exciting and wonderful and at others, lonely and isolating. It took a while to reengage and be inspired with the creative process that cooking would provide. I took trips, stayed connected with friends and family, sought challenges and achieved personal milestones, including a trek across the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu over Christmas. That hike was probably one of the hardest physical challenges I’d ever endured, yet somehow I find myself toying with the idea of doing it again. I am forever grateful for the all-encompassing beauty of the trail, the year, the challenges and triumphs.

While my career as a clinical pediatric dietitian has been quite impressionable, the past several years I have had this undercurrent of desire to return to my more holistic roots. As I move into a new arena of private practice, I want to continue this blog and all of its sweetness; and hopefully catalog this new and exciting journey. I’m looking forward to growing myself within new levels of comfort and discomfort. There’s a wellspring of creativity waiting to bloom and express itself; I can feel it percolating.

I still plan to maintain the blog’s focus on the experiential process of culinary art, continuing to write about my food lover’s journey, as well as incorporating some of the new adventures that are shaping my existence today. Stay tuned! 

But for now. I’ll leave you with a recipe for a warming soup I made the other day, whose inception came from a typical lack of desire to venture out to the grocery store. Anyone with a decently-stocked pantry can make this soup, or a variation, depending on how flexible one chooses to be. My approach to recipes are to use them more like a template, adjusting to suit one’s personal taste. This particular soup contains coconut milk and red lentils for substantive staying power, and lots of ginger to give heat. I’ve included both stovetop and instant-pot versions of the recipe for those wanting to shave a few minutes of meal preparation.

Enjoy, and much love, J

Carrot Coconut Ginger Soup

Method:

Melt 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil in a large pot set to medium heat, or in an instant pot using the sauté function.

Once ghee is melted, add the following and sauté until soft; ~3-5 minutes

1 c diced yellow onion

1 garlic clove

Add the following to pot and allow to bloom until fragrant; ~1 minute

3-4 tbsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1 lb carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

Once everything is nicely aromatic, add the following:

1 lb carrots

1/2 cup red lentils

4 cups vegetable stock

Bring ingredients to a boil. Simmer ~25 minutes. If using instant pot, cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Remove from heat or vent pressure valve on instant pot and add:

1 can coconut milk

Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Garnish with red pepper flakes, toasted coconut chips and cilantro, as desired.

Not for the faint of heart.

The stream of life is carrying me along, pulling me into uncertainty, as it ebbs and flows and eventually takes form. It’s happening both in life and in the food I create. My need for security is being replaced by Patience. Presence. Time. These are things that I fight with resilience on a cellular level. I think we all do, to some degree. However sometimes, we get the opportunity to slow down, to savor, to relax into the current and be surprised by the result.
I write this as I sit patiently, waiting for onions caramelize. As my well-intentioned plan is being whisked away by the undertow and evolving into something else, entirely. If this sounds a bit esoteric, I apologize. It just happens to be where I’m at, in this moment.
 PicFrame
later on…
I encountered one minor barrier after another. However, what evolved is only redolent of French onion soup. Rather, it is a hop-infused, sweet, aureus onion soup. The onions were cooked down to nearly a jam, and used as a base for the broth, which was then topped with artisan bread, and possibly the best aged goat cheese I’ve ever had good fortune to sample.

Clementine - Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

Clementine – Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

I’ll offer a template of the recipe, however there wasn’t really one to follow. I started with general encouragement and inspiration from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for onion soup, then transformed it with a bit of what was available to me in the pantry. I hope you enjoy it.
Much Love,
J

Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Onion Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large yellow onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, center removed, minced
salt
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetarian chicken-flavored broth
1 cup beer
4 slices good thick country bread, or french bread
1 cup grated cheese (cave-aged Gruyère, or if you can find it, Yarmuth Farms Clementine)
Method:
Set a 4-quart stockpot, enameled cast iron, if you have one, on low. Warm butter and olive oil over low heat; add onion and garlic. Keep heat on low, and give a stir every 10-15 minutes, until the onions are golden and sticky. Be mindful of the heat, as burnt onion is not ideal. Once the onions have caramelized (this will take a good hour or so), add a tablespoon of flour. Stir for ~1 minute, then add 1/2 of the beer to deglaze the pan. Add broth and remaining 1/2 cup of beer. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and let it bubble away for ~30 minutes. Taste for salt, then give it a few grinds of pepper.
Meanwhile, cut bread to the size of large ramekins, or other oven-safe bowls. toast bread on either side under broiler. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls, then top with bread and cheese. Place under broiler until bubbly and browning. Serve hot.

Filler.

Funny how a well-planned trip to the store can lead to something different entirely. Just prior, I had been glossing over recipes in my latest aquisirion, ‘Around My French Table’, by Dorie Greenspan. I was inspired by a lentil salad with preserved lemon and thought that adding a little bit of bacon to the mix might be nice.
I also wanted to make a salad with sweet potato and zucchini salad I’d found on one of my favorite website recipe culling sites food 52.com. Alas, the store was out of one thing or another and I had to make a decision. As I was coming home to chill in the air, I thought ‘Soup’! What could be more perfect than a lentil sweet potato stew with smoky bacon on a cold Fall evening?

I have a preference for French lentils however when I was out these tiny little beluga lentils caught my eye. Slightly smaller than the French lentil, the beluga lentils hold their shape well and are great and soups or salads. I like to par-cook my lentils a bit, giving them a rinse before adding to the soup, so as to not muddy the broth. The bacon I sauté separately and then add the bacon fat to the pan in which I sauté the aromatics. The addition of preserved lemons contribute a bit of brightness to complement the more earthly flavors.
Finish it off with a bit of chopped parsley, creme fraiche or yogurt and a slice or two of a good rustic, yeasty loaf of bread.

Lentil Soup with Preserved Lemon

Lentil Soup with Yam and Preserved Lemon

Lentil Soup with Yams and Preserved Lemon
For the soup:
1 c tiny lentils, French, or beluga
4 pieces good peppered bacon (~1/4 lb), diced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
5 c vegetable or chicken stock
2 medium sweet potatoes or yams, rinsed and cut into 1/2-1 inch dice
1 small handful fresh, or 1 tsp dried thyme
I stem rosemary (about a tsp)
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped
I/2-1 preserved lemon, peel only, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish:
Small handful parsley, chopped
Creme fraiche or yogurt
Method:
In a small sauce pan boil about 3 cups of water with one cup lentils for ~15 minutes; drain and rinse. Set aside.
While lentils are cooking, sauté bacon over medium heat in a large stockpot until fully cooked. Remove from pan and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Add the chopped onion and sauté for about three minutes until soft, then add in garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add lentils and remaining ingredients, with the exception of kale and lemon. Bring to boil and then lower to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Toss in kale and lemon; give it a stir. Pepper generously. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Garnish and serve.
Oh! There was a bevy of food production last week with Thanksgiving and all. Here’s a teaser of my fabulous pumpkin pie. I hope to post the recipe at some point, however I used a pate sablee for the crust and filled it with (canned) pumpkin in a pinch. Don’t judge.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Much Love,
J

Roasted.

What one can do with a tray of roast vegetables? I recall an article in the NYT reviewing this book titled An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It seduced me with its practicality and how a bit of advance prep and cooking in the kitchie yield several days’ worth of meals. I don’t know about you, but my tastes can change quite dramatically within the course of a day or so. Exactly how many things can one do with roasted squash and cauliflower? In actuality, quite a bit! I was pouring though my food photos and discovered a bevy of dishes I’d created doing just that.

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

Roasted veggies, greens, egg and sriracha sammie

salmon:delicata

Salmon with delicata squash and greens

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

Egg and delicata squash on arugula

I’ll never cook a week at a time; I’m too compulsive. I feel the need to eat it all at once and will perseverate over what to eat first. I found myself doing just that thing last week, with a tray of roasted vegetables, a vat of soup, cooked quinoa and the like.

Melissa Clark’s NYT article on creamy carrot and cauliflower soup was the seedling that tied it all together. I made a simple soup of pureed roast vegetables and coconut milk. Adding curried spices seemed appropriate, as they marry well with the delicate sweetness of squash and cauliflower. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of chili flakes and top with a dollop of creme fraiche or…Greek yogurt – I won’t judge.

Having the veggies already roasted on hand makes for a quick meal, however I’ve included roasting instructions, if you’re so inspired. This soup would also work well with fresh vegetables, however they won’t have the caramelized flavor and complexity that roasted vegetables provide.

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Roasted cauliflower and delicata squash soup

Curried Delicata Squash and Cauliflower Soup

For the vegetables:
1 medium-sized delicate squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch crescents
1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
olive oil; about 2 tablespoons
a generous teaspoon of sea salt
freshly grated pepper nutmeg

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss all of the ingredients together; the vegetables should have a light coat of olive oil so that the spices can adhere.
Roast for ~40-50 minutes, giving a toss about half-way through to ensure even caramelization.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp Madras curry powder
3-4 cups of roasted cauliflower and squash
2 1/2 cups broth (vegetable, or chicken)
1 cup coconut milk
salt, to taste
chili flakes, for garnish
creme fraiche, or Greek yogurt, for garnish

In a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil for ~5 minutes until soft and starting to brown. Add curry powder and sauté for about 30 seconds, then add vegetables, 2 cups of the broth, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer for ~15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree, adding additional water or broth as needed to bring to desired consistency.

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