Mushroom Soup

“Someone fell on me on the train today.”

“So they knocked into you? Doesn’t that happen all the time?”

“No. Someone fell on. to. me.  I was on the ground face up, with them on top of me.”

“What?”

“He was too busy eating a delicious looking lemon poppy seed cake out of one hand and a drinking a coffee out of the other to hold the rail.”

“Well obviously it was because of his delicious looking cake. I mean, lemon poppy seed? Screw. that. rail.”

“Really?”

Roo looks up from his iPad, “Are you ok babe?”

“I cried.”

“Cried and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought?”

“No, this isn’t an episode of HIMYM on what makes a Real New Yorker. This is real life. ”

“Meaning -”

“The anger cry.”

“I know that cry. It’s kind of…confusing.”

“Yes, a snotty nosed, yelling to getoffofme, anger cry occurred as soon as I realized he was on top of me…And that he was still holding his coffee and cake.”

“Not a drop spilled?”

“Not a single drop.”

“He must have gone to UMass.”

“So not the point Roo. So not the point.”

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Asparagus Soup

You can either find humor in stereotypes or not.

For me, it’s a combination of the two.

When I’m driving around Boston and a fellow Asian driver cuts me off or stops short, I become livid, usually exclaiming, “this is why we have this stereotype!” I may have road rage.

Yet when my mother insists that the television remote control be covered in saran wrap, I accept this as totally normal. Surely every household has remote controllers covered in saran wrap, that are wiped off every evening with a paper napkin.

“Your father, he has such greasy hands!”

Surely.

I never get annoyed with my mother when she says, “so cheap!” at the grocery store.  Instead, I nod my head, sometimes adding a few of those oranges she found on sale into my own shopping basket.

When I catch up with my friend J, hearing about the hundredth time his mother surprised him, showing up at his apartment unannounced with two suitcases full of Korean groceries, I can’t help but share when my mother does the same (last time with a pound of green tea and a kitchen sink strainer).

J and I also have this ingrained, core value of trying to never disappoint our mothers.  Growing up we were pushed hard to achieve the most academically.  And now that we’ve graduated college (it’s been a few years actually), our mothers are asking about the next phase of our lives.

“Why aren’t you in grad school?”

“When are you getting married?

“When are you having children?”

Even though J and I are opposite sexes, our inquiries are the same.

For a while, J and I were able to push them to the wayside, but the last time we spoke, he told me he was applying to medical school for 2013.  His mother and aunt recently visited and basically had an “intervention.”

For once I’m glad my mother is an only child.

I’m not ready to answer any of those questions.  I’d rather put my focus elsewhere, in the kitchen.

Hitting up the local produce stand is something I look forward to every weekend.  Johnny D’s is closed on Sundays, so Saturdays are usually the best time to go when looking for last minute deals.  And when I saw bunches of asparagus being sold for 99 cents each, I knew I had a winner.

So cheap!

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Tunisian Soup

The house is strangely quiet tonight.

Roo left an hour ago to meet up with a friend from college at a local bar.

It’s just me, the cats and the sound of rain.

While it would be tempting to have dinner with the tv blaring, staring vacantly at whatever program I happen to come across, I’d rather just sit.

And listen.

Taste.

And enjoy the quiet company that I have.

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Mushroom and Wheatberry Soup with Kale

Some New Year’s resolutions may be to lose weight this year.  Others may want to quit smoking.  And maybe a few would like to spend less money.

I on the other hand, would just like to keep the crew from Hoarders from showing up at my apartment doorstep.

My kitchen cupboards are full, full of pantry staples like flours, dried beans, sugars, canned tomatoes and the like.  Unfortunately, it goes beyond that.

Various dried mushrooms? Shitake, porcini and woodman’s blend (whatever that means…)

Hijiki? Shacking up with arame.  They’re besties.

Dates? Sure, but to get to them you gotta push aside the dried cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, apricots, dried cherries…hold on a sec….where did these cacao nibs come from!?

And with the cupboards being filled to the brim, some items have found “homes” in re-usable grocery bags on the floor.  It just needed to stop.

Soup, was the answer.

The flux of warm, re-circulated, dry air in the lab to a drastically different, wet, cold and sometimes windy Boston side-street, has brought on sniffling noses, stiff joints and knuckles begging to be cracked.  Perhaps it’s a lingering bug, but I’m convinced that the constant change has left my body tired and hungry; hungry for warm bowls filled with hearty ingredients and dunkable broth.

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Creamy Oven Roasted Cauliflower Soup

I’ve been holding on to this one for a while.

Pressures of what to write, how to write it and if it would be good enough, have been sitting on top of my chest as I’d lay down to bed at night.  Uncomfortable would be the best way to describe it; a feeling that I should be writing something funny, but I can’t, or won’t.

Yet with the New Year approaching, I decided I should let it go.  Sometimes the recipe needs to speak for itself.

And this soup definitely has a voice: creamy and lush, hints of thyme, bay and a little “something” from the chili powder makes this bowl of assumed homogeneity a contender.  It’s full of body from the blended potatoes and has an unexpected amount of depth from the caramelized bits of roasted cauliflower.

Grab a hunk of warm, crusty bread and enjoy this winter fare tonight.  But be sure to save some for tomorrow, as it’s even better as leftovers.

Adapted from Creamy Broccoli Soup

This Serves About 6

Ingredients

For the oven roasted cauliflower

1 tablespoon of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets (try to keep everything, except for the leaves)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the rest of the soup

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

1 large onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Half teaspoon of chili powder

4 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

4 potatoes (about the size that individually fit in the palm of your hand), cut into about half inch pieces

1 large carrot, diced

1 large parsnip, diced (if you don’t have any parsnips, use two carrots. I’ve done this before when caught in a pinch and it tasted fine.)

1 cup of unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Quarter cup of nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance (optional)

Salt to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A medium sized mixing bowl

A cookie sheet (or two) lined with parchment paper (optional)

A very large pot with cover (or dutch oven)

A spatula

An immersion blender or a blender

Ladle

Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to your pot.  Place the pot over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and chili powder and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, potatoes, carrot and parsnip.  Stir till the ingredients are incorporated.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat so that the ingredients are at a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer for about twenty minutes.

After twenty minutes have passed, add the almond milk, sherry and nutritional yeast.  Stir and heat the ingredients through.

By now the cauliflower should be caramelized from roasting in the oven.  In one fell swoop, dump the cauliflower into your pot.  Stir in the cauliflower so that it’s evenly distributed in the soup.

With an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup, or to the consistency that you wish (I like to have some bits left whole in my soup).  If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle some soup into your blender, but be careful to not fill more than half way.  Lid, cover with a towel (to protect your hand), and immediately blend (do not let steam build up in the blender or else you may risk of eruption and burning your hand!).  Add it back to the soup, and continue this until the soup is down to the consistency you desire.

Add salt to taste.

*Does it need to be just a little bit creamier?  If desired, add a tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance.  Otherwise, you’re done!  Serve immediately.

Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup

I’ve been living with Roo for over a year now, and I feel like I have enough data to say that he’s probably a serial killer.  Or an alien…but better looking than Powder of course.

*The fact that I mentioned Powder and “data,” should be far enough evidence to prove something’s wrong with him for staying with me.

Anyways…

1) When I discovered a few grey hairs and told him about it, he said, “I bet you’d look hot with salt and pepper hair.”

Who says that?  No one wants a 30 year old female to go gray.

Except for serial killers.

2) He always tells me I’m beautiful when I wake up in the morning, despite my insisting that I more resemble a Kraken.

Let me state, I am not “beautiful” when I wake up.  My face is oily, my hair that I put in a bun to keep myself from choking on it in my sleep is all mussed up and sitting on the top of my head, and I have the. worst. breath.  Hence, Kraken.

3) When I come home from the yoga studio, always after a practice where I sweat with such ferocity that it goes into my eyeballs (probably the worst thing to experience since you go both blind and your eyes itch), he’ll hug me even tighter saying that I “just smell like Lys.”

What does that even mean?!

I’ll tell you, it means he’s trying to memorize my scent so when he’s hunting me in the woods he can track me better.

4) Whether we’re sitting on the couch in private or at a bar amongst friends, he always has to have some part of his body touching mine.  At first I thought it was sweet when we were first dating, but now I know it’s just to make sure that when his head is turned he knows I haven’t fled the scene as he can feel me beside him.

Oh, I’m onto you Roo.  But for now, I’ll make you a pot of vegetable and pearl barley soup on this windy December day, insisting that it was made with love, despite my hand rattling the ladle against the bowl.

Chunks of potatoes and carrots, amongst the tender chew of pearled barley, net in by sweet kale makes this soup fit for winter.  This dish has hints of earthiness from the addition of rosemary, only to be paired with two other favorite herbs of mine: thyme and bay.  Adding a big hunk of bread to your plate will practically leave little else to be desired for supper.

Except for my freedom from a serial killer.

Roo is not really a serial killer or alien but a really good boyfriend despite my being a giant pain in the ass.

Adapted from Orangette

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion, diced

Half cup of pearl barley

4 stalks of celery, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 potatoes (about the size that can fit in the palm of your hand), peeled and cut into one inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Quarter teaspoon of chili powder

6 cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade)

2 – 3 bay leaves

1 bunch of kale (about a pound), leaves removed from stems and torn into easily edible pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A very large pot (or a dutch oven)

Add the olive oil to your large pot or dutch oven and place on a burner over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and pearl barley.  Stir the ingredients together, coating them with oil.  When the onions start to soften, and the pearl barley starts to brown, add the celery, carrots and potatoes.  Stir the ingredients together so that they’re well combined.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until they are softened.  Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and chili powder, stirring them into the other ingredients till well combined.  Cook them for about about a minute, till well fragrant.  Add the stock slowly, just a little at first, to allow the brown bits to come off the bottom of the pot with a spatula.  Scrape them off the pot’s surface, then continue adding all the stock.  Add the bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil.

Once at a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about fifteen minutes, then add the kale, stirring it into the liquid.  Continue to simmer the ingredients for five more minutes, then check to see if your barley and potatoes are cooked through.  The potatoes should be soft to the touch (be able to poke a fork through easily) and the barley should have a little bit of chew to it.  Season with salt and pepper if desired, then serve.

Quinoa, Greens and Root Veg Soup

I’ve totally been embracing this whole “eating New England style” as November comes to a close.  “New England style” is basically eating the produce that’s available in New England during fall and winter.  It largely consists of storage crops and winter greens.  Produce like potatoes, winter squashes, onions, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and even tatsoi.

Also, soup has been served practically everyday in our little apartment.  LLN basically reflects what Roo and I eat, so hopefully you haven’t grown tired of the seasonal veg and soups that have been featured.  I honestly can’t get enough of it!  I am absolutely in love with swinging by the farmers market at city hall to see what’s available that day.  Sometimes I peruse the tables out of need for a recipe, and other times it’s to just pick up an item or two, if only to support the farmers that trekked into the city, just to sit in the cold all day.  Just a note: the more you frequent a vendor, the more likely they’ll remember you and try to give you a better deal (ie I’ve received a free handful of this or that and sometimes a couple of apples).  It really does pay off to shop local.

Ok, enough about farmers markets.

I’m here to write about soup.  Soup that I was able to make in thirty minutes after a quick chop of some seasonal produce and a stir in of quinoa.  Soup that has a bit of heat from red pepper flake, an earthiness from rosemary, loads of textures and a “complete protein” that makes even the judgmental of a plant-based diet hush as they dunk chunks of warm, crusty bread into the broth.

It’s incredibly flavorful and fast.  It’s a soup that warms our bones on nights when the heat drops below freezing and our uninsulated windows remind us that summer is over and it’s time for tea, blankets and baking.  Lots of baking.

And like most soups, it tastes even better the next day, as the flavors are able to meld together; potatoes completely infused with the spicy earthy broth.

Which leads me to ask, have you made a soup with quinoa before?  What do you typically use quinoa for?  I’ve used it in cakes, salads and now soups.  I don’t think there’s anything this little seed can’t do.

Inspired by The Urban Vegan Cookbook Recipe for Quinoa Soup

Adapted from Spicy and Hearty Potato, White Bean and Kale Soup

Ingredients

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

2 medium onions, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced (love garlic, LOVE)

1 – 2 teaspoons of red pepper flake (if you’re heat sensitive, start with a half teaspoon)

1 bunch of collard greens, (about a pound) leaves removed from stems, torn with hands into easily edible pieces (you can use kale, collards were all I had.  I would not recommend spinach, unless if it was added right at the end, as it’s incredibly delicate compared to kale, etc.)

8 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

Half to 1 cup of dry quinoa (1 cup results in a lot of quinoa with very little broth.  If you’d like to have a lot of liquid in your soup, use half a cup)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of dried rosemary

2 carrots, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

3 to 4 medium potatoes, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Equipment

One large pot

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A spatula/tongs

Pour olive oil into your pot and place over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions, and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the onions turn golden brown (it may take more than five minutes depending on your burner), add the garlic, red pepper flake and rosemary.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, quinoa, bay leaves, greens, carrots and potatoes.  Stir to combine the ingredients.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce the heat to bring the soup at a simmer.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, about fifteen minutes.

Add the beans if using, and stir in.  Simmer for about five minutes longer, then serve.

Veggie and Dumpling Soup with Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Roo and I live in a part of the city where many college students sublet apartments throughout the school year.  By living in an area heavily populated with undergrads, we have easy access to many locally run restaurants within walking distance.  However, one of the businesses across the street from our apartment is a chain restaurant.  And this particular chain loves to receive deliveries at 4 in the morning, with the semi-truck right parked in the middle of the road, complete with the engine running for the entire time.  The truck is usually there for 30 minutes to an hour, complete with hissing from air being released from the brakes and sometimes if you’re really lucky, a blast of the air horn, to let the employee stashed in the back know that they’ve arrived.

Usually Roo and I can sleep through it, as after living on a busy road for a while, little wakes you up.  But this morning was different, as the truck driver decided to use a cart to move items in and out of the restaurant.  Clickity clack clack clack, is what I woke to at 5 a.m.  As I rolled over to whine to Roo about the noise (because whining is totally appropriate couples’ communication when you’re pre-coffee and the sun isn’t up yet), I found that he wasn’t there.

Where was he?

When I turned the light on in the living room, I found Roo asleep on the couch, and Evil Monkey, obviously caught red-handed in some sort of master plan.

(Seriously, she’s an evil genius.)

I asked him what happened, and apparently I told him in the middle of the night, “stop coughing or get out.”

Wow.

I know what you’re thinking, because I am too: he’s so lucky to have. all. this. (crazy.)

All joking aside, I felt incredibly guilty that I forced Roo into exile, and knew I had to make it up to him.

When I’m sick, all I want is a warm, hearty soup that I can eat while wrapped in a blanket and my feet tucked up under me.  (Spooning a soup bowl is like my hobby when I have a cold. That and using every conceivable paper product in the house to blow my nose.  Really.)  I knew Roo wasn’t a fan of brothy soups, so I decided to do an adaptation of an old favorite of mine: chicken and dumplings.

While Roo and I are now eating plant based meals, I felt that that was no reason to stop eating the comfort foods we had grown up with.  There is always room for adaptation.

Simmering in my dutch oven, were flavors of woodsy thyme, onions, practically melted into the olive oil, with chunks of carrots and a peppering of celery throughout, all enveloped by a rich and creamy soup.  What I especially loved was that the oven roasted cauliflower placed at the bottom of the bowl, gave a slight crunch, from the caramelized bits that had cooked up against the baking sheet, only to end with a smooth and silky taste, coupling perfectly with the soup.

This meal does well as leftovers, as overnight, the flavors truly meld together, and make a lunch all your co-workers will be jealous of.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

For the oven roasted vegetables

1 – 2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets (*if you don’t like cauliflower – gasp! – you can always roast broccoli)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the soup

3 to 4 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 ribs of celery, thinly sliced

Half teaspoon of red pepper flake (optional)

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

Quarter teaspoon of tumeric

Five and a half cups of low sodium stock/broth (I used homemade vegetable)

2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (this adds to the creaminess of the soup)

Half cup of apple cider (apple juice also works if that’s all you have)

2 tablespoons sherry

Half cup of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Half cup of water

Half cup of all purpose flour

For the dumplings

One and a half cups of all purpose flour

Half cup of cornmeal

1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder

Half teaspoon of fine sea salt

Three quarters of a cup plus 2 tablespoons of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

Equipment

A sharp knife

2 medium sized mixing bowls (can hold about 4 cups), or you can wash out the mixing bowl and use it again

One to two cookie sheets with (optional) parchment paper to line

A large dutch oven or a large pot with lid

A spatula

A blender or immersion blender…you may be able to get out the lumps when mixing the almond milk/water/flour with a whisk/shake a lidded jar

A whisk

A tablespoon (to scoop the dumplings with)

Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your first mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Pour 3 – 4 tablespoons of olive oil into your dutch oven/large pot and place over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion starts to become translucent.  Add the carrots and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion has browned.  Add the red pepper flake (if using), thyme and tumeric.  Stir the spices into the ingredients until combined.  Cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Pour in the broth/stock slowly.  Using your spatula, scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of your dutch oven/large pot (this is the good stuff).  Continue to pour in the broth/stock and stirring the ingredients.  Add the nutritional yeast, stir till combined.  Add the apple cider.  Stir till combined.  Add the sherry.  Stir till combined.  Cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer the ingredients while you make your dumplings.

In your second (or cleaned) mixing bowl, add the all purpose flour, cornmeal, 1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder and half teaspoon of fine sea salt.  Whisk the dry ingredients together.  Add the almond milk and olive oil.  Stir the ingredients together, being careful not to over mix.  The dough should be slightly damp.  If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.  If it’s too dry, add a little bit more almond milk.  Set aside.

In a blender (or if using, an immersion blender and bowl, whisk and bowl, or jar with lid, maybe?), add the half cup of almond milk, half cup of water and half cup of all purpose flour.  Mix the ingredients together until no longer lumpy.  Add the almond milk, water, flour mixture to the dutch oven/large pot.  Stir till combined.

With a clean tablespoon, spoon out the dumpling dough and drop it onto the soup.  Continue adding dollops of dough into the soup until you run out.  Partially cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Check the seasonings and add salt if needed.  Let the soup sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Potato and Leek Soup

Woah, did everyone else barely survive Tuesday after the long weekend?

One of my colleagues is interviewing at medical schools until later this week so I’ve had to cover for her a bit.  There wasn’t much to do this past week, but at the end of today I opened my inbox, to see it full of emails from my boss asking if I could take care of a few things for her before I left.  Needless to say I ended up leaving late, which always results in a snowball effect when commuting from Boston.  I.e. the later you leave, the worse your commute back home is going to be.

I usually leave work at half past three to avoid the crazies of “I’m going to sit on you despite that you’re a person,” or “hey, that’s your face? Let me get you right in the eye with my overstuffed Coach bag,” or “I’m going to thrust my crotch in your face even though the train isn’t moving. At all.”

At half past four I left the research building, but unfortunately, it’s the same thing as leaving at rush hour.  (Rush hour for Boston is from four to seven.  Seriously.)

Forty five minutes later, I got to Kenmore, but I was relieved that I knew that my commute was halfway over.  All I had to do was board the 57 bus, get through the mayhem that is BU, and I’d be home.

Instead, the bus caught on fire.

As we pulled up to the St. Mary’s stop, a strange smell that I can only describe as metallic and cooling, like a Vicks Vapor Rub gone carcinogenic, started coming from the back of the bus.  When I turned around, I saw smoke coming from the rear engine.  In good timing, the bus failed to move any further, so we slid to a stop.  However, with the engine dead, the power to the doors was also shut off.

Well…I found out this afternoon that I really don’t do well in “I think I’m going to burn to death in this smelly old bus,” situations.

When one of the passengers was told by the driver (at the front of the bus) to manually open the rear door by using the “emergency latch,” she had an absolute mental fail. She proceeded to tap the glass with her hand and say, “wait, I don’t get it.”

The glass box read, in all caps, “SMASH GLASS AND TURN RED HANDLE.”

As the smoke started to creep in on us, I completely lost my marbles.

“It says smash glass and turn red handle.”

Girl taps glass again and looks around. “Wait, but, it’s not working.”

“It says to SMASH it.”

Girl starts to pull on box.

“OH MY GOD, IT SAYS SMASH GLASS AND TURN THE RED HANDLE. SMASH IT! SMASH THE GLASS!”

The driver ended up climbing over people to take care of it.

I’m not proud of that moment.  In fact, when I finally arrived home (in a non-flammable bus) all I wanted to do was eat a bowl of hot carbs and tell Roo how horrible I was to another human being.

Thankfully Roo (who is way too good to me) just laughed and said no one is good in those situations.

Still not feeling exactly good about myself, I was in dire need of comfort food. I thought about just chopping a bunch of potatoes, tossing them in olive oil, and roasting them in the oven for dinner.  (If you haven’t tried oven roasted potatoes yet, you must.  It’s so good.)  But when I went to grab some wine out of the fridge, I eyed a few leeks that I hadn’t used yet from our CSA.

What resulted was a potato and leek soup, that almost, almost made me forget about this afternoon.  The sherry just adds that “little something,” that I felt was lacking when I first tasted it.  Though it’s not completely necessary, as some don’t wish to cook with alcohol, I feel if you have it, use it.  It’s lovely.

Also, while the browned leeks and potatoes go against the usual mantra of potato and leek soups, I felt it really boosted the flavor.  As I’ve said multiple times in the past, I absolutely love caramelized onions.  Leeks are onions, right?  Sure.

The thyme and rosemary warmed the dish through, making me relive memories of baked potatoes my mother would pull out of the oven on cold winter nights.  She’d then split them open, seasoning them generously with salt and pepper, serving them alongside a rosemary and thyme oven roasted chicken.

While Roo and I are eating a plant based diet this month, I feel you can still have meals that leave you feeling satisfied without having an animal protein on your plate.  All the flavors were there in this little bowl of soup: warming thyme and rosemary, creamy potatoes, with rich caramelized leeks.  An addition of chili powder perked up our taste buds, making the dish feel not too heavy.  And lastly, the sherry just pulls everything together.

The weather forecast for the rest of this week is going to be rain, so I’ll be looking forward to having this as leftovers for lunch, with a thick slice of toasted artisan bread of course.

Adapted from David Lebovitz

Serves Four Generously

Ingredients

3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil

3 leeks, white and light green parts sliced then washed very very well in a colander

Five medium sized potatoes, the size that can fit inside the palm of your hand, diced

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced

5 cups of low salt vegetable broth (I used homemade) plus an extra cup or so, in case you’d like to thin it out at the end

3 tablespoons cooking sherry

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Half teaspoon dried rosemary

Half teaspoon chili powder

Half cup soy milk

Equipment

A large pot

A sharp knife

A spatula

A ladle

A blender

A tea towel/a few paper towels

Add the olive oil to your large pot, and place on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add your sliced leeks and cook, stirring occasionally.  When the leeks become translucent, about five minutes, add the diced potatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and leeks become golden brown.  Add the minced garlic, and stir into the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the vegetable broth, sherry, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and chili powder.  Stir the ingredients till combined.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat down so that the soup is at a simmer.  Add the soy milk, and stir till combined.

Cook the soup until the potatoes are soft/fork tender.

Working in batches, ladle some of the soup into a blender, making sure to not fill it more than halfway.  Place your tea towel over the blender’s cover, and puree the soup.

I like my soup to have some texture, so I only puree half of the batch.  If you’d like to have a super smooth soup, then puree away.

Return the puree back into the soup pot, and stir till combined, working till you get the texture you want.

Add more vegetable broth to you soup also, if you’d like to thin it out more as well.

Oven Roasted Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup

Last week I received three acorn squash from my CSA.   Yes, three, and when Roo plopped them down on our kitchen table after he picked them up from the Allston Farmer’s market, I couldn’t help but think, “what the hell am I going to do with these things?”

I’ve had butternut squash, and I absolutely love pumpkin.  I’ve even had kobocha squash on an almost weekly basis due to my Asian upbringing, but acorn squash? What?!

So I did what any other person would do…when they’re as lazy as me in the kitchen.

I roasted it.

And then I made it into a soup.

What turned out was something that tasted like the fall I fantasize about when our air conditioner breaks in a July heatwave; sap popping amongst the embers in a fire, knee high socks (hello, they’re so warm), and the crunch of golden leaves underneath my feet.

It was pretty awesome.

Luscious, warming flavors of roasted squash, thyme and sage, and a lovely depth from caramelized onions (yes, I have a problem, I love love love caramelized onions), this soup was what I needed to curl up with for another rainy fall day.  It’s not laden with sugar and cream, which sometimes is a complaint about butternut squash soups.  It freezes beautifully (I said it) and I love having a bowl of it with a side of roasted cauliflower.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

A couple tablespoons of olive oil (to coat the squashes with)

Quarter cup vegan butter, like Earth Balance (I know, I know it’s a bit of butter, but I found it necessary for the richness)

2 medium onions, chopped finely (I love love love lots of caramelized onions, I am a true believer it makes a soup)

6 cloves garlic, chopped finely (I also really love garlic, if you don’t, try 4…please?)

4 cups oven roasted acorn squash (about one a half pounds), scooped out from skins and set aside into a bowl

4 cups oven roasted butternut squash (about one a half pounds), scooped out from skins and set aside into a bowl

6 cups low sodium vegetable broth

Half cup light coconut milk

1 teaspoon dried thyme (start with half a teaspoon, and taste, if you want to up the herbs, add another half)

1 teaspoon dried sage, minced (same as thyme)

Salt and pepper

Equipment

A very large pot

A blender

A spatula

A sharp knife

A soup spoon

One medium sized mixing bowl that can hold about eight cups of squash

Two cookie sheets

Aluminum foil (optional) to cover the cookie sheet with

Place oven racks to the upper and lower positions in the oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

Cut your acorn and butternut squash in half.  Scoop out the seeds, then coat the cut sides of the squashes with olive oil.  Lay the squash, cut side down on a cookie sheet.  Place cookie sheets into the oven and bake, switching positions of the cookie sheets halfway through roasting.  Bake for about an hour, or until the flesh of the squashes are very tender.

Set aside the squash to cool.  Once cool, scoop out the flesh and set aside into a bowl.  There should be about eight cups worth.

In a large pot, add the butter, and melt over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden brown, for about seven minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, for about a minute.

Add the broth and squash to the pot.  Stir the best you can, till the ingredients are just combined.  *This doesn’t have to be super strict as you’re about to blend everything in the next step.

Remove the pot from heat.

In increments, and not filling the blender more than halfway, puree the contents of the pot until smooth. *Be careful and place a tea towel over blender cover, to prevent splashes onto your hand.

Add the pureed ingredients back to the pot.  Place the pot back on the burner on medium heat.

Add the coconut milk and herbs.  Stir till combined and bring the soup to a simmer.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.