Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tomatillo Soup w/ Pinto Beans & Corn

Yep, sometimes the only thing you can do is to keep making soup. I wish more than anything that I could still be with my family, making soup for my dad every day, but I won't have the chance to do that again for another month. So in the meantime, I'm doing my best to take each moment as it comes, and that is no small task.
Luckily, yesterday I was fortunate to find myself with both some extra moments and some culinary motivation at the same time, so I grabbed my apron, knives & cutting board, and started roasting, peeling, chopping, dicing and slicing. Warning: this is the kind of recipe that takes a little time, but it is well worth every ounce of effort and time spent.
The original recipe was for Chicken-Tomatillo Soup - a friend from work turned me onto it - and was kind enough to pass along the recipe, which she got from the "Cafe Pasqual's Cookbook: Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe". I'd been wanting to adapt this recipe for vegetarians for quite some time. I wasn't quite sure how the recipe would fare using a mixture of water, vegetable stock and pinto beans in place of the chicken and chicken stock, but the results were pleasing - rich, bright, spicy, sweet and smokey. And exactly what I needed.
Making this soup in the morning with my kitchen full of sunlight was the perfect way to feed my soul, and I'm looking forward to having this soup feed my body all week long. I hope you'll enjoy it too.
Tomatillo Soup w/ Pinto Beans & Corn
(printable recipe)
2 T. olive oil
1 leek, finally chopped - you should have about 1 1/2 cups
3 ribs celery, finely diced - about 1 cup
6 cloves garlic, finely diced
3 dried red chiles - ancho or guajillo - soaked in warm water, rinsed, stemmed, seeded & diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 T. smoked paprika
6 cups water or vegetable stock
10 tomatillos, husked removed, rinsed, and diced into bite sized pieces
2 T. tomato paste
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 t. sugar
1. t. salt, or more to taste
3 - 4 cups whole pinto beans, preferably cooked from scratch
About 1/2 pound fresh mild green chiles, roasted, stemmed, peeled and diced - should measure around 1/2 cup - you can use pasilla, serrano, or jalapeno, or a combo.
Garnishes: squeeze of lime, chopped cilantro or italian parsley, crumbled cotija or feta cheese
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil until quite hot. Add the leek, celery, garlic and dried chiles, and saute' for 5 minutes or so. Stir in the cumin and paprika. Add the water or stock, tomatillos, tomato paste, corn, sugar, salt and green chiles, followed by the pinto beans and the roasted green chiles. Bring to a boil and reduce to a mild simmer, and let it simmer and cook down for a good 45 minutes or so, until the tomatillos have cooked down a bit. By this point you should have a nice, rich broth that's good enough to slurp on its own, but with lots of chunky bites of peppers, tomatillos, beans and corn. I'm telling you, this is good stuff! Ladle it into a bowl, squeeze a bit of lime over it, add a handful of your herbs and a little sprinkling of cheese, and you'll be in heaven, and so will your friends. This will feed a crowd! It's good for about 8 servings, so go ahead & throw yourself a dinner party. Your friends will thank you!

Friday, May 22, 2009

You Are What You Eat

Here's a link to a really cool project that I stumbled upon, called You Are What You Eat.  It's a photo journal essay by Mark Menjivar that is a glimpse into people's lives via the inside of their refrigerators.  A picture really is worth a thousand words. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When the going gets tough...

... it's time to make soup. I was going to write that when the going gets tough, "the tough make soup", but frankly, I'm not feeling tough at all right now. In fact I feel so fragile that I could just blow away at the first sign of a strong wind. But I'm carrying on, and I'm making soup, cause it seems like making soup is the only productive thing I can do right now.

I've made a lot of soup over the last couple of days - cream of broccoli for my mom, brother & I yesterday, pasta e fagioli for the whole family tonight, and tomorrow, it'll be chicken soup and potato leek soup for my dad, cause that's what he requested. I'll be filling the freezer with soup before I leave here over the weekend.

"Here" happens to be Canton, Ohio. It's where I was born, and where my parents grew up, and also, it's where they recently moved back to again after being away for more than thirty years.

No sooner did they get here, my Dad discovered that he is very sick, and it's turned everything upside down for our whole family. Thankfully, my brother and I were able to come out here, and Dad was able to come home from the hospital last night. I made him scrambled eggs this morning and he said it was the best thing he's eaten since this whole ordeal began. And I just felt so lucky to be able to be here to scramble those eggs, and to go to the grocery store and load up the cart w/ food for the family. Because in a way, that feels like the only way I can make a difference.

We have a difficult road ahead of us. It's amazing how an ordeal like this can completely shake your world to the core, but I do believe that we will all come out of it stronger. There are a lot of unknowns right now and maybe this is just a good reminder that everything is tenuous and temporary. In the words of my good friend Joe Rut, "I like now, now is enough ... now is the only time we have to love...". So, I'm doing what I can. I'm loving my family. I'm here, and I'm making soup. For right now, that is enough.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup w/ Chipotle

As I write this, it's pouring down rain outside, and a perfect day for soup.  But actually, I made this soup a week ago and am just getting around to writing about it now.  Or I will, momentarily.

Today, I spent the afternoon preparing road trip food for Loretta Lynch's journey to Los Angeles tomorrow, which begins at 6 a.m.   We'll play three sets of music over the course of twenty four hours, and then high-tail it home.  Since our first set tomorrow begins the moment we spill ourselves and our gear out of the van, we wanted to be prepared with both breakfast *and* lunch without stopping, and without having to eat deep fried Highway 5 nastiness. Cause this is a band that likes to eat well!  So I happily spent the afternoon roasting peppers for sandwiches, and making a frittata w/ roasted mushrooms, shallots, thinly sliced potatoes & fresh dill, plus chipotle-roasted garlic hummus.  Hmmm... hope I can hold off on eating the stuff until tomorrow.  Better save some for the rest of the band!

The main reason for our trip is to play the grand opening of a new children's clothing resale store, Grow Kid Grow , owned by our incredibly talented pal Missy Gibson.  We'll also be performing a brunch set at the Redwood Bar & Grill on Sunday, sharing the stage w/ another fine & talented human, David Serby.  If you're in the L.A. area, or know people who are, send 'em along! 

For now, I'll leave you with this soup.  The perfect soup for a rainy day like today.  If only we had some right now....

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup w/ Chipotle
(printable recipe)

1 medium onion, diced
2 t. cumin
2 t. ground coriander
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cooked black beans
3 cups water or stock of your choice
1 - 2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1/2 t. ancho chile powder
1/4 t. mustard powder
1/2 t. smoked paprika
salt to taste
Juice of 1/2 a lime, or to taste
Garnishes:  diced avocado & sour cream or yogurt

Saute' the onion in a splash or two of olive oil, until lightly brown.  Add the diced sweet potatoes, garlic, and cumin, coriander, ancho chile powder, mustard powder and smoked paprika.  Saute over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the three cups of water or stock, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Let is gently simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender.  Now add the black beans, chipotle chile, and salt.  Cook for another few minutes, until everything is well heated.   Turn off the heat and either blend it smooth with an immersion blender, or blend it in a blender or food processor.  Squeeze in the lime juice, taste it and adjust the seasonings.  You may desire more salt or spice, or it might be perfect just like that!  Serve it w/ a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and a sprinkling of diced avocado.   I bet it would be great w/ cornbread, so I might have to try my hand at that next time.