Seven Soup Sunday – Soup 6 – Taco Night Taco Soup – Just be you.

It has been harder than you’d think to come up with seven soups, and I came up with seven and then remembered I’d promised Scott French Onion Soup and I bounced some sort of something with potatoes soup off the list to be dealt with next Sunday.

Around the time I thought of the tomato croutons for the cheese soup I started wondering what other weirdo things I could do, and then I thought of the Moroccan carrots and the sausage and peppers and whatnot.  And then I thought – “A taco is kind of a sandwich.  I could make taco soup.”  A word to the wise.  When you think you’re inventing stuff, don’t google it.  Everything’s already been invented.  (Seriously – one time, I thought “A really good t-shirt would be WWSD – ‘What Would Scooby Do'” and then I googled it and my week was ruined.)  Just do your own thing, and there will probably be some overlap, there being six or seven billion people on the planet and whatnot.  You just be you, you weird, wonderful little human, you. There are taco soup recipes out there and I just ignored them and did my own thing.

Of course, a couple of steps in, I turned to Scott, and said, “You know what I just realized another good name for taco soup would be?  Chili.”  Dammit.

Anyway – this supposed to be reminiscent of the tacos my mom used to make, ground beef, onion, lettuce, tomato and cheese on a crispy, Old El Paso taco shell.  Nothing fancy.  (No mirepoix, no roux, and a bunch of cans).

Taco Night Taco Soup

  • 2 Onions, sliced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Olive oil
  • A BUNCH of Cumin.  I may have used 3 Tablespoons…
  • Chili Powder (just admit this is kind of chili) about maybe a tablespoon(?)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 bag of frozen corn
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cans of black beans, not drained
  • 1 can of Medium enchilada sauce
  • 4 c. beef stock (note: Not Vegan)
  1. Slice the onions and sauté them in the oil.  Add the ground beef and a bunch of cumin and the chili powder and salt and brown the beef.
  2. Throw in the corn, tomatoes, black beans, and enchilada sauce – Stir it up.
  3. Add the stock, taste and correct the seasonings.
  4. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce it to a simmer.
  5. While it’s cooking take out 4 soft corn tortillas, and cut them into 1/8ths.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray, lay the tortilla pieces into the pan tightly, and spray the top of the tortillas with cooking spray.  Bake for about 6 or 7 minutes until they’re crispy.
  6. Serve the soup with some shredded cheese, the tortilla chips, some shredded lettuce, and sour cream and avocado if you have them.  I don’t, and this is dinner tonight, and I’m sad.

Be thankful for a dude who loves you, even when you invent something and then realize you’ve invented chili.

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Seven Soup Sunday – Soup 5 – Onion and Pepper Soup – the Soup of True Love

Oh, my Scottie loves the Philly things.  I am not going to love this soup.  But sometimes when you love someone you cook them stuff that they love, and you like it as much as you can, and you get on with it and go about your day.

He loves sausages with peppers and onions.  Loves peppers.  Loves them cooked.  I am a raw pepper kind of girl.  Something in the cooking process just, kind of doesn’t do it for me.  But here we are, at the beginning of winter, and I’ve got a couple of packages of frozen peppers left over from the summer CSA, and a few fresh ones, quickly losing their crunch, and I’m making soup, and Scottie likes cooked peppers and especially sausage with onions and peppers, so there you go.  He’ll eat the beet soup, and I’ll eat this, and we’ll meet in the middle.

In the Philly area, of course, Sausage and Peppers is a sandwich.  But I’m making soup.  I’m taking a little poetic license with the sandwich.

Onion and Pepper Soup

  • So. Damn. Many. Peppers. Coarsely chopped.  2 bell peppers and then five little sweet peppers and a package of cooked roasted something or other peppers and a package of frozen sliced peppers.  The pepper onion ration in this mother is about 3 – 1, volume-wise.
  • 1 Onion coarsely chopped.
  • Olive oil, of course
  • 3 Frozen sausages left over from the meat CSA either Andouille or Hot Italian, I have no idea because it is a jungle in my freezer, but thawed out in hot water, casings removed (Smokey also likes sausage casings.  Knock me over with a feather)
  • About a quarter cup of frozen leftover pesto or just a bunch of basil if you don’t have pesto
  • About a cup of leftover pizza sauce or pasta sauce if you don’t have that, or a can of diced tomatoes, a bunch of garlic (which should be sautéd with the peppers and onions and a bunch of basil, oregano and parsley)
  • 4 cups of beef stock.

Basically, this soup is actually called “Clean out Amy’s Freezer”

  1. Chop up the peppers and onions and sauté them in the oil (also the garlic, if you’re going that route) Then add the spices to taste if you are going this route (7 or 8 on the burner) until the onions are getting soft
  2. Add the sausage, and crumble it up as it browns
  3. Add the pesto and the pizza sauce
  4. Add the broth
  5. Bring to a boil at the highest setting, then reduce the heat to a 2 and simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. Enjoy the smell of cooking peppers if you can.

I’m going to probably throw a handful of Orzo into this when we eat it, and serve it with a loaf of French bread and a salad.

Seven Soup Sunday – Soup 2 – Leftover Arlene’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Hold on to your hat, because you are about to find out how fancy I am.  I’m about to lay a little French on you.  Mirepoix.  Roux.

Whoa.  I need to take a rest now.

I met Arlene during the first weeks of college back in the early 80s.  She was funny, and smart and reminded me a little of my friend Peter, and it’s surprising, in retrospect, how comforting it can be to meet someone who reminds you vaguely of someone you love when you’re 18 and far from home.  We lived on different floors of the same dorm, and though we ran in different circles, a visit with Arlene always had some sanity and real-ness that was sorely lacking in my life.  I met Doug a couple of years later and when I think of Doug I think of laughing until I cried in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping.  I lost touch with Doug and Arlene after college but they didn’t lose touch with each other, instead they lived together and eventually got married, did something way smart and over my head in the tech industry for several years, and then wound their business down and are driving around America.  Still working, actually.

I found them on Facebook in the last couple of years.  They are still funny, still real, still smart and when I found out they would be traveling I browbeat them into visiting Vermont.

As I mentioned, when I woke up last Sunday and said not “I feel like showing you all the charming aspects of my hometown” but “I kind of feel like cooking all day,” they were on it.

I had three heads of cauliflower, because I am bad at CSA, so I roasted one with some other vegetables and Arlene made something along the lines of this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with the other two.  There’s no mac in it.  As we cooked the day away (and also played Bananagrams), Arlene kept saying – “you won’t have to cook this week.”  She was right.  (also, instead of cream cheese, she used goat cheese, and instead of 1 cup of cream, she used two, probably because I needed the other one.  She’s real, but she’s kind of mean.  Not really).

I am here to tell you that we ate that Cauliflower with dinner that night, and two other nights this week and it was delicious.

I woke up this morning, and there’s still about 2 cups of it left.

Now: Here comes the French.

I think most soups start with a mirepoix which is roughly equal parts of carrot, celery, and onion.

Something good for thickening stuff, and really indispensable for any kind of cheese sauce is a roux which is equal parts of melted butter and flour.  See how fancy that was?

Leftover Arlene’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

  • 2ish cups of Arlene’s leftover cheesy cauliflower
  • 2 small carrots, 1 small onion, and a stalk of celery, chopped into a mirepoix
  • Some olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached whole wheat flour
  • 1 12 oz beer
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 cups of stock
  • Some cumin, because cumin makes everything wonderful (you can also use something that makes you equally happy
  1. Chop up the stuff for your mirepoix.  In a soup pot, heat a little olive oil (setting – 7) and sauté until everything’s a little bit soft.  (about 3 minutes?) Scoop it out and set it aside.
  2. In the same pot, melt the butter, get a phone call while you’re trying to get the flour out of the cabinet, burn the damned butter, throw it out, melt more butter, and then stir the flour into the melted butter.  Add the beer, first a little at a time, and then all at once.  Whisk out the lumps from cutting corners on this step.  Add the horseradish.
  3. Stir in the cheese, a handful at a time, until it’s all melted.
  4. Stir in the stock.
  5. Throw the sautéd mirepoix back in there.
  6. Turn the heat up high, bring it to a boil, and then turn it way down (setting – 2)
  7. Simmer for a while.  Check it every five minutes unless you want just a big lump of cheese on the bottom of the pan.
  8. When the carrots are all cooked, and squishy, throw in the cauliflower and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.
  9. Blend the soup with an immersion blender.

Some thoughts about this soup:

  1. Holy Toledo is it ever good!
  2. Melted cheese does not wreak the havoc you would think on an immersion blender.
  3. For the love of all that is good and holy wash that pan fast.
  4. Now I am thinking about trying to make tomato bread somehow for croutons and turn the grilled cheese and tomato soup world on its head.
  5. Old friends are the best.

Seven Soup Sunday – Soup 1 – Curried Leftover Squash Soup

We signed up for a CSA.  To say it is abundant is an understatement.  I am actually having a hard time keeping up with the vegetables, and I’ve still got carrots left over from the summer share and it’s now All Squash All the Time season.

Last weekend we had a glorious visit from my old friends, Arlene and Doug.  They are the best kind of houseguest, because we did not do one interesting thing all weekend, and they still pretended they’d had a good time.  When I woke up Sunday and said “I kind of feel like cooking because I have a LOT of produce” they said HECK yeah.  Arlene made some delicious cauliflower mac and cheese which was lucky because I had three weeks’ worth of cauliflower that I couldn’t decide what to do with, and we roasted some squash and I made squash ravioli and I made my first ever pumpkin pie from scratch and roasted vegetables and a bread pudding just for the hell of it with a bourbon sauce that I pretty much just want to put on everything from this day forward in perpetuity.

Scott and I ate all week.  So, I’m thinking – I wonder if I can just cook once a week and not waste the abundance of the CSA.

This morning I got up and started chopping and this is what I’ve come up with first.  There was leftover roasted squash and there is also squash this week so I have to think of something to do.

Curried Leftover Squash Soup.  

  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 apple
  • 2ish cups of leftover roasted winter squash maybe more I have no idea how much squash I had (this is a mixture of acorn and delicata)
  • Some oil for sautéing
  • 2 T curry powder
  • If you’re feeling a little naughty, 1/4 c of maple bourbon or 1/4 c of bourbon and a T of maple syrup or 2 T maple syrup or just leave this out if you feel like it.
  • 4 C stock
  1. If you don’t have leftover squash cut up a couple of squashes and roast them at 450 for about an hour with some olive oil or you can just buy the frozen kind which I think comes in 10 oz packages so I’d use 4 or 5 of them.
  2. Chop up the onion, apple, carrots and celery.
  3. Heat the olive oil, (on a six or 7 on my electric stove, which goes to ten) add the onion, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the celery and sauté that for a couple of minutes, and then add the carrots and sauté that for a couple of minutes, then the apple, and add the curry powder.  (there may be another, better order to do this in.  Maybe make a mirepoix and sauté that and then add the apple, but I just threw stuff in as I finished chopping it).  Add the roasted squash (not in cubes, just in mush form) and stir the whole thing up until it looks disgusting.  Add the bourbon and maple syrup if you’re going to.
  4. Add the stock and stir until it doesn’t look disgusting anymore.
  5. Bring it to a boil. (or, if you prefer to be old timey about it, to the boil) with the heat on high, and covered.
  6. Reduce the heat to a 3 or a four, and simmer for about an hour.  Once the carrots are squishy, you’re probably in pretty good shape.
  7. Then you can blend it with an immersion blender if you want, or a regular blender, or a food processor, if you want to make a huge mess, or you can just leave it as it is.  I don’t care.  If you’re using the stove, I’m going to assume you’re an adult.  Don’t let me tell you what to do.

I’m going to put this in the refrigerator.  When I serve it, I’m going to put a bloop of goat cheese on it.  Or if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll make a paneer, but the likelihood of me feeling cheese making fancy on a work day is basically nil, so forget it.

Food Memories, Dudes who Laugh at my Jokes, and Fish Chowder.

A couple of nights ago, when I posted my first post to Facebook, my friend Andy mentioned he’d made clam chowder that night.

That immediately shot me back to one of my first memories of food made from scratch, and it filled my head with fish chowder.

In the eight grade, my science class went on a field trip to New Hampshire.  I loved that teacher, so much.  Because it was a pretty progressive Vermont school, we called our teachers by their first names, and his name was Mark.  Mark was awesome.   I liked dissecting things, and so Mark found me stuff to come in and dissect, for extra credit, after school.  Two years ago, he ended up valiantly trying to teach chemistry to my youngest, with mixed results.  But Thirtyshutup years ago, he was valiantly trying to teach science to 8th graders.  He was (and remains) gifted, and giving, and I loved him.

I remember 3 things from that trip.  1) I kind of think there was a visit to a nuclear power plant involved.  (Okay.  I CLEARLY remember 2 things). 2) We went to visit the clam flats.  Per dictionary.com, clam flats are a level stretch of mud, exposed by the tide, where clams burrow.  And I remember that mud.  Gilligan’s Island quicksand mud where you sink to your knees.  Also, they smell strongly of what I guess is clam poop.  3)  Fish chowder.  On our last night there, we made fish chowder over a campfire, and I remember distinctly being so excited to come home and tell my mom, the feeder of us, all about it.  I’d had clam chowder from Campbell’s before, of course, but this is the first time I remember realizing that, HOLY COW, YOU CAN MAKE STUFF YOU BUY IN CANS FROM SCRATCH!  I have had other chowders since then.  But I always think of that chowder, cooked over a campfire, with nostalgia, and love.

The other thing you should know is about my friend Jessica and Carla’s dad.  I’ve had Jessica and Carla for almost forever, for Fortyshutup years, since I was 4.  When I was little, I was really pretty scared of their Dad.  He was a lot bigger than us, and he was not one of those people, I think, that finds little kids particularly cute.  He could be kind of loud.  Also, he had the best laugh you’ve ever heard in your life, and as I got older, I noticed that I could make him laugh, and the older I got, the more frequently it would happen.  I really completely blame Dan, Carla and Jessica’s dad, for the fact that I judge men on whether they think my jokes are funny.  Making Dan laugh is on the short list of things that I love and am thankful for in this world.

What in the hell do these things have to do with each other?

Well, I’m married to Scott.  And I love him, in part, because he understands that I am hilarious.  And he laughs at my jokes.

So, yesterday, I was at the supermarket.  And all lined up in a row were three salmon heads, just staring at me.  And you may not know this, but salmon heads are made of salmon.  But not regular salmon, $1.49 a lb salmon.  And as my mother has been known to say – “At that price, you really can’t afford not to buy them.”  So I bought all  three of them, thinking I would make some stock.  But then I thought, “Heck, at 1.49 a pound, I could put them, mouth up, in the toilet to scare Scott in the middle of the night.”

I would never buy food just to waste it in this manner, and I, actually, would never do this, because there is a very actual risk that I would literally die laughing, but I did come home and tell Scott about this really excellent joke I’d thought of, and immediately he started laughing in that way that lets me know I’ve married the right guy.

What I did, instead, with the salmon heads, was throw them in the crockpot and cover them with water and cook them at low heat for about 24 hours, to make stock, which I will freeze and use and use and use.

Hi.  We're in your toilet, judging you.

Hi. We’re in your toilet, judging you.

Then I thought about that fish chowder all day, and then I came home and boy, howdy, did I ever make a delicious soup.

What you need:

  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch squares
  • A Tbsp of oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp of that garlic ginger paste from last night
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, and tell your husband to cut them into 1/2 inch cubes but then he’ll really cut them into quarter inch cubes
  • 1 12 oz bag of frozen corn
  • Fish stock – about 6 or 8 ladles full
  • 2 frozen tilapia filets, cut into about 1 inch squares
  • Whatever salmon you’ve picked off the fish heads
  • 4 cups of milk
  • More salted butter than I’m ready to admit to
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Oyster crackers

What you do:

  1. Fry the bacon over high heat (9 on my electric stove, which goes to 10) with the oil until it’s dark brown, and crunch looking. Pull it out with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels.
  2. Add the onion to the oil and cook it for a few minutes on 7, until it’s translucent.  Add the ginger garlic paste, and cook a little more, about a minute.
  3. Add the potatoes, and stir them around for about a minute, just for fun.  Toss in the frozen corn.
  4. Add the fish stock, and bring it to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer (a 3 on my stove) until the potatoes are soft, maybe 10 minutes?
  5. Invite the salmon and tilapia to the party, and cook until just about done.
  6. Add the milk, turn up the heat long enough to bring it to a boil, and then turn it back down to about a 5 on my stove, and add the butter.
  7. When the butter is melting, start goofing around with the salt and pepper, (mostly the salt) until it’s right.  I added about a quarter tsp at a time.  Pepper, is really a matter of taste, and you should just add as much as you want.
  8. Garnish with the reserved bacon, and oyster crackers.
  9. Eat it.
  10. Maybe have seconds.

What it looks like:

Here's what it looks like

Here’s what it looks like

What Scott said:  “Pretty good”

What Amy said: “Yup.  That’s the stuff.”

What the fish heads said: “Get us out of this toilet!”