A Bowl for the Soul

Soup is an underrated culinary gem.  It warms your soul while satisfying your hunger—win and WIN!  I have always loved meals that could be made in one pot or pan.  Soup is at the top of my list in that category.  From the first pot of soup I created as a young adult, I was hooked.  There was a sense of pride in cooking something in a large stockpot that tasted complex and homemade.  Add a slice of crusty artisan bread or maybe a salad, and—voila, you have a complete meal!

Okay, enough “soup love.”  You get the idea.  So let’s talk about the template I use for making soup.  Keep in mind; this is one culinary creation you can easily tailor to your own taste preference.  I follow a few personal guidelines when making any homemade soup:

  1. Homemade stock is best.  If you have a little time, vegetables in your refrigerator, and leftover bones from a previous meal, you can make the most amazing stock.  The Internet has a wealth of recipes for all types of stocks. Freeze it for making the perfect soup later.  Nothing in a can or a box will taste this good. Ever.  I do use boxed stock on occasion.  I prefer using stock to broth.  There is a difference in the taste and the ingredients.
  2. Sauté your vegetables—create a fond in the pan.  Depth of flavor is important for tasty homemade soup.  “Layers of flavor” is my mantra for the soup making process.   Start your soup by sautéing vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, etc.) in a little oil or pan drippings.  Let them develop a lovely fond (the brown coating in the pan when you sauté).  When you add the liquid to deglaze the pan, magic happens.  That magic translates into amazing flavor.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be creative with the flavor profiles.  Soup recipes are quite forgiving to modification.  If you think the addition of a spice or an additional ingredient makes sense, then try it.  Add it in moderation, taste, and then add more if necessary.
  4. Finish with a brightener and a garnish.  Acids like lemon juice, lime juice, vinegars, etc. can give a flat soup a little boost.  I love fun garnishes like toasted or glazed seeds/nuts, mini-cheese toasts, and croutons.  Parsley or cilantro can give a lovely herbaceous note, too.

Before you know it, you will be creating your own soup recipes and sharing them with others.  Have fun.  Be adventurous.  Enjoy playing with your soup!

Portuguese Fish Soup

3-4 tbs. olive oil

1 cup diced carrot

1 cup diced onion

1 ½ cup diced potato

4 cloves minced garlic

2 cups chopped kale

1 ¼ cup white wine

1 can peeled tomatoes (28 oz.) pureed

1-1 ½ pounds firm white fish (Alaskan Cod) *check www.seafoodwatch.org for sustainable varieties

6 cups vegetable stock (substitute fish stock for more seafood flavor)

½ tsp Spanish smoked paprika

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Chopped parsley and cilantro for garnish

  • Heat olive oil in a stockpot.  Add the onion and carrot.  Sauté on medium-high heat until onion is translucent—about 7-10 minutes.
  • Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan.  Add the tomatoes, potatoes, and the stock.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
  • Add the kale, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt.  Stir to incorporate.
  • Add the fish and simmer for 5 minutes until cooked through and tender.
  • Serve and garnish with the parsley and cilantro.

Portuguese Fish Soup

A Taste of Carolina

Being a foodie means that I love to explore the culinary gifts of a community.  Eating at local restaurants is the best way to get a feel for the local food scene. The Triangle has an abundance of noteworthy restaurants, which means I have a lengthy list of places to try.  The culinary talent in this area is truly what makes it a great place to live, but then comes the issue of where to go first.  How does one chose? Are there enough days in the year to visit them all? (Cue the anxiety provoking, cliff-hanging music….)

This sent me on a search for the best way to accomplish my mission.  With my sights set on getting to know the booming food scene in Durham, I stumbled upon Taste Carolina.  As I scrolled through the website, I was giddy.  A walking tour of Durham that stops in at five different restaurants?  Samples of food and getting an opportunity to chat with the owners?  Sign me up!!

Our tour guide, Dean, was charming and knowledgeable.  He knows the history of Durham as well as the ins and outs of the culinary delights there.  We stopped at Daisy Cakes first.  Don’t be fooled by the sweet sounding name.  They do savory just as well as they do sweet!  Our next stop was Bull City Burger and Brewery.  Chef and owner, Seth Gross, had me shouting “Amen!” to his sermon on pasture-raised beef.  He also opened my eyes and my palate to beer tasting.

Then it was on to Loaf.  I thought my husband would never leave as owner, Ron Graff, explained the science and physics involved in bread making.  That hearth oven is a bakers dream! I have never tasted a better gougere or pan au chocolat.  Parlour was next on our list.  I love ice cream and the fact that it was December did not deter me from digging in to my sample of apple pie ice cream with caramel sauce.  It was, in a word, divine.

Our last two stops on the tour led us to the American Tobacco Historic District.  At L’Uva Enoteca, we enjoyed a lovely sampling of innovative Italian fare with a glass of sangria.  Then, it was on to Tyler’s Tap Room where Jordan entertained and informed us on the finer points of craft beer making and tasting.

It was a lovely day and a perfect way to get comfortable with all Durham has to offer.  If Durham is not on your list to explore, don’t worry.  Taste Carolina offers tours in other cities as well.  Check out all they have to offer.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Vegetable omelet at Daisy Cakes--savory goodness!

Vegetable omelet at Daisy Cakes–savory goodness!

The oven at Loaf. Magic happens in there.

The oven at Loaf. Magic happens in there.

This sign just screams, "Ice cream here!"

This sign just screams, “Ice cream here!”

Apple pie NEVER tasted this good.  Mmmmmm.

Apple pie NEVER tasted this good. Mmmmmm.

You know you are in Durham when you see this guy.

You know you are in Durham when you see this guy.

I really do love this city.

I really do love this city.

In the heart of the American Tobacco Historic District.

In the heart of the American Tobacco Historic District.

Italian deliciousness at L'Uva Enoteca.  That is a sweet potato jam, which was amazing.

Italian deliciousness at L’Uva Enoteca. That is a sweet potato jam, which was amazing.

Winter nights in the American Tobacco Historic District are quite lovely.

Winter nights in the American Tobacco Historic District are quite lovely.

To Meat or Not to Meat

While living in the high desert of California in 2010, we made the decision to cut meat out of our diet.  The health benefits of a vegetarian diet were one reason for this change.  The lack of access to pasture-raised, antibiotic/steroid-free meats was the other.  Until our move to California, we had been enjoying the Onslow County, North Carolina Farmer’s Market and especially, White Dove Ranch and Apiary.  White Dove Ranch raises goat, lamb, chicken, and pig—all pastured and certified humane raised and handled.  Because we could get this type of meat, we enjoyed it for dinner a few times a week.  While in California, we didn’t miss the meat. The farmer’s markets there were filled with every vegetable and fruit imaginable.  “Well of course,” you say. “It’s California after all!”  I was thrilled to explore the world of vegetables and grains in hopes of satisfying the hunger and refined palates of my family. 

 

Coming back to a North Carolina that has seen the revitalization of local sustainable farming made leaving the California weather and farmer’s markets a little less difficult.  I have been extremely pleased with the pasture-raised, antibiotic-free meats we have access to here.  We have reintroduced some meat to our diet; however, it continues to play a supporting role in the meal rather than being the main event.

 

I won’t get in to the science and political aspects of why pasture-raised meats from local farmers are superior to the stuff you can get in the grocery stores.  I will say, though, that the fats in pasture-raised meats have more Omega fatty acids (which are GOOD for you) and the meat overall is healthier and leaner.  In an age when we really don’t know what causes most of the diseases that plague us, I feel it is important to remember that the food we put into our bodies has an impact—both good and bad.   Food is fuel, and the kind of fuel we put into our bodies is a personal choice.  We try to choose wisely, but come on…we also want it to taste good.  What if we could have both?

 

As 2014 begins, my hope is that you will look at the food as fuel choices you are making and raise your consciousness about our country’s food system.  If you have never been to a farmer’s market, I urge you to go.  Try a new vegetable. Try a familiar vegetable in a new way. Buy some pasture-raised meats or eggs.  Talk to a farmer.  I tried it, and it changed my life for the better.

 

Here is a recipe that I love to make and freeze for a quick weeknight accompaniment to stir fry or appetizers for friends!  I also want to thank Fickle Creek Farm for providing such amazingly delicious pasture-raised ground pork for the recipe below.   

 

Pork & Chive Pot Stickers

 

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  • 1 lb. ground pork
 (pasture-raised, antibiotic-free if possible)
  • 1-2 tbs. minced or grated fresh ginger

  • 2 tbs. minced chives
  • 
3 minced garlic cloves
  • 
half of a small head of cabbage finely diced – about 1-1 1/2 cups (You can use a food processor or a box grater)

  • 1 package of dumpling wrappers (round)
  • 
small bowl of cold water

 

  1. Combine filling ingredients thoroughly (hands work best).
  2. Place 1 tbs. of filling in the middle of a wrapper.
  3. Dip your finger in the water and run it along one half of the wrapper.
  4. Fold over and pinch closed.
  5. Make 3-4 Z-shaped folds to keep dumpling closed.

 

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To prepare immediately or when frozen: Place 2 tbs of peanut oil in a non-stick pan. Heat oil on medium high heat. Place dumplings in pan and allow to fry in oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2-cup water to the pan and immediately cover with a lid. Allow the dumplings to steam until all the liquid is evaporated. Remove the lid and allow to cook for another minute or so. Should be crispy/golden on the bottom.

 

Serve with dipping sauce:

2 tbs. soy sauce

2-3 drops of sesame oil

1/2 tsp of rice vinegar

 

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To freeze: Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Do not let them touch. Place in the freezer until thoroughly frozen and put in a freezer bag. This recipe makes about 40-45 dumplings