Category Archives: food

Sunday soup

It’s Sunday and I made “garbage soup” — you know, one of those concoctions that thriftily uses up items in the fridge no longer up for a starring role? Every version is necessarily different. Today’s batch included: slightly rubbery celery, tired lettuce, the ends of four sliced-open heads of garlic (above), a few small potatoes, one shallot, and excellent chicken stock. (Honestly, with good chicken stock, you could probably boil up strips of newspaper and find them edible).

Once blended and topped with parsley, this batch tasted pretty much like cream of celery soup. Yum! Especially considering there isn’t an ounce of dairy in it. Wonderful for an off-again-on-again rainy day. We enjoyed it after a quick visit to a Pottery Barn down the road. Because college tuition ended rather sooner than expected, we might replace some of our more awful or out-of-scale pieces of furniture. A smaller coffee table would be nice. The one we have is nice but a little too big and it blocks the fireplace.

We also looked at headboards to get ideas (we will make our own). I lusted after floral linen shams, faux fur bathrobes (so soft!), candle hurricanes, and darling reindeer ornaments. Seems like plaid is a thing this year. Maybe a few will be left come January.


Had fun taking B&W pix  — I’ve been tagged on Facebook. You probably know the drill.




Lastly, I went to the Tenth Annual Boston Book Festival yesterday. Went with my friend and writing teacher. We ate hot dogs, wandered inside the Boston Public Library and attended a great panel discussion between two fiction writers (Claire Messud and Jacqueline Woodson). If it doesn’t turn into what feels like a homework assignment, will share more.

Umm sugar

I can be an unabashed braggart when it comes to food — moaning my approval before anyone else at the table has a chance to comment, for instance. But, you know what? Every now and then I just hit it out of the park! These sugar cookies sailed right over the Green Monster* into my happy, happy mouth (*for those who don’t know, that’s a Fenway Park reference).

The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen: The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.

I don’t bother with their laborious flour concocting and instead use whatever gluten free flour is to hand. These cookies feature almond meal — always a boon for this nut-lover’s palette — and cream cheese, which probably accounts for the confections’ creamy softness. I happened to be out of vanilla (what? –  I know!), so I subbed a smaller amount of almond extract. Pow — these cookies are to die for. And that’s saying something for gluten free!


It’s Friday and it finally stopped raining. I’m reading Michael W. Twitty‘s food memoir and just got to the part about his conversion to Judaism and the parallels between Jewish and African American culinary traditions. Left me with a hankering for pastrami (I must trust my dear readers to be openly lusting for sugar and red meat in the same post!). There may be a run to Zaftig’s in my near future. There happens to be one near my favorite Christmas Tree Shop in Natick (please stop, Dee — too many confessions for one post).


I’ll end on a loftier note. Here’s the start of my contribution to a wonderful collaborative art/magic project that Mo is dreaming up (I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer — It’s Crow Time). More to come.

Baffled by soup

The soup was only okay in spite of good ingredients and the same steps that have produced outstanding results. That’s how it goes.

There’s basil, parsley, garlic, collard greens, cabbage, carrots, onion, chicken sausage and homemade chicken stock. Added hot sesame oil and a squeeze of lime at the end. Maybe the lime was a mistake? Unlike softer greens which can be thrown in at the end or even off heat, I wilted the collards and green cabbage in advance.

hipstamaticphoto-526146593.781019

when I chop garlic, I chop enough for days

Sad to say, I broke my favorite knife in the process (the ceramic chef’s knife that was a Christmas gift years ago). I dropped it in a moment of distraction created by the hot handles of my Dutch oven. That made me decide to replace the damned pot (not the one in the picture) — in addition to poorly designed handles, its heat conduction is awful, producing side scorching and smoking olive oil routinely. Enough!

Besides, you should see the beauties I can get with frequent flyer miles!

Prose and soup

“Read at the level at which you want to write.” Jennifer Egan (brainpickings.org)

I couldn’t read Roth until I was older and now he is one of my favorite writers. I hope he never dies! I may have read this Zuckerman novel before (or maybe it just seems familiar because it takes place in the Berkshires where I was born and lived a good many years?) No matter, it’s worth a re-read.

Here’s a sentence: “My guess was that it would take even the fiercest Hun the better part of a winter to cross the glacial waterfalls and wind-blasted woods of those mountain wilds before he was able to reach the open edge of Lonoff’s hayfields, rush the rear storm door of the house, crash through the study, and, with spiked bludgeon wheeling high in the air above the little Olivetti, cry out in a roaring voice to the writer tapping out his twenty-seventh draft, ‘You must change your life!'”

Swoon.


Beef with barley soup for lunch after another frigid walk with the dog. And since K won’t be here for dinner, I’m not even cooking: a bowl of fruit, yogurt and sunflower seeds topped with honey from Charleston.


*thank you Mo for link on FB to the article.


Soup and salad


This shrimp, bean, and chicken sausage soup was delicious! Not only does it come together in a hurry, but most of the ingredients are stock pantry and fridge items, meaning it could become a regular in my weeknight lineup. If you’re like me, you keep onions, black beans, and boxed chicken stock in the pantry, as well as frozen shrimp and corn in the freezer. I very often have a four pack of chicken sausage in the cold cut drawer as well because they keep forever and are a good alternative to beef and pork. Cilantro was the only thing I might not have on hand, but thankfully, I did.



There are both black beans and white beans in this soup, but the starring role goes to the white beans — baby white limas. I went in search of these beans while still in SC after an outstanding lunch at Bertha’s Kitchen* in North Charleston. I gushed about the meal on Facebook and a former Charleston resident commented, “Go to Doscher’s Market.” (That would be Donna Hardy of Sea Island Indigo. She ran the workshop I attended in 2014).


Doscher’s Market is an IGA in West Ashley that’s been run by a German family for generations. Part of the secret to their success has been to cater to their customers, who are largely African American. One article I read noted, “there are smoked pig parts representing everything but the squeal”.**

While I looked for the dried beans, K wandered along the seemingly endless meat counter in curious amazement.

Here’s the recipe.

Shrimp, Sausage and Bean Soup
Serves 4

Night before: pour boiling water over one cup of baby white lima beans and leave to soak. While assembling the soup the next day, drain the beans and bring to a slow boil in about three cups of water. I did not add salt.

1/2 onion, chopped
2 chicken sausage, cut in quarter moons
1/2 T red pepper flakes
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
14 ounce can black beans, without liquid
one box organic chicken stock (if no homemade in the house)
1/4 c chopped cilantro for cooking, more for serving

Handful frozen shrimp
1 c frozen corn
And, if on hand, two cups cooked rice

S&P

Saute onions in olive oil, add salt, and once wilted, throw in sausage and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat. Add six or seven cloves of diced or smashed garlic, allow their aroma to rise (about 90 seconds), then pour in chicken stock, diced tomatoes (with juice) and black beans (without liquid). If white beans are done, add them as well. Because the delicious, soupy side dish that I had at Bertha’s Kitchen looked to contain bean cooking liquid, I included some here. I happened to have cooked white rice from the night before, so I added two big clumps. Smash to separate and then throw in cilantro, frozen corn, and frozen shrimp. Cook to heat through, roughly five minutes.

Serve. Add more fresh cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add a few jazzes of hot sauce. I poured my husband’s soup over toasted and buttered, homemade cornbread. With two kinds of beans plus rice and corn in the soup, that’s a little bit of carbo overkill, but not enough to render the dish unhealthy. Mine, I ate as is and it was very good and just as good the next day!

Now on to a spectacular lobster salad. If the soup belongs in the realm of week night cuisine, this one is for special occasions. A friend who parked her car in our driveway for two consecutive weekends brought us a container of cooked lobster as a thank you (she’s from Maine). That container was crammed full with SIX lobster tails. Oh man!

Lobster Salad 

1/3 c chopped red onion
1/2 T fennel
Put these two ingredients in a bowl and cover with boiled water. Soak while assembling the rest of salad.

1/2 green pepper, diced (would have used celery, but was out)
1 T capers, rinsed
2 generous T sweet relish
Couple big blobs of mayo
6 lobster tails, cut in chunks

The mayonnaise, which was probably about 1/2 cup, was slightly excessive. Also, we use full fat mayo in this house but I’m certain substituting a reduced fat version would have worked (but never no fat — gross!)

I didn’t think it would need salt because of the capers, but just a little dash helped. Since part of the glory of this gift was how easy it made dinner prep, I forewent spritzing the salad with lemon just before serving… it would have brightened the flavors nicely, I’m sure.

The fennel seeds were my sister’s idea. She’s a more adventurous cook than I and also had, coincidentally, just seen a cooking program on which the chef asserted that ‘no French cook would dream of serving seafood without fennel’. I was skeptical but went ahead anyway and I have to say that small cluster of seeds added a subtle and nice perfume. Definitely recommend.

Oh yum. YUM!  And there’s enough for Saturday lunch!

PS  When the news gets too unbearable to discuss, too awful in too many directions to wrap your mind around, count on food posts. They are reliably engaging to write and wonderful, constructive distractions.

* Bertha’s Kitchen has just been named an America’s Classic by the James Beard Foundation. The prestigious award is reserved for “beloved regional restaurants, distinguished by their timeless appeal”. Read more in this Post and Courier article.  

**Tim Allen of Rebellion Farm wrote that IGA article. Funnily enough, I’ve eaten pig that he’s roasted. “How can that be?” you ask. Well, he was the farmer who hosted Donna Hardy’s indigo workshop. Well-known Charleston Chef BJ Dennis catered the rest of the meal, by the way. (I didn’t know how illustrious he was until later, when I started to follow him on Instagram). Here’s my description of that meal from 2014. If you do a little research on southern food, you will find interesting and on-going discussion about cultural appropriation, foods of the African diaspora, and lasting contributions of the enslaved to Southern culture. 

Festive salad and Salem visit

Lost my mojo. In fact, the campaign and election were disturbing enough to convert me from a “woman who yells” to one who cries. I still feel off, but miss my blog peeps, so here I am with a modest offering of food. This delicious winter salad has four ingredients: romaine, slivered radicchio, thin-sliced red onion, and pomegranate seeds. Topped with a mustard/garlic vinaigrette on the tangy side. The red bits look festive, don’t you think?

Good thing it was tasty because for some reason the frittata bombed. Came out like a rubber mat with inclusions of goat cheese. Seriously.

C acted the good sport and came to Salem with me today. Removed a cruddy rug. Got the AC unit down to the basement. Moved the bed and the exercise machine. We shopped for food and wine. Pictures were hung, curtains put up, and a few decorations fetched from storage.

This was AFTER C. bagged up another five bags of leaves for the neighbor who hired him, making a total of 28. Whew! It was the last leaf pick up in our town. On our side of the fence, it went pretty painlessly. The guy I thought I hired never showed and I’m glad because being outside and raking was one of the sanest and most grounding activities of the last few weeks.