Posts Tagged ‘soup’


For the many. (GREEN CURRY PASTE)

September 14, 2012

World Map: Ink on Paper, 2007

Curry means different things to different people and cultures and that’s cool except when you only think of one and leave out all the others. When I was a kid it was a noxious yellow powder that my mom put in some sort of vegetable casserole, turning everything in the pan a florescent color. Bad news. By now I have long since (almost) buried that memory under many happy moments eating curries from the Caribbean, India and Nepal, China, Japan and different parts of Southeast Asia.

A common bond that links this ambiguously named dish across the universe is that a blend of spices and aromatics usually comes together to create the base flavor. The curry could be saucy or dry, include any number of veg, protein and/or starches. It can be tart, sweet, spicy, ridiculously spicy, etc. The layout will be different in each region or in each town or even in each household. It’s a personal thing.

I have been experimenting with curry pastes reminiscent of Southeast Asia. Recently I made a green curry that is loosely Thai-inspired but really just a warm, rich and satisfying blend of herbs, spices and alliums. To activate the ingredients in the paste it is best to gently saute it for a moment in the pot and then stir in whatever liquid mixture (water, stock, coconut milk, beer, etc) you like. Simmer until the flavors fuse. A little bit of tweaking with salt, sugar lime juice, vinegar and a delicious ‘curry’ is born.

When I served this at a luncheon, I put an array of garnishes next to a pot of coconut milk-based green goodness so each person partaking in the meal could make their own perfect bowl using the curry broth as either a soup or a sauce, or not at all! With things like soba noodles, dry sauted tofu, chilies, marinated seaweed, mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, tiny tomatoes and fresh herbs everyone decorated their bowl. It was an interesting exercise in creating a balanced meal and everyone made a unique curry all their own.


(makes about 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

15 black peppercorns

6 dried chilies, soaked in water and de-stemmed or three fresh chilies, chopped*

1/3 cup shallot, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems

7 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons lemongrass, chopped fine (reserve stalks)

1 lime, zested

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vegetable or flavorless oil

  • Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until frgarant, about 5 minutes. Grind to a powder with the peppercorns in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the mortar and pestle (or a food processor) and grind to a fine-textured paste.
  • Store in a lidded container in the fridge for one month or freeze for up to 3 months.

* more chilies = more heat… go for it!

(I’m not pretending to be primitive or anything. I throw that stuff in the processor.)


Summer cravings. (VEGETABLE NOODLE SOUP)

August 2, 2012

I hear all of your summer sniffles. And I’m listening. Here is one of those things that seems counter-intuitive, a summer soup. It’s not gazpacho. It’s hot. Right now is the time for so many great veg that it only seems right that a chock full soup tonic comes to be. I got nine vegetables plus parsley in there, all from my super CSA (and friend’s dad’s garden). I mostly chose by varying color; yellow, white, red, green, orange, purple with light seasoning to guide it. It’s a goddamn Olympian of a soup. Everyone around the table agreed with surprise that it was just what they needed.

I’d like to call this an ‘open recipe’ because there is alot of subbing and interpreting that can be done. Here is how I did it but pleeeeeease stray using squash, parsnip, sweet potato, peppers, corn kernels, spinach, etc. Get in there! Enjoy.


2 quarts of stock (vegetable or chicken work best or just use water)

1 parmesan rind* (optional)

1 yellow summer squash, diced

2 small potatoes, diced

1 medium turnip, peeled and diced

1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced

3 carrots, diced

1 small red onion, diced

a large handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch lengths

2-3 tomatoes, diced (or 1 small can diced toms)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 drizzle extra virgin olive oil

1 splash red wine vinegar (or white or champ, or cider or sherry)

4 ounces egg noodles (or rice), cooked separately

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1/4 cup chopped parsley (or basil)

salt and pepper

  • In a pot, heat the stock or water with the parmesan rind and a dash of salt.
  • Once boiling, add squash, potatoes, turnip, kohlrabi, carrot and onion (or whatever mix of vegetables you choose). Reduce heat and let the soup simmer vigorously until veg are just tender, 15-20 minutes.
  • Add green beans, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and cook an additional 8-10 minutes.
  • Check for seasoning, adding more salt and some pepper as needed. Stir in noodles
  • Finish with grated parm and parsley and serve in bowls.

* If ever you buy a block of good Parmigiano Reggiano cheese you’ll notice the outer coating has a pinhole pattern. The dots spell out the name of the cheese and are a sign of authenticity. After you have cut, shaved or grated all the cheese away from this rind, hang onto it. Drop it into a soup for added flavor and nutrition.

** A couple of scoops of soup pulsed in the food processor made a great dinner for babe. Adjust the thickness by adding more or less broth.



March 31, 2012

As the weather warms it is natural to lighten up one’s cooking style. Cravings change and colors make a comeback as the Earth wakes from her dark slumber. One of the things that helps me bang out dinners that are quick (and acceptable for pre-bikini season eating) is having a few jars of salad dressing type things waiting for me in the fridge.

A good dressing is easy to whip up and can make proud almost any flavor profile. Perfect when tossed with leafy lettuces, these concoctions get even more use in my kitchen over grains, noodles, beans, grilled meats/veg and steamed tofu. From a spicy smooth peanut sauce to a chunky sundried tomato and fresh herb dressing, they are an indispensable part of the hustling spring/summer repertoire.

Pictured above is a throw-together dinner that was good! Glass noodles were tossed with fresh herbs and sliced jalapeños and topped with some leftover roasted fish and carrot-daikon pickles made using the basic brine in the last post. A drizzle of this powerfully savory Soy Garlic dressing ties all the stuff together. The recipe which is listed below is versatile, it works as a dressing, dipping sauce or marinade. It would also be super-duper for seasoning the broth of a gingered chicken soup or a kale soup or something similar which would be delicious right now as, even though spring keeps trying to rise, lady Earth just kinda wants to sleep in like a hungover teenager.


(makes about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons sugar

1-2 small red chiles, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup oil

drizzle of sesame oil (optional)

black pepper

• Place all ingredients a lidded jar or container, stir to dissolve the sugar.

• Replace lid and shake vigorously to combine.

• Check for seasoning. Adjust.

Here is the world’s quickest peanut sauce since I mentioned it… Good for everything.


(makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 limes, juiced or more to taste

1 clove garlic, grated

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 drizzle toasted sesame oil

cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce to taste, don’t be shy

  • Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl. 
  • Whisk until thoroughly combined and season to taste. 
  • Thin with water if needed.     
I love it when a meal comes together.

Just taste the soup. (KALE LIME SOUP)

May 3, 2011

The last post has had me thinking about tasting food at all stages of preparation and all the people I see not doing it. Getting into this habit makes one a better and more confident cook for the long haul. And until you are a salty old chef like my former boss who can cook anything with his eyes closed and a beer in his hand, you should remember to practice it. Sampling and adjusting will keep you in control of what you are creating with an end result of a well-executed dish done thoughtfully.

Recipes are only fighting half of the battle. With so many floating around on TV, the internet and in magazines it is very important to not be overly dependent or trusting of every word. The goal is to develop instincts as you handle food, giving some attention to the words while constantly forming an understanding of what ingredients will do together or how they will react to different treatments, etc. Soon you will know exactly when the chicken breast is sufficiently browned and how to substitute whole grain flours all by yourself. Recipes act as loose guidelines, like suggestions, and you can create things in your own style. Power!

Here is a recipe. An easy one. It tells you what to do but it wants to play just a little. It’s a quick, restorative soup that is passable without being properly seasoned but when done right, it is completely awesome. Fish sauce, soy and lime season the broth. No one can tell you how you like it. Find the balance. Understand the balance. Enjoy.


(serves 4)

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, chopped

1 parsnip, chopped

4 cups veg or chicken stock

1 tablespoon soy sauce or to taste

1 tablespoon fish sauce or to taste

3 cups kale, chopped into one inch pieces

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped + extra for garnish

2-3 limes

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

sriracha (optional but strongly recommended)

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Saute the onion until softened. Add garlic, carrot, parsnip and cook 3 minutes more.
  • Add stock, boil and reduce heat. Season with soy and fish sauce. Taste it! Adjust.
  • Simmer 5-10 minutes. Add kale and cook until all vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste them!
  • Add 2 tablespoons cilantro at the last minute and squeeze a lime into the soup. Taste it again! Adjust more.
  • Cut the other limes into wedges and serve as garnish along with jalapeno slices and extra cilantro and sriracha, if using.

Elaborations. (VEGGIE DASHI)

February 22, 2011

Here is an example of a dashi that has been taken to the next level, integrating the principles of a vegetable stock and therefore upping its taste and nutritional value. In addition to kombu and water, there are fresh mushroom stems, scallion, carrot, dried shiitake, celery, garlic cloves, some herb stems, etc. The large pot shown in this picture will make several quarts, which can be frozen for later convenience. There are no real proportions for the stock, just fill the pot with as many good-quality scrap ingredients as you can (famous culinary school line: the stock pot is not a garbage can!) and add some cold water to cover the solids by about two inches. Bring it to a boil and simmer for about a half hour or up to an hour and strain. Waste nothing! Use it in any recipe that calls for stock or broth.