I know I complained about the weather in my last post, and my ploy seems to have worked. It’s now gloriously sunshine-y, and creeping up into the 70s. Hello, DC that I love – all glorious three weeks before it becomes so hot and muggy you start walking around with a scarf and a fleece again – to protect yourself when you enter the arctic tundra that is DC office buildings in the summer. #firstworldproblems
Of course, the one downside to the beautiful change in seasons is the slow creep away from those hearty, soul-filling foods. When my sister visited a few weeks ago (how surreal is this: the LAST time I will see her before I become a MOM), we spent almost a full day planning out a menu (clearly, we’re sisters, and daughters of our mom), and took full advantage of one of the last cold blasts of the winter season. OK, now I’m really ready for summer.
Lentil & Kielbasa Soup (an Ina Garten special)
- 1/2 pound green lentils
- olive oil
- 2 large onions, diced
- 2 leeks, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt, pepper, red hot chili flakes
- 8 stalks fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 4-6 stalks celery, diced
- 4 carrots, diced
- 10 cups chicken stock
- a big squeeze tomato paste
- 1/2 – 1 pound kielbasa
- big splash red wine
- to serve:
- parmesan cheese
- green onions
- Wash the lentils, and then, in a large bowl, cover them with boiling water. Allow them to sit for about 15 minutes. Drain.
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and then saute onions. After a minute or two, add the leeks, the garlic, salt, pepper, red hots, thyme and cumin, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Add celery and carrots; saute another 10 minutes.
- Add chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils. Cover and bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered) for about an hour – until the lentils are completely cooked through. Add kielbasa, red wine, and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Adjust seasonings – and serve with your choice of topping.
As you can imagine, this soup gets even better when it sits overnight, soaking up all the goodness. If it’s not spring/summer yet where you live – make this. It will NOT disappoint.
Two things happened last week that could have put a real cramp in our babymoon-style. (Yes, turns out I will do anything to take a vacation, including calling it a babymoon.) In early December, I bought us tickets to St. Lucia. I don’t know what it is about that island, but I have always wanted to go. Maybe because my parents went when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought: man, when I grow up, I’m going to St. Lucia.
- Zika virus. If you haven’t heard of this yet, count yourself lucky, because it means you haven’t been on the phone with cheapcaribbean.com fighting to get a refund. Turns out Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – ripping through the Caribbean right now – that only infects pregnant women. And then causes massive birth defects in babies. Remember: St. Lucia. Babymoon.
- Winter Storm Jonas. If you’re not familiar with DC – the whole city shuts down when we get something vaguely resembling snow. My hometown mayor, Marty Walsh, actually just said “I feel bad,” and then offered to lend my adopted town some snow plows. Seriously.
So, instead, we pulled a last minute audible and spent the last few glorious days basking in the Southern California sunshine, hiking in the desert. (Take that, mosquitoes.) Turns out, Joshua Tree National Park really is all it’s cracked up to be.
Then, we came home. One look at the snow piles in the street & we knew, Marty’s help or not, we won’t be seeing our car until spring. Only Ina could fix this mess.
Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten)
- 1 bag dried mushrooms (I had porcini)
- olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3-4 stalks celery, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 3/4 cup pearled barley
- 2 containers mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and white button)
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 6 cups broth (veggie, beef, chicken, whatever you have)
- 10 stalks thyme, tied together if you can
- large handful parsley
- salt, pepper & crushed reds
- 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
- Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour about 2 cups or so boiled water over them, to reconstitute them. Set aside while you prep the veggies and get the rest of the soup prepared.
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onions, carrots, and celery, as well as salt, pepper, and crushed reds, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and barley and cook, stirring for about two minutes. Add the mixed mushrooms (not the reconstituted dried ones just yet) and the red wine, cook for about five minutes.
- If the dried mushrooms aren’t sliced nicely yet, now’s a good time to strain them (reserving the mushroom water!) and chop them. Otherwise, dump the whole thing (mushrooms + water) into the soup pot. Add the broth, thyme, parsley and and a little more salt and pepper.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
- At the very end, it’s a little decadent to add a dollop of butter – not necessary, obviously. Discard the thyme, adjust seasoning, and serve with a bit of parsley on top.
Not going to lie, after a few days of In & Out burgers and shakes, my body was grateful for this type of sustenance. Not only good, but good for you. Of course, now that we’ve been home a few days…I could use another babymoon.
If you’re a regular reader around here (which, obviously I hope you are) you know I get a special thrill every time I bust out the immersion blender. Now that it’s spring, though, that little wonder machine has been sitting in the back of the cabinet, awaiting fall, while I luxuriate in all things fresh and seasonal and NOT canned. (Side note: I know people enjoy summer time soups. I do not understand this. Let’s be real: cold soup is just…cold.)
UNTIL – I happened to spot some beautiful fresh spring peas at Trader Joe’s the other week, and then happened to notice this recipe in Cooking Light. This is a seriously delicious (and healthy!) soup..and a perfect excuse to use my trusty immersion blender once again.
Pea & Asparagus Soup with Poached Egg
- 1 or 2 pats unsalted butter
- 3 leeks, white and green parts only, thinly sliced
- 4 cups high quality chicken stock (use vegetable if you want a veggie preparation)
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
- salt, pepper, crushed reds
- 10 oz fresh peas
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and chopped
- a big handful parsley, divided
- optional: olive oil, green onions
- for the eggs:
- cold water
- pinch salt
- about a tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 eggs (or however many you’re feeding)
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add sliced leeks and cook about 5 minutes, until nearly translucent. Add stock, thyme, crushed reds, a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a low simmer. Add asparagus, cover and cook about 3 minutes, and then add fresh peas. Cook about a minute, then add parsley (you can include the stalks, which will give it an additional pop of green!).
- Blend soup until smooth with a traditional or an immersion blender. Season to taste and then return to low heat while you prep your eggs.
- Bring about an inch of salted water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat to a simmer, add vinegar, and slowly/carefully add your eggs. Cook about 3-4 minutes, or until the white of the egg firms up around the yolk.
- Ladle your soup into bowls and (carefully) add your egg. Top with parsley, additional cracked pepper, and if you like, some olive oil and/or green onions. Break that yolk open and enjoy the bounty.
Husband, who is not a fan of eggs (I married him, but do not claim to understand him), gobbled this up and went for seconds. Needless to say, we were both bummed when this only made enough for one more (lunch) meal. Make this. I promise you will not regret it.
Today was a day of reckoning.
I’ve never made honest-to-goodness chicken soup. Crockpot soup, immersion blender soup, roasted vegetable soup, sure. But the kind of soup my mom made when I was sick as a kid? That kind of soup is sacred territory, the kind only a mom knows how to traverse.
Then, the Husband woke up with the cold I had all last week. And despite ribbing him occasionally on the interwebs, I think I’m a pretty good wife/dance partner/roommate. After all, he deserves that – he’s a pretty good husband/dance partner/roommate, too. So I busted out the recipe book I received for my bridal shower – full of handwritten recipe cards from the best moms I know: mine, my husband’s, my surrogate aunts (aka my mom’s besties), and my husband’s aunts.
This chicken soup was inspired by my mom’s BFF, J – in fact, inspired (but not duplicated) by her mom’s recipe. I’m not even going to wait to give the verdict on this one: it.was.awesome.
Homemade Chicken Soup
- olive oil
- 2 large bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
- 6-8 cups chicken broth (or water)
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 10 or so sprigs fresh thyme
- large handful whole black peppercorns
- about 5 stalks fresh parsley, plus more for serving
- 3-5 slices fresh jalapeno (depending on your level of tolerance for heat)
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 package long noodles
- optional: Parmesan cheese, fresh spinach, escarole
- Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and then sear on both sides, about 3 minutes each side. Add enough stock/water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Strain the grayish top layer that appears (will make your broth less cloudy).
- Add onion, carrots, celery, jalapeno and all herbs. If you’re feeling fancy, tie them together to make a little bouquet garni – this will make it easier to remove it at the end. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until chicken is done, about an hour. Every so often, strain the top layer again.
- Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Remove the herbs and discard. (Make sure to taste your broth and season accordingly!) Shred the chicken from the bone and add the meat back to the pot. Add a spritz of lemon and stir.
- Boil water for pasta and cook according to directions; place a small amount at the bottom of large individual bowls. Ladle the soup over the pasta and serve with additional fresh parsley. Feel your sinuses open up for a brief, glorious moment.
See above. J, I hope I did you proud.