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.
On March 7, the Capital Weather Gang – the coolest (ha!) gang around – declared winter in DC to be officially over.
The CWG is a really big deal around here. Like when they say tomorrow is a Four Domes day (– that’s four Capitol domes to you, non-DC native) – you KNOW you’re sleeping in late tomorrow, and at the very best, you’ll be “teleworking.” Hello, federal government.
So when they said winter was over, and spring was here, and that there’d be no more snow, and that only sunshine and puppies and rainbows were ahead, we BELIEVED them. The whole CITY believed them. There were discounts at coffee shops and consignment stores to celebrate the arrival of spring.
In other words, I live in Washington, DC, ok? I shouldn’t be waddling to work in my down coat on April 13th. CWG, next time, knock on wood when you make declarative statements like “pronouncing winter over now is really, really safe.”
The only saving grace is that it’s totally acceptable to make really heavy, spicy, ridiculously easy winter curries in our crock pot.
Slow Cooked Chicken Coconut Curry
- 1-2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into cubes
- 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 can coconut milk (light is fine)
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
- 1 big handful curry powder
- pinch red pepper flakes
- a big pinch salt
- 1 big pinch pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- optional – chopped jalapeno (*note – between the sambal oelek and the red pepper flakes, this dish is one hot wollop of a dish)
- 2-3 tablespoons cornstarch
- for serving:
- cooked basmati rice
- chopped cilantro
- coconut flakes
- Put all ingredients from chicken through black pepper in the crock pot and give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low for four hours.
- At the four hour mark, add the bell pepper and cook for about 20 minutes. Add a bit of cornstarch to thicken up the mixture and cook another 10 minutes or so (don’t let your bell peppers get soggy).
- Serve with rice and your desired toppings. Keep some milk/water nearby because it will light your mouth on fire (in a good way).
Plentiful, spicy-ful, ridiculously easy, and definitely good for making you think about warmer climates, where there are no down coats and no domes looming in your future.
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.
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.
The lack of a Sunday/Monday planning post this week is no accident: this is a fly-by-the-seat-of-our pants kind of week. Chez nous, there is no real nightly dinner plan, as I had no real grocery list when my mom (YAY for moms who visit!) and I hit Trader Joe’s this weekend. We had one thing, and one thing only, on our minds: making this mind-blowingly delicious beef bourguignon. (My mom nixed my idea for (another) veggie tart, declaring that the Husband “needs” more protein. Didn’t you see our quinoa dinner, Mom!?)
Of course, this stew comes straight from my mom’s head; no need for recipes there. I’ve laid out a rough guide below – but feel free to tweak for your eating pleasure.
My Mom’s Beef Bourgouignon
- olive oil
- a couple of tablespoons of butter
- 3 pounds beef (cut into stew-sized chunks)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cartons mushrooms
- pearl onions
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3-4 cups (or even a whole bottle) red wine
- a bit of water, as needed
- parsley, for serving
- In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over high heat. Saute the beef until browned. On a separate plate, sprinkle flour, salt and pepper; transfer beef on to the plate and add flour, S&P in layers.
- In the Dutch oven, saute the celery, carrots and onion over medium heat, until translucent. Add the garlic, cook for a minute or two, and then add mushrooms and tomato paste and cook through, about 10 minutes.
- Add the beef back to the pot and pour in white wine. Reduce the wine by half and then add pearl onions, red wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat; cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
- Adjust the seasonings as you see fit, top with fresh parsley, and serve with fresh crusty bread (and CHEESE, of course).
It was a sad day when my mom (and sister) left – but they did leave behind a trail of delicious food in our refrigerator! Word to the wise: this is even better after a few days, when the flavors have had a chance to come together (and the meat has had a chance to break down and become more tender.)