It’s a little hard to believe, but when I was little, I was the pickiest most annoying eater you can imagine. I disliked almost anything that wasn’t meat or cookies. And I ate around the same amount a country sparrow does. And I hated crumbs around my plate with a passion. My mom tells me I used to obsessively pick them up one by one and put them back in the plate. I loathed when people tried to feed me more than three spoonfuls per meal. So much so that I once threw a chicken leg at my father. (I know). And don’t even get me started on vegetables. I don’t think there was one I liked. (except for mushrooms but they don’t count as vegetables. they are too delicious) None of them seemed sugary, crumbly or meaty enough for me. And among those was cauliflower, which had a big place on the house table. As I grew older, I started to venture out a bit more, and I came to like a few of those green critters. But cauliflower always remained in my eyes as a glorified broccoli with no flavor, even if it’s cloudy shape was as endearing as a baby sheep to an 8 year old. And then somewhere after I went from eating nothing to eating everything with a shameful passion, I re-discovered cauliflower. And I came to the conclusion that it was not a glorified broccoli, but that it was it’s whiter, fluffier, softer, more subtle tasting cousin. And we became best friends after I realized that cream and cheese and an oven could transform it into puffy clouds of greatness. But not only that; when turned into a creamy soup…all I can say is that for sure no broccoli soup I’ve ever tried can match it. So I bring you today a light version of this puffy friend; a creamy cauliflower leek soup minus the cream. That way you can enjoy three platefuls of it and not feel like you might explode afterwards. But don’t think it’s any less rich because it hasn’t got cream in it. The golden leeks and nutty flavor give it a warm fulling kick that won’t make you miss it. Read more for the recipe.
Yesterday I came home and popped into my laptop Rossini’s Barbieri di Seviglia (I know, I’m getting stranger by the day) and then set on to search for a classic french onion soup, which I did not have to do for long since Smitten Kitchen, as usual, had the answer for me quite soon. So I grabbed 4 big, shiny, smooth onions and set them on the chopping board. I grabbed the knife, I sliced once, I sliced twice. And then I stopped. What on earth was I thinking???? I’d completely forgotten that onions, or any of their cousins (red onions, shallots, garlic, spring onions, chives, you name it!) will have me in tears within seconds. And I’m not talking about watery eyes or a runaway tear. I’m talking grab-the-tissues-now stuff. I don’t know why so much, but it’s always been that way. I’ve tried super ultra sharp knives. I’ve tried cold onions straight from the fridge. There’s nothing that can help it. In fact, I remembered as I held the onion with great hatred in my hand and cried in between bouts of Figaro Figaro Figaro coming from my computer, when I worked in cooking school and I had to prepare for recipes which included onions, I would always trade with the other assistants for anything else. I’d much prefer to remove the scales from your smelly fish! So why would I subject myself willingly to all that slicing of the stinky critter?? The reason, of course, is that there is nothing quite like french onion soup. Even if I had to eat it with puffy eyes and a red nose. Deb uses Julia Child’s recipe, which she kindly provides with friendly measures. The only thing I changed was the bread, which I changed for American pumpernickel since I didn’t have any other, but it was actually an incredibly good twist. The caraway seeds such a pleasant surprise in the hot, caramelized goodness of the onions.
Recipe here: French Onion Soup at Smitten Kitchen
One of the things that people love about living in Mexico City is the weather. The winters are not very cold, springtime is full of flowers, summer is tolerably hot, and autumn will ask you for just a light sweater. Or so it used to be. Nowadays we get crazy weather just like the rest of the world, with winters that freeze crops and insufferable sweaty summers. But in spite of the weather going haywire everywhere in the world, one thing here in our crazy valley remains a constant: summer rain. Almost every summer afternoon, you can count on a heavy shower, that will be over before it’s time to go to bed. It’s lovely. But then there’s the transition between fall and summer; that is my absolute favorite time of the year, because that’s when it begins to get cold, October moons make their dramatic appearances, and, if you’re lucky, you get quite a few wet, cold, rainy afternoons. (No doubt encouraged by hurricanes raging along the coasts, sadly) And those are the ones where, with a good glass of red wine, great jazzy music, and a bunch of about-to-die tomatoes, delicious soups are born. (Or pumpkin marmalade, which is doing it’s thing on the stove as I write).
Soups and cold days….roasted tomato soups and cold days….this version of that good old recipe includes potatoes, which are always a pleasant surprise, and since my basil plant was victim of a murdering plague, is made with oregano. It’s really easy to make, but incredibly rewarding once it’s found it’s way to your spoon. Read more for the recipe.
So today started as pretty rough day, even though the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was raindrops, the wet bark on the trees outside my window, and a lot of birds. (My favorite sight to wake up to). I slept virtually nothing and had an appointment with my acupuncturist, aka my torturer. Anyhow, after muscle therapy, a nerve block, needles and laser therapy, I left nauseous, dizzy and barely able to stand up, with an apple in my hand kindly provided by one of the assistants. Once back home, I crashed on the floor in my room and dozed for about two hours, and then came back to consciousness with one thought in my mind; I need a pick me up. And so, seeing the pouring rain outside my window, got a strike of inspiration, and a chance at feeling better. This soup, due to the lack of vegetables in my fridge, has an onion base with a lot of broth, but its compensated by the delicious buttery and milky mushrooms you’ll add at the end. The result is very light, creamy, delicious smelling lentil goodness.
Lentil and mushroom soup
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 scallions, chopped (save a few stems)
1 1/2 red onions, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups lentils
12 cups hot chicken broth (If you’ve got stock, go for it)
2 tbsp. butter
2 cups diced mushrooms
1/2 cup milk
Fresh oregano leaves
Heavy cream for serving
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large and deep saucepan. Add the chopped scallions and red onions, along with the whole stems from the scallions (you’ll be taking these out later). Cook over med-low for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and see through. Add the shallot and cook for another three minutes, stirring to keep them from burning. Add the tomatoes, stir and add the broth. Bring to a full boil and then reduce the heat to med-low. Let cook for 10 minutes, remove the scallion stems, and using the blender, puree all the solids. Return to the saucepan and once its boiling again, add the lentils. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 35 minutes, until the lentils become soft.
Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, heat the butter until it begins to bubble. Add the mushrooms (make sure they are dry if you washed them) and thyme. Cook until browned and the butter smells like heaven. Add the half cup of milk, and stir until you get a first boil. Remove from heat and set aside, or if your lentils are ready, incorporate. Turn off heat. Serve with a spoonful of heavy cream and a pair of oregano leaves.