Every winter I find myself returning to some version of a creamy puréed broccoli soup. This time around I’ve gotten the making of it down to a very simple formula. In fact it’s a formula that I’ve used successfully for making a roasted butternut squash soup and a roasted cauliflower soup. I think it’s a formula you can use to make other roasted vegetables into soups as well, without overthinking it, adding different spices or herbs to bring an individual flavor to each soup.
In a matter of days, lunch all over the United States shifted from salads to soups, courtesy of an arctic front delivered via an ocean storm that hit Alaska’s Aleutian Islands over the weekend. Shades of polar vortex to come, perhaps? I submit that this phenomenon has existed here in Texas long before the term was coined last year, where it is not unusual to see a 40 degree temperature drop from one day to the next.
Well, folks, I had different intentions in mind for this week’s post, but those intentions were waylaid by an unwelcome visitor that caught up with me at the beginning of the week. Though the flu season is reportedly waning, the wicked virus flicked its forked tail on its way out and pulled me along with it. Not wanting to be the bearer of bad germs, I spent most of the week hunkered down inside our house, exiting only once to buy groceries. The good news is that I had a secret weapon stored that served me well, and you can make and store this little powerhouse too.
Temperatures have dropped quite low recently, and we’ve even had a second occurrence of snow. Though we do get ice storms, the soft fluffy white stuff is somewhat uncommon for these city parts of Texas. As old and expiring car batteries are prone to do, mine chose the snow day to fail to start the car. Fortunately, the cable guy working on a neighbor’s house was willing to loan his van for a battery charge. Still, the process involved me digging the jumper cables from among the clutter in our garage, removing the plastic protective cover from the battery, and properly attaching the large positive and negative clamps to their very small matching bolts on the battery. I somehow did this without blowing anything up (though the cable guy had to re-set the clamps a bit), as my husband’s words “just don’t let the clamps touch each other” were clearly in my mind the entire time. Did I mention it was freezing outside?
You might think it’s kind of ironic for a blog that revolves around sharing recipes to talk about cooking outside the box. And by that, what I mean is, cooking without strictly following the directions of a specific recipe. Personally, I’ve always been someone who follows recipes, and with my limited knowledge, that’s not a bad thing to do at all. In the last couple of years or so, I’ve learned many things from the cookbooks I’ve read, and I’ve cooked many things I’ve never tried before. Little by little, I’ve gathered a practical base of knowledge and skills, and what seemed hard in the past has become something that is second nature. This is not to say there still isn’t a lot for me to learn when it comes to cooking. What I mean to say is that all this cooking has unlocked that little box in my head that has its own ideas, and that is a very good thing.
Cocina Al Minuto, a well-loved Cuban cookbook by Nitza Villapol and Martha Martinez, is the source of inspiration for this version of Cuban black beans. Nitza Villapol, considered Cuba’s version of Julia Child, was a chef who also used television to teach many home cooks how to achieve success in the kitchen.
For my third and final soup this month, I present the ubiquitous turkey soup. Most families who traditionally cook a turkey for Thanksgiving have some form of this recipe, and mine is no exception. But this is the first year I’ve made it myself, tweaking my mom’s recipe to my own preferences and making it entirely from scratch. I even fashioned my own poultry seasoning and have included that recipe here too. The thing that’s great about a basic dish like soup is that you can change it up any number of ways. I’ve kept this version of turkey soup pretty basic, but you can be sure that when I discover another way to switch it up I’ll be all over it.
Though it’s been almost twenty years since I visited Spain, I still remember the food we ate. Of all the places we visited, between Madrid in central Spain or farther south in Cordoba, Seville, Granada or Marbella, my favorite food was in northwest Spain. While driving north to Galacia from Madrid, we stopped in a small town for a snack and ate a tuna empanada rich with olive oil in a flaky pastry crust. For a late night dinner in A Coruña, we ate sizzling garlic shrimp in a small earthenware dish and an earthy, crusty bread we couldn’t find anywhere south of that area. In Santiago de Compostela on a Sunday afternoon, we wandered into a bar, closed for drinks but willing to serve us food in the back, and ate deep-fried calamari with salad greens. While visiting my husband’s cousins, we tasted aguardente, or firewater, a very strong alcohol made from cherries that they lit on fire before drinking. In Lalín, my husband’s great aunts served us a typical homemade Caldo Gallego, with potatoes, greens, white beans and meat in a broth. All of the food was simple, fresh, and amazingly good.
Every Monday through Friday I send my husband off to work with a thermos full of hot homemade soup and a slice of bread. He believes soup is one of the healthier things you can eat, and has often mentioned how his paternal grandfather always had a bowl of soup at the beginning of a meal. Who am I to disagree? In fact, I often eat homemade soup for lunch now as well, so for the month of November I thought I’d share three soup recipes. If you are a big fan of soup and want a cookbook with an abundance of soup recipes, I’d also highly recommend Anna Thomas’ Love Soup cookbook. Although the soup recipes are vegetarian, I’m not, so I tweak them by using homemade chicken stock. I do this because making my own soup stock or bone broth gives the soup additional beneficial minerals, and it helps me use up leftover bones and scraps from the meat that we cook.
After fairly mild temperatures in May, we’ve finally begun to warm up with 90+ degree days here in Texas. It’s not officially summer yet, but the garden doesn’t care. Our cantaloupe plants, once tiny sprouts, have grown exponentially and are beginning to develop large fuzzy oval fruit buds. The cantaloupe vines are gorgeous and green with small yellow flowers, and the bees love to work there. Since I planted them too closely together, the vines are growing on top of one another and have spilled over both sides of the raised bed planter onto the grass. It’s still too early to tell if we’ll need to remove a plant or cut them back so they don’t crowd or choke each other out, but the advice from our friendly local hardware and feed store is to just let them go and see what happens. The only casualties for now may be the bell pepper plants that have seen their territory rapidly encroached upon by their neighbors, and their leaves entwined with the thin curly tendrils that creep from the cantaloupe vines.