This mushroom leek soup is the perfect example of flexible food. It cooks up quickly, reheats well, requires very little fuss, and is infinitely adaptable. If you want it vegan, swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and skip the cheese. If you aim for gluten free, forget the croutons. If you have a handful of leftover vegetables, you can throw them in the pot. I added a couple of handfuls of baby spinach because I had it, but it can also be skipped if you don’t. You can even swap in onions for leeks, but they don’t have quite the same delicacy of flavor. Many people avoid fennel because they don’t like licorice — here, the licorice notes are all but unnoticeable – the fennel adds a depth of flavor and a hint of sweetness which balances the mushrooms. [...]
The nice thing about being behind on things is that reminders can feel like discoveries. When editing my Paris photos, I found the pictures I took at a wonderful meal we ate in the Latin quarter at Bistro y Papilles. Located in a small wine store, with a different set menu every night, it was the kind of wonderful meals that makes you feel like you’re really in Paris. The menu that night started with a velvety cauliflower soup, served at the table in a big tureen. We were presented with shallow soup bowls that were garnished with a “salad” with lardons, croutons, cauliflower, herbs and creme fraiche, and the hot soup was ladled over the salad. All the garnishes brought a wonderful textural contrast to the soup, and it was one of the best things we ate that week. [...]
The first meal you cook in a new kitchen feels portentous. As if the success or failure of all future culinary endeavors rests on the results of that one meal. It shouldn’t be too simple, or too fancy. You don’t want too much room for error, or something that’s *gasp* boring. It should be just right. So when I unpacked my kitchen, and decided my long cooking hiatus would come to an end, I wanted to prepare the perfect meal. I wanted it to be familiar, but novel. Seasonal comfort food. In the first kitchen that’s Mine in my very first house, I wanted something that said “Home.” And so I chose soup. Now I know that soup may not be the most obvious choice for a summer dish. Soups are associate with cold days and long slow simmers on a hot stove. And the usual summer soups – your gazpachos and your vichyssoises and your fruit soups — while delicious, are not homey. But this soup combines the best of both worlds. It’s a hearty soup, made with a bounty of summer vegetables which are delicious in soup — green beans, zucchini – and it simmers for less than an hour, as it gets a big flavor boost from a large spoonful of basil pesto, whose sharp summery flavor wakes up your tastebuds. It can be served hot or lukewarm, and it’s perfect for those long summer evenings. Soupe Au Pistou is a classic Provencal dish, and it can be made with whatever looks best at your local farmer’s market. [...]
Today I have a guest post from Emily, a dear friend and a fantastic cook. I wanted to do a recipe for Passover this year, and since I did not grow up in the Jewish culinary tradition, I asked Emily to write a guest post about Passover cooking with one of her favorite recipes, which I can personally vouch for as delicious. You can read more of Emily’s writing, about food, about motherhood, and about style at her blog, West of the Loop. For Jewish families, the two most important holidays, both from a religious and a culinary perspective, are the High Holidays and Passover. Kids prefer Hanukkah naturally and certainly latkes are one of the better known Jewish foods. But Hanukkah is ultimately a minor holiday. The two times of year that Jewish families are likely to come together — maybe even traveling to do so — are the fall High Holy Days and Passover. Passover is a holiday celebrated almost entirely at home, as opposed to in the synagogue, making it really THE holiday for most Jewish families. Even the most assimilated families will usually host or attend a Passover Seder. It’s one of those traditions that people seem to hold onto, despite inter-marriage, cross-country moves, divorce or what have you. The highlight of most Seders, and certainly the Seder I grew up with, is the chicken soup with matzo balls. It’s also the most iconic Jewish food this side of the bagel. While you may have to be Jewish to be nostalgic for your Bubbe’s matzo balls, you certainly do not have to be Jewish to love matzo ball soup, or to try making your own. Any recipe for matzo ball soup, in my opinion, has to start with the soup. If you are ever going to make your own chicken broth, this is the time to do it. There are two reasons to make homemade broth for matzo ball soup. The first reason is plain: this is a dish in which you really taste the broth. Canned chicken broth is fine when making, say, squash soup, when the flavor of the squash is predominant. But with matzo ball soup, the broth is half the experience. The second reason to make homemade chicken broth is less obvious, but very important: you can use the chicken fat (schmaltz) that is rendered in making the broth to flavor your matzo balls. Matzo balls flavored with schmaltz are the real deal, my friends. The only caveat is, you have to make the broth at least a day ahead of time. [...]
I know I’m going to get my frugal license taken away for this, but the truth of the matter is I don’t really like leftovers. Sure, I’ll take last night’s dinner as a brown bag lunch the next day, but that’s pretty much it. I’m certainly not eating the same thing for dinner the next night, and forget about having it every night for a week.
However, when you are cooking for two adults and a toddler (who may, or may not eat whatever you’ve made, depending on some bizarre power struggle/whimsy/will of the gods), sometimes leftovers are unavoidable. Sometimes I foist them on my husband to take to work for lunch multiple days in a row; sometimes I strongly hint to my babysitter that she’s welcome to help herself to anything in that fridge, but sometimes these strategies don’t work, and I am forced to my last resort. No, not eating leftovers. I’m talking about the element of disguise.
See, even though I may not want to eat the same thing three days in one week, I am perfectly willing to eat three different things with the same base ingredients. Like these black beans three ways. I like beans and rice, and realize that many people eat it every day of their lives, but sadly, I am not one of those people. I can, however, eat beans and rice one day, and a quesadilla another day, and soup on a third day and be perfectly happy to do all three. Apparently I’m not too bright if I can trick myself this easily, but there you go. Thus we have — black beans three ways, or how to use up your leftovers without driving yourself crazy. [...]