Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

I Carved a Pumpkin, Now What?: Pork & Pumpkin Stew

Pork and Pumpkin Stew (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The costumes are balled up in a corner of the bathroom, glitter-streaked and covered in strange makeup stains. Ghostly white, witchy green, blood red. The cardboard props are soaking up rain outside with tomorrow’s garbage – duct tape-wrapped robots, giant popcorn boxes, and transformer parts melt wetly into the asphalt. A cold wind whisks up discarded candy wrappers like brightly-colored leaves. Scraps of decorations – streamers fluttering from trees, plastic gravestones, milky cobwebs – look lonely in the morning light, and the sorry Jack-o’-lantern’s teeth are caving in, making that fiercely-grinning grimace look like an old man’s dentureless mouth.

Halloween is over, and all we have to show for it is some wax-paint grit beneath our fingernails, a leftover bag of Dum Dums to sneak into after lunch, and a giant bowl of shavings scraped out from the inside of a glowing orange window warmer.

Pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Roasted pumpkin seeds with Old Bay (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Pumpkin seeds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Decapitating the pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Like many others, I too spent the Saturday before Halloween up to the elbow in the bowels of a pumpkin. It takes a surprising lot out of you, that constant scraping, hollowing a gourd until its skin is thin enough to carve. And the mountain of flesh keeps growing – amazing how much meat emerges from something whose insides are mostly made of stringy webbing and seeds.

Shaved pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Pumpkin seeds ready for roasting (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Halloween has never really been my holiday. Even as a kid, my sweet tooth was somewhat underdeveloped, and I’d stash my bag of trick-or-treat candy behind a pink velvet chair in the back corner of my room so my brothers couldn’t get at it. It’s not that I wanted to eat it all myself – it’s just that I didn’t want them to. I’d ration my way through the good ones – Snickers first, then Twix and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Butterfinger. And then I’d start on the second-tier treats: Twizzlers, PayDay, Baby Ruth, Milky Way, Almond Joy, Mounds, Nerds. » Continue reading this post…

It’s Not You, It’s Me. It’s Not Me, It’s Mercury: Vegetarian Chili Bowl

Vegetarian chili bowl (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have broken nearly everything I’ve touched this month. Not just dishes and glasses, but hard-to-break things, like nail polish bottles and candles encased in heavy, shatterproof glass. I broke the little porcelain pig that holds the toothpicks, the Bodum French press, the bottle of hot sauce, the glass of anchovies that then dripped salty fish oil all over the kitchen floor. When I was making this vegetarian chili bowl, I showered the room with little bits of TVP as the bag fumbled from my hands.

Is this just a serious case of butterfingers? Or is it something more? January has been a hard month for me. My body aches like an old tooth. I’m cranky and easy to displease. I’ve had trouble waking up in the mornings and little energy for work. All of these things have made me an incredibly pleasant person to be around.

TVP (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s especially frustrating because it’s exactly the opposite of what I want – not that anyone actively wants to be cranky and accident-prone. I’d set clear goals for myself for January, all of them designed to make me a more relaxed and easygoing individual. Read more books in the evenings, don’t use electronics before bed, don’t force yourself to keep working when the work day is done, make time for exercise, stretch in the mornings before work.

And this January, I’ve had about a 25% success rate for meeting my goals. When I manage to wake up without hitting the snooze button four times, I stretch – sometimes. When I don’t devolve into playing Hay Day on the couch at night, I read – sometimes. I’m more enticed by Facebook’s endless scroll than I’ve ever been, and the thought of addressing the email situation makes me feel like I’m willingly signing up to be Sisyphus. » Continue reading this post…

A Winter Slumgullion: Chicken & Shrimp Gumbo

Chicken and shrimp gumbo (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I collect words. When I find a good one, I copy it into my little black notebook, the one that also contains restaurants and bars I’d like to visit, directions, sketches, snatches of poetry hurriedly composed in a cramped hand, email addresses and phone numbers, Spanish grammar tips, post ideas, books to read, little moments I’d like not to forget. And words.

I carry them around with me all the time – since my little black book is always in my bag – and read through them on occasion, rolling my tongue around and into those verbal nooks. There’s “pullulate”: “to exist abundantly, to send forth buds, to increase rapidly, teem.” Or “sirocco”: “any hot, oppressive wind.” “Quisle”: “to betray, especially by collaborating with an enemy.” “Collop”: “a small slice of meat, a small slice of anything, a fold or roll of flesh on the body.”

Garlic and thyme (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Living abroad, my vocabulary shrivels. Here, English lives within the law of averages, and if I remember from long ago math lessons (one thing I definitely don’t write down in my little black book are equations), an average sucks up the best and the worst and plunks you somewhere in the middle.

There are some words left languoring that way – and good riddance to them. I think “plethora” is the worst word in the English language, like a dull goat in an academic’s gown. Goodbye “myriad” and “veritable” and “moreover.” And truthfully, I’ve found that simpler words, when fitted well together, are often better at expressing ideas than all the viperines, girns and borborygamuses combined.

Okra (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Wintry chicken and shrimp gumbo (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

That brings me to this little gem of a word: “slumgullion,” whose meanings are as myriad as what it means: “A meaty stew, a weak beverage, refuse from whale carcasses, a muddy mining deposit.” I mean, wow, what multitudes! » Continue reading this post…

Back-to-School Weather: Roasted Quince and Pumpkin Soup

Roasted quince and pumpkin soup (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Fall weather motivates me like nothing else can. When everyone else is complaining about how gray and mucky it is outside, how depressing the drizzle, how dour the cold, I’m making plans.

I’ve never put much stock in New Year’s resolutions – I seem to make all mine in the fall. Fall feels like the start of something new. Everything about it is crisp – the scent of dried-out leaves, their crackle under your brand-new boots, the brisk wind brushing your cheek.

Maybe fall feels so fresh to me because I associate it with the start of school, a time I always loved and which is full of new things. New classes, new wardrobes, new shrink-wrapped blocks of college-ruled paper. Everything is so full of potential.

Roasting pumpkin and quince (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For me, fall couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I’ve just spent three weeks traveling, being a total lazy bum on vacation, letting other people cook for me and ignoring the steadily growing pile of emails in all of my inboxes. (Why do we all have so many email accounts?)

Now that I’m back in Berlin, fall has shocked me into motivation. While it’s a little melancholy to think that there are no more hazy summer afternoons on picnic blankets to tempt me away from my work, it’s invigorating to wrap up in blankets at the desk (um, the heater’s not so great) and feel a surge of focused, creative energy that comes along with the cold.

Fall is also the season where I’m most motivated to cook and create new dishes. I love pumpkins and dark leafy greens, slow-simmered sauces and jeweled pomegranate berries. I love rich sweet potatoes and freshly plucked apples from a gnarled tree, earthy mushrooms and tart quince.

Quince (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Quince slices (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Quince is a new addition to my fall repertoire. It’s hard to find in the States, and most people wouldn’t know what to do with one if it hit them in the head. » Continue reading this post…

Making Home: Won-Ton Soup

Won-tons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The view from my new kitchen window is a giant swath of salmon wall. On gray days, it’s the color of a salmon slab that’s been sitting too long in the fridge. On sunny days, it’s that flash-frozen pink of a fresh fish pulled from the river and slit open. The windows are uniform and white, and in one window box there’s a slightly infuriating lavender plant that bobs and bobs and bobs in the wind like mesmerizing purple tentacles.

I love my new apartment, but I have the feeling I’m going to grow to hate these inner courtyard walls. I turn my gaze inside. When the sun shines, our apartment is bathed in light. It glances off the lacquered wooden floors and paints the walls a brilliant white. When it’s gray out, and let’s be truthful, in Berlin it’s often gray out, I light all the candles I impulse bought at Ikea, and I am glad for that acted-upon urge.

Whole shrimp (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Green onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s easy to forget how much work it takes to move. You think that once you’ve carted your personal effects up and down hundreds of flights of stairs, and thrown yourself upon the mattress lying in the middle of the floor that the hardest part is over. But after you’ve bathed your sore muscles in a bathtub filled with water boiled on the stove (because of course the hot water isn’t working yet), you realize that somehow, all of these things must find a home.

So you go to Ikea (again), and buy a Hemnes for the clothes and some other things you’ve never had to buy because you’ve always lived with roommates who’ve had these things. (Shower curtains and hot water kettles, cutting boards, a bath mat.) Suddenly, you are very grateful for the set of silverware that caught your eye two years ago and that you just had to have, even though you didn’t know what to do with it, so stored it in a box. » Continue reading this post…

In Sickness: Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I feel terrible. Like I’ve been run over by a gaggle of marauding geese with nothing better to do than peck out my throat for fun.

I have become fixated on the thought of soup.

And not just any soup, but the most comforting kind you can imagine – chicken noodle soup. When you are sick, there is nothing nicer than broad egg noodles slumped inside a broth made from the last life-juice of a chicken’s bones. A tinge of garlic, a tingle of ginger – and if you find a bone or two, well, “parts is parts,” as my great grandmother used to say. » Continue reading this post…

Thai on My Mind: Spicy Thai Coconut and Ginger Soup

Spicy Thai coconut-ginger soup (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’ve been thinking about Thai food for weeks – ever since I had a bowl of relatively mediocre soup on my lunch break at work. For some reason, Thai soup has never really been on my radar. I’m more of a spicy green curry or peanut sauce girl. But even through the blasé of my work break soup, purchased from one of Berlin’s ubiquitous pan-Asian fast food chains, I could taste the intriguing combination of sweet and sour, creamy coconut and spice. It got me thinking. Or rather, it got me craving – and craving got me cooking.

Even at the most worldly (read: expensive) grocery stores here, non-standard ingredients are hard to come by. There are no corn tortillas, for instance. And good luck getting your hands on a bag of brown sugar. (Also, there’s no corn syrup, which is not exotic and probably better for your body, but hey, when you’re trying to bake like an American, it can be a bummer.) So gathering the ingredients for this simple soup was a bit more time consuming than I’d imagined.

I went to a Turkish shop for dried lemon leaves (forget fresh), spent a fortune on lime (one lime is a fortune here – oh, how I miss the ten-limes-for-a-dollar days in Brooklyn), and had to traipse into the high-end market for Thai chiles and lemongrass. It took three separate trips to the grocery store before they’d re-stocked the cilantro.

sweating the garlic and shallots (Eat me. Drink Me.)

I made the soup after a long day at work, which was both good and bad. Good, because I enjoy a multi-process cooking session to unwind after a long day, and bad, because it had been a long day, and I was hungry.

It’s beautiful to build something cohesive out of so many different parts. With one  hand, you’re making a chicken stock and tearing shreds of meat from the bone. » Continue reading this post…

Stew, Baby, Stew: Hungarian Goulash

Hungarian goulash (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

How can you go wrong with a recipe that has both bacon and wine? You can’t, as I discovered making this variation on Hungarian Goulash. Authenticity aside, this hearty, heavy winter stew was exactly what I needed coming back to Berlin after two weeks on a beach in the north of Colombia.

Here in Berlin, where I find myself wearing all of the clothes I own at one time, there’s no action too petty to warm up. Like showering multiple times a day because it’s the warmest place in the apartment. Or reneging on sunlight because it just might be warmer with the shutters closed. Or begging my boyfriend never to leave the bed just so that it’s always warm when I want to go to sleep.

veggies for Hungarian goulash (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

beef chuck in the pot (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

About a month or so ago, my uncle sent me an email, which is worth reprinting:

i am making soup as I type.

i have some smoked ribs i made a month or so ago that i just won’t eat so i figured i would cook them off the bones.  of course, I have no recipe as I just do jungle cooking – onion, celery (love it for flavor), green pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, garlic cloves, Cajun seasoning, and some beef bullion …i will let it cook for four or five hours and then taste and add seasonings as required.  tomorrow after it cooks overnight, i will peel the meat off the bones and add some carrots… finally, i will add some noodles and make some fresh bread to serve with the soup…

soup is a wonderful way to get rid of leftovers while creating a new meal …kind of like making wine out of water and that friend yeast thing Mom use to raise…just kept going and going… can see why humans still make pots of soup and just keep adding to it (no this tradition didn’t stop after the mid-evil ages… there are billions who are thousands of years behind us and still live this way – look at WV… yuk yuk…)

p.s. » Continue reading this post…