Thursday, December 25, 2008

Final Thoughts

After any goal has been accomplished, reflection of the journey is a natural conclusion. Nothing is ever done without a reason, there is always some sort of justification or explanation. Even if it as minor as saying "just to see if I could do it". My reasons for doing this challenge were simple. I wanted to write, to do a fun and achievable challenge, eat good food, and I wanted to make new things.

What I learned was that soup can be made from a wide variety of ingredients. And that making soup recipes requires only a basic knowledge of soup preparation and the willingness to experiment. In my opinion, the key to a good soup is two things; A good base (stock or broth) and proper seasoning. You cannot be afraid to use salt (unless of course you have salt restrictions) because under salted soups can result in flat and muted flavors.

I was happy that this was only a 30 day challenge. Even though I love cooking, there was a lot of pressure to make something new everyday. Also, I became mildly obsessed with soup. I was always thinking of what soup to make next, constantly searching the internet for ideas when I should have been working, or thinking about soup while "meditating" during yoga.

Our grocery bill was a bit higher that month too, since I was making numerous grocery runs during the week to pick up chicken stock and other ingredients I might need. Soup can generally be in-expensive if you are making large batches. But making a lot of little batches and using a wide variety ingredients (especially using crab and lobster), is not economical.

Unfortunately, our freezer could only hold so many of my soups, so I was often eating soup for lunch and supper. As I eluded to in one of my previous posts, my meals were starting to resemble a Hollywood fad diet.

Now that this is finished, I don't want to stop blogging. I will move on to another idea. I will start a blog in the New Year called Around the World in 52 Weeks. The blog will be about foods, recipes and anecdotes about a different country every week. A majority of the countries will be ones that either I or my husband have visited, so it will come with our own personal stories embellished with my sense of humor.

So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 30-Lobster Soup with Puff Pastry

Today was the grand finale, the last day of my 30 Days of Soup. This blog was more than just about making soups, but also about going outside my comfort zone. Before taking on this challenge, I had never made a crab chowder or shrimp tempura, and today I really pushed myself by killing a whole lobster.

The weight of making this soup rested heavily on my shoulders. Not only was I making soup for 7 people, but I was also working with an expensive ingredient, fresh lobster.

My mother-in-law and I bought the lobster at a grocery store, and these babies were fresh, since they were just flown in from Maine yesterday. I placed it in the fridge when we got back to her house, and I contemplated how I would kill it humanely. I consulted a few websites, and most advocated splitting down the middle with a knife while it is still alive. But I couldn't even pick it up with my bare hands. I had to get my brother-in-law to come and help me put it in the boiling water.

After letting it boil for a few minutes until it turned fire engine red, I removed the lobster and rinsed it under cold water. I removed the claws and picked out the meat, and then I split the body from the tail. Being a lobster rookie, I was unprepared for the massive amounts of gushing green liquid that spewed from it's body, painting both the wall and floor. A shriek of horror came from my mouth as I stared at the mess I created, but my mother-in-law is so good natured it didn't bother her a bit.

I successfully removed the meat, and prepared a stock with the leftover shell and legs. I wanted to cover the soup completely with puff pastry, but we didn't have any oven proof bowls, so I made little puff pastry rounds to be placed on top. I have included instructions on how to cover the soup in puff pastry if you are interested in trying that version. This recipe was supposed to be a stew, but I increased the amount of stock used to make it more like a soup.

Lobster Soup
Source: Food Network
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter
1 to 1 1/3 pounds cooked lobster meat, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup sherry wine, preferably medium-dry, preferably amontillado
1 cup lobster stock, (or fish stock)
1 1/4 cups light cream or half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons minced fresh chives


In a medium-size deep skillet or heavy saucepan, cook the onion in the butter over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the cooked lobster meat and toss to coat with the butter. Pour in the sherry and bring to a boil. Add the lobster stock, and boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the light cream and paprika. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring just to a boil. Immediately ladle into soup plates and garnish with the chives and puff pastry round or cover completely with puff pastry.

Puff Pastry Directions
1 lb puff pastry sheets

Preheat oven to 450 F. Roll out your pastry dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out 4 circles slightly larger than you serving bowls or ramekins. Divide the soup between the four bowls. In a small bowl beat the egg. Brush the beaten egg on the pastry circles. Place the pastry, egg side down, on each bowl pulling a little to make it taut. Gently brush the top of the pastry with more egg being careful not to push it into the soup. Place the bowls on a baking sheet & then into the oven. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until the pastry is puffed & golden (don't open your oven too early or the pastry might fall.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day 29 - Labanese Lamb and Burghul Meatball Soup

The first day of our vacation, Darien and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 7am and went for a run with Justin, (Darien's brother who is in the military). I had low expectations of keeping up with the boys, but I managed to carry my own.

Later, I grabbed my mother in-laws one speed cruiser bike for a 7 mile bike ride. I was struggling to go up the hills since I wasn't able to switch gears. But I felt slightly encourage when I passed a man on riding a nice Trek road bike.

After thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and warm whether which is Florida's prime attribute in the winter, I went to the grocery store to buy my ingredients for tonight's soup. I had overestimated the strength and quality of the plastic basket on the bike, and had to endure the sound of metal and rubber rubbing for 30 minutes. I kept silently praying I wouldn't pop the front tire, and end up stranded 6 miles from my in-laws.

My inspiration for the soup tonight came from my mother-in-law. She is half Labanese and makes wonderful kibbi, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, fatya, and other mouth-watering dishes. I have a strong penchant for Arabic food, and I especially love Kibbi (also, kibbeh, kibbe), which is ground lamb with burghul, pine nuts and some warm spices such as cinnamon and all spice.

Labanese Lamb and Burghul Meatball Soup
Source: Krystal Ford, and kibbi recipe from Labanese cuisine.
Lamb Stock
Two Large lamb bones
1 large sprig of rosemary
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
1 celery stalked chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp of cinnamon
1/8 tsp of all spice
Sprigs of parsley for garnish

Fry the onion for a few minutes on medium heat, add lamb bones, rosemary, garlic and cover completely with water. Simmer for 1hr to 1hr and half. Strain out bones, onions, rosemary and skim off fat.

Sautee peppers and celery. Deglaze with 1/4 cup of red wine. Add lamb stock and bring to a gentle boil. Add cinnamon and all spice and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Add kibbi meatballs (directions below) and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

Kibbi meatballs

1 cup of burghul
1 medium onion, grated
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp of cinnamon
1/8 tsp of all spice (or cloves can be substituted)
1lb ground lamb (beef can also be substituted)
1/4 cup of pine nuts (toasted)


Cover burghul with cold water and soak for 10 minutes. Drain and press between palms to remove excess water. Work onions and spices with fingers and knead meat with spices working thoroughly. Add the burghul and pine nuts to the meat and mix thoroughly. Make into round meat balls (around 1-2 inches diameter) and fry with a bit of olive oil until brown on all sides. Place meat balls in oven at 400F to keep warm.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Small Pause

Hey everyone, just in case you are wondering, I have not abandoned my soup project, but I was up in Montreal for the weekend. I will post my Day 28 later today and finish up this week down in Florida.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 28-Spiked Gazpacho

We left after 11pm and drove for 6 hours stopping only for gas, on our way to Montreal. My friend, her room mate, and I, relied on the tunes blasting from her stereo and the red bulls we had drunk, to keep us going. There I was trapped with two psychology majors, one of them hopped up on caffeine, being psychoanalyzed while listening to a never ending succession of Pearl Jam. It was great fun. Needless to say we were all exhausted by the time we got there at 5:30 am. But it was completely worth missing the impending snow storm, and I gained a little introspective.

The purpose of this mad dash to Montreal, was for a Christmas party with my old high school friends. We try every year to get together, but it doesn't always work out, and we sometimes end up celebrating in March.

Keeping with the party theme, I decided to make a spiked gazpacho. The concept was good, but even with filling only a 1/4 of the shot glass with vodka and the rest with soup, it was overwhelmingly alcoholic. The biggest problem was that the alcohol rose to the top and just wasn't mixed properly. Plus, a lot of my friends are in different stages of their lives (popping out babies) and aren't into drinking anymore.

The next morning, I took an agonizingly long 14 hour train ride. We were stuck at the border for two hours and then stuck in Albany for two hours while they changed our engine. My seat mate and I were hungry so we broke open my giant Panettone (Italian cake) and my bottle of red wine. At least it made the time pass and it made a rather annoying situation more rosy.

Spiked Gazpacho Shooters
Source Moosewood Cookbook

4 cups of tomato juice
½ cup finely minced onion
1 medium clove garlic minced
1 medium bell pepper minced
1tsp honey optional
1 medium cucumber peeled seeded and minced
2 scallions minced
juice of ½ lemon and 1 lime
2 tbs wine vinegar
1 tsp basil
¼ tsp cumin
¼ cup freshly minced parsley
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
2 cups of freshly diced tomatoes
Vodka (optional)

combine all ingredients and puree until desired consistency (chunky of smooth)
chill until very cold. To make it "spiked" fill 1/4 of shot glass with vodka, add soup and stir well, garnish with basil.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Day 27 - White Bean and Garlic Soup, with Sautéed Cabbage

I was rushing around like a madwoman this afternoon, trying to get everything prepared before I left for Montreal. My friend and I were supposed to drive up tomorrow, but because of the impending snow forecast, we decided to leave tonight. Even though driving at night for 8 hrs is not ideal, being stuck in a snowstorm is even worse.

We Canadians may be used to un-godly amounts of snow, but we don’t like driving in snowstorms, and we really dislike long distance driving in snowstorms. Maybe it’s because we still have huge swaths of land that are grossly under populated, and the fear of being stuck off the side of the road, with no houses around, no cell phone service or cars on the road, is a real possibility and it sends shivers down our spine.

A smart Canadian will have a long with the spare tire, a flashlight, and blanket and winter boots. Just in case the car breaks down or you spin off the road, you can A: wait it out, or B: start walking.

I myself have had the privilege of driving off the road in the spring, and futily tried applying the breaks only to shoot further off at an angle in slushy snow. I was good and stuck, and had to be towed out. Which was very embarrassing.

This soup was the result of my desire to clean out my fridge and avoid yet another grocery run. I had leftover cabbage from the Borscht, leftover shrimp, lots of garlic and leftover white beans from the Pasta Fagioli.

White beans and garlic seem like a natural pair, but the crunchy cabbage on top added another layer of texture and flavor.

White Bean and Garlic Soup, with Sautéed Cabbage and Shrimp

Source: Krystal Ford

1 can of Canneli white beans
3 cups of chicken broth
1 whole garlic bulb

Sauteed Cabbage
1 1/2 cup of cabbage shredded
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of kosher salt

Sauteed Shrimp
6 shrimp
1 lemon
salt and pepper
pinch of saffron

Pre-heat over to 400F. Peel the outer layer of garlic, and cut off a few cm of the top of the garlic bulb. Rub a bit of olive oil over the smooth surface. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a muffin tin. Roast for 35 minutes.

Marinate shrimps in lemon juice, saffron, salt and pepper for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile. Boil the broth and add the whole can of white beans, do not drain them. Bring to a boil and gently simmer. Add roasted garlic cloves to stock and beans and puree with immersion blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning.

Melt butter and olive over high heat and sautée cabbage until just softened, but still a bit crunchy. Sprinkle with salt.

Sautée shrimps over high heat with a bit of butter one minute each side until pink.

Serve soup with cabbage and shrimp piled on top.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day 26-Curried Split Pea Soup

Darien has made this recipe several times in the past, but this was my first time making it, and I went a little hog wild on the salt. Alton Brown says to liberally salt the onions, and believe me, I did. Plus, I think the store bought stock I used was already salty. So, I turned an other wise very easy and delicious soup into a curry catastrophe.

Heed my warning, if you are buying store bought stock or broth, don't salt liberally until you have done a taste test. You can always add more salt, but you can't take it back.

This is a very nice soup (when properly prepared) and the mild curry spices give just a little kick of flavor to regular old split pea soup.

Curried Split Pea Soup

Source: Alton Brown, Food Network
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
12 ounces dried green or yellow split peas, picked over and rinsed
5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon curry powder


Place the butter into a large (4 to 6-quart) saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, making certain not to allow onions or garlic to brown.

Add the peas, chicken broth and curry powder. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook at a simmer until the peas are tender and not holding their shape any longer, approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Using care and a stick blender, puree the soup until the desired consistency. Watch out for hot splatters.