Rasam from Cooking at Home with Pedatha

I’m pretty sure I’ve raved about Cooking at Home with Pedatha before. I can’t share today’s recipe because it was a faithful following of the rasam recipe in that book, but I do want to urge you to consider buying this book if you are at all interested in Indian food. Although it’s very pretty (there are pictures of all the dishes, and even a picture glossary), there are a few factors that would ordinarily prevent it from being one of my favorite cookbooks: it’s quite short, it calls for some ingredients that I have difficulty obtaining (and I live in an extremely ethnic food-friendly area), and the authors use unfamiliar names for even those ingredients I can get, requiring me to have to translate many of the recipes. Several of the recipes call for other recipes, increasing production time.

But don’t let those things scare you away! Where this book excels, other than its inherent charm (it’s a loving tribute to a grandmother compiled by two family members), is the podis and all the dishes that call for them. A podi is a “powder”, or spice combination, usually calling for various whole spices to be roasted then ground together, which is then used to flavor dals, rice, and soups. Every podi-related dish I have made from this book has been magical. When I commented above that some recipes call for other recipes, I was referring mostly to the use of these podis. It’s unfair, however, to ding the book for this because the podi recipes make about a cup and the recipes calling for it use about a tablespoon each, so once you make a podi, you won’t have to go through that process the next several times you make the recipe. And believe me, you’ll want to make these recipes again and again.

Friday night I made up a batch of the rasam podi and made Pedatha’s rasam. Rasam is one of my favorite soups. I did a post on it a long time ago, and I posted a picture of some homemade rasam a co-worker sent me home with when once I proclaimed my love of it. Pedatha’s rasam is, of course, AWESOME. Mark and I ate the entire batch in one sitting. And the great thing is, now that I have the podi prepared, I can whip some more up from some late summer tomatoes in mere minutes!

In other food-related news, I bought a dehydrator last week and am currently going crazy dehydrating everything possible. I’ve literally had the dehydrator going non-stop since it arrived. Skeptical Mark has pointed out that I tend to enthusiastically start projects and then quickly lose interest in them and he seems to think dehydrating will be another such fad. I don’t think so. Dehydrating is so easy that I don’t think it will take up much time I could later decide I’d rather be spending doing other things. Really the only time investment is chopping and I enjoy chopping. And buying dehydrated fruits and vegetables in incredibly expensive, so I’m very excited about the money I’ll save, for example on my trail mix. Plus, I can use the dehydrator for making tempeh and yogurt, both of which I’ve been meaning to get back into doing and now I have a great reason. I can also raise dough in it. I’ve never had a problem raising dough in the house, but if I want to time it a bit more precisely, the dehydrator’s temperature regulation will allow that. Also, although there are a couple of months left before I’ll need to come to terms with it, at some point the farmers market is going to close for the season and I’m going to freak out. So I’ve been trying to capture an essence of it by dehydrating what I can so I can use it over the winter.

Here’s what I’ve dried so far: tomatoes (there a another huge batch of tomatoes nearly ready to leave the dehydrator tonight), bananas, strawberries, (I have another quart and two huge bunches of bananas to get to this week), onion powder, carrots, and bell peppers. The latter two I may combine along with some potatoes, onions, and celery into a “soup mix”. When I’m desperate for a lunch to take into work, I’ll sometimes whip up a super-quick soup from a can of tomatoes, some bouillon, some dehydrated veggies, and orzo. I used some of my dried tomatoes on pizza last night and they were quite good.

I have also dried some garlic and am drying a whole bunch more right now, which I’ll grind into garlic powder. The dehydrator will also save me money at my notorious Penzeys binges! I’m also planning to make tofu jerky as a treat for Mark. I’ve made it before but it’s been a long time – anyone have a favorite tofu jerky recipe? What are your other favorite things to dehydrate? Any other creative uses for the dehydrator?

Not much else food-related has been going on. I’ve been super busy lately; annoyingly so. I can’t even remember what I’ve been cooking, I’ve been so busy. Lots of stuff involving farmers market fare, but I guess nothing earth-shattering enough that I’ve felt compelled to make a post, or maybe I just haven’t had time. I’m enjoying blackberry season; my current favorite snack is Daiya jack on crackers topped with blackberry:

As for animal news, I transported a baby chimney swift the other day and he was by far the cutest baby bird I’ve ever seen. This is a bad picture, but it’s all I have:

Today as I pulled into the raccoon sanctuary, there was a family of deer standing about five feet from my parking spot, so I wasn’t able to drive down the driveway. Instead I slowly got out of my car and started snapping pictures.

They eventually got tired of that and ran off, so I was able to park. Today was a big day for the last six raccoons in the nursery, who graduated to the big outdoor enclosures! I coined a new saying to replace one I hate, “curiosity killed the cat”: “curiosity captured the raccoon”. Unfortunately, out of context it sounds like a saying I would dislike just as much as the original because in general capturing raccoons is a bad thing. But raccoons who want to leave their baby cages in the nursery and move to their big-boy (and girl) enclosures outside need to be temporarily captured in a carrier in order to be transported. Many of you with cats may be familiar with the difficulty of putting an unwilling cat into a carrier. It CAN be the same, possibly even worse due to their super-dexterous fingers and toes, with raccoons, however, we were lucky with these six. We put some pork rinds (a raccoon favorite) in some carriers and simply waited for their curiosity to prevail and soon enough all six had climbed into a carrier and were briskly locked in and carried out to their new home. Raccoons are so curious we probably didn’t even need the pork rind incentive, but it sure didn’t hurt. I was so into this task I forgot to take pictures, but here is a picture from last week that I love, which incidentally is of a raccoon eating a pork rind…and smiling about it!

Comments (8)

Garlic Scape Soup

Renae here with an other weather-inappropriate recipe. Actually, that’s not true. Although a nice hot bowl of soup is probably not the most tempting-sounding dish when it’s 100-freaking-degrees out, based on its ingredients – garlic scapes, fresh garlic, new potatoes – this soup is kind of late-spring-to-the-max. One year it’s impossible to find garlic scapes anywhere but the Korean grocery store (where they go by the name “garlic stems”), the next, all the farmers have them at the market, for week after week!

Garlic Scape Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 bunch garlic scapes, chopped
1 lb new potatoes, chopped
6 cups vegan broth or water + bouillon
1 Tbsp soy sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
optional toppings: drizzle of a flavored oil you like, thinly sliced scallions, vegan cheese shreds, vegan bacon bits, croutons, fried onions or scallions, fresh herbs

My farmers market had fresh garlic – normal cloves of garlic that hadn’t yet been dried – which is what I used. It doesn’t keep as long as your standard dried head of garlic, but it’s an interesting change of pace. I can’t decide if it tastes more or less pungent than the freshest dried garlic, although it’s definitely more flavorful than garlic that has been around too long. It really just seems to taste “fresher” (some help I am, right?). The big difference is just that instead of peeling off thin, dry, papery layers to get to each clove, you peel off thicker, wetter layers until you get to the point you can squeeze each bulb out. You can use whatever kind of garlic strikes your fancy, however.

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, then add the minced or pressed garlic and the garlic scapes and cook for another minute or two. If necessary and desired, you can deglaze the pot with a bit of white wine. Then add the potatoes, broth, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Puree with an immersion blender. (Or let it cool a bit and puree in small batches in a regular blender. I, however, don’t trust hot liquids in blenders.) Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. If desired, top with some stuff. Pictured are Daiya cheddar “cheese” shreds, scallions, and vegan bacon bits.

Most of you probably can’t tell because I’ve never put nearly the amount of effort I should be into taking my food pictures, but today’s food pictures are even lower quality than usual. That’s because I took them at work with my phone. I devoured the soup too quickly when I made it for dinner Tuesday night to take a picture, so I took a picture of the leftovers when I had them for lunch at work today. The sad thing is I had my real camera with me – it generally goes wherever I go – but when I went to take the picture, I realized I’d left the battery in the charger at home. AND I’d left all the spare batteries in my other camera bag.

I’ll use this as an opportunity to proselytize about taking time out for lunch at work, though. I know you aren’t supposed to eat at your desk because it’s good to get up, get out, and enjoy a change of scenery somewhere you can’t be tempted to do work while you eat, but we’re a fairly small business without a cafeteria or other appropriate eating place. I could have gone outside, but did I mention it’s 100 degrees outside? Lugging a bowl of hot soup down 8 flights of stairs to eat it under the blazing sun just didn’t seem practical. There is a small table in the kitchen, but eating there just invites everyone who uses the kitchen to talk to you and I don’t like talking to people during my lunch. I like eating my lunch during my lunch. And reading books. So I do eat at my desk, but I log out of the computer, stick my nose in a book, and glare at anyone that happens to drop by to ask me something until they back off and agree to come back later. And I’m a huge fan of making my lunches as nice as I can as a little treat for myself. I usually eat leftovers, so sometimes my lunch is just not that pretty, but I try to dress them up when I can. Today right after lunch I had to do a demo for an application I wrote and I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE public speaking. However, having a pleasant lunch with a nicely-topped bowl of soup (and, importantly, reading a book instead of freaking out) right before the demo chilled me out and guess what? I didn’t even have one of my usual public-speaking dry-throat choking spells!

In photography news, the other week I went to Red Rock Wilderness Overlook for the first time. I knew it was a small park but I was thinking maybe because it isn’t very popular, I’d run into more wildlife. I also thought it would have nice views of the Potomac. Unfortunately, I’ve been spoiled by the Potomac view at Great Falls so my expectations were set way too high. It was an easy fraction of a mile to the overlook, but all it overlooked was a very still, very brown, rather boring Potomac, partially obscured by a tall fence with lots of “NO ENTRY BEYOND THIS POINT” signs. No rushing falls, no rapids, no interesting rocks, no hawks flying overhead. No crowds of people, sure (mine was the only car in the parking lot), but also no signs of wildlife other than a squirrel or two.

It was kind of boring. What there were, however, were a few agreeable damselflies, who make much better photography sitters than dragonflies. The full size versions of these are much better so I’ve made these two pictures clickable if you are interested.

A slightly different variety. Their face are like robots! They’re fascinating. In real life, this damselfly was about an inch and a half from end to end. They are very tiny; these macro shots exaggerate their size. I think that’s why their little robot faces are so amazing to me – they are little bigger than the head of a pin.

Other than friendly damselflies, the one interesting thing about Red Rock is the ruins that surround the parking lot. They were part of the farm that used to be there 150 years ago. What I assume is the original farmhouse is also still there but it’s not in ruins and in fact is inhabited and private property. So you sort of have to walk through these people’s back yard to get to the trails.

This, I think, was the well house.

One room of the two-room granary:

Outside of the two-room granary:

The ice house is located away from the other ruins and is instead behind the farmhouse.

There was a man working in his garden behind the farmhouse while I was there, which made me feel a little tresspass-y, even though I wasn’t, but I didn’t feel so weird I was unable to grab a picture of his house because I love old houses.

Comments (4)

Sauerkraut Stew

Okay, I bet some of you are hoping I never go on vacation again. Good news: I have a recipe and a mere four pictures today! (Bad news: we have a week-long mountain escape planned in a few weeks, but I can’t imagine that will overtake my blog for a month afterwards.)

First of all, Happy Bloomsday! It’s mid June and although so far weather on the East Coast has been cycling from unbearably hot (Memorial Day weekend) and super-nice (this week), I decided the other night that I was making a stew for dinner. Honestly, it was a pretty wintry dish, but I eat soup year-round and I won’t apologize for it! Also, I had some sauerkraut that needed to be eaten. And I missed the farmers market last weekend so I didn’t have many vegetables and was totally lacking in inspiration. I suppose you could say my lack of inspiration inspired this stew.

Sauerkraut Stew

12 oz vegan “beef” (I used Gardein Beefless Tips, but TVP chunks or any seitan would work, and I think Soy Curls would have been excellent.)
1 medium onion, chopped (instead of this, I used pearl onions)
2 large carrots, chunked
2 stalks celery, chopped large on the bias
1 large or 2 small/medium potatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups vegan “beef” broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups sauerkraut
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. If you are using regular onions cook them for a few minutes. (If you are using pearl onions, skip this step and just add them with the other vegetables.) Add whatever “beef” you are using and brown it, then add the garlic and fry for a minute or so. Then add the rest of the vegetables and fry for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes and use their juices to deglaze the pot if necessary. Add the “beef” broth, sauerkraut, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about half an hour or until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mark and I top almost all our meals with some form of hot sauce, and I naturally assumed I’d add some to this stew, however, it was so delightfully perfectly sour, with a small kick of heat from the pepper, that I didn’t want to ruin it with hot sauce, especially a vinegar-based one. You’ll want to add the sauerkraut in accordance to your tastes, depending both on how sour your sauerkraut is and how sour you like your stew. Mark took one bite of his and said simply, “I approve.”

Guess what we haven’t had in a while? A raccoon update! We have, I think, 27 babies right now, and most of them are very healthy; several have overcome great hardships like being burned in a chimney and being chomped by some unknown predator. What we need is help! We really don’t have enough volunteers. Anyone in Northern Virginia interested in cleaning (or building) raccoon cages….and feeding little faces like this?!

Meet Tobias. He’s a real sweetie and one of my favorites.

This is not Ulysses; I believe it’s Unity, however we do have a Ulysses and I’m not telling whether or not I put Guinness in his formula today for Bloomsday! (Alright, I’ll tell: obviously I didn’t.)

Remember Emmy, the awesome surrogate mother who is raising five of our babies for us? Here she is during Memorial Day weekend trying to beat the heat by hiding under a deck. You never know where you might find a raccoon at the sanctuary! She was probably a lot cooler than me.

Comments (6)

Lima Bean Soup

Thanksgiving is my father’s favorite holiday. My mother does not like to cook (and my father does not cook), so I think Thanksgiving may be her least favorite holiday. But no one wants to disappoint my dad, and no restaurants are going to have anything for me and Mark, so my mother continues to make Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, everyone’s problems would be solved if I were allowed to host Thanksgiving dinner since I love to cook and I love hosting dinner parties, but that’s a rather Renae-centric perspective because I’m pretty sure my father would counter there’d be the problem of a lack of a dead turkey. ANYWAY, I’m trying to help ease the burden on my mother and aunt by bringing whatever I can. This year one of the things I offered to bring was succotash.

Now, in prior years I would never have made such an offer, because lima beans, gross! But then a couple of years ago I found fresh lima beans at the farmers market and learned I do like lima beans. In fact, not too long ago, I made succotash – the single part of Thanksgiving I despised as a child – and loved it. So I said I could make succotash this year, IF I could use dried baby limas instead of the nasty frozen ones. But I’ve never made it from dried beans before, so today as a trial I soaked and cooked some of those dried baby limas, mixed a few with some corn and Earth Balance, and tried to decide if I thought there was a chance my family would eat it. It tasted fine, but I haven’t yet admitted to Mom that dried limas are white, not green like the frozen ones, so not only is it an extremely boring looking dish, it may be too different-looking to pass muster with my father. I’m thinking about adding some chopped scallions for Thanksgiving, though, to give it color.

That’s a very long way of telling you that today I had a mess of cooked baby limas and nothing to do with them. Actually, they’d have been fine just waiting for Thursday so I guess I didn’t have to do anything with them. But I like cooking a whole bunch of things at once for holidays, so I’d just as soon cook another batch of limas on Wednesday. (Is that weird?) Today’s limas went in…well, if you’ve been reading long enough, you know. Soup. If I don’t know what to do with something, it’s soup. Soup, soup, lovely soup. Oh 8-year old Renae, how I love to confound you with my lima bean creations.

Lima Bean Soup

8 oz dried baby lima beans
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped (I included some leaves, too)
3 medium carrots, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 oz white wine
14.5 oz tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 cups vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Note: I cooked my lima beans separately from the soup because I was trying them in a different dish as well. You could also simply cook the limas in the soup, adding 30-60 minutes to the soup cooking time as needed.

Soak the lima beans overnight in cold water, or pour boiling water over them and “quick soak” for an hour or two. Drain, then cook in fresh water to cover until done. I think it took about 45 minutes for mine; maybe not even that.

Chop all the vegetables, then heat some oil in a Dutch oven and add the onions, celery, and carrot. Cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Deglaze the pot with the wine. Add the chopped tomatoes and thyme and cook for another minute or two, then add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then add the limas.

Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. This is particularly good with a nice crusty bread and salad.

In cat news, Gomez gave us a scare last night when he didn’t appear for cat dinner. Mark searched the house while I went outside in the cold desperately calling his name. Eventually I went back inside in full panic mode and started randomly opening closet doors I knew Mark had already searched. I was talking to Mark and absentmindedly opened a dresser drawer…and out sprung Gomez like a jack-in-the-box! Which was both astonishing and a tremendous relief, although I’d like to know why he didn’t ANSWER US when we called him. Apparently he just sat in there in oblivion for 45 minutes. Well, other than the psychic “meow” he sent me. I had thought I heard a faint meow just before getting up to get their dinner, and I said to Mark, “Gomez is trapped somewhere!”, in fact, that’s why I got up to get their dinner. But Mark hadn’t heard it and didn’t think anything of it until Mez didn’t appear for his food. If Gomez HAD meowed from the dresser, I couldn’t possibly have heard him in the room I was in, so I guess my brain was just sending me a signal he was in trouble. It was weird. Here are some pictures of Gomez NOT trying to give me a heart attack.

Comments (10)

Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream

As a food blogger, I sometimes have to make decisions, which I’m not particularly good at doing. I must decide if I’m posting regularly enough, if I have something interesting enough to post, if I have something original enough to post…it’s a hard knock life. Okay, it’s not all that hard. But sometimes I think no one will possibly be interested in what I’ve made and I have to decide if it’s worth posting. There are a million black bean soup recipes on the internet and in every basic cookbook. Who needs another one? Especially one that has nothing original about it. It’s true I didn’t consult any recipes when I made black bean soup tonight – I just made it. But it’s also true there’s absolutely nothing special about it. However, it’s also true that after getting a second helping, Mark said it was “totally awesome” and I rather agreed, and in cases like that I err on the side of posting instead of not. For one thing, I do sometimes refer to my own blog to recall how I made something I want to repeat, or improve, so if nothing else I’m doing it for myself. But for another thing, I like reading other blogs even when they are about something I’ve made a bunch of times before. For one thing, I think it’s interesting to see how other people think and cook even basic things, and for another, even if I don’t learn anything, sometimes I’m simply reminded I haven’t had something in a while. So, I’m sorry, but tonight I haven’t made anything that will make you gasp in surprise, and I haven’t visited anywhere exotic or special, and my cats haven’t even done anything particularly photogenic. All that’s happened is I made a simple black bean soup and it was good. And that’s tonight’s post.

Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cream

10 oz dried beans, cooked (I quick-soaked mine for an hour in boiling water, then cooked in the pressure cooker for about 8 minutes) (this is probably about the equivalent of 2 cans)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 huge or 2 normal-sized carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 ear of corn, shucked and kernels cut off
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 tsp cumin
6 cups vegan broth, either vegetable or “chicken” flavored
1 cube frozen cilantro, or 3 Tbsp fresh, chopped
juice of one lemon, plus additional lemon wedges for serving

Avocado Cream
1 avocado
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
juice of 1/2 lime

Blend together the avocado cream ingredients and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, saute the onions, carrots, and celery in some hot oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. When the vegetables are soft, add the garlic and saute another minute or two, then add the rest of the soup ingredients except the lemon. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for half an hour, then puree, making it as smooth or chunky as you prefer, using an immersion blender. (Or let cool slightly, then blend in batches in a regular blender.) Stir in the lemon juice. Serve topped with the avocado cream and with lemon wedges on the side for drizzling.

Another sign I shouldn’t be boring the internet with another black bean soup recipe is the fact it was IMPOSSIBLE to take a photo of it. I’m a pretty mediocre food photographer, but I was struggling even more than usual tonight. The problem is I have no patience when I’m hungry, which is why my blog will never be as beautiful as Hannah’s of Bittersweet or Ksenia’s of Tales of a Spoon, or a lot of other food bloggers out there. Moreover, the avocado cream was heavier than I thought and sank into the soup. What you’re seeing in the picture is just, as they say, the tip of the iceberg. Then I accidentally dropped the lemon wedge into the soup and it also sank. It is, however, supporting the second, visible lemon wedge. And then the lighting, which is the same lighting I take 95% of my final-dish pictures in, was just horrible today, more so than usual for an unknown reason. And black bean soup is really boring-looking to being with. IT WAS VERY HARD BEING A FOOD BLOGGER TONIGHT. But this is it! I’m keeping it real! This is my crappy picture of my delicious-but-not-innovative black bean soup! ENJOY!

It’s a good thing I have cats to fall back on. They are like a crutch for the uninspired food blogger. Look, it’s Gomez! He’s more interesting – and far more beautiful – than my food!

Comments (9)

Ramp Soup

I worked from home today, partially to recover from last night‘s ridiculous commute. When I went to bed last night, I had intended to go into the office today, and so had packed a lunch, which included a bowl of some vegetable soup I’d made a pot of on Sunday night to use for weekly lunches. But when lunchtime rolled around and I was at home, I felt as if I were depriving myself of the opportunity to cook if I just heated up the soup I had packed. On the other hand, though, I was working and didn’t have time to cook. So what did I do? Made a different kind of soup, of course. There’s something wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with the soup I made, though, in fact, it was fantastic. You see, I had some ramps from last night left over, and what do I do with most leftovers? Soup!

Ramp Soup

1 lb potatoes, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 oz ramps, cleaned well, white parts chopped, green parts roughly chopped
4 cups vegan broth (I used “chicken” flavored)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
lemon wedges, for serving

Dice and chop the potatoes, celery, carrot, and ramps, and place in a soup pot. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft. Season with pepper. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender. To serve, drizzle with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Here are all the awesome things about this soup:

  1. Next to no effort: a little bit of chopping, and then a little blending. In between, you can do other things. This was great for working from home: I got the satisfaction of a homemade soup, with very little interruption of my work.
  2. Fast: if you dice the potatoes small enough, and boil the water in a kettle while you chop, this can be ready in as little as 20 minutes.
  3. Fat-free: Not only did skipping sauteing the veggies save time, but there was no need to add oil.
  4. It involves ramps!
  5. It tastes great!

Really, this soup was great. I’ll make it again. I served it with a “chicken” salad sandwich, served on a Five Grain Levain roll (I try to keep a bunch of these in my freezer). I thought when I made the sandwich that it looked like a dinosaur head, but when I looked at the picture later, I thought it looked like a human skull. Either way I’m probably crazy, eh?

Other than my delicious lunch, today has been quiet. The cats are probably confused because although he’s at the office today, Mark works from home 95% of the time and I work from the office 95% of the time, so it’s unusual I’d be here and he wouldn’t. They don’t seem like they’re letting this oddity bother them much, though.

Torticia stuck her tongue out at me when I wanted her picture:

And I’m just boring Gomez:

Doesn’t he look like a bear?!?

Comments (6)

Old Bay Soup

Mark and I are just back from a 5-day trip to Charleston to visit his family. When we arrived home, I was famished and there was no food in the house, so I had to go to Wegmans and do some grocery shopping, after which I quickly shoved a frozen burrito and some chips & salsa down my throat so I didn’t pass out from hunger, effectively spoiling my appetite for dinner. Then around 9, of course, I wanted something else to eat, but didn’t want to eat a huge meal. I also wanted to have something to take to work for lunch tomorrow. So, as is my wont, I made a big pot of soup. Today’s feature: Old Bay soup. Which is basically just a soup I dumped a bunch of Old Bay into. I’m a Baltimore girl, but since I haven’t eaten seafood in 22 years, I have to get my Old Bay fix in other formats…and soup’s a favorite.

I was hungry and not thinking of saving the recipe, so even more than usual, these amounts are estimates. Soups like this one are very much taste-and-season-as-you-go.

Old Bay Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
a couple of squirts of Bragg’s liquid aminos (or a tablespoon or two soy sauce)
1 tsp dried seaweed, your choice (optional; I used wakame)
6 cups vegan broth or water + vegan bouillon (your favorite flavor)
1/3 cup bulgur
1/3 cup long- or medium-grain rice (or 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed – as I was eating it I wished I’d used quinoa!)
diced “meat” of your choice – I used Gardein Chick’n Scallopini, but any seitan, tofu, young jackfruit, or commercial vegan “meat” will work, or you can just skip it
1/2 tsp kelp powder (optional)
handful or two green beans, trimmed and chopped or french-cut
1 cup frozen or fresh corn
1/2 tsp thyme
1-2 Tbsp Old Bay
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and celery seed; cook until the onions are soft. (If your “meat’ needs to be browned, add it with the onions as well.) Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until bulgur and rice are cooked, about 45 minutes. Season to taste – you probably won’t need any salt as Old Bay is very salty.

So, as I mentioned, we just returned from Charleston. A tidal stream runs past Mark’s mom’s house, and I was visited by ducks each morning as I sat on the porch and ate breakfast.

There is also a pond about a block from the house, where about a minute after you arrive, turtles will swim up to you. They’re huge!

The most startling and surprising wildlife I saw, though, was Din! Din was Mark’s cat when Mark and I met. He gave Din to his parents when he moved in with me because Tigger and Brachtune would have killed Din. Well, Din never forgave either of us – she hates us – and sometimes we don’t catch a single glimpse of her the whole time we are down there. She’s getting braver and has been making appearances after a day or two, but this is the first time I’ve been able to capture her on “film”. Here she is peeping around the corner to assess the situation. Very exciting.

I showed a little too much interest in her, so she ran under a chair for safety. Big sissy.

Mark’s family lives near Folly Beach, which is home to the Morris Island lighthouse.

And here we are being cute in front of the lighthouse:

Comments (3)

Italian Bread Soup

In her years of extensive research into our family history, I don’t think my mother has found a single Italian ancestor for me (nor does Mark have any, despite his father’s spurious claim that he had “hot Italian blood coursing through [his] veins.”) Nonetheless, I believe I’d make a good honorary Italian for this recipe. Essentially, I had about a third of a loaf of bread leftover from last week’s bake, the crust of which was rock hard, but the inside of which (thanks to my latest invention the “long life” bread bag, and yes, I’ll be making a second one soon for your benefit and doing a tutorial) was still soft. So basically I could get a knife through it, but the crust would have broken your teeth. Like many Italians, I didn’t want it to go to waste, though, so I decided to make bread soup. In fact, practically this entire soup was made from leftovers of one sort of another. I am thrifty!

Italian Bread Soup

1/2 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups vegan broth (I used the broth leftover from making Smoked Seitan Butt last night)
1 14.5 oz can Roman or white beans
1 cup diced or crushed tomatoes (I used leftover homemade tomato sauce from Friday night’s dinner)
3 cups baby spinach (I had some that was a bit past its prime and thought it would be great for soup)
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
stale white bread, like sourdough, cut or torn into medium-large pieces (you’ll often see “day-old” bread called for, but mine was a full week old)

Heat some olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onions, celery, and carrots. When the onions are translucent, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the broth, beans, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and cook for another minute or two, then add the bread and let it become soaked through.

It’s a beautiful day here in Northern Virginia! I’m about to go run some errands, with the top down on my car, it’s so nice! The only downside is the kittens are starting to once again think maybe they should be going outside.

Comments (8)

“Cream” of Asparagus Soup

Will I ever be not busy? It doesn’t seem like it, but I think my life should calm down in January, so hopefully then I’ll be back to posting more regularly, with my normal obnoxious photographing-every-little-step posts. In the meantime, here is a quick post featuring some soup I made for dinner tonight. It’s really just this Cream of Asparagus Soup recipe on AllRecipes, veganized, though it is also very similar to the Creamless Cream of Asparagus Soup I made earlier this year.

“Cream” of Asparagus Soup

3 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegan broth
1 bundle asparagus, chopped
1 large or 2 small potatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven, then add the onion and celery and saute until soft and golden. Stir in the flour, stirring until completely smooth to avoid lumps. Add the vegan broth – I like to heat water to a boil in my electric kettle, then pour it into the pot and add the bouillon – and stir until smooth and thickened. Add the asparagus, potatoes, and soy sauce and bring to a boil …

… then reduce heat and simmer for half an hour or until potatoes and asparagus are soft. Season with as much freshly ground pepper as you’d like. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender, or let cool for a while and transfer to a blender in batches and blend …

… then return to pot and bring back up to temperature if necessary before serving.

It doesn’t look all that exciting, but looks can be deceiving – this is really tasty. Mark informed me this was “completely awesome” and had two huge servings…then later while doing the dishes lamented the fact that he ate too much. Mark added rice to his for some texture; I ate mine plain and spooned barbecued beans over my portion of rice. Either way it’s quick, easy, healthy, and delicious.

LA is beginning to seem like so long ago, but I promised you a Cats of LA photo essay, so here you go:

My gosh doesn’t this look like Brachtune?!

Oh wait, that last cat isn’t of LA….yet ..?

Comments (11)

I Ate Too Much in L.A. Cabbage Barley Tomato Soup

OH MY GOD I ate a lot of food in L.A.! By the last day I was starting to miss homecooked meals and swore I was going to eat nothing but salad for the next month to atone for my gluttony. Well, I could happily eat a salad every day for a month, but obviously I’m going to need more than that. I still want to keep things light this week though, so I decided to make soup and salad for dinner last night. Here is the soup I made:

Cabbage Barley Tomato Soup

1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups veggie broth
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
1 14.5 oz can Great Northern (or other similar) beans
1/3 cup pearled barley
several leaves cabbage (I used savoy), chiffonaded or chopped
lots of freshly ground pepper

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven, then add the onions, celery, and carrots, and saute until onions are starting to brown. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Deglaze the pot with some sherry, wine, or broth, then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until barley is cooked and soup is slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

This was pretty good; hearty enough to fill me up (accompanied by a salad) but light enough to not make me feel fat. It tasted even better for lunch today.

I don’t have anything else food related to tell you about L.A., so if you’re here only for the food, that wraps up today’s post. Those interested in a few travel photos can stick around, although I’ll have to warn you I didn’t take any photos at all that I consider particularly great. I don’t usually go for particularly touristy things and I don’t like celebrities, so I didn’t go on any tours or anything and most of what I did was what any resident of the city would do: eat, read, and shop. Of course, my shopping was limited to book and thrift stores, which is all the shopping I can tolerate – no Rodeo Drive for me, thanks. I’ve mentioned some of the bookstores already, but if you didn’t know, L.A. is a great town for thrifting. I went home with 2 or 3 times as many clothes as I arrived with and I think I spent a total of $50 on clothes.

Anyway, on with a pictorial representation of my visit. Here is where you can legally graffiti on Venice Beach:

Obligatory shots of the ubiquitous Hollywood sign:

From Runyon Canyon

From the Observatory

Close up

Foucault pendulum in the Griffith Observatory:

(By the way, I read Foucault’s Pendulum this year and hated it, but I still think the device is neat.)

One of Fortinbras’ favorite places is the Getty Villa and he was anxious to share it with us. It’s a beautiful museum devoted to Greek and Roman antiquity. Half of the beauty of this place is its serene setting; just walking around the grounds is nearly as exciting as looking at the art and artifacts and the architecture of the place itself is in fact true artwork. Here are some random photos:

This is an herb garden. It also contains citrus trees, from which Fortinbras says you can pluck fruit for free in season, however I wouldn’t take Fort’s word for it because he’s a known liar.

When we were reviewing my pics later, Fort wanted to make this one his desktop.

This is papyrus.

Fort’s favorite sculpture; he likes to pretend he is this drunk guy slurring his words at a party.

He also likes this one:

Mark, however, apparently prefers this one:

(This is a reproduction statue visitors are encouraged to touch by the way; Mark doesn’t molest real art.)

The Getty Villa apparently does this to me:

Stay tuned next time for The Cats of L.A., a photo essay by Renae.

Comments (8)

Next entries » · « Previous entries