Spoony Sundays #2

Gooooood evening and welcome to the second edition of Spoony Sundays, where we forsake forks and knives for that most graceful of utensils. This week our tastebuds will be given quite a run around. First we’ll dip our spoons into the smoky-spicy soup pots of the south and then lift bowls overflowing with lip-puckering eastern infusions.

The first black bean soup I made was off the label on a can of (you guessed it) black beans. It was one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made— beans, corn, salsa, lime juice and some cumin. In spite of its delicate simplicity though, I eventually had to face the hard fact that my “I just moved out on my own” bean soup was lacking a little something something.

The kind of soup I was after is hearty and rugged, dark and a little bit dangerous. The kind I picture cowboys and frontiersmen rigging up over campfires and eating out of dented tin pots. I couldn’t find any recipes in the latest issue of American Cowboy, so I turned in the opposite direction: Food and Wine. (Like I always say, when the guys in boots let you down try the ones in kitchen clogs.)

F&W’s Mexican Black Bean Soup got an 8 out of 10 out of me. I’m beginning to see how you really need hefty meat stocks for true depth of flavour, but I just didn’t have a ham hock laying around for that kind of recipe. The blob of green on garnishing the soup is my improvised a cilantro-cream.

My second guest tonight is Mandarin Hot and Sour Soup from the Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates cookbook. By the way, if you have trouble coming up with menu plans for parties and special occasions, this is a great book. I can’t wait to try their chocolate-filled calimyrna figs (when such a specific craving next overtakes me).

But before I proceed with extolling the joys of recreating a slightly foreign favourite, I just have to introduce you to the woodear mushroom, or auricularia auricula-judae for short. There he is, making his debut appearance on my blog and in my life. Good to have you, auricula. You were a delight to work with, so slippery in my hands and on my little Asian spoon.

My first attempt at Hot and Sour soup — something I’ve only had the pleasure of enjoying at a Chinese restaurant — was gratifying even if for that reason alone. I also don’t own a mandoline, so julienned carrots came about via a slightly longer, zen-like process (old-fashioned chopping). I still ended up with some pretty nice looking carrot matchsticks — an evocative technical term if I ever heard one. The woodears and bamboo shoots came from our local Asian market.

Both of these soups are thick, simple to prepare, and use affordable ingredients. Both can be made vegetarian or even vegan, and both respond well to flashes of creativity and flourishes of genius. As some of you already have, please let me know if you try these out and how they work for you.

Continue reading

Advertisements

munch the brunch

For some unknown reason, this past weekend’s food theme seemed to be brunch. Saturday night we had friends over and I made quiche — an unusual dinner choice for me that came to be for two reasons: pie crust waiting patiently in freezer + zippy beef chorizo from Sweet Grass Farm (Wendy Gornick again!) I’d been wanting to taste.

quichenew.jpg

This blog is definitely inspiring me to try new things. For me, meat is still somewhat of a “new thing.” The selecting and preparing of a good meat dish is a feat I’ve attempted only a handful of times, preferring instead to keep company with the other food groups. Plus, with the state of industrial farming I never really wanted to get to know those of the loin, rump, and thigh varieties. As I learn more about local and pasture-raised meat though, my interest in testing the waters beyond my little island of pseudo-vegetarianism is piqued. And in this weekend’s case, quiched.

dsc_1801.jpg

Quiche is one of those things that logically I should be gaga over, but in practice never crave, order, or make. It took a classic moment of hubby weakness for me to decide to turn my chorizo into a quiche — a harmless “I looooove quiche” uttered from his lips quickly translated in my brain as “must make quiche for man.” Call it some kind of primal nurturing impulse but I’m a softie when my man displays his food preferences. Call me old-fashioned; I see it as a renewable source of ideas. I free-styled the recipe, following one online for the baking times only.

dsc_1804.jpg

(hee hee, dessert delivers a sneak preview!) I paired My First Quiche with a salad of mixed greens, scallions, chopped figs, toasted almonds, and a vinaigrette that I’m definitely making my house dressing. We also had a baguette with basil olive oil and balsamic for dipping. And wine of course, to keep the French-o-meter high. The above pictures are of our dessert. Vanilla Bean ice cream with crushed key-lime-macadamia-nut-cookies (given to us as a hostess present), lime zest, and whipped cream.

To add to the brunch theme, our mid-Sunday was spent celebrating friends’ immanent elopement (is that a word?) over the perfect Blueberry Baked French Toast. As if our host hadn’t already outdone herself, there were hash browns, salads, baked goods, an asparagus fritatta, mimosas, and a loose tea bar. The bride to be brought delicate little cupcakes iced with (I think!) lemon cream. It was a sunny day and I felt the antsyness of spring begin to bubble inside me. It must’ve been the tulips, competing with the cupcakes for attention on the coffee table.

Continue reading