The vibrant green color is perhaps enough incentive to make this gazpacho-like soup during the height of sweet pea season, but the fresh, bright pea flavor with a chile kick and a hint of mint and lime will convince you too.
If there is one soup that is an absolute must for me in the summer (in addition to Gazpacho of course), it is the cold, silky, incredibly reviving amalgam called Vichyssoise (vih-she-swaz). I have been known to make a gallon at a time and polish it off easily in a week. (Luckily, one can actually survive healthily on a diet of only potatoes supplemented with dairy.)
It’s All Asia All Month at LunaCafe. Of all the dishes I wanted to explore this month, Wonton Soup was at the top of my list. It’s one of the world’s greatest soups and my absolute favorite. This version is as close to perfection as you will find. Be sure to check back as the adventure unfolds this month.
Every fall, I look forward to the arrival of a huge variety of chile peppers at Northwest farmers markets—Poblano, Anaheim, Hatch, Cubanelle, Mesilla, Padron, New Mex Joe, Jalapeno, Crimson Lee, Serrano, Sweet Banana, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Hot Mexican to name a few–along with the gas-fired drum roaster that makes quick work of roasting them.
Over the years, I have eaten this much-lauded soup in every restaurant and café I could find it. I love the concept—toasted chiles, tomatoes, garlic, corn tortillas, and cumin soup base with fried tortillas, avocado, and sour cream embellishments—but not always the execution. Restaurant renditions vary considerably, as do recipes in American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks.
I was walking through the Portland Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago and did a double take on a stack of orange cauliflower. I adore cauliflower (the earthy flavor, the crunchy or creamy texture), and the only nit I can pick with this lovely vegetable is its color. It gets lost on a white plate and looks pallid and unimaginative next to other basic ingredients I love, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and poultry.
When I was a wee bonnie lass, I tolerated raw carrots, but cooked carrots were the kiss of death to my usually robust appetite. In fact, since MauiJim shares my aversion, I began to experiment tenuously with cooked carrots only recently. I usually saute them quickly or add them at the last minute to preserve their crunchy texture.
However, carrot bisque is an exception. The carrots need to be fully tender in order to liquefy them in a blender. And because they are quite sweet by nature, especially when they are young and freshly dug, I treat them in a similar fashion to yams, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.
What I love most about this chowder is its golden yellow hue and full sweet taste of fresh corn just of the cob. Over many summers of fresh corn bounty, I have explored every way imaginable to obtain a more pronounced corn taste in my corn soups, and the method presented here is “numero uno” thus far.
It is also perhaps the easiest method, as it involves pureeing the corn kernels with stock before the cooking begins. Thus, there is no scalding, dripping soup to ladle into a processor. In addition, this method allows for both a puree of corn, corn kernels, and a variety of colorful, perfectly cooked diced vegetables, which really enliven the whole effect.
If you’ve been following along with me this summer, you know I am enthralled with the tomato and strawberry flavor pairing. Earlier, I created Fresh Strawberry-Tomato Dessert Sauce to accompany Heavenly Parmesan Sour Cream Pound Cake. It was a surprise hit. I have to explore at least a couple more strawberry-tomato dishes before the summer season is over.
While pondering what to cook next and flagging from the 90+ degree heat wave that hit Seattle this week, the inevitable happened. I opened the oh-so-wonderfully-cold frig and saw, at eye level, a large bowl of strawberries alongside a large bowl of grape tomatoes, both of which were intended for salad.
When we are in Portland, Oregon and heading out on foot to dinner in town, Wildwood in the Northwest district is always at the top of our list of fave destinations. It’s a lovely mile walk, or if we are feeling exceptionally lazy, we can hop the streetcar almost to the front door. (You might have seen my earlier article on Wildwood titled, Sweet Briar Farms Pork Chop with Bodacious Corn Hush Puppies. Just looking at the photo of that amazing dish makes me go weak at the knees.)
The freshly dug sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) look so tender and crisp in Northwest farmers markets right now, I couldn’t resist buying several pounds last week–even though I wasn’t sure what I would do with them. My cookbook, Pacific Northwest Palate, Four Seasons of Great Cooking, features a sunchoke pancake, but other than that, I really haven’t given this vegetable its fair due over the years.
As much as I want to jump onto the spring bandwagon and create plate upon plate of bright, sprightly salads, it’s, well, much – too – COLD. So today instead of turning to the beautiful bunches of chickweed, sunflower seed sprouts, and baby arugula that are overflowing the frig, I found myself instead spellbound by two homely little chorizo sausages. I started thinking about their savory, smoky flavor, and the next thing that popped into my mind was HOT SOUP. But not just any hot soup mind you, a Spanish soup called Zarzuela.
We settled into our Portland city digs for a few weeks, and one of the first things we did was hike over to the Portland Farmers Market. To tell you that the market was glorious yesterday morning is to be guilty of careless understatement. It was over-the-top magnificent! Peppers, peppers everywhere, in every color and every shape imaginable, freshly dug potatoes, heaps of various types of kale, a colorful abundance of winter squash, dozens of varieties of apples and pears, wild mushrooms, and the last of 3 varieties of fresh corn. My mind was reeling with the possibilities. But what should I cook?
I was about to pass them by but intuition nudged, and I instead asked the obvious question: “What are these?” The vendor replied, “Why these are heirloom carrots of course. And you will never taste a carrot with more complex flavor.” Perhaps in response to the skeptical expression on my face, he added, “Don’t worry about how they look.”
I have tested and retested this soup many times over the years, adjusting the key elements to create a soup with good body and memorable flavor. The onion element, for instance, began as a mere hint of flavor and then expanded, test after test, to a rich depth that fully complements the potato without overwhelming it completely.
Red lentils are wonderful legumes. They look as good as they taste—something of a feat for a member of the legume family. This soup is a casual meal in a bowl, with layers of flavor, heat, and spice—plus a nice balance between the sweetness of the vegetables and the acidity of the lemon juice and sour cream. It tastes best if made a day or two ahead, but we can never wait.
I tasted my first Black Bean Chili at the venerable Green’s vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco many moons ago. It was singularly delicious—an intriguing amalgam of deep, yet clean flavors. Since then, I have created numerous variations on the black bean soup and chili theme. This is the latest and quite possibly the best so far.