Finn the Cooking Assistant will return in a few weeks.
From the Book: Just the Basics
This past week I read An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama. I was on waiting lists for both of these books from the library and they both came in last week. Both of these books bring me back to the basics--Adler with her basic-cooking writing pieces and Obama with putting in her first kitchen garden.
An Everlasting Meal is a great book for a beginning cook or home cooks who use recipes for everything they make. These writing pieces aren't exactly essays and they aren't stories or memoir, either. Sometimes I felt bogged down with mundane kitchen observations. How do you even classify a book like this? Food? Anyway, the gem in this book is the cool fixes in the back (why save the best for last?) Even seasoned cooks want secrets for over cooked beans, over salted rice, over salted pasta, mushy vegetables, etc. I could buy the book for these hints alone. Otherwise, I liked the piece about how to boil water the best for its humor and sparkle.
American Grown by Michelle Obama was a long wait and well worth it. This is a beautiful book with photos and recipes in the back. Corn Soup with Summer Vegetables, Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Chiles, and White Chocolate-Cherry-Carrot cookies are just a few. I loved reading about the history of gardens at the White House, and the profiles of farmers and community gardens across the country. The sweetest surprise was the profile of Picardo P-Patch in Seattle. Community garden spaces really do bring the community together. I liked this book enough to buy my own copy. My Cooking Assistant will appreciate the recipes I make from this book!
Fall and soup stock
Lots of people say winter squash or apples are the turning point for fall, but Saturday when I found celery from Nash's farm, I knew fall had arrived. It's soup time. Oh sure, you might think with all the soups I made last year, I'm over soup, but as soon as the cool weather hits, I get weak and want soup all over again.
True confession: even though it's easy to make, I don't always make a soup stock. Sometimes I'm in a hurry and I cheat and add the usual stock veggies to the soup base, but I never buy that prepackaged stuff. It's a lot of money for flavored water.
Now I'm back to relying on stock for my soups.
Kombu, celery garlic, carrots and water are the building blocks for stock. Kombu brings out the flavors and adds nutrients and it also adds iodine, but shockingly some sources say you shouldn't eat kombu or kelp every day because you get crazy high levels of iodine with kombu and apparently though a little iodine is good, it's not good to overdue iodine levels for thyroid health.
My favorite soup stock recipe comes from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. Seriously, I've really looked at other recipes and I always come back to my own recipe. Lately, I've been adding less kombu and more water to the mix. When I'm in a big hurry, I use a bit of miso, this kind is amazing. If you want to save stock, one thing you don't want to do is freeze it in glass because the glass may break when the stock freezes. I just use it as I make it.
Here's the recipe, but feel free to add bits of vegetables like zucchini, green beans, corn, or sweet potato peels if you want:
Vegetarian Soup Stock
(Makes 8 cups)
12 cups cold water
1 4-inch piece of kombu
3 to 4 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion (optional)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Handful of dried shiitake mushrooms or 4 fresh shiitake sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
1/4 cup lentils
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and refrigerate or use for soup immediately.
While it cooks get out the vegetables for the soup. Peruse recipes--everybody has favorites and one of mine is tortilla soup, and if I'm not making that, I'll simply add avocado as a garnish.