Tag Archives: Soup

New beginnings, a new day, it’s Groundhog Day?

3 Feb

It’s been quite a while, dear reader, and my life was quickly overrun with various changes. Our beloved dog passed away, and I started a new job involving a longer commute, and different hours.

Of course, my blog suffered dearly, as I was unable to juggle everything as gracefully as I hoped.

Needless to say… A small triumph, despite the blizzard that whipped past the region last week, dumping 2 feet of snow, or the snow-sleet-freezing rain-snow fiesta that blanketed the area again…. I managed to pack my own bento today, inspired by a mouthwatering piece from Serious Eats I’ve salivated over the past few month.

I followed the basic steps – layering cooked udon noodles (I started with kanmen or dried noodles) and added blanched snow peas, carrots, scallions, a generous bit of roast chicken from Makinajian Poultry Farm – their herb roasted chicken has the most deliciously aromatic skin and juicy meat – and a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon, mushroom into my trusty Nissan Thermos.

Lunchtime came, and I filled the thermos with hot water, resealed the goodness for four (long) minutes, and voila!!

The photos truly are snapshots of the moment – however, they don’t capture my anxious moments before opening up the container revealing my long, anticipated udon lunch!!

I’ve had a few unsuccessful batches, where I sadly ate my mistakes – underseasoned soup, poorly drained noodles resulting in a gelatinous mess at the bottom, raw vegetables that didn’t seem to warm up despite the amount of time I kept the lid on…..

However this time, dear reader, it was a success!!





Hurricane Stew

29 Oct

With Sandy bearing down upon the east coast, I’ve been keeping my mind off of the weather reports by keeping busy in the kitchen.

For Irene, it was a white-bean, turkey, kale stew. For Sandy, I made a red lentil-kale-root vegetable (turnips, carrots, onion, potatoes, garlic) celery stew in the slow cooker.

Despite the whistling wind batting the trees in the yard, the hearty, fragrant, rich smell permeates throughout the house as we anxiously watch the impending approach of the storm.


Comfort is a bowl away

16 Oct

After watching a mouth-watering episode of their favorite cartoon, Anpanman featuring a character flying in a ramen-bowl, the girls asked in unison, “We want men-men!”

Didn’t have ramen, but a bowl of udon in soup, topped with turkey soboro, blanched hakusai or Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas, blanched carrots, narutomaki and cooked egg will just have to do!!

A weekend classic for the girls of the household…


Irene soup August 27, 2011

6 Sep

Bean, sausage, kale, carrot, shimeji soup

Between being frightened by the news, and worrying about my vegetable garden being destroyed by Hurricane Irene – the eve of the arrival of the storm was spent with a lot of hand-wringing, pacing and worrying.

My older daughter helped me empty the contents of our covered patio deck into a lovely M.C. Escher -inspired assembly of stubborn patio chairs, precariously balanced over bicycles, a Radio Flyer, and a hodge podge of gardening items methodically stacked inside my ex-car garage-currently-Papa’s-woodworking-man-cave. 

We then ran outside to the vegetable garden, and tried to pick as many string beans/yard-long beans and tomatoes before nightfall.  My little one spun dizzy circles in the yard, her arms out-stretched and her sundress puffing into little parasol shapes as she sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Stauw (Star, with Brooklyn accent, thanks to Lala at daycare).”  My older daughter grabbed handfuls of beans and cherry tomatoes next to me.

I then hustled everyone back into the house once the rain started falling.

To calm myself, I decided I’ll cook.  Let’s call it, “Irene Soup.”

Here are the ingredients:

1 container, Trader Joe’s Hearty vegetable stock

1 lbs dried Cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed

2 large handfuls of string beans pulled from the garden, de-stringed and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 large onions, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 carrots, peeled, and cut into 1/8 inch pieces

4 celery stalks, rinsed, and cut into 1/8 inch pieces

Handful of kale from our garden – probably about 8 medium leaves – julienned across the “rib”

Handful cherry tomatoes from our garden

1 packet Hokuto Bunashimeji mushrooms – rinsed, and the bottom “stalk” part trimmed.  The mushrooms were pulled into small clusters.

2 sweet Italian sausages, grilled, and cut into bite-sized pieces.  These were left-over from an earlier dinner.

1 Tbs chopped pancetta

1 Tsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Handful of thyme and oregano leaves, pulled off stems

In the bottom of the pressure cooker, set over medium heat, I drizzled the olive oil, and added the pancetta to brown.  I then added the onion, carrots and celery until fragrant.  I then added the remaining vegetables (kale, beans, tomato and mushrooms) until they softened a little, (kale and beans will get brighter green in color) and then poured in the stock. 

I then added the dried beans, and brought everything to a strong simmer, stirring occasionally.

I then added the lid, adjusting the heat (medium) until there was a steady, but not hysterical hissing of steam, and set the stove timer for 45 minutes.

Once the timer rang, I let the pot cool until the pressure lock released the lid, and checked for done-ness.  I wasn’t convinced after my original check that the bean soup was done, so I started the pressure cooker again for another 30 minutes.  I added the sliced sausage pieces at this point to the soup.

Once the second round of cooking was done, I stirred and garnished the soup with the herbs from my garden.

The resulting soup was velvety, soft, creamy soup, punctuated by the occasional carrot, bean or mushroom.  The tomato, kale, celery and potato were “melted” into smaller pieces (or shreds) and I knew this would be a hit with the girls.

Thankfully, we did not lose power, and we did not suffer any property damage during the storm.


Tofu, soba, shiso, with a Lenzu-mame closer

22 Aug

Some days I’m completely uninspired to cook at home.  I scurry through the house around dinner time, assembling healthy, but quick meals for the girls.  Summer-time dinners are easy and fun, and often do not require much preparation.

With the garden producing green beans, long beans and shiso in abundance, I am able to offer lightning fast meals.

In the past week, the girls had a variety of classic summer Japanese dishes such as:

Zarusoba, or chilled, drained, soba noodles, served with a dipping dashi based sauce, topped with chopped scallions, julienned shiso and grated ginger.

Hiyayakko, or chilled and drained medium-firm tofu cubes, served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce, garnished with chopped scallions, thinly sliced shiso, grated ginger, katsuobushi and sesame seeds

Blanched okra, cut into 1/4 inch slices, with ponzu sauce

Blanched string beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, served with soy sauce and katsuobushi

Tamago dofu, or literally “egg tofu” – conventional, and store-bought – but one of my all-time favorites as a child.  It’s essentially, savory egg custard, served cold, with a dashi “soup”

Fresh tomatoes with a bit of salt (or none)

Yet, after a few continuous days of light, summer eating, I started craving a hearty, belly-warming soup.

Lentil soup fit the bill.

Into a large pot, I brought 6 cups of water, and 2 cups of chicken stock to boil. 

Into the pot (in order) went the following:

2 cups dry lentils – picked over, rinsed, and drained

2 onions, quartered, and cut into bite sized pieces

3 medium potatoes, peeled, rinsed, and cut into bite-sized pieces

3 carrots, peeled, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tbs of powdered shiitake

Two large handfuls of string beans – these are from the garden, so I’m not sure how much they weigh.  I cleaned them, and cut them into inch-long pieces, de-stringing some of the larger beans.  I have a mixture of home-grown long-beans and regular string beans in this soup.

I simmered this over medium heat until the lentils plumped up, and became tender (about 30 – 40 minutes).  I seasoned with a little sea salt, pepper, as well as a tablespoon of soy sauce.  Sometimes I season with a drizzle of olive oil and salt, or even, a good amount of sriracha sauce. 


I often serve poached eggs with whole wheat toast for the girls’ breakfast, and the girls love their “dip-dip” eggs.  For this week, I served the poached egg over the lentil soup, and allowed them to sprinkle just a little sea-salt (on their own) over the egg.  They then carefully broke open the yolks, and mixed it into their soup, and enjoyed their “dip-dip” egg soup.

“Jiji, Baba, we had LENZU-MAME (lens-shaped, Japanese name for lentils) soup today!”  they announced on skype. 

“Mame-mame!” the little one happily added.



Quahogs are a girl’s best friend…

28 Jul

As summer’s annual visit continues, I am enjoying each moment.  The longer days allow for extended outdoor play for my girls, and between referee-ing the girls’ bickering over who-slides-down-the-playset-slide-first, and (trying to) weeding my vegetable garden, one does work up quite an appetite.

As I pick the stubborn grass – and recently discovered to be edible! – and purslane, I stop to pick green beans, yellow tomatoes, zucchini squash, edamame and cucumbers.  The girls come running across the yard towards the garden, and I give them freshly picked vegetables.  Sometimes, they pull up in their battery-motorized car, the little one’s right arm casually hanging over the side, and they pick up a handful of green beans and a cucumber each to munch on – quickly washed with the garden hose.

Other times, a welcome visit from my brother-in-law, an avid fisherman, brings me a cooler full of quahogs from an evening of fishing. 

It takes me SEVERAL hours to scrub, wash, and steam the large clams – many of them larger than the size of my palms.

Clam cakes?  Baked Clams?  I was rifling through the Rolodex of ideas in my mind – but nothing seemed more enticing than a clam chowder.

So here I was, at 1:00 am on a work night, steaming quahogs, pulling out the cooked clam meat, and chopping them into smaller pieces.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to clean the clam belly – normally, with smaller little necks and cherrystones, I don’t think twice; however, these GIGANTIC quahogs were a bit intimidating.

I decided to cut off the darker parts of the clam belly – my labrador joyously scarfed them down – and continued cutting the clams into smaller pieces…. while I continued the seemingly endless cycle of get clams – scrub clams – rinse down – steam in pot (without having water overflow and cover stove top) – pull out clams – pull out meat – chop….

I then took a look at the contents of my refrigerator for chowder ingredients… realizing I hadn’t gone for a serious food-run due to our mini-vacation to Dutch Wonderland.  THE HORROR!

What went into the chowder is probably proportionally different from the standard recipe – we’ll just call it my “Chowder – Improvisational masterpiece.”

Chowder – Improvisational Masterpiece

Three dozen quahogs, steamed and chopped into small pieces.  Dark belly sections were discarded

Three large onions, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Six celery stalks – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Six carrots – peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

Two potatoes – peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

One 28 ozs can of Eden brand, crushed tomatoes – my understanding is that their cans are not coated with BPA per other brands.

One box, Trader Joe’s lower sodium vegetable broth

Two cups of the clam steaming liquid

In a large stockpot, I poured in the stock, tomato and clam liquid.  I then added the onions, carrots, celery and potato, and cooked until the carrots were tender.  I then added the minced clam – and once it heated through, sat at the kitchen eating bowl-fuls of the briny, fragrant, tangy, rich, soup.

Some girls prefer diamonds.  Other girls prefer roses.  Then again, others might prefer pearls, a handbag or a new car.

I’d just go for a cooler full of freshly dug-up quahogs any day.

Soup for Monday, Soup for Tuesday

5 Apr

My older daughter started attending Japanese school this past Saturday.   We headed from the  barren desert of ethnic food to the exciting cultural melting pot (and in proximity to) of Queens County, NY.

When I was growing up, there was a significant Japanese population in the Queens area during the late ’70’s through the mid ’80’s.  There were several Japanese weekend schools in the area, and a good Japanese meal was easily accessible without having to traverse into Manhattan.

These days, there are gems of authentic Japanese restaurants scattered across the area, especially around areas that still have local Japanese residents; however, I don’t get to frequent them as often as I wish due to scheduling and bedtimes.  Plus, I have to travel far for certain specialties – such as savory egg custard, or chawanmushi which I would have to pre-order at Takumi, whereas at Yamaguchi Restaurant, they have it on the regular menu. 

After an activity-packed first day, we met up with my brother, his wife, and a dear friend of mine in a Korean restaurant specializing in sul long tang.  My daughter excitedly ran to her uncle and auntie, and chattered away.  I studied the menu, decided on a sampler of savory pancakes, or jeon, followed by a comforting bowl of the milky white sul long tang.  My brother ordered a fiery bowl of yook hwe jang, my sister-in-law a hot bowl of dolsot bibimbap, and my buddy, a squid bowl, or pieces of cooked squid in sauce over rice.  I can’t remember the official Korean menu name for that dish….

Once we enjoyed the various jeon that arrived, our entrees arrived, and I was excited.  My soup, a fragrant, mild, white, beef marrow soup is served with a bowl filled with chopped scallions, and a clay pot filled with grayish salt.  Yes – you flavor the soup yourself!  I loved adding a bit of scallion and salt, and adjusting the flavor.  The soup had thinly sliced brisket, noodles, and rice, which I ladled into a smaller bowl for my daughter.  The wait staff came by with a pot full of cabbage and radish kimchi, which they efficiently cut into manageable slices with scissors.  Iced barley tea, or boricha was served with the meal.

We then tucked into our meal.

A content silence descended – mainly, from me, and I savored each drop of my soup.  I coaxed my daughter to finish her bowl of soup – but I could tell she was fading quickly.  She had quite the busy morning, and was starting to unravel.

We kissed friends and family good-bye, and we headed back home.

Sunday, I started my usual preparation for the week, and realized, I could continue my soup kick.  So I made another lentil and vegetable soup, and added vegetable alphabet pasta. 

Here’s what went into it:

2 cups lentils, washed, picked over and drained

6 cups water

3 chopped carrots

3 chopped celery stalks

2 chopped medium onions

1/2 box of Trader Joe’s hearty vegetable stock

1 bag of baby spinach – added at the very end, rinsed and drained

2 bunches of beet greens, washed carefully, and chopped into 1/4 inch

salt, pepper

1/2 cup alphabet pasta

I brought the water and stock to a boil, and added the lentils, carrots, celery and onion.  I lowered the heat to medium after 5 minutes, and skimmed off the foam that rose to the top.  I further lowered the temperature to a low simmer for 30 minutes, checking on occasion, and stirring.  I added the pasta into the soup, and stirred well.  Although the box calls for boiling the pasta for 5 – 10 minutes at high, I prefered to cook it over lower heat, simply because I tend to find the pasta stuck and burnt on the bottom of the pot.

Once the pasta was cooked, and the lentils softened, I added the beet greens, and let it cook for about 5 minutes.  I then added the spinach at the very end, folding the leaves into the soup.  I adjusted the flavor with salt and pepper at the end.

This was my daughter’s lunch for Monday.  I did a trial run with a small amount on Sunday night, and she happily picked out the letters, and said, “Mama, I like this soup.  Can I have this tomorrow?”

Monday night, I received an email text from my husband telling me he was feeling ill, and that he had a high temperature.   I had put the girls down to bed, so I figured I would put together a quick chicken soup in case he was hungry.  Into a pot went:

1 box TJ’s Organic free-range chicken stock

2 carrots cut into quarters, and then chopped

2 chopped celery stalks

1 chopped medium onion

A cup of defrosted, cooked, chicken – shredded

1/2 cup star-shaped pasta

I brought the stock to a boil, and added all the vegetables, and cooked on a low simmer until softened.  I then added the pasta, and let it cook for about 10 minutes, or until softened.  I then added the shredded chicken, and at the very end, adjusted the taste with salt and white pepper.

My husband came home looking very pale, and not hungry.  I sent him to bed, and set the soup pot aside to cool.  I was excited – my daughter now had two options for lunch on Tuesday… not to mention, I, myself, had soup options for lunch!

**Recommended thermos for lunchtime soup transport – the Thermos Nissan vacuum insulated food jar, which keeps food hot for 5+ hours.