Friday, February 5, 2010

Emily's Parents' Kitchen in Connecticut: Impromptu Soup

This is my first post for A Kitchen in Brooklyn! My kitchen is officially in Seattle, but I am writing from the Keeler outpost in Groton, Connecticut.

So, I am all about "intuitive" cooking. I like to taste my way around the kitchen, scouting out ingredients like a culinary bloodhound. I go around like this: Aha, apples, yes, and sweet potato, okay, hmm carrots, yes, curry? Cheddar cheese? Perfect.

After my mother came home annoyed with my father and me for not thinking about dinner (my father is retired and I work from home), I decided the next day to actually think about things in advance, and by advance I mean about 10 minutes. Here is the result of my kitchen scouting: an impromptu soup of beta carotene-rich vegetables sweetened with apples, topped with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and homemade roasted chickpeas (croutons or pumpkin seeds would also be nice). If New England had a regional dish, this would be one of them. This version fills about four regular bowls. Just up the proportions if you want more.

Please note: I typically do not measure things. My teachers used to comment to my parents that I was a good student, but I never followed directions. So this is nothing new. I am putting down suggested measurements, but I recommend honing your intuitive cooking skills and trusting your own taste buds. (I sort of went overboard with the cayenne pepper in my version anyway.)

Impromptu Soup - Harvest Vegetable Soup Accented with Cheddar Cheese

Serves 4

1 tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into small pieces
4 or so carrots, chopped into small rounds
2 apples (I used Gala but I imagine Granny Smith would be splendid), peeled, cored and chopped
About 6 cups water
About 1 tsp. curry powder
About 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
About 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
About 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Optional: about 1/2 cup of soy milk or cream to soften things up a bit, especially if you've added too much cayenne pepper
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese - as much as you like
Croutons, roasted chickpeas or pumpkin seeds for garnish

-Heat up the oil in a soup pot, then add the onions and garlic. Stir and let sit with the cover on for 5 minutes or until you're tired of waiting!
-Add the chopped sweet potato, carrots and apples.
-Stir everything together and add the desired spices.
-Now add the water. Add just enough so that the water level is about even with the ingredients in the pot. Too much water will yield super soupy soup. You can always add more water, but it doesn't work the other way.
-Put the lid on, let it boil, and go watch a half hour of television. After the soup is at a boil, bring it down to a high simmer. Check it periodically (like during the commercial breaks) and pierce the vegetables with a fork. The carrots are the last things to get soft. After about 30 or 40 minutes you should be in business, but rely on the fork-pierce test to determine the readiness of the vegetables.
-Take the soup off the burner and get your immersion blender ready. Alternatively, throw the soup, in batches, into the food processor or your Magic Bullet. A potato masher also works, but things won't turn out as creamy.
-Blend the soup.
-Taste it and adjust the seasonings. Choose to add cream, milk, or vegan milk if desired.
-When you're ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls. Top with cheddar cheese and/or desired toppings. Serve with hearty bread.



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