End of Summer Hot Pepper Soup

 

End of Summer Pepper Soup - www.inhabitedkitchen.comIt’s September.

Summer is ending. The days are cooler – finally comfortable, for me. The air conditioner is off, the windows are open, and we just dug out a light blanket for the bed. This is the most beautiful season in New York City. Many days, the sky is a deep blue, and the air sparkles. People walk with a spring in their step.

It is also the peak of the harvest season. Greenmarket is overflowing. The CSA haul is starting to be mixed – the tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini of August are still plentiful, but now they are side by side with broccoli and cauliflower.

Peppers! www.inhabitedkitchen.comAnd peppers. Have I mentioned peppers? Both sweet and hot peppers are ripening, beautifully red (or orange or yellow, depending on the cultivar) and bursting with flavor. Not everyone in our CSA wants them, so there are always extras for those of us who do, and we certainly do! I’ll preserve many for the winter, in one way or another, but we’re also enjoying them now. And it is finally cool enough for hot soup.

Every year, once or twice when I can get lots of hot peppers, I make this soup. I’ve literally been making it my entire adult life, without any serious changes (which is unusual for me…) Normally, on this site, I only share recipes that are either original, radically changed from the first inspiration, or general enough that no one cook can really claim the concept. (Cole slaw? Chicken soup?) This is different.

My senior year in college I lived off campus, in an apartment with another woman. She kept Kosher, and was vegetarian (which, let me tell you, is the easiest way for an Irish girl like me to keep Kosher!) and we had agreed that we would keep a vegetarian (and Kosher) kitchen. I was interested in vegetarian cooking anyway, and continued a largely, though never entirely, meatless diet for years after, and, indeed, still have many meatless meals. Along the way, my roommate introduced me to what were then the classic books of vegetarian cooking.

One of the greatest of these was The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas. I am always confused when I read statements that vegetarian cooking in the 70s and 80s consisted entirely of TVP patties and earnest but tasteless veggie loaves – that’s not what I ate! One could – we knew a guy who ate like that, and we kept having him over for dinner so he’d get some real food – but no one had to. (Just as a meat eater did not have to live on Hamburger Helper, though some certainly did.)The Epicure (as people called it) was a good cookbook that didn’t happen to include meat, and my go to for years if I wanted, for whatever reason, to serve a meatless meal to someone suspicious of the idea. By modern vegetarian standards, it relies a lot on eggs and cheese, and it barely mentions whole grains or beans, but these are not the only meals I eat…  Equally, many (not all) recipes were a little fussy for a weeknight dinner, but well worth it for a special meal (even just Sunday – or Sabbath – dinner. Not too fussy for once a week.)  The food is simply delicious. Thomas did write a second volume, and has written more cookbooks more recently as well, though that has never been her primary profession.

This is all to say that I have literally made this pepper soup every year for decades – I think it is that good. And I haven’t really changed it. I have cut down on the fussiness. The immersion blender has made pureed soups much easier than they were – and, if I do say so myself, I do love my roux cubes…  I used to have to stop everything and use a new pan to make a roux, then temper it, then… Now I just stir in the cubes and let them melt. Couldn’t be easier.

Seeding hot peppers - www.inhabitedkitchen.comIt starts with a cup of chopped peppers. Remove stems, seeds, and pith – they contribute more heat than flavor, and we’re looking here for more flavor than heat. Now, the problem with volume measurements is that, the more coarsely you chop, the less pepper is in that cup – this is fairly coarsely chopped. I’m going to puree it later, so I don’t want to waste my time mincing… but you can add a little more if you like. Also, think about the heat of your peppers. There are Scotch Bonnets in the picture above, and those bad boys are not going into soup. I want to be able to eat it! (There will be hot sauce, down the road…) I prefer all red, yellow and orange peppers for this, just to avoid muddying the color.

Chopped vegetables in pot - www.inhabitedkitchen.comAfter preparing the peppers I chopped an onion, and 4 big plum tomatoes. The recipe calls for two pounds – avoiding volume measurement, here. If you don’t have good fresh tomatoes, this is a place where canned will work – I’ve sometimes frozen the peppers, and made the soup in winter with canned tomatoes. Like the ratatouille base, it gives me a taste of summer, and a nice change. Good ripe tomatoes are best, though.

Pureeing Pepper and Tomato Soup - www.inhabitedkitchen.comNow – the original recipe calls for putting all of this in a blender, with water, and pureeing the raw vegetables, and then cooking it all. Now that I have an immersion blender, though, I’d rather put it all in the soup pot, cook it, and then blend it – it leaves a slightly chunkier texture, which I prefer. So I put the vegetables in the pot with water, and simmered it for about 20 minutes. I choose to let it cool at least a little – and I did deliberately make it in a large pot to reduce spattering – and then I used the immersion blender to get the consistency I wanted.

Stirrign in Roux Cubes - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI then put the pot back over heat, took three roux cubes from the freezer, cut them each in half, and stirred them in. The roux dissolved in very gradually as the soup came to a simmer, and thickened. Once the roux was no longer visible, I also added a cup of cooked rice. I brought the soup back to a low boil, let it simmer a few minutes as the rice heated and it all thickened – it makes a thick soup with texture from the rice, as well as any left from the vegetables. (You can, of course, stop, make a roux with three tablespoons each of butter and flour, temper it, and stir it in – but really – wouldn’t you rather use the cubes?)

End of Summer Pepper Soup with Yogurt - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI served it then, with a dollop of full fat Greek yogurt in each bowl. The original calls for sour cream – which is wonderful and luxurious, and which I strongly recommend if you make this for guests, or as a first course for a holiday meal. I use the yogurt partly just because I’m more likely to have it in the house – but partly because it boosts the protein if this is a meatless meal…  Only do this with the full fat Greek yogurt, though – low fat regular just doesn’t really work well – it’s too thin and a little chalky. The soup has a luxurious rich mouthfeel, and you don’t want to spoil that.

This is really a first course soup, not the dinner soups I so often make. Four bowls – a first course with dinner, or lunch with a salad. (We did both, with this batch.) It does double easily.

So, in fact, I have changed it a little… and (looking in the book) I’ve also lost a few seasonings and garnishes along the way. By all means add lemon peel and dill if you have them around…  By all means get your hands on the book. When I made her the macaroni and cheese, my grandmother sighed and said “This tastes like my mother’s.” (I told my own mother, who looked at me with respect – “My grandma made the best macaroni and cheese in the Heights.” Then she bought the book.)  I learned to make curries without fear – or curry powder – and spanakopita, and sweet potato pie… It was a good book to have, just that first step past starting to learn to cook. I knew basics – this introduced me to the glory that good cooking can be.

Pepper Soup - www.oinhabitedkitchen.com

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Linking up with Emily at Recipe of the Week.

End of Summer Pepper Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

End of Summer Pepper Soup

A delicious hot soup of fiery peppers and rich, ripe tomatoes - wonderful on the first cool days.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped and seeded mixed hot peppers
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Roux Cubes
  • 1 c cooked brown rice
  • Greek Yogurt (or sour cream) for topping

Instructions

  1. Place the chopped vegetables and water in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Let cool 10 minutes (or more.) Use an immersion blender to puree until the liquid is almost, but not completely, smooth. (Or, use a regular blender to puree the vegetables before cooking.)
  3. Reheat the soup. As it heats, add Roux Cubes and stir as they melt into the soup. As it heats and starts to thicken, add the cooked rice. Let it simmer 2-3 minutes, until it is completely hot, and has thickened.
  4. Serve with a dollop of Greek Yogurt in each bowl (or pass a bowl of Greek Yogurt for people to serve themselves.)
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WIAW 35

What I Ate - www.inhabitedkitchen.comNormally I show a fairly typical day. Usually I’m either working from home, or going out on a job in the afternoon, after lunch, so I can easily photograph my meals at home. A year ago, I was carrying lunches and eating in parks or coffee shops between calls – but my work has changed, and I do more at home, now, or just go to the clients in the afternoon.

One result of this is that it looks as if I never leave the house… which isn’t quite true…

So this week I decided to follow an atypical day – though one I hope will be more typical in future! I have written about going out in the evening to a gathering at a friend’s house, and bringing dinner with me for that. This time, though, I was going out to a meeting of an organization some friends are in, and I was not going to be able to eat at my normal dinner time. You may have noticed that I never show snacks – well, that’s because I very rarely eat between meals. I never really did, routinely – even when I worked in an office, my coffee break was just coffee (or sometimes, finally, my  very late breakfast…) If my meals go off schedule, though, I’ll plan a snack so I don’t get too hungry and crash before eating, which can happen to me.

Breakfast - www.inhabitedkitchen.comSo – yesterday I had an experiment for breakfast. I got some coarsely ground cornmeal from a local farmer, and tried making polenta. It’s still coming out a bit too chewy, so I’m going to have to play with it more – and cook it even longer… and it didn’t hold together when I reheated it, so I had a pool of cornmeal mush, or Romania mamaliga, or… Tasted good, anyway. I microwaved it with my egg muffins, made with a little sausage and some leftover kale chopped fine. It is nice to have a breakfast I can just heat quickly.

Lunch - www.inhabitedkitchen.comFall is definitely here, whatever the calendar says, and yesterday was quite cool. I’m back to hot soup! I’d cooked a batch of chicken legs a couple of days earlier, so I had both broth and cooked chicken in the fridge. Put the broth in a pan with chopped vegetables and an herb cube, added the chicken when the vegetables were cooked, served… had crackers on the side (that I didn’t get a picture of.) So far, so typical…

Rice cakes and cheese - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI was leaving the house a bit before 7, so around 6, I put a snack together. Not much – I wasn’t really hungry – but I had some cheese on 2 rice cakes, so I had both protein and a complex carb, which carry me best. I’d finished the coleslaw or I might have added a little of that, or an apple would have been nice… but neither of them would work alone for me.

Supper - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI got home after 10, quite ready for a meal but not starving. The fastest thing to make was eggs… so I thought – omelet. I tend to use the term quite loosely – I don’t differentiate in my own mind between a French omelet, an Italian Frittata, a Spanish Tortilla, and a bunch of eggs thrown in a pan over something… What I actually made here was closest to a Spanish Tortilla de Patatas – eggs with potatoes. I had a couple of little new red potatoes, so I zapped them in the microwave while I tossed some sauteed celery and leftover green beans from the freezer into the pan, and beat a few eggs. I then sliced the barely-cooked potatoes, put them in to just start to brown, and poured the eggs over them. When they were mostly cooked, I flipped them to cook the other side, and slid them onto a plate. (Since speed was a factor, I also skipped setting up a tripod… and I’m sorry, the picture is a bit more blurry than I realized at the time…)

If I do join this society, or start other evening activities (which I hope to do, as my migraines are improving) I won’t always, or even usually, make something fresh when I get home. I may have leftovers, or put something in the slow cooker. I also may be changing my schedule, as my work schedule has been changing… I now normally eat dinner at 8, because for a long time I routinely worked until 6 or even 7, but if dinner moves to 7, it will be easier to have the real dinner at 6 or earlier, and the snack at night. (Right now, I’m just not hungry enough for a full meal that early.) My whole day is gradually sliding a bit earlier, so we’ll see how this affects meals.

Joining Jenn at Peas and Crayons

Fall into Good Habits: WIAW

Mom’s Coleslaw

Chopped Coleslaw - www.inhabitedkitchen.comOne of the reasons that I have always been comfortable with cooking most things from scratch is that my mother always did so.

Our cooking styles are quite different – as I’ve said, I grew up eating frozen vegetables, largely because there simply was no source of really good fresh ones in the city when I was little, and she ran much more to dinners of Some kind of Meat with a Pile of Vegetables next to it… whereas I tend to mix things, and use much less meat. But she used much less packaged or convenience food than my friends’ mothers did – I remember being fascinated by canned ravioli, precisely because I’d never eaten it!

One of her workhorse tools was her Waring Blender. Even in the ’60s hers was archaic – its only speed was On. Her own parents had bought it in the late ’40s, when her father had needed a liquid diet after an accident, but she had taken it with her when she moved out, because by then she was the only one really using it. The motor was very powerful, and it never gave any trouble, though she used it until the mid ’90s! (She then gave it to my cousin, who is in the business. For all I know, it may still work…) I found a picture of the model she had!

It had come with a booklet of recipes – and she really used the recipes, too. There were ones for the liquid diet her father had needed, which I remember copying for a friend of hers whose son broke his jaw… but many more that were more generally useful. She made peanut butter. She made purees. She made blended soups. She made batters.

Chopped coleslaw - www.inhabitedkitchen.comAnd she used it to make coleslaw. The blender doesn’t really chop, so the recipe had a whole workaround of putting chunks of vegetables in with water, as the water would bounce the vegetables around,  and then she’d drain it. When I set up housekeeping, it seemed faster and easier to me to just shred the cabbage with a knife – but I was making it for just one or two people, not four. And, well – somehow I never did get around to grating carrots to add them… I was always going to, but…

Confetti coleslaw - www.inhabitedkitchen.comThen, recently, I was using my mini food processor to mince vegetables for something else – and realized I was looking at the texture of Mom’s coleslaw. Well – how easy! And, as long as I was using it anyway… I still make it the other way as well, but when I’m using the processor for vegetables anyway, I do this. And I realize, looking at it, that the chopped variety might work better for some uses – small children, perhaps, or packing in a lunch box (it is surprisingly compact.) So I thought I’d share it. (This is also the way it is served in many restaurants – I suspect because of the combination of the ease of making it in a big processor and the ease of scooping it out in serving sized spoonfuls.)

Like many dishes, this is really more a method than a recipe as such. I will give the amounts I actually used, but don’t feel bound by them…  I like a ratio of about 1 part of carrot to about 3-4 parts of cabbage – but if you either have or like more or less carrot, go for it. The same for mayonnaise – enough to moisten it… How much that is will vary by the precise amount of vegetable, and how fresh and moist the vegetables are, and how moist or dry you like it.

Cutting the core out of the cabbage - www.inhabitedkitchen.comPeel off any dried leaves on your cabbage, and wash the outside. I used half of a small one, here. You might want all of it, or a wedge from a larger one, or… I wasn’t really making very much, since it was just for the two of us, not something I was taking to a picnic or something.  Cut out the core – it might be fine chopped, if the cabbage is really fresh, but it might be too tough and stringy. Then cut the cabbage in chunks to fit your processor. I’m using a mini-chop, here, but a larger one would work with slightly larger chunks.

Scrub the carrot well, or peel it if you can’t get it clean otherwise. I used half of a large one here, as, like the cabbage, I’d used the rest in a different recipe – a whole smaller one normally would make more sense (and is what I’m writing in the recipe.) It’s harder than the cabbage, so I cut it into smaller chunks – I don’t want one to get stuck on the processor blade.

Vegetables in mini-chop - www.inhabitedkitchen.comPut cabbage and carrots in the food processor without crowding it. I did this in two batches – you may need more or less. I chop cabbage and carrot at the same time, as that helps mix it. Then just whir it for a minute until the vegetables look like confetti. Pour it into a bowl, and chop other batches as needed.

Now add the extremely scientific measurement – a dollop of mayonnaise…  Well, the thing is – if I tell you to add 1/4 cup (this was something around that) it may be right or wrong. So, I use one spoon in the mayo container, to avoid double dipping if I need more, and another (or a fork) to mix the coleslaw. As it happened, this time the spoonful I started with was just about right. Generally I prefer to start with a little less than I expect to need, as I can always add more, but I can’t take any out… (That’s a good rule of thumb for all seasoning, by the way.)Adding mayonnaise - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

When I make coleslaw by shredding cabbage, I prefer to make it a day before I need it, to let the cabbage soften slightly in the mayonnaise. Because of the finely minced texture, this doesn’t need that – and, while it does last a few days, it does not improve with standing, but can get a little soggy. I would not make more than I expect the family to eat in 3-4 days.

Oh – a note – Mom made her own mayonnaise in that blender, too… also from a recipe in the booklet. I usually don’t, mostly just because we use so little, and it was best really fresh, but you do see why I don’t automatically turn to a commercial package for foods…  I have always known that I could make most things myself. Many recipes earned their reputation for being difficult before we had blenders, food processors, mixers, or other automated kitchen boys. I usually try to give recipes that do not depend on them, since not everyone has everything (I didn’t have a mixer for most of my adult life) and you certainly still can make this with a knife – but it is nice to have options.

And thank you, Fred Waring, for popularizing the blender. You changed the mid-20th Century kitchen.

Gluten Free & DIY Tuesday

Mom’s Coleslaw

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Mom’s Coleslaw

Quick homemade coleslaw, with both cabbage and carrots. Light and refreshing at a picnic, or as a salad in midwinter.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 1 small carrot
  • mayonnaise to moisten

Instructions

  1. Core the cabbage. Cut it into medium sized chunks.
  2. Cut carrot into small chunks.
  3. Loosely fill a food processor with cabbage and carrots. Do not overfill - make it in two or more batches if you need to.
  4. Process one minute or so until the vegetables resemble confetti. Pour into a bowl. Process the rest of the vegetables, if needed.
  5. Add a spoonful of mayonnaise and stir well, adding more if needed, until the coleslaw is moistened to your taste.
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Mirepoix

Mirepoix - onions, carrots and celery - www.inhabitedkitchen.comMirepoix. It sounds so elegant, doesn’t it? A French culinary term that just drips with sophistication…  But really, you may well have made and used it without realizing it, and you’ve undoubtedly made and used similar preparations. It is very easy to make and keep on hand to make stews, pot roasts, and soups faster, easier – and more delicious.

All it is is onion, celery, and carrot, chopped finely and sauteed. Nothing more. But it gives a rich flavor to your base stock, and creates a classically French taste. Poke around in old family recipes, and you’ll probably find either this or another combination (sometimes called, as in Cajun cooking a Holy Trinity) of aromatics…  Almost every cuisine has some base flavor notes. In European influenced cooking, usually some sort of onion, with a rotating cast of celery (or celeriac) and carrot, as above, and garlic, leeks, parsley, peppers (sweet or hot,) parsnip, tomato, whatever the commonly used local aromatics are.

Sauteing vegetables for lentil soupNow, the really great thing about understanding this is that it means you can vary the flavor of a basic dish merely by changing your aromatics. Last year, I wrote up a very basic Lentil Soup recipe, that did, in fact, start with mirepoix, though I did not call it that. I did make some suggestions in the post for variations – but just think how different it would be if, instead of using mirepoix you used sofrito – any of the many versions of sofrito…  (I grew up with New York Puerto Ricans, so I think of it as peppers, onion, and tomato – and cilantro when that was available – but it varies widely.)

A bowl of lentil soup - wwww.inhabitedkitchen.comBut, looking at that lentil soup again – it would be so much easier and faster to make if you already had the aromatics mixture – whatever you choose to use – prepared. Professional cooks do this – they (or their assistants) start the day chopping and sauteing so that, when you order a dish, they can simply assemble and finish it at once. (If you ever wondered how they make several individual dishes faster than you can cook one – that’s the primary secret… They never saute an onion to order.)  In a home kitchen, I don’t want enough of any one ingredient to make it fresh – but having it in the freezer…

That also solves the problem of using these piles of lovely vegetables. I have deep green flavorful celery. (Most supermarket celery barely has enough taste to be worth it. See if you can get some from a farmer’s market and you’ll know why it is used as a flavoring.) I have orange and yellow carrots. And I bought super fresh onions bursting with juice at Greenmarket.

Dicing vegetables for mirepoix - www.inhabitedkitchen.comClassically, mirepoix is made in a ratio of 2 parts of onion to one each of celery and carrot, and then it is sauteed in butter. I used roughly equal parts of each vegetable, as I always have onion around, may use this in dishes that already have onion in them, (and I don’t really care all that much – this is my kitchen, not the Culinary Institute of America.)  I used olive oil because I prefer it to butter for a long saute, and, again – my kitchen. In your kitchen, you may well prefer to do it more traditionally – or use the ratio of what you have on hand (always valid, as far as I’m concerned) or whatever…

Dicing carrot - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI started by just dicing the vegetables. The easiest way to do this is to slash long cuts in the vegetables, and then slice across the cuts, so the pieces just fall in dice. Then I heated a heavy pan, added just a little olive oil and swirled it around, and added the vegetables. I stirred them to coat with oil, then lowered the heat. I then kept the pan over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables were cooked.

I let it all cool, and put it in a zip bag in the freezer. I flattened it so it would freeze quickly. I’ll make more batches, break up the frozen parts in the bag and add the new, so I’ll end up with a bag full of frozen sauteed vegetables in distinct frozen bits.

Mirepoix - www.inhabitedkitchen.comAnd if I want to make a lentil soup (which I do every week or so all winter – it’s a lunchtime staple)  and I’m in a rush, I can just pour some of the vegetables from the bag into my broth with the lentils – and I’m set. It’s especially a good way to get a slow cooker set up before leaving for work in the morning…  Put in your beans, or pot roast, or whatever, pour in precooked mirepoix, add broth and seasoning, and go. And while I’m making it now, partly to save the harvest, you can easily get the ingredients all year – it’s easy to replenish your bag of flavor in the freezer!

 

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WIAW 34

I’ve been quiet – but I didn’t forget the blog, exactly – just my priorities.

Peaches - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI had this great idea for a peach based dessert. And it’s been almost working…  One version was much too fussy for the result I got. (Pleasant, but was I out of my mind to add those extra five steps??) Another simply  didn’t work at all – I managed to curdle the sauce. Another… And I kept plugging away at it, because I won’t write it until I have it right, and peach season is ending, and I needed to write this up before…

Wait. Peach season is ending. I don’t need to perfect this now – by the time I get it out there, some of you won’t have any more peaches anyway. I need to put it aside, and look at it next summer with fresh eyes, and… write a post.

Vegetables! - www.inhabitedkitchen.comIt is September. Around here, that means the peak of harvest. I’m bringing home arms full of corn and tomatoes and peppers… I have adorable little mini eggplants, and green, red, yellow and orange peppers – both hot and sweet. Last week we had probably the last hurrah for heat this summer – this week I wore a long sleeved shirt for the first time. We have the gorgeous mid-September New York days – the heat has broken, the sky is deep blue, the air sparkles…  September and October are, hands down, the most beautiful time of year in this city.

The piles of vegetables mean that I am slicing and dicing and sauteing and freezing… I only have the freezer in an apartment sized refrigerator, but I can still fill it with sauteed onion and celery, and chopped peppers (both hot and sweet,) and herbs blended in oil…  so we’ll have fresh flavor in midwinter.

Cucumber Soup - www.inhabitedkitchen.comAnd – well – more than a month ago, I was overwhelmed with cucumbers. So I pureed a couple, and froze the puree in cubes. Last week, when it was hot again, I pulled some of the cubes out, and made cold cucumber soup with them – and it was wonderful! Freezing preserves flavor, but destroys texture – so the trick is to use it for things where the texture doesn’t much matter – and a puree is just right for that.  So that was part of lunch (and we ate salad with some kind of protein, but I don’t seem to have taken a picture of that.)

Breakfast - www.inhabitedkitchen.comFor breakfast (Yes, I’m taking the day out of order, because the post makes more sense that way…) I have started back to the beans, eggs, and muffins. It’s pretty easy, and gets me off to a good start in the morning.

Summer saute - www.inhabitedkitchen.comFor dinner – well, there was corn! and tomatoes and peppers, and zucchini, and I just find that they go beautifully together. I sauteed them very lightly, with a little onion, and the last of a few mushrooms. The chicken I’d planned hadn’t thawed, so I tossed some cooked ground meat with leftover rice and some broth, and served that on the side, with the vegetables being, really, the main dish.  (And we ate Peach Stuff Version 2…  Here’s a picture just so you see what elegant props and stands I use… LOL)Peach Stuff - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

It’s September. It’s All About Vegetables…

Joining Jenn as always…