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Posts from the ‘Soups & Stews’ Category

Caldo de Costilla

I’ve started to think of Los Paisanos meat market on Smith Street as my own, personal, model UN. Ostensibly Italian, it’s largely staffed by Central and South Americans. Though helpful when I’m looking to translate a recipe, it can get touchy. Guatemala may concede but Mexico isn’t too happy when I defer to Colombia.  This is what happened when I went there a couple of weeks ago with a vague idea that I wanted to try caldo de costilla – a Colombian beef rib broth flavored with potatoes, scallions and cilantro. Not surprisingly, without consensus, the results were uneven. Read more

Pisto Manchego

If I’ve been hard-selling farmer’s markets in the last couple of months it’s because I can’t remember a summer where I’ve taken this much advantage of them. It’s partly my dog’s fault. Orfeo Perro gets very fast walks during the week so Sunday mornings we go the long way around Carroll Park to the small market that sets up there. This should be a happy time for both of us but rarely is. The smell of sizzling turkey sausage goes to his head and I have to watch him so he doesn’t gobble up the samples (toothpicks included) that fall to the sidewalk or, even worse, get gobbled up by the much bigger dogs for whom he is a delicious turkey sausage. To make matters worse, he thinks nothing of snatching at animal crackers, cheerios and anything else that sticks out of a passing stroller. I work my way through the market in a series of tugs and apologies but that’s my dog – marking his territory and taking candy from babies. Read more

Habichuelas Blancas Guisadas

When I was little and knew I was going on a trip, the first thing I did was pack my bags.  It could be days, weeks or even months away, but getting ready made me feel like I was already on the plane.  Sadly, I’ve completely lost my pro-active packing impulses.  Almost from the moment the itinerary hits my inbox, I start running through the list of things I need to do here before I’m allowed to go there.  This weekend, after booking my Easter trip to Puerto Rico and facing dementor-like winter temperatures outside – the kind that make you feel like you’ll never be cheerful again – I felt a little of the old packing impulse when I decided to make this stew of habichuelas blancas. Read more

Fairy Tale Soup

It was supposed to be a fairy tale.  I found a recipe for pumpkin and crab soup that I couldn’t wait to try, a Cinderella pumpkin I couldn’t wait to photograph, and pound of fresh lump crab meat I couldn’t help but splurge on.  Using a recipe that seemed pretty straight forward if a little vague, I roasted the pumpkin and scooped out a few cups – careful to leave the shell in tact so it could it be used as a tureen – then pureed it with scallions and coriander.  Combining the puree with broth, I added way too much curry (the wooden spoon I used still looks gold plated).  I made some adjustments but it only got the soup madder.  I was moments away from throwing good crab meat into bad recipe when I decided to give up on it altogether. Read more

Changua

I’ve written a lot about comfort food this past summer.  It must be natural when so many things I make are from my childhood and it is a childish season after all.  This week I got a take on comfort food I hadn’t considered before.  I was talking to one of my oldest friends who’s going through a difficult time.  Wanting to make some small gesture of support, I offered to make her something, anything.  If she could think of a great dish she had growing up, I’d work out the ingredients and write it up for her.  She suggested changua, a milk-onion-egg soup from the central Andes of Colombia.  Loved the name, but it didn’t sound very appetizing, especially for breakfast when it’s typically served in Bogotá with a piece of calado or almojábana bread to soak it up.  I had images of cracking open coconuts and frying fish but she wanted changua.  Milk soup, really? Read more

Sopa de Flor de Calabaza

I don’t usually let myself buy flowers.  Frivolous in a million other ways, I become oddly practical when it comes to that.  I’ll consider the enormous sunflowers bursting out of their buckets but head straight to the potted basil, lavender, and rosemary plants instead, preferring the kind of pretty you can eat.  That’s why I get so excited when squash blossoms arrive at the markets.  Since July, I’ve had them stuffed, fried, chopped and sauteed with tomatoes.  Now that the summer is melting away and every day feels like Sunday night, each bag of blossoms has become that much more precious – shriveled and golden, bugs and all. Read more

Gazpacho de Fresas e Hinojo

When you decide to run a marathon, it’s easy to focus on the 26.2 miles of race day and forget about the 12, 13, 14, 15+ miles you’ll run as you train – a weekly rehearsal for a play that gets longer and longer.  On top of that, there are cross-training sessions, recovery runs, and now hill repeats.  Not only do I have no one to blame, I spent the better part of last year qualifying for the privilege.  When asked why I like to run, I usually tell people that it gives me time to think.  Carving out a path in the miles stretching out before me, my mind clears.  Unfortunately, it clears it up a little too well so that by the time I get home exhausted, I have the internal monologue of a cave woman – hot, cold, tired, hungry, water, food.  Before my scheduled de-evolution this week, I decided to make a batch of gazpacho. Read more

Asopao de Pollo

A few weeks ago, a friend gave me a list of Puerto Rican classics to try that included asopao de pollo.  As she described it, it’s a Puerto Rican risotto that’s not quite soup and not quite stew.  My soups often go to gumbo by mistake so I was curious to know what would happen if I made it that way by design.  At Jennifer’s suggestion, I checked my Puerto Rican Cookery book first.  I realized after additional searches that there were thousands of recipes for asopao, a one-pot, comfort food solution for family dinners and leftovers.  After reading them over, I finally circled back to Carmen Aboy Valldejuli. Read more

Ritual and Repetition

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk at my Brooklyn’s Book Court between Thomas Keller and Peter Kaminsky.  Though technically about Keller’s latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home, it wasn’t strictly about food and cooking.  From process and baseball analogies, he got to ritual and repetition and I realized what I’d been missing.  Trying to post regularly, I’d become sharkish, cooking in constant motion.  I’ve gotten used to being just a few clicks away from French-Italian-Regional-Seasonal-Indian-Mexican-Caribbean.  It’s tempting to jump from one to the other, trying everything once then moving on.  Having set out to write about traditional food in a new medium, I forget that the best part can be going back, trying again, and making it a little better.  I had ritual, but my repetition was lacking.  Read more

Potaje de Garbanzos

I make beans with an accent.  I understand all of the elements, but they don’t always flow together as easily as I would like.   A staple of Latin American cooking, I should know them better than I do.  Having only developed a taste for them as an adult, I refused all forms of frijoles, lentejas, or garbanzos when I was younger.  Now that I appreciate what I’ve been missing and want to make them all the time, I feel like I’m being punished for my earlier brattiness with inconsistent batches of beans.  If only I’d paid better attention when my grandparents were cooking, I’d have a freezer full of stews and soups to get me through the winter. Read more