About Me

My photo
I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

More Soup for You!

Winter—or the random days in Alabama when it feels like it—is one of my favorite times to cook, full of stews, braises, pies, and soups. All foods that warm the belly and feed the soul. Soup in particular pairs well with winter. It is communal; a single pot simmering on the stove for all to walk up to and savor its aromas.

And soups are surprisingly easy to make. If one can boil water and chop vegetables, one can surely make soup. This may explain why soup is one of the oldest forms of cookery. At some point, one of our distant ancestors, the proverbial “cave man,” got tired of eating tree bark and sipping water from a stream. He perhaps took that bark, maybe even a few veggies and herbs, and put them together in an earthen pot on that new-fangled invention called “fire” and—voila—soup was born!  

M.F.K. Fisher liked soup and devoted a whole chapter to it. Here’s what she had to say:

The natural procession from boiling water to boiling water with something in it can hardly be avoided, and in most cases heartily to be wished for. As a steady diet, plain water is inclined to make thin fare, and even saints, of which there are an unexpected number these days, will gladly agree that a few herbs and perhaps a carrot to two and maybe a meager bone on feast days can mightily improve the somewhat monotonous flavor of the hot liquid.  

      —M.F.K. Fisher, How to Boil Water.

Wise words indeed! (And if she thought there were food “saints” in her day, she’d be downright shocked by today’s gastronomic high priests and priestesses!)

And while making soup is a relatively fuss-free endeavor, there are some basic tips one should keep in mind. Here are some good ones from Harold McGee’s Keys to Good Cooking:

  • Rich soups can benefit from a counterpoint of acidity. For example, vegetable purees can benefit from the savoriness of a little bacon or tomato or parmesan cheese, soy sauce, fish sauce, or miso.
  • To thicken soups with flour or starch, always pre-disperse the thickener in a roux or slurry to prevent lumpiness.
  • Add uncooked ingredients in stages to a simmering soup to avoid over- or under-cooking them. First, add whole grains, firm carrots, or celery, then more tender onions or cauliflower, pieces of chicken great or white rice or pasta; at the last minute, add delicate spinach, fish, or shellfish. 
  • Take care not to overheat the soup when adding protein, in order to avoid curdling. You can also use starch or flour to keep proteins from coagulating or curdling.

So one evening when the mercury finally fell into the moderately cold zone, I put on some music and fired up the fireplace and made soup. (OK, I don’t actually have a fireplace, but I have a great app that plays one on my TV.) 

Copyright © 2013 Chris Terrell
The Finished Product!
I made roasted cauliflower and carrot soup, a recipe for the most part of my own creation. My recipe uses sumac to add some acidity. Sumac is a shrub originating in Turkey and certain varieties are cultivated in southern Italy and in Sicily. The fleshy petals and small berries are dried and reduced to a powder which has a lemony, acidic flavor and is popular in Middle Eastern cooking. Mixed with water, it can be used in the same way as lemon juice.

Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Soup with Sumac


1 large head of cauliflower
2 cloves of garlic
1 small yellow onion
1 1/3 lbs of carrots
1 tablespoon of coriander (ground)
1 tablespoon of sumac
1/2 tablespoon ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 qt of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3/4 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste


Break apart of the cauliflower into florets and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and spread out onto a sheet pan and roast in an oven at 425 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.
While the cauliflower roasts, dice the onion and mince the garlic. In a stock pot, place the butter and a tablespoon of the olive oil, along with some salt and pepper and sauté the onions until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant.  

Add the carrots to the stock pot, along with the vegetable stock, wine, and water and bring to a boil. Then add the roasted cauliflower and reduce the heat. Cook on medium for about 35-40 minutes until the carrots and cauliflower are tender.  

Puree the soup with an immersion blender until puréed. (This is fun!) Add coriander, sumac, and ancho chili powder Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve into bowls and add a table spoon of heavy cream to each and mix. Serve immediately.

NOTE: You can also take whole coriander and roast and then grind in a mortal and pestle.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Where Are They Now?: Tuna Noodle Casserole

When: Friday, September 22, 1961
Where: Somewhere in Cleveland
[Phone rings]
Julie: Hello?
Nancy: Hey Julie, this is Nancy. Are you and Frank coming over for dinner tomorrow night?
Julie: Yes. We found a babysitter! Betsy Thompson, though she does let them watch a bit too much TV. 
Nancy: Yeah, I can see why—they just bought one of those new color TVs. Speaking of little Jimmy, how does he like his new teacher?
Julie: I think he does, especially after she brought some homemade cookies for the class. I tell you one thing though, he doesn’t like the school food. Little Jimmy still wants a homemade lunch every day. This kid is going to turn into a bologna sandwich and a Twinkie!
Nancy: No kidding! Little Bobby takes a PBJ and a Dr. Pepper in his Lawman lunchbox to school every day. Hey, speaking of something sweet, are you going to make that new Jello salad recipe?
Julie: Probably so. I know John loves Jello.
Nancy: Does he ever!  But if I could only figure out what to make for dinner. John insists on grilling some pork chops, but I don’t know…
Julie: How ‘bout something out of that fancy new cookbook John gave you for your birthday? French, right? What’s her name, Julia Child?
Nancy: Yeah, but it looks a little complicated…
Julie: What about your tuna noodle casserole? Everyone loves it, especially little Jimmy.
Nancy: Great idea! And I’ve got everything I need for it here in the cupboard… I think.  Let me  check.… Shoot, I don’t have a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. It’s OK. I’ll have Bobby ride his bike to the Fishers and grab a can.
Julie: Sounds good. We’ll take care of the cocktails. I think Frank owes John a bottle of Canadian Club. Gotta go, Jimmy is playing with Frank’s cigarette lighter again!  
Jimmy – stop that right now!
* * *
This dialogue is not an exercise in early 21st Century hipster irony. People really talked like this in 1961. More importantly, people ate like this in 1961. They liked tuna noodle casserole, Jello, and Canadian Club. 
And yet, tuna noodle casserole— let’s call it “TNC” for shortmade a comeback in my house recently. But more out of necessity than anything else.
Anyone who has visited my kitchen, quickly notices two things. First, I have a lot of pots, pans, and appliances devoted to cooking. Second, if one were to open the cabinets, one would discover a surfeit of bottles, jars, boxes, and cans containing everything from verjus, sardines, almond oil (not kidding), various types of olives, lentils, sushi rice (even though I’ve never made sushi), and jars of spices (typically 2-3 jars of each kind because I don’t check before hitting the store). It all looks like the kitchen Prospero would have had.
So one of my informal new year’s resolutions was to slowly cook through this backlog of epicurean ephemera. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. After all, what does one do with a bag of chia seeds and a very large jar of organic peanut butter from Costco?! 
And then, behind the half-empty box of elbow macaroni and saltines, I discovered several cans of tuna fish. 
Are you with me? 
Yes. TNC!
Though I grew up on TNC, it is certainly not something in my culinary wheelhouse. As a result, I consulted The Joy of Cooking, the best source for these kinds of dishes. Sure enough, there on page 96, I found a recipe for TNC. I scanned the list of ingredients. I had everything but, like Nancy, I lacked one lousy can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Does anyone buy that stuff anymore?
After a quick trip to the Piggly Wiggly, I was in business. And what a business it was: easy and cheap. And it helped clear out my cabinets. 
Like I said, I grew up on this stuff. My kids, however, were newbies. They had never had TNC I was curious how they would react. They each took a bite…. Wait… Score!  I’m making this again!
Mid-century modern is certainly having a moment. Mad Men was a huge hit. Skinny ties are back, and Eames chairs are all the rage. But the food? Not so much. 
As for “little Jimmy?” He retired from the hedge fund he ran in New York. He lives in Napa. He’s vegan and hates tuna noodle casserole.
Hey Jimmy: my kids love it. 
Times change.