Sunday, November 28, 2010

Miso Cabbage Soup

Ryan New chats with Friends while dishing out soup
I'm happy to be home from my travels. Among the many joys that say 'home' are sleeping in my own bed and cooking in my own kitchen. Also, being back in the midst of the Friends in my Quaker community. My son, Ryan New, was visiting me this weekend. Last night, after we made s'mores on the wood stove, he helped me make this week's soup. He came to Meeting with me this morning and after an early morning discussion of William Taber's pamphlet 'Four Doors to Meeting for Worship', help dish up the soup that we sent home with Friends.

This week, I was working with an abundance of vegetables from the special Thanksgiving share from Hearty Roots CSA. It was full of lots of wonderful fall veggies, but most especially green cabbage... so cabbage is the star of the soup this week.

We started by heating some olive oil in the bottom of the soup pot and then adding 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a chopped onion. I washed a leek really well by cutting it up and immersing in it water and then drained it and added it to the pot. I rinsed some dried shitake mushrooms and put them in some hot water to soak while Ryan kept the pot stirred. Into the pot went some chopped carrots, celery, and a whole mess of cabbage. When the mushrooms were softened, I poured the soaking liquid (now mushroom-flavored water) into the pot, cut up the mushrooms and threw them in too. Next came a couple quarts of water and a squirt of Bragg Liquid Aminos. I let that simmer for a bit while Ryan & I watched Peter Sellers in Being There on Netflix.

When the carrots were tender, everything else was done too. I broke up some buckwheat soba and added that to the simmering broth. I only let the soba cook until pliable because this soup will need to cool and then be served at a later date, and I don't want the noodles to become complete mush by the time they are eaten. I dissolved a couple tablespoons of red miso into some warm water and poured that into the soup. I left the miso until the very end because it is a great source of beneficial pro-biotic bacteria, but only if you don't kill it with heat - so as soon as the miso was stirred through, I turned off the stove and let the soup cool.

Mary Foster Cadbury heads home with her soupWe didn't have a big crowd in meeting this morning because quite a few Friends were traveling for the holidays. Others were dealing with their own Thanksgiving leftovers, but some were really happy to get this soup and a few others decided to take some after they smelled it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eat Kale Every Day

This week, I'm writing from Chicago where I'm attending a retreat for the Traveling Ministers Program, sponsored by Friends General Conference. I'm have a wonderful and rich time, but it also means thatanother week goes by with no soup from me for Bulls Head Friends. I'm looking forward to being back in my own kitchen next week and with my soup pot steaming.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you a bit of wisdom that was passed on to me by Santha Cooke, a wonderful massage therapist, nutritionist and all-round cool person in Salt Point NY. "Eat kale every day." You cannot go wrong with this advice.

Here's how I prepare kale: I tear it up with my hands. If it's mature and has tough stems, I tear the more tender part of the leaves off the tougher stem parts. Leave some of the thinner stems though because they add a nice texture. Then I boil them just until tender - but not to the point of overcooking. After draining, I dress the cooked Kale with a Bragg Liquid Aminos, liquid smoke, sesame oil and a shot of the juice from a jar of pickled hot banana pepper rings. If you don't like hot stuff, you could use plain vinegar or the juice from mild pepper rings. Then, I chill it in the fridge and when I need an afternoon snack, I eat a bowl of chilled kale. It's best eaten with chopsticks and a glass of tomato juice!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

(My apologies to my vegan friends for this departure while I'm cooking for my family. We'll get back to the vegan soups when I get home and am cooking for Bulls Head Friends again.)

There's nothing quite as comforting as a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup. It's the balm that will sooth anything from the common cold to a broken heart.

I'm still in Florida, spending time with my 97 year old grandmother, Dot Cesky, while my mom enjoys a vacation in Hawaii. My son, John New, is coming over for dinner today - so today's soup spans four generations. My mom isn't here, but I'm cooking in her kitchen, so I think that counts. Growing up, John and his brother Ryan would often request this for dinner, no matter how hot it was outside. I glad we're having some lovely cool weather here in central Florida because soup and air conditioning are not a good pairing. John makes a mighty fine chicken soup himself - of course he learned from me.

I start by rinsing a whole fryer chicken, putting it into the pot with the giblets, covering it with water, adding salt and pepper and putting it on the stove over medium heat. It's not necessary to use a whole chicken. You could also use leg quarters, thighs, or the left-overs (including bones) from a roasted chicken. Just don't pay premium prices for boneless skinless cuts because making soup is a way to use all the parts of the bird. You can also do exactly the same thing to make Turkey Soup with leftover turkey bones and pieces - so you might want to bookmark this post for the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Be sure to wash your hands and any surfaces that touched the raw chicken. Bring the pot to a boil and reduce heat and let it simmer. It smells so good cooking - homey and warm.

While it's simmering chop an onion, a couple of carrots, and a few stalks of celery, with leaves, and through them in.

You can tell the chicken is done when the legs pull away easily from the rest of the body. It does no harm to cook it longer. Especially if you are working with leftovers, the longer you simmer the more goodness you get out of your chicken parts. When it's done and you're ready, lift the chicken out of the broth, be sure and let the broth drain out of the cavity, and set it on a plate to cool. I use a large spoon and a wooden cooking paddle for this. If I'm working with pieces, or I've cooked it so long that it has fallen apart, I use a large slotted spoon. At this point I fish out the heart and gizzard and eat them. Cook's prerogative.

Once you take the chicken out you will have a very rich broth and extra room in your pot. If you are concerned about fat, you can remove it from the broth now. Add more water and put it back on the heat but be sure to leave a few inches from the top of the pot so you have room to add more good stuff.

I added a coarsely chopped green bell pepper, a package of frozen green peas, and some leftover green beans. Add whatever veggies you like. This is a good way to use leftovers. When it's cool enough to handle, pick the meat off the chicken and break it into bite-sized pieces and throw them back into the pot. Discard the skin & bones.

The egg noodles are what will really set apart a truly amazing bowl of soup. It's not hard at all to make your own. Here's what I do: I beat 2 eggs with some Abodo seasoning and black pepper. Then I mix in some All-Purpose flour. I keep adding flour in small quantities until I have a ball of dough that sticks together and I can shape it into a ball. Don't knead it or handle it too much so your noodles will stay tender. Some people will then roll the dough out on a floured surface and then cut them into strips. I like to follow a shortcut and just flour my hands well, pick up the ball of dough, pinch off pieces, and throw them directly into the boiling soup. Then, all you have to do is call the noodles 'dumplings'. If it starts to stick to your hands too much, just grab more flour. Be very sloppy about letting extra flour fall into the soup because this will thicken the whole pot and make the soup extra hearty.

In certain parts of the country you can also purchase Reames frozen egg noodles, which are quite good. Of course you can also use the dried egg noodles that come in a plastic bag from the grocery store, but if you do, put them in at the very end of cooking. If they get overcooked they turn to mush.

Herbert Hoover rode into the US Presidency on the slogan "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." Not a sustainable economic or environmental policy for certain. Considering the impact and conditions of factory-farmed chickens, you don't want to do this very often. Back home, I have a source of fresh, local chickens grown in a natural setting. The most reasonable thing to do is eat a free-range laying hen after she's finished producing eggs - and the stewing cooking method I describe above is perfect for a tough bird. The sheer sensory pleasure found in an occasional pot of chicken soup, tells me why the slogan resonated so well with the voters of his day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vegetable & Chicken Stir Fry

Hey! That's not soup.

The Ministry of Soup is on the road this week as I'm in Florida visiting family. Bulls Head Friends will do without soup this week, but my family will benefit from my cooking. It's odd to cook in my mom's kitchen because I don't have my usual ingredients at hand and that's means even more improvisation than usual. I'm also cooking for a different audience this time, so I'm not under the usual dietary restrictions.

I started this dish by cutting up some boneless skinless chicken breast and putting the pieces into a bowl along with some soy sauce, chopped garlic, sesame oil and a bit of cornstarch. I set this aside and let the flavors mingle while I prepared the veggies.

I chopped up a couple of inches of fresh ginger and some more garlic. I cut a bunch of green onions into 1 inch pieces, a red bell pepper into strips, a bunch of mushrooms into chunks, and trimmed the ends off a couple of baby bok choy. I rinsed and drained some snow peas and mung bean sprouts.

Because my mom's kitchen is so much bigger than mine, I went a little crazy and cooked in 2 pans at the same time. In the first pan, I heated a bit of oil and then stir fried the garlic and ginger for about 1 minute, then the chicken went in. When the chicken was nearly cooked, I added the mushrooms.

In the second pan, I also heated a bit of oil, then added the veggies in this order, stir-frying each for a minute or so before adding the next: green onions, bell pepper, bok choy, snow peas, and mung bean sprouts. At this point Mom (Carole Seibert) came in and took over stirring this pan while I finished off the other pan.

While the chicken was finishing, I mixed some more soy sauce with a bit of white wine, some sesame oil and corn starch. All the liquids were cool to make it easier to mix the corn starch without it lumping. I stirred this liquid into the chicken & mushrooms and it quickly thickened too much, so I added a little water until the chicken was coated in a nice gravy-like sauce.

To finished, I dumped everything in the veggie pan into the chicken pan and made a big mess as I mixed it all together. We ate it over brown rice.

This dish is very simple and mild. At home I would have added fermented black beans, hot red peppers, and probably some other strange condiments from my fridge - but for Dot Cesky, my 97 year grandmother this was adventurous enough.