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Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup


It’s time again to play “Last Week’s Supper Is This Week’s Soup”!

It’s not quite as desperate as it sounds. I like this game because it’s teaching me a lot about combining various in-season vegetables and neatly preventing me from having to waste any leftover produce even after the first or second dish I needed it for has long since been consumed.

This week I was also able to introduce a new player into the basket–peas! As I have been not hesitant to mention, the debut of fresh peas at the local farmers market is particularly exciting to me. I quickly claimed 2 lbs., as if the ladies standing around me were a threat and might snatch them all away before I could make my purchase.

Home again I checked the fridge only to realize I’d “lost” a bunch of asparagus from last week in the bottom of the crisper drawer. But there it had sat, well wrapped but without water for quite a few days. I also came up with some mint and a few spring onions. These forces combined, I had a soup bursting with bright green color and all the refreshing and energizing taste I was hoping to capture.

Green Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup

4 spring onions, sliced
one bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed and spears cut into 1″ pieces
3 cups fresh peas
4 cups vegetable broth
handful of mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Place broth in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Add asparagus and onion to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and cook 3 minutes more. Remove pot from heat, add in the mint, salt, and pepper, and puree. Stir in the buttermilk and adjust seasonings as needed. Enjoy warm or chilled.

Green Spring Pea and Asparagus Soup

Pretty in Pink Week: Cold Summer Beet Soup


Due to market produce selection, it’s shaping up to be something of a pretty in pink week here in Wonderland. Beets…strawberries…grapefruit juice…purple potatoes (yeah, but close enough relations?). Even before I did the shopping, I was already gazing into the refrigerator to assess the inventory and dreaming in Pantones.

What I already had on hand due to the previous week’s cooking: three perfectly roasted beets; half a bottle of buttermilk; one cup of thick yogurt; one bunch of spring onions; a cucumber and some dill; plus a few remaining pickled ramps floating around in jar of brine that was so sweet and tangy and delicious it would be criminal to not put it to some use.

Cold Summer Beet Soup

I mention this because as soon as I saw the Šaltibarščiai soup recipe in Canning for a New Generation, I started in on the Googling and realized that I wouldn’t be able to make a soup a Lithuanian Bubby would recognize, but I might just come up with a tasty “inspired by” summer dish. Plan formed, I went to work with my knife.

Cold Summer Beet Soup
heavily inspired by Canning for a New Generation, internet research, and the contents of my refrigerator

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or kefir)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup strained or Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, seeded and diced into small cubes
2 large cooked beets, peeled and diced into small cubes
1 spring onion, finely sliced and chopped a few times
2-3 T sweet pickle brine or rice vinegar (to taste)
2 T dill, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
black pepper

Really, once you’ve completed the knife work required (as indicated above), you’re pretty much done. Reserve some of the beet and cucumber pieces for garnish, if desired. Place all remaining prepared ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

Cold Summer Beet Soup

Soup can be made in advance and kept chilled. Flavors meld, but also be forewarned that the beets will continue to bleed into the broth. By dinner last night, Brian was a little freaked out by the “Barbie corvette” tone the evening’s soup course had taken on.

Warmer Than Springtime


Sunshine: 87 degrees worth this past weekend, to be exact, triggering that desperate need for shoes that are not boots and a few new dresses free of olive oil stains. Yes, these are the signs, here in Mid-Atlantic Wonderland Kitchen, that we have finally shut the door and thrown the deadbolt on the chilly months and plunged into the humid swamp that will keep us cooking well into October.

Even more than all that, however, it was the scent coming from the bag of dill, cilantro, and basil that I had picked up at one of my favorite market stands that got me excited about the possibilities of the…new year? Yes, this time has always felt like much more of a beginning than that celebrated calendar change buried in a case of snow and ice. Trailing the smell of fresh herbs with every step, home I came with enough feeling of prospect that I snapped the first petite “market haul” pic of 2012:

market haul

See that cloth bag up there at right? My regular sister-in-produce Marie gifted me a few of those snazzy sacks sewn as part of a great initiative here in Baltimore, and I am hooked. You can learn more about the project here.

Once all these fine bits of produce were unloaded onto my counter top, my favorite game of “suss out the magic formula” began, during which I wracked my brain, my bookcase, and the internet for the perfect use of the assembled raw ingredients. This week’s winners?

Rhubarb Chutney

First off, the inaugural canning project of the season was successfully completed: Rhubarb Chutney. Thanks to a lovely, small-batch recipe I discovered through Food52, the exercise proceeded without a hitch. It’s sweet and tart and cries out to be smeared on grilled cheese sandwiches, served with fancy crackers and goat cheese, and probably tastes lovely with roasted fowl, if you’re into that sort of thing. Honestly, the only real usage challenge I anticipate will be to keep from eating all this newly jarred deliciousness immediately.

rhubarb chutney: process

I also snuck a few more flats of Mason jars and a gallon of apple cider vinegar into the house over the weekend, so this preservation adventure has only just begun!!

Ahem. Okay, back to the food at hand.

Spring Radish, Asparagus, and Potato Salad

1 1/2 lbs baby red potatoes, cut into 1″ pieces
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed and lower stalks peeled if necessary
1 bunch mild radishes, quartered

For the dressing

1 cup strained yogurt (I happen to have a lot of this on hand because I love its sour cream-like consistency and because I’ve been using the whey in fermentation projects. It’s easy if you have one of these. However, any thick yogurt will do.)
1-2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tsp. chopped dill
salt and pepper to taste
sunflower seeds to garnish (optional)

Boil potatoes just until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside to cool.

Blanch asparagus for 2 minutes, or just until tender crisp. Immediately plunge into an ice bath. When cool, slice into 2″ pieces.

Place the potatoes, asparagus, and radishes in a large bowl and set aside while you prepare the dressing. Combine yogurt, onion, dill, salt, and pepper and spoon dressing over the vegetables. Toss to coat. Adjust seasoning and chill. Garnish with sunflower seeds before serving if desired.

celery soup

Cream of Celery Soup
adapted from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups

I often find soups too heavy to start a meal with, especially in the warm months, but this one is truly light and appetizing. It works well served both hot and chilled.

Celery Soup

4 cups celery, diced
3 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 white boiling potatoes, cubed
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk
2 T corn starch
2 T butter
scratch of nutmeg
1 T chopped dill
salt and pepper to taste

Place celery, shallots, garlic, and water in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of the milk and, when the butter begins to bubble, add this mixture and stir for several seconds. Add the remaining milk, salt, pepper, and the nutmeg, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened. Reserve.

When the simmering time is complete, puree the soup and return it to the pot. Add the white sauce and the dill, and adjust the seasonings as needed. Enjoy hot or cold!

A Pot o’ Gold: Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup


When it comes to culinary heritage, I claim the closest affinity with the Slavs thanks to the maternal side of my family tree. With a name like Molly Marie Sheridan, I don’t feel too obnoxious trying to get in on a little of that luck of the Irish as well, however, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. Exercising an American flexibility when it comes to culture is useful like that.

My celebration of the day here in Baltimore is a far cry from the festivities put on at my last address. Instead, this year I went the monastic route and turned to my copy of Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, pulling out a recipe for Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup from the “March” chapter. Despite the name, at first I hesitated, not generally being a fan of dishes that hide their vegetables under cheese. But if it was good enough for the monks, surely it should be good enough for me, no? Plus, I had buttermilk in the fridge that was crying out to be turned into a fresh soda bread as accompaniment, so ahead full steam I charged.

Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup recipe

Vegetable sizes being so variable, I added more carrot and potato than the recipe called for but which seemed to suite the 6 cups of broth. Having taken no religious vows, I also got crazy and doubled all the seasonings aside from the salt, which I omitted entirely (the strategic penance of a once-Catholic?). The cheese and broth seemed to provide plenty of taste-popping sodium on their own.

Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup ingredients

As I swallowed my first taste of the finished pot, the memories of every terrible bowl of broccoli cheddar soup I had ever eaten melted away–a Saint Patrick’s Day culinary conversion.

Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup
based on a recipe from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups

2 leeks, sliced
6 small potatoes, cubed
6 thin carrots, sliced
4 T butter
6 cups vegetable broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
1/2 tsp. ground sage
1 cup milk
5 oz. grated Kerrygold Irish Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste (like I said, mine needed no additional salt, so be sure to taste before adding)

Saint Patrick Irish Cheddar Soup ingredients

Melt butter in a stock pot. Add vegetables and saute for several minutes. Then add broth, garlic, and seasoning, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors merged, about 30 minutes.

Remove pot from heat and puree.

Add milk and cheese and continue stirring until cheese has melted. The soup should still be plenty hot enough to do so, but return to heat if necessary, taking care not to allow it to boil.

Serve hot with a hearty bread. This one is excellent and speedy, if a suggestion is needed.

Yes, This Is Just Soup (No Lunchbox Edition)


I’m really getting into soup for lunch, especially now that I’ve started just drinking it out of a Mason jar. When I need to travel, I pop a lid on it and toss it in my bag; when I’m working at home, that still means less silverware to wash. Either way, my computer keyboard remains un-sticky and crumb-free.

Plus, it’s winter (ostensibly), and I’m a girl who loves her roasted root vegetables and her immersion blender. Lately, I’m also loving buttermilk for baking and salad dressings, so a little of that goes in the pot as well. You see how this works?

Soup is one of the few cooking areas where I feel safe stirring without a net because while I’m sure you can complicate soup, you can generally make it simply out of what’s around, keeping things interesting. With that in mind, here are two of my recent “what’s in the ‘fridge” weekend concoctions, all made as a way to use up ingredients from other meals I had planned to cook but then never got around to producing. I feel weird calling these “recipes,” since really they could both be reduced to your basic: Add a little fat to a pot and saute some onion or garlic or leeks and/or herbs and spices. Then, add some veggies (roasted when it suits) and broth or water. Simmer to combine flavors and soften up any ingredients that need it. Then puree and add some creaminess (milk, cream, yogurt, cheese) if you like. Garnish if you’re feeling fancy and serve hot!

However, for those who would like a little more in the way of measurement (my husband hates it when I say, “You know, just put in a little!” and yet I continue to say this kind of thing all the time), here are the specifics (more or less).

No lunch box required!

Baked Sweet Potato Soup

3 large sweet potatoes
2 T olive oil
1 cup white onion, chopped
2 tsp. Vindaloo seasoning
1/2 tsp. paprika (Mine is quite hot, so this added a nice spice punch to balance the sweetness of the potatoes without me resorting to cayenne, which I’m starting to admit I really just don’t like.)
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup buttermilk
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Wash and prick sweet potatoes with a fork and set on a foil-lined baking tray. Roast till quite soft, about 60 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and set aside. Mine popped right out of their skins with very little effort. Discard peels.

Heat oil in a soup pot and saute onion until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add spices and continue cooking about 1 minute. Then add reserved sweet potato and vegetable broth. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree soup. Add buttermilk and salt, adjusting seasoning and consistency to suit your tastes.

Roasted Celeriac and Parsnip Soup

1 large celeriac, peeled and cubed
4-5 parsnips, peeled and cubed
4 T olive oil, divided
3 leeks, washed and sliced
2 tsp. curry powder (I used a grocery store one I have that is much tamer that others I use, which I felt suited the soup)
5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cup buttermilk
salt to taste
pomegranate molasses to garnish (totally optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Line a baking tray with foil and pile cubed vegetable on top. Drizzle with 2T olive oil and toss well to coat. Sprinkle with salt if desired and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring partway through to prevent burning. Vegetables should be somewhat browned and caramelized.

In a soup pot, heat the remaining 2 T olive oil and sauté leeks until softened. Add curry powder, roasted vegetables, and the stock or water and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree soup. Add buttermilk and salt, adjusting seasoning and consistency to suit your tastes. I feel that a little drizzle of pomegranate molasses, if you have a bottle taking up space in your refrigerator as I do, makes a nice accent.

If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler


Not long ago, I enjoyed a particularly fantastic supper at Woodberry Kitchen which consisted of navy beans, torn bread, kale, turnips, and smoked red chile, all baked up in a petite cast iron pan and garnished with fresh pea shoots. It was delicious top to bottom, but those torn bread chunks studding the dish–so crisp, so well seasoned, so tasty–have haunted me ever since.

Though I have no wood-fired brick oven here at home, nor any cast iron pans for baking such a dish, I decided to try for an approximation with the ingredients I had on hand.

The stew I came up with was hearty and comforting, but it was ultimately a dish quite unlike the original, of course. It was plenty tasty, sure, but disappointment encroached at the dinner table. I had failed to capture the bread–both in texture and taste. It was good, but it wasn’t that bread. How did they do it?

So it’s back to the drawing board on that part. I’m not even sure what I’m looking for exactly–more of a crouton, perhaps? even drier and spicier than what I made?–but I’ll let you know when I find it.

Meanwhile, this is a dish that would warm and welcome any visitor arriving at your door on a cold night.

Traveler's Stew: Process

Traveler’s Stew

1 1/2 cups crowder peas, cooked
4 T olive oil, divided
1 sprig rosemary
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, cubed
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
28 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp paprika
2-3 cups swiss chard, de-ribbed and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Several slices of crusty bread, cubed (an 8-inch portion of stale baguette works especially well here)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Traveler's Stew: Process

In a 4 qt. oven-safe pot, heat 2 T olive oil and sizzle rosemary to infuse. Add onion and saute until softened, then stir in mushrooms and continue cooking until they release their juices. Remove and discard the rosemary and add the carrots, celery, beans, tomatoes (with their juice), wine and spices to the pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the carrots have softened. Add the swiss chard, and continue cooking 10-15 minutes more, until greens are wilted and flavors well merged. Season with salt as needed.

While you wait for the greens to cook down, preheat the broiler and heat the remaining 2T olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic to infuse the oil and then add the bread cubes, tossing to coat with the oil. Continue to toast them in the pan, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the cubes are golden, about 7 minutes.

When ready to serve, layer the bread on top of the stew. I decided to push the chunks down into the liquid just slightly to soak them into the tomato broth somewhat, then I placed the pot under the broiler for a few minute to recrisp the bread and actually burn it just a bit (personal preference).

Remove from oven and garnish with parsley. Serve piping hot.

Traveler's Stew