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Posts from the ‘soups’ Category

broccoli soup with white pepper and feta

It’s the New Year and I’m brimming with resolutions. It might be that I spent my new year’s week with all the things that make me most happy—my family, fresh writing projects, and a new novel by Haruki Murakami—but 2012 feels full of promise, and resolution #1 is to sustain that feeling of buoyancy for as long as possible. Resolution #2 (which handily edged out #3: honoring my parents’ orthodontic investment and finding the will to wear my old retainers) is to spend more time with Girl Farm Kitchen, and on that note I have a special introduction to make.

Shepherd Farms is my family’s “home farm”—we live on Shepard Mesa, and the travel time from door to door clocks in at four minutes. We’ve been members since they started their CSA program several years ago, and when I’m home I’m the designated produce shopper, stopping by the farm cart on weekday afternoons to chat with Kjessie and select jewel-toned cabbages and crisp, sweet gnarled carrots.

The welcome is always warm: in the summer two Polish chicks gamboled in a play-pen by the farm cart, and last week they came leaping comically over the nearby rows of rosemary to greet me when I arrived. The farm’s characters don’t end there—regulars are well-acquainted with “Stan” the turkey, who makes soft warbling noises in her throat when you get too close to her chicken friends, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feeds my strawberry tops to the three woolly goats as I leave (lucky for them I’ve usually eaten half the punnet by the time I get to the car). Driving by it’s not unusual to see Tom Shepherd out on his tractor, wide-brimmed hat on head and wandering chickens in tow.

Living in California (especially under the sway of winter heat spells) we’re fortunate to get ripe strawberries and tender lettuce greens year-round, but having planted and tended brassicas at Love Apple I have a sweet spot for broccoli and cauliflower as the traditional winter crops. This soup was a play on the many broccoli and cheese numbers I’ve tasted over the years, and as a lover of feta—especially tangy, moist feta—I thought I’d give that a try. Resolution #4? Celebrate winter veggies, the farms that grow them, and the tables they end up on.

Broccoli Soup with White Pepper and Feta

3 medium heads of broccoli

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 good sized potato

5 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 cup yogurt

fresh coriander (cilantro) for garnish

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut broccoli into small florets and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then arrange on a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until florets are nicely browned on the edges. Set aside to cool.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat and saute onions and garlic. Cube potato and add in with the broth, then simmer until potato pieces are cooked through, adding broccoli towards the end. Let soup base cool a bit before stirring in feta, and season with white pepper, ground coriander, and salt to taste.

Puree warm soup in a blender in two batches, then return to pot and whisk in yogurt. Reheat if necessary and serve warm, garnished with fresh coriander and crumbled feta.

potato fennel soup with eggplant

“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Looking out from our kitchen at the redwoods dressed in afternoon sun I would tend to agree with Henry James. No, October 22nd isn’t really summer in the true sense of the word, as much as the warm weather and last farm zucchinis on the table suggest it. But I’m ready to make amends with fall, starting with the fact that I spent my summer afternoon making the one meal that makes me crave autumn above all else—soup.

In my family soup was never relegated to the role of mere starter. Halloween meant costumes, trick-or-treating, and the Great Candy Trade which commenced every year when our haul was complete, but just as much as any of those things it meant soup—pots of it steaming on the stovetop to greet tired  flamenco dancers and their parents. My earliest memories of eating vegetables (and enjoying them) are all memories of soup: kale and potato soup with Polish sausage, creamy butternut squash soup, broccoli soup that had even our veggie nemesis friend Hayley asking for seconds. When I started cooking for myself in college the first recipe I came up with was for soup, a mishmash of vegetables, beans and pasta that I made repeatedly for months. I still remember the delight of standing over the pot that seemed to fill the entirety of my college kitchen—and the tragedy when I spilled an entire 2-quart Tupperware of my concoction onto my dorm room floor.

Last week, as if right on cue, a book mysteriously appeared on our kitchen table: The Soup Bible: All the soups you will ever need in one inspirational collection. (yes, bolded just like that). According to a scratched and peeling sticker on the cover it was $7.98 from Barnes & Noble—that’s right, $7.98 for all the soups you will ever need, plus tips on how to make swirled cream toppings, leek haystacks, and sippets (which are, apparently, large croutons). After an extensive perusal I had not only discovered a term for soup I’d never known before—“pottage”—but I was inspired to abandon the inspirational collection for a soup of my own. Harkening back to my early college days it’s a mishmash once again, but one entirely from the garden: in honor of summer afternoons, autumn days, and all that falls in between.

Potato Fennel Soup with Eggplant

1/2 onion sliced

2 cups chopped fennel (mostly bulb with some frond)

2 cups cubed potatoes

2 small or one medium eggplant sliced

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup milk

salt & pepper

In a large soup pot saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add fennel, potatoes and eggplant, cooking until potato pieces are lightly browned and eggplant is soft. Add hot broth and 1/2 cup milk, simmering until the potato is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and blend with a hand blender or in a food processor until creamy, leaving a few chunks for texture. Serve with chopped fennel fronds sprinkled on top.

garlic soup with sage and poached egg

I’m giving you advance warning: this is going to be another one of those “life philosophy” posts that I secretly planned on indulging in when I started this blog. One of the things I love most about working outside with my hands (ok, physical labor) is that it gives me ample time to let my mind wander, and as a former English major random acts of thinking are what I do best.

Of course there is such a thing as too much thinking. The times I’ve let my mind ramble a bit too freely I’ve either A) composed elaborately worded letters to boys who clearly didn’t like me anymore or B) come up with plotlines for truly original works of fiction (boy meets girl who tells him she’s a ghost come back to fall in love, but wait—she’s actually just delusional! Unfortunately I actually wrote that). Thinking is an art—no one wants to do a mental tally of the month’s finances, but take thirteen of an imagined conversation isn’t a good place to end up either (although that time, you really nailed the withering comeback). Overly pragmatic or dramatic thoughts keep you going in circles—reflection gets you somewhere much more interesting. Farming is work that gives you space to reflect, and that’s something I’ve discovered I really like.

Leaving home for New York my freshman year in college wasn’t the easiest thing, but I came out the other end having learned something that changed the way I looked at life. The lesson? Find the small things that consistently make you happy, then make sure they’re part of your life each day. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in the middle of Oklahoma city or the rolling hills of Virginia—if I can go for a nice run in the morning and spend a couple hour in the kitchen cooking at night, I’ll be that much happier. Dramatically happier. I know it sounds simple, but it works. There are dozens of things that can change how you feel, but when I’m sad or lonely I just run, cook, and do crossword puzzles more.

And now I think I’ve found something to add to the list: work that gives you room to think. It’s something that farming and cooking share, and for me, space to think is space to write. Someone I believe understands this very well is the chef and writer David Tanis, whose new NYTimes column City Kitchen I stumbled across the other day after reading an interview on Eater. Smitten I decided to try one of his recipes, and this simple garlic soup caught my eye. As a meal it was perfect—just a few key ingredients that come together to make something flavorful and rewarding.

A little bit like life.

Garlic Soup with Sage and Poached Egg

From David Tanis’ City Kitchen

8 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

6 sage leaves, sliced into thin strips

3-4 cups water

salt and pepper


toasted slice of good bread

In a medium saucepan, heat garlic and sage over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Add water before the garlic browns and simmer gently for 10 minutes to create a broth, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. When your 10 minutes is up crack an egg in the broth to poach for two minutes. Lay your slice of toasted bread in a shallow bowl and ladle the egg on top, and finish by pouring in the broth.

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