Refrigerator Drawing Soup

“Jeuicy, get down!” I blew a gust of air into the cats little gray face. It ruffled his fur and made him squint and glue his little paws even tighter to the back of the kitchen stool, which we were now sharing.
“Get DOWN!” I blew a stronger gust of air, which rustled past his ears causing him to wag his tail slowly from side to side. His ears were pinned back, and his eyes were squinted low. We were having a stare down; me kneeling on the edge of the chair as though it were alter, Eugene hanging on for dear life braced against the chair as though it were a raft. We both turned as the clomping of Christina’s cowboy boots, rounded the kitchen corner and halted to a stop. The pointy toes pulled back like two bridled stallions.
“What is going on in here?” She said. We both looked up, as though to say “s/he started it” Christina pulled Eugene off of the chair, and put him on the ground, from where he looked up at her with bruised eyes. She turned to me.
“What are you doing?” Christina looked inquisitively up at me. I had a wet towel in one hand, and a jar of peppercorns in the other. The entire contents of our kitchen now lay littering the counter tops, and I was stark naked.
“Cleaning” I replied. She shrugged her shoulders and walked out of the kitchen. What I was really doing was taking inventory. Each item in our kitchen connected me to an intention I once had while walking the labyrinth of the grocery aisle. The time I bought that jar of rose petals because I was going to cook an Iranian dish weekly. The coriander that was going to be ground into a salmon rub, still sat unopened. The dried limes we were going to use for iced tea in the summer. These were the promises yet to be fulfilled. Then there was the container of bay leaves, almost empty, the last of which floated like fish food on the top of a simmering soup stock on the stove beneath me. There was the cumin, half of which swam away in an ocean of yogurt sauce, and the brewers yeast emptied from movie nights with ritual popcorn. I followed the ingredient trail through my kitchen cupboards, and gradually a picture emerged. Who am I in these moments when I am creating my potential? What sort of person do I want to become? I sprinkle the last of the white pepper into the soup and give it a stir.

Refrigerator Drawing Soup
1. make a turkey stock (see last weeks soup for instructions on this) If you prefer the flavor of mystery, substitute fresh bay leaves.
2. Simmer 1½ cups of dried black eyed peas in 3 cups of water for 1 hour (until soft)
3. Cook 1 ½ cups wild rice in turkey stock

In a soup pot, heat 1 Tbsp grape seed oil. Add 1 diced yellow onion and 3 diced peeled carrots. Pour in 2 cups soup stock. Add 1 head diced kale and 1 Tbsp salt. Add 2 more cups soup stock. Let simmer until the kale is cooked to your liking. Add the beans and the rice. Add a few more cups soup stock. Add 2 cups diced turkey. Season with salt and pepper, French basil and a few drops of tamari (soy sauce).

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Thanksgiving Turkey Leftover Soup

“Hey, can you meet me in the garage in 5 min? I have a turkey” I shouted, phone balanced on one ear.
“you have a what?”
“Just meet me in 5 min and I’ll explain”
“Alright” Christina said.
As I backed into the parking space, Christina appeared in my field of vision and I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.

It had been a strange morning. Through fate, circumstance and cooking, I have recently become acquainted with a friend who is a very active member of a Catholic church. We are planning a cooking project together based out of one of their kitchens, and while trying to come up with a time to meet and tour the facility he asked me if I would like to join them in handing out food boxes for Thanksgiving.
“Sure” I said, without thinking.

So at 8am on Saturday morning, I got in my car and headed to Saint Philips church in North Minneapolis. I walked up to the massive wooden doors with the curiosity of a cat discovering a cabinet ajar. It is not that I haven’t been in a church before, however in the current religious political climate with media images of evangelical Christians holding anti same sex union signs, I wondered if I might be tarred and feathered at the door. Inside the walls of the church there was holy water, a giant crucifix, and an organ. These images reminded me of itchy tights and hard wooden pews and controlling my manners.

The volunteers stood around the coffee and donuts. They were nervous and fidgety, and eager be of service. I got the sense that I was not the only person in the room feeling that they were waiting to be found out and expelled from the premises. The group was so diverse, that no comfortable division of “us vs them” mentality could be constructed as the shelter of false intimacy.

It seemed everyone there was trapped in their own labyrinth, seeking answers to the riddle of which parts of them fit in with the group. It was the perfect opportunity to investigate the question of which pieces of me are mine alone, and which ones are common to fabric of the quilt of humanity? And then their was turkey. Fifty five boxes of turkey came and went in a flash, the remaining boxes sat, and sat, and we in the church began to slump into chairs in the sunset of our exhilaration. At around noon, a little girl showed up alone for her family’s box of food. “Where are your parents child?” one of the volunteers asked. “They’re sleeping” she said. It was a heartbreaking moment.

Many of the families who had registered for turkeys never came to pick up their dinner boxes, and the volunteers ended up taking boxes home. I backed my car slowly into it’s parking spot, Christina waiting with open arms to help me carry the 15 lb turkey up to our apartment. “What are we going to do with a whole turkey?” she said. “Well roast it and share it for soup on Sunday!”

Thanksgiving turkey leftover soup:

Step one: have a delightful thanksgiving dinner. Save the carcass once the turkey has been carved (carving is meditative for me. I try slice and lift each piece off balanced carefully between fork and carving knife, just like my father always does.)

Step two: make a turkey stock. Break up the carcass and put it into a soup pot with the pan drippings (if you have any left), some peppercorns, 5 bay leaves, 1-2 yellow onions, and 4 stocks of celery. Cover with water bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours.

Step three: When the soup stock is almost done, place a small rice pot on the stove and add 1/2 small diced yellow onion and a pinch of salt. Add some dried sage and 1 cup of rinsed wild rice. Pour 2 cups of turkey soup stock directly from the stock pan into the rice (avoid vegetables and fat layer on top). Cover rice and cook until tender.

Step four: In a separate pot, place 1/2 small onion diced, some salt, 3 stocks celery diced, 4 mushrooms diced, 4 small carrots peeled and diced, and a pinch of salt. Add some cut up turkey leftovers. Add 6-8 cups of turkey stock (strained) and the wild rice. If you prefer, use a gravy separator to skim off the fat layer on the top of the stock before pouring it in. Season and serve!

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Cream of Broccoli, Tarragon and Fennel Soup

Patience is a virtue. I wonder if the original statement was something like patience has a virtue, or perhaps the inverse impatience has consequences. I am standing over a steaming, rich, creamy, fragrant cream of broccoli soup. Green flowers bubble to the surface, ensnared in thick white lava. I am hypnotized by the intoxicating smell of it, and the promise of tasting memories of cafe lunches and coming in from the snow. The bright lights of our kitchen, which Christina has recently transformed into a television set for filming instructional cooking episodes, beads sweat on my brow like an Island sun. I bring a steaming spoonful to my lips, the steam burns me before I even get the soup into my mouth. I have to drop the spoon and get an ice cube to sooth the burn.

As soon as the pain subsides, it is forgotten. I put the ice cube down walk over to the stove and take a huge scalding spoonful to my mouth. A large tree of broccoli with both flavor and heat trapped in its branches, releases steamy wrath on first my left cheek, then over my tongue before finally clearing all the taste buds from my right. My whole mouth, having suffered a brush fire, is now devoid of taste buds. Once again, I had gotten ahead of myself. I allowed my actions to become a chain gang, tethered together working toward some imagined outcome with no individuality of moments.

A few days ago, while driving through the city, I was whining about my life. Not that I have much to whine about, I really don’t, but restlessness has a way of finding useful and beautiful things to toss in the trash. “I feel like I have missed my chances, that I reached the edge of my potential, and jumped just short of the other side” The minute I said it out loud I felt foolish, but also relieved. “That is ridiculous” Christina said “you are just getting started. You are just upset because you imagine the payoff to be more than it is. You are working toward something, and that is your life. The working. You are upset because you want more than you have worked for, and you want it because you imagine it to be something that it isn’t”. I looked at her for a moment in shock. How funny that I have forgotten. We have played these words back and forth, because one of us always forgets. Sometimes we hold them in the same moment, and at these times we can have a good laugh at ourselves.

Christina walked into the room looking for the soup. “I hid it in the oven, be careful it is really hot.” “I don’t think it is” she said, and she popped it into the microwave for a min. When cooking, it is important to know your audience, and listen to their likes and dislikes. You can present your own idea of perfection and still some people will think that you have missed the mark completely. Fortunately, Christina and I like similar flavors, although we have a very different idea of temperature.
“This soup is amazing” she said, finishing her bowl “the flavors are really unique. It has to be shared. ”

Cream of broccoli, tarragon, fennel soup (makes 4 servings)
3-4 Tbsp butter
1 small vidalia onion diced
2 large heads broccoli
1 head of fennel (use the fronds)
1 bunch tarragon (to taste)
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
salt, pepper, white pepper
1 cup cream, half and half, or milk
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cave aged smear rubbed redstone cheese (or some other slightly pungent cheese)

In a large saucepan heat 2 Tbsp butter and add diced onion (with a little salt). Add broken up broccoli flowers, shaved stems (diced) and diced fennel. Pour in chicken stock and add tarragon. Cover and simmer for 20 min, until broccoli is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
In a separate pan, heat remaining butter and add flour. Cook until flour begins to brown. Add ~1/4 cup of soup to the flour and stir until thickens into gravy consistency. Add this “gravy” to the soup and simmer until the soup thickens a bit. Mash up the broccoli with a potato masher. Add milk/cream/half and half and cheese and stir until cheese melts.
Cool slightly and serve!

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Designing the Impossible Potato Leek Soup

Dark blue slices cut through a flat, billowing sheet of clouds in the dawn sky, lighting it into the face of a shivering fall pumpkin. I lay on the down comforter trying to remember, the feel of the shag carpeting, the smell of my room, my parents house. I begin to deconstruct it, remove the decor, peel the wallpaper, down to the wood placed by the previous owners. Each time I remove an object, I imagine the decisive moment of its placing. The driving force, invisible and gravitationally compelling: houses need walls, walls need wallpaper, beds have bedspreads, cultural ideals passed through generations by bucket brigade. The bucket of “baby blue is an acceptable color for a bedroom” splashed onto the bedroom of my youth. I slice leeks down the center and imagine a room painted from the center out in the spectacular bright yellows and smooth greens of the leek. The thought makes my heart open but my head ache. Too bright. Culture will set your mind free of indecision, but parameters allowed to set too long unquestioned will broaden the moat of shame around your castle.

The rules that built my parents house frame my expectations, but in the end we each become our own architect fitting our lives to accommodate growing technology. To replace the existing structure takes work and understanding of its original function. These are the thoughts that drive me to deconstruct my parents house.

The apartment is filled with the aroma of leeks, onions, peppercorns and bay leaves. The cats are curled up with Christina on the couch. Our walls are decorated with beautiful paintings into which a person can steal an intimate moment with their own psyche. Last night we huddled into the glow of candlelight across from each other at the restaurant table. A gold rimmed coffee cup, the size of a children’s tea party set turned upside down between us. The cardamom sweetness of the Turkish coffee still lingered on my breath. We waited for the coffee sludge to fall before flipping it over to read the grounds. I held the cup close and stared into the shapes like it were one of Christina’s paintings.
“What do you see?” she asked, leaning forward.
“I see a pregnant unicorn”.

Potato leek soup
2 giant leeks (use the greens for the stock and the whites for the soup)
6 peeled carrots
1 yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
6 bay leaves
a handful of marjoram
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp chicken base (optional)
in a wide pot, build a soup stock using the ingredients above (about 8 cups of water). Allow to simmer uncovered for about an hour. In the meantime, dice potatoes and leek whites (leave skins on potatoes for added nutrition).

“Spice Trail” tangine spice (recommended) (if you live in the Twin cities, you can get this from chef Sameh Wadi of Saffron, who took the title of Iron Fork in the 2009 competition.)
cumin and turmeric (optional)
5 cups diced yukon gold potatoes
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil

Melt butter and olive oil in a soup pot. Add potatoes and leek whites. Season with seasonings (have fun with this). Drain soup stock into potatoes. Cook 30 min until potatoes are tender and blend with a hand blender (leave some chunky if you like). Garnish with fresh crisp celery (much better than crackers, seriously!)

Christina’s vote: “Genius!”

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Alien Acorn Squash Almond Soup

6:45 am. I stood in the dark at the bus stop, looking for signs of the mobile fluorescent waiting room to zoom by, but it was too early for buses. I shook out my umbrella and began following the school of workmen headed toward campus. They were uniformed in dirty Carharts and had coolers swinging like briefcases from their giant hands. The rain painted streets reflected headlights in all directions, and my mind stirred with the transient reflections of a passenger waiting on an airport runway. I was late, but hesitant to quicken my stride due to the dull ache of my left shin. A nagging reminder of where I was going and what I didn’t want to find out.

As I walked through the revolving doors, I marveled at the pristine cleanliness of the university hospital. Everything was perfectly squared or curved, with clean glass and polished edges. The whites were perfectly white, like new teeth, as though born from a paintbrush overnight. The hospital workers had a relaxed alertness about them. They were immune to the predawn haze that fell on those of us coming from the world outside.

Down the long white corridor, on the left, there was a little waiting room. There I sat, shuffling my feet and assessing the germ content of the side table magazines. Like everything else in this building, the edges were crisp and pristine, germ free. A short stocky man with a helmet of dark hair and the protruding ears of a politician approached me. He wore a white coat with gold buttons and shoulder bars. He looked like a Star Trek character. I blinked.

“My girls are Cinderella characters this year, I am supposed to be prince charming. Follow me please, right this way.” I had forgotten it was Halloween. I followed the little man as he guided me to a large room. In the middle of the room, was a circular white machine with a smooth human-sized hole. I lay obediently on the table while he strapped my feet together.
“How does it work?” I said, my voice echoing into the vacancies.
“We will be shooting magnetic waves into your body. The waves will bounce off of the iron in your blood. We will be capturing an image of your insides by capturing those waves.” He then turned and walked out of the room.

If I leaned my head back on the table I could see wide eyes peering though the tinted glass of the control room, peeping out, then disappearing behind square monitors. Aliens. The machine began to hum. The operator spoke to me in a gentle voice over a loud speaker, parroting an automated machine voice “next picture, three minutes”.

We are all aliens. Everything we imagine comes from our experiences. Every day we operate machines we don’t understand from bodies we don’t understand. We poke and prod at ourselves trying to figure out how it all works. Then, one day, the aliens of our future become the ghosts of our past. The magnetic waves pulled at my ring and I heard Christina’s voice in my head. She had interrupted me in the car when I was whining about not being able to run.

“Reinvent yourself” she said, with little sympathy for my self pity. Her mother once warned me that one would have to be a strong person to be with Christina. Reinvent myself, yes.

Here I stand, with my aliens and ghosts just at the doors of my beginning. Here I revolve, changing uniforms as I build myself, or work myself, or break myself down. From Carharts, to lab coats to hospital gowns, building, working, studying, breaking down, shifting, building. Sundays are good days for aprons.

Alien Acorn Squash Almond Soup
1 large acorn squash (a lot of people don’t think highly of this variety, but it can be very amicable once you get familiar with it)
½ yellow onion
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp butter
2 cups almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
fennel seeds
ground clove, cinnamon, nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 390 degrees. Cut a LARGE acorn squash in two (this recipe only feeds 2-4 people). Scrape out the seeds and rinse and drain them in a colander. Place the squash face down in a casserole and pour 2 cups of water into the pan. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 40 min until soft.
When you take out the squash, turn the heat down to 300 and bake the seeds (toss in oil and salt and lay flat on a cookie sheet)

Dice ½ yellow onion. Saute in a soup pot with 1 Tbsp oil and 1 tsp salt. Add 1 Tbsp butter. Scrape the squash into the onions (you may want to wait until it cools a bit). Add about 2 cups of almond milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp fennel seeds, a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (optional). Use a hand blender to puree the soup. Garnish with a drizzle of maple syrup and toasted squash seeds.

Christina’s vote: “Best soup I have ever had”

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