A Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York grows up on, among other delicious things, three basic staples: bagels, pickles, and chicken soup. Saturday bagels for energy to run and jump and play; sour pickles for, uh, probiotics and a strong stomach; and chicken soup, for everything. At holidays, the soup, served with matzoh balls or Grandma’s Passover noodles, is always simmered for a long time, tenderizing the chicken that would be plucked out and used as an hors d’oeuvre in chicken salad (with challah or matzoh, depending on the holiday). The halved or quartered veggies are separated from the broth and passed around the table, so family can pick and choose whether they want carrot, or parsnip, or celery, or nothing at all. During the winter, my mom makes it exactly the same, but keeps everything in the pot, pulling out one chicken breast at a time to shred directly into bowls filled with extra thin egg noodles and topped with broth and whatever vegetables we’re craving that night, and we would cut into the veggies ourselves, with a spoon, and heal our winter blues. Mom’s soup is delicate but hearty, uncluttered, uncomplicated, and, in a word, home.
I might be the only person in New York City who likes winter. And not just light snowfalls, pristine white flakes floating down onto quiet sidewalks, silhouetted against lamplight and curtainless windows. Not just chilly temperatures, asking for sweaters and scarves and woolen coats and boots. No, I like extended frozen landscapes. Last winter? The polar vortex? The frozen Hudson? I loved it. I may have been the only person who didn’t complain when it felt like spring would never come — well, until it did, for a day, and then got cold again. Then I was ready. Because cold winters mean glorious springs, and it was. I may shiver and it may take courage to go out for a training run when it gets below 20 degrees, but this week’s sub-zero wind chills just make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside — because when it gets like this, I fill my insides with warm bread and hot soup. But not just any hot soup — Moroccan chickpea soup.
This beautiful concoction melds the flavors of cinnamon and cumin, paprika and cayenne, to build a slightly sweet, slightly spicy base from which the chickpeas can make their case for a hearty alternative to meat. Baby spinach adds vitamins, a pop of color, and a hint of bitterness, which compliments the handful of slightly acidic tomatoes here wonderfully, and I’ve added diced carrots for an additional boost of mellow sweetness (and something else to chew on). Some of the chickpeas are mashed at the end, so that the soup isn’t just chunky, it’s thick, too. Continue reading →
Happy New Year, everyone. 2014 is now a relic of the past. Like many of you, mine was filled with ups and downs — and this year, they weren’t simply little hiccups and little boosts here and there. 2014 was momentous, it was disastrous, it was marvelous. I left my life at an organization to which I dedicated seven years of my heart and soul, bled passion and tears and hope and frustration. Left what had become an unkind regime. Rekindled my passion for my own work, my own writing. Found you, the ImaginariYUM, and found myself.
And now it’s 2015, and things are gonna change. A little. My big New Year’s Resolution is simple, but will hopefully be profound: I resolve to use up all the leftover vegetables I buy before they turn to mush, grow mold, or grow eyes. And to start, I’m using up (almost) all the leftover potatoes from my two crazy days of latke-making a couple of weeks ago by turning them into velvety potato leek soup. And as a side? I’ve taken some of the leftover buttermilk from last week’s perfect cinnamon rolls and turned them into the easiest buttermilk biscuits. It’s cold, I’m hungry and still tired from being up way too late last night, and I’m damn glad there’s something good, healthy, and hearty to eat for the start of the new year.
Years ago my aunt gave me a recipe for roasted tomato soup that called for beefsteak tomatoes, which, truly, are only available in good form in the summer. I made it several times, because, who are we kidding? I can eat soup on a hot day. Especially if it’s tomato soup. It’s a weird thing I picked up from my mentor at an internship eons ago: great soup (say, with a bagel) was filling – and cheap. It became a ritual. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit.
After I left that organization I needed to recreate the soups that got me through the simultaneous reaffirming and heartbreaking work (and gave me super human rights powers?), and this recipe, which I did only make in the summers, was spot-on. But the heat from the oven, and then the stovetop, was generally intolerable, so after a while that hand-written recipe left the rotation, relegated to the inner folds of my recipe binder, several pages down from two different summer-y panzanellas and nestled between two decidedly wintry soups.