Category Archives: soup

In the thirties

A good hearty soup for cold weather includes red beans, rice, and chorizo. I used homemade turkey stock.

Reading Bewilderment by Richard Powers. As you may know, he wrote The Overstory. This new novel features a young boy with issues, pretty severe issues. His widowed father struggles both to manage him and to avoid the pitfalls of diagnosis and medication. Naturally, the best scene so far took place while the two of them were camping (back to trees, in other words).

So far, it’s very, very good.

Too bad I can’t say the same about the week’s news. The SCOTUS decision about the Texas abortion law today released “the stench” that Sonia Sotomayor said it would. Yuck. What a bunch of partisan hacks! California declares itself a sanctuary state for women’s health.

We could write for days about all that is going wrong in this country, but I think I’ll go watch an episode of Top Chef (an old season I haven’t seen). Already watched this week’s installment of Project Runway.

This next Powers’ quote speaks to the moment.

To end on two positive notes: my brother walked 200 feet one day in PT this week; my younger son got an A minus in the writing class he finished today.

Well also: the 1/6 Commission seems to be gaining momentum. Good!

Black bean soup

Damnit! This is my blog and I’m gonna use it how I want! This post is for my boys. I want to now and again show how to make some simple fare. Dishes that could easily become standard for them. Food they ate growing up.

Most of my readers (I think), don’t need such instruction. So scroll on by! Unless of course you have a trick or special ingredient of your own to share.

Ingredients: One onion, one carrot, half a green pepper, the equivalent of a good sized potato, chicken stock, black beans, jalapeños. Cumin and cilantro.

To be served with a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro.

Since I don’t have a regular green pepper in the fridge, I’m using shishito peppers. That means I will skip the jalapeños. About every tenth shishito pepper is very hot.

It goes without saying that I prefer homemade chicken stock, but since I don’t have any, boxed will do. The fact that the key ingredients for this soup are either standard pantry items or standard root cellar items is one of its key virtues. The only grocery wild cards are cilantro and sour cream.

1. Chop veggies. Rough chop is fine, since we will be purée-ing with an immersion blender. Another virtue of this soup. Chop chop done.

2. Sauté the onions. Add a good amount of cumin halfway through. Cooking spices in the oil causes their flavor to bloom, so don’t just add later.

3. Add other root veggies and pepper and stir to coat with oil and cumin. Salt the pot.

4. Rinse the beans and add. Stir in thoroughly before adding stock.

5. Add a box of stock and if you have enough, some sprigs of cilantro.

6. Cook long enough to soften carrots and potatoes, about 20 minutes. Then purée. Taste and adjust salt.

Serve with a couple of generous tablespoons of chopped cilantro and a heaping tablespoon of sour cream (lofat works).

Delicious on its own, the soup becomes a meal with the addition of cheese quesadillas (also super simple to make) or, if lazy, cheese toast.

Bon appetit!

PS If using shishito peppers, be prepared to add a few disks of jalapeños. This batch was a little bland because none of the shishitos were hot.

Also, because I had half an ear of corn leftover in the fridge, I added it and another half can of beans after puréeing. Soup will have a little chunk, which is sometimes nice. The other half can of beans will be added to a salad later in week.

KITCHEN NOTE: I keep an appliance-tool spare kitchen. For instance, I squeeze lemons with one hand, poking with a knife if need be. I use the other hand to catch the seeds. No metal or plastic tool needed.

But! I have two sizes of Cuisinarts (and use both all the time) and consider an immersion blender one of the very best appliances going.

You can, of course, use a blender. It means pouring hot soup into the blender (which for me also requires sliding a stepping stool into place) and possibly doing so in two batches. More to clean afterwards.

Pantry soup #2 Miso Noodle

By giving root vegetables, frozen corn, and pantry items a starring role, Miso Noodle Soup could be made ten days before the end of the world. The addition of eggs and leftover chicken turned it into a meal. I used homemade chicken stock, but box broth would do in a pinch.

I think I saw a version of this on a NYTimes site this weekend, but I can’t track it down.

Miso Noodle Soup with Carrots & Corn

1 onion, halved and sliced in half moons

1 carrot, diced

1 1/2 c frozen corn

1 clove garlic

2 servings of Japanese noodles (I used somen)

Potful of chicken stock / 2 cups chopped chicken (optional)

Generous 1/4 c miso

* * *

Sauté onions. Add corn and carrots and soften a little. Drop garlic in center and cook for about 90 seconds.

Add broth. Cook until carrots done, about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles in a separate pot. Fill bowls with chopped chicken and noodles.

Also, hard boil two eggs, peel and cut in half.

Mash miso in separate bowl with about a cup of the hot broth. Pour back into pot and cook gently for a few minutes.

Pour over noodles and chicken. Top with eggs. Add salt to taste.


If I’d had scallions, I would have added them — both for color and spice.

As it turns out, I would have rather had more corn and no chicken, but I had a carcass to strip from making the stock, so it made sense to use it.

Definitely a meal I would make again, maybe experimenting with additions like ginger, cilantro, and jalapeños.

In other news, those who suggested that grass was a misguided idea with a dog and shade were right (Mo!). K’s sod was beautiful for a season, adequate for another, and destroyed now. I’m extending the beds by a couple of feet and dreaming of gravel walkways.

Isn’t that what quarantines are for? Digging up your backyard?

Food, news, and a rant

Snowflakes wander to the ground this morning and put us in mind of another April Fools Day, when two feet of snow fell. We couldn’t open the front door. It seemed a grand joke from Nature.

Who feels like joking now?

What will people discover isn’t so necessary when this is all over? D’s biology class resumes this week, but online. No lab. Surely hands-on science won’t fall by the wayside, but maybe all those corporate, in-person meetings?

The snow must be over, for the skylight is a blue rectangle.

Problem: a very bland fish chowder. I’m considering a remoulade to add flavor. NOTE: Jars of roasted red peppers make fabulous quarantine food, especially when fresh vegetables run low.

My next grocery delivery isn’t for another ten days and I’m almost out of onions and celery! Lettuce for two salads left, maybe. I must wage my war of emptying-the-fridge and relying-on-the-pantry in silence, otherwise K might take it upon himself to grocery shop.

I really don’t want him to go to the grocery store. I know people are making different decisions about this, but avoiding the store is a way to avoid worry.

Put another two ways: I really want my husband to live; I really don’t feel like dying.

Leave it to my friend DT to get to the heart of any matter, even if harsh truths are involved. ESPECIALLY if harsh truths are involved.

“What’s so bad about dying,” she asks in a recent phone call. “Why are we so afraid of it?” After a pause, in which perhaps she thinks about the recent arrival of another granddaughter, DT adds, “But, I have so many reasons to want to live.”

Another friend’s brother is on a ventilator. In Florida (no comment — rant comes later). She’s remarkably sanguine about it. She’s married to a doctor, which makes me wonder if the medical perspective is generally less hyped-up with avoidance strategies. My brother’s going grocery shopping, that’s for sure. His partner is being exposed in a Los Angeles ER and coming home. What’s grocery shopping compared with that?

My roasted pepper remoulade will feature garlic, salt, and olive oil. Can you picture the pretty red swirl in the creamy soup? Plus a sprinkling of chives from the pot out by the garage.

A plane passes. Earlier, an ambulance. Hong Kong’s numbers rise again. Talk of asymptomatic carriers who never get sick. K quips, “I’ll bet China doesn’t want to call Hong Kong theirs NOW.”

We see clip after clip of ER doctors describing war zones, their eyes wide with sadness. We see field hospitals being erected in Central Park and in various arena around the country. And still, the Partisan Dicks of some Red States stand their ground in a vicious display of macho-trumpism (oh, sorry. Is macho-trumpism redundant?) How can their decisions be allowed to govern when their toxic allegiance will literally kill people?

It’s no metaphor when Nancy Pelosi says trump has blood on his hands. The Boston Globe says it, too. Blood AND sputum.

Among other things, trump demands that we re-invent language, for surely “callous disregard for human life” and “lack of empathy” don’t quite capture his epic willingness to let people die.

We are still running the heat. I look forward to a short-sleeves day.

I’ll keep you posted on how the food challenge goes, as the vegetable bins empty and the onion bowl reveals only a littering of rust-colored, papery skins. The challenge appeals to me — something about my farming ancestors? A potato-blighted, starving past, perhaps. But seriously, this is a fight I’m equipped to fight. For so many, I lack all skill, all stamina.

A friend once said to me, “In a barter economy, you’d be a queen.”

It was a compliment, I know, but at the time also stood as an indictment about how I just couldn’t manage to make money or survive in the corridors of business.

Pantry Soup

“Pantry Soup” sounds better than “Pandemic Soup,” don’t you think? This cabbage bean combo fits the emergency-preparedness bill because most of the ingredients can be found in the well-stocked larder. Also, it relies on root vegetables which can sit on the counter for weeks.

Pantry Soup / Serves 2

1/2 onion, diced

small wedge of cabbage cut into ribbons

couple of potatoes diced

14 oz can of diced tomatoes, w/liquid

14 oz can of beans (I used cannellini)

2 T of powdered chicken broth / 4 c water

2 T of miso*

2 disks of jalapeños

Sauté onion and cabbage. Throw everything else in except the miso, save that for the end. Bring to low boil and cook until potatoes are done, about 20 minutes. Remove a little broth into a bowl and soften the miso in it and then dump back in.

Salt and pepper.


Hearty and satisfying. I don’t know about you, but I almost always have onion, potatoes, and cabbage in the house. Cans of tomatoes and beans and miso are staples, always to hand. If it had been a week that I’d been out and about, I would have finished with a pretty handful of chopped parsley.

I know I’m near heathy because I found myself at the grocery store before 7. Not quite a dawn run but close. The 22 degree air braced and refreshed.

Sign of the times: no Purell; no disinfectant wipes; dried beans very picked over.

I did manage to get some bleach and Lysol spray, plus TP and paper towels even though we have some. Also: a big jar of Tylenol.

These poor lonesome Yukon Golds looked like they were waiting for something — maybe to have their picture taken?

I felt a little strange stocking up so heartily when I already have a pantry that could feed us for weeks, but then I realized that my exuberant shop had more to do with being confined to the house most of the week than with fears about pandemics.

Also: can you say The Great British Baking Show? It was my greatest balm this week and I am gonna bake bread even though I’ve only done so twice in my life and technically I don’t eat gluten.

Thank you for all you insightful and kind comments yesterday. I haven’t quite finished responding there, but wanted Michelle to know that even though I did read Twitter upon waking (instead of smiling and gently stretching), the podcast I chose for my errand this morning was Ezra Klein interviewing former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith and NOT my usual political fare.

* thanks to my chef friend, Elizabeth Germain, for the miso master stroke. I happened to be talking to her on the phone while tasting the soup. It was a little bland. She said blonde miso would’ve blended in better but I only had dark and it was yummy.

PS if you double the recipe to serve 4, don’t double the miso.