Beautiful Soups!

Hunkering down into the folds of winter, my body begs a slowing down, a turning inward, a  respite from the frantic pace of December. The seasonal change also brings a change in what I’m craving–– at the moment, soul-nurturing meal-in-a-pot soups. Below, I’ve mapped together some of my well-tested global favorites. (For dozens more, check out the drop down menu on the right.)

Scarola e Faciole: White Bean and Escarole Soup with Pancetta

Scarola e Fagiole: White Bean and Escarole Soup with Pancetta. This is a hearty soup enjoyed in the wintry months in the Campagna region of Italy. It’s a delicious  way of showcasing escarole, a slightly bitter green, delightful in this recipe.

Pozole (Traditional Mexican Soup)

Pozole: Traditional Mexican Soup. This is an abbreviated version of a Mexican classic typically served during the holidays. I love the combination of hominy and salsa verde in the brew but the garnishes are what give it personality.I make mine with fistfuls of cilantro, topped with creamy avocado.

Turkish Lentil Soup with Roasted Eggplant and Yogurt

 Turkish Lentil Soup with Roasted Eggplant and Yogurt. Nothing is easier than making a soup with red lentils. Honestly, it’s about as easy to make as it is to open a can– the lentils  break down into creamy, buttery richness in no time. I added roasted eggplant and sour cream to this feast of simplicity.

Gumbo Ya Ya

   Gumbo Ya-Ya  My sister-in-law is going to be dancing in one of the Mardi Gras parades (the Krewe of Poseidon) this March and I’m beside myself with jealousy (-: She’s been practicing with her group, the Disco Amigos, for months, the troupe recently watched and endorsed by the director of Saturday Night Fever, no less. This recipe is in honor of Susanne! You go, sistah’ soul. You go!

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Thai Chicken Soup  Ahhh…lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilis. What could be better aromatherapy than a combination of these simmering smells to shout: I’m awake! I’m alive!  And if you’re suffering from a cold, this may be exactly what the doctor ordered to clear your sinuses. The next time you’re craving chicken soup, try this one on for size.

Korean Hot Pot

 Korean Hot Pot  This most ancient of Asian recipes is a party  in a bowl. I had a hot pot in China that included duck’s feet but I promise you that this recipe does not incorporate the “delicacy”; I took the liberty of substituting chicken and tofu. It’s replete with other goodies such as kim chee, soba noodles and watercress (why not?).    

In February, hubby and I travel to the warmer climes of Kenya and Tanzania on safari (and to visit an old friend), to glimpse the way the world might have looked before mankind.  It’s one of those trips we’ve been saying we’d do forever, but the expense, the vaccines, the two consecutive overnights in airplanes to get there have been a bit off-putting.  But, sigh, it’s the sub-Saharan. Free-range elephants, lions, zebras, rhinos…if not now, when?

In the meantime, Unazungumza Kiswahili? (Do you speak Swahili?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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She’s No Angel: Holiday Musings on Victuals and Vice.

Pig's Punch

Pig’s Punch

Like a thunder of army boots marching into town, I dread the inevitable scourge of New Year’s insight promoting radical behavioral shifts sure to trample me next month.

December offers us carte blanche; Eat, Drink and Be Merry. But January draws nigh, when some of us find ourselves hamsters on a double wheel of  guilt trips, agonizing over the previous year’s excess of food and drink.

Are New Year’s dietary resolutions punishment for last year’s  sins? Pain aside, self-flaggelation can be so boring.

At the moment, I’m trying on  a more enlightened approach, modifying behavior that could steer me to 2019 self-loathing in the first place. I’ll begin with alcohol–my poison, my friend.

Special Occasion Punch (champagne on the side).

Long gone are the days of pounding hangovers, when I couldn’t remember if I served that dessert at my dinner party the previous evening.

These days I sip slowly, enjoying the complexity of a vintner’s blend or bartender’s house concoction (Pig’s Punch featured in above pic; an alcohol-optional punch on the left; additional beverage recipes in the Beverages pull-down in the right column).

Yet, I remain no angel. Nor do I wish to be. But do I really need that second or third I’m-taking-an-Uber glass  just because the buzz is fading? My health certainly doesn’t. Every doctor and medical website will tell you this so don’t believe me.

Of late, I’ve been stocking my fridge with coconut water, fruit juices, seltzer waters and assorted bitters. I can make myself a mean non-alcoholic cocktail (yes bitters have alcohol, but really?) while binging with hubby on Sharp Objects.

Out and about, I can begin with seltzer and lime and move onto my high-octane treat mid-stream. Or vice versa. Must I have another? Well, alright. I’ll have a Sweet Vermouth and Soda, thank you very much.

Onto food. Alcohol may taunt me, but when it comes to food, I lucked out. Well-prepared, nutritious food is no sacrifice for this writer.

Dinnerfeed.com is clearly not a dietary site. But in the pull-down tab above, Peggy’s Healthy Pics, through the years I’ve blogged about dozens of reduced fat recipes where no flavor sacrifice is made. (In the above pic, Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Manchego, Fried Shallots and Marcona Almonds .)

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

Of late, I’ve been craving pastas with creamy Alfredos. Here’s a treat, an Alfredo recipe with chicken and broccoli with half the calories you’d devour in a restaurant.  I will indulge in the things that tempt me (I’m looking at you Sweet Potato-Pecan Pie) but not to egregious excess.

You readers are compassionate souls, folks intended to be on this planet for a reason. So give yourself a break. Hold hands with me (I need your support!) as we tread gently through December, ready to face the advent of 2019, tummy’s tight (gut or no gut), heads held high and clear.

Need help with holiday menu planning? Tap the Holiday Cookbook (the golden ball in the column on your right) and you’ll find dozens of my holiday favorites. Have a safe and happy season, friends!

 

 

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Pintxos––The Backbone of San Sebastian’s Culinary Landscape

Just returned from a journey that I cobbled together with a close friend. Like myself, she’s a food and travel-junky.

We meandered through the Basque region of Spain and France, finishing the trip in Fes, the heart and gastronomic capital of Morocco.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking in San Sebastian, Spain, sharing with you our exploration of their pinxto culture, one bite at a time.

San Sebastian––heck, the Basque region, in general—is a food lover’s dream date, pintxos being the elaborate crown jewels of the city.

Canapé/tapas/appetizer-styled morsals––Picassos on a plate–– they’re the staple of the local food culture here, as well as all across the Basque landscape. Wherever you turn, that elusive perfect bite awaits.

Eating pinxtos is what one does—tourists and locals alike––in San Sebastian, and the art of composing and consuming these delectables is serious sport.

Bars are continuously trying to outdo their competition with the spoils delighting the consumer. On several occasions, my friend and I went on pinxto crawls through the old town  eating a pintxo or two before moving on to the next bar.

Pintxo is the Basque take of the Spanish word, pincho, derived from the verb ‘pinchar’, which means to pierce.

These succulent treats are traditionally pieced with a cocktail skewer but as Basque food has evolved, the bites are not necessarily pierced or composed atop a bread slice.

It’s forgiveable to confuse pintxos with tapas and the differences depends on where you’re travelling in Spain and the custom of how they’re served.

In the Basque country, the  bites are NEVER called tapas as their Andalusian brothers, skewer or no skewer. As well, a pintxos doesn’t necessarily have to be served on a piece of bread. Witness the above pic of this beautifully wrapped piece of cod–my idea of the perfect holiday gift (-:

Some of the more common toppings on bread slices are the best salt and vinegar-cured anchovies you’ve ever tasted; fluffy, sweet crab meat; delicious local beef; seared cod; suckling pig and the list goes on and on. Acorn-fed, black-hoofed Iberian ham has to be the most ubiquitous of the toppings and, to this writer, the finest ham on the planet. Pictured left is me getting a lesson from San Sebastian’s Master Iberian Ham Carver. Could be a novel in the making (-:

Stacked Shrimp & Avocado Tapas

Stacked Shrimp & Avocado Tapas

Several years ago I wrote a blog christening the recipe:  “Stacked Shrimp and Avocado Tapas“.

Back then, I’d never known pinxtos were a thing. Now I know better. Note the skewer: a name change is clearly in order.

I’d like to continue sharing our culinary adventures in Fes, Morocco with you, but with Thanksgiving around the bend, let me direct your attention to  my Holiday Cookbook on the Gold Ball icon up and on your right. Perhaps you can create your own towering cathedral of texture and flavor as a starter for your feast.

Eat well, my friends. Safe holidays!

 

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