Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF)

 photo IMG_0726.jpgI have cucumbers coming out of my ears – and no Big Brothers, I did not eat a seed. I can only assume that our relatively cool Maryland summer has delayed the usual onset of powdery mildew (which has now arrived and I’m combatting according to Big Sis’ suggestion) long enough for my cucumber plants to go bananas, so to speak. I’ve regularly been harvesting not just 1 or 2, but anywhere from 6 to 16 (yes, I said 16) delicious cukes from my 4 cucumber plants. What variety is doing so well in my not very well tended garden? I have no idea. Seed mixups are a real bummer. I digress.

In order to take advantage of my cuke bounty, we’ve been experimenting with some things, and I’ll share more of them over the next few weeks before it snows and puts an end to this whole summer bounty thing. Today, while it is relatively hot, I’ll share a lovely cooling use for all those wonderful cukes.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you already know how I feel about Deborah Madison. In addition to my Deborah Madison cooking bible, I have a slimmer volume dedicated only to soups, because I really like soup. In this beautifully produced and photographed cookbook, there are a few cool soups perfect for beastly weather. Last night I was inspired by her Cool Cucumber Soup, although as usual I was compelled to make some changes. At any rate we had an 85% approval rating (meaning Picky Pants initially enjoyed it and changed her mind later). So, for all you cucumber lovers, or just those of you who like the sound of an easy cooling meal made from the most abundant veggie out there right now…

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF) adapted (and made larger and milder) from Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen(serves 4)


 photo DSC00988.jpg

  • 2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 c cashew cream (here, from our lovely friend Annie) or yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 c herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley to great effect
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons


  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 2 T chopped scallions
  • 1 T dill
  • 2 T chopped basil and parsley
  • 2 t olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the cucumbers – dice 1/3 of them (or one pound) and set aside for the relish. While I often recommend skipping peeling and such, in this case I peeled to remove the bitterness sometimes in the skins. Coarsely chop remaining cukes and place in blender with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Blitz until smooth. Place in fridge to chill. Yes, that’s it. No, I’m not joking.

Just before serving, combine ingredients for relish in bowl and stir. Done. No muss, no fuss, no cucumbers wasted. Delish. Happy super late summer!

 photo IMG_0726.jpg  photo IMG_0730.jpg  photo IMG_0736.jpg


Mung Bean Stew – Who Knew?

I am a huge soup fan.  I am a huge bean fan. I am also, predictably a bean soup lover.  Despite all that, I confess my thinking about mung beans had been hugely limited.  I purchased them in bulk, and used them to make sprouts and more or less left them in the pantry otherwise.  Didn’t sub them out for other beans, didn’t consider putting them in pastry – I know, it sounds totally unlike me, right?  Just goes to show that even those of us who are prone to chronic recipe tampering can get stuck in culinary ruts that limit our ability to experience the truly divine…

Enter a recipe for mung bean stew on Green Kitchen Stories that floated across my radar a few days ago… “Hey, don’t I have some mung beans in the pantry? I meant to sprout them… ” This, my friends is one of those lovely recipes that is incredibly simple and yields stunning, and winter perfect warming results. I’ve left the flavor profile intact, changed the measurements from metric, and made a few adjustments to the method.  This stew is not to be missed, and Green Kitchen Stories is worth a gander – fab photos and great info. Happy bean stew!

Mung Bean Stew – minimally adjusted from Mung Bean Stew on a Budget on Green Kitchen Stories, served family of 4 with a few lunches of leftovers

  • 2 c dried mung beans, soaked in clean water for at least 8 hoursMung Bean Stew
  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped small
  • 1 t cumin
  • 6 c water
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • at least 3 c cooked rice (I used brown jasmine and the flavor really complimented the stew)
  • 5 large handfuls fresh spinach (I imagine other greens would work here)

If you need to make rice fresh, start the rice first.  Warm olive oil on medium-low in a pan and add the onions.  Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and allow the onions to cook for several minutes (at least 5), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  When onions are softened and translucent, add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant (30 seconds to a minute). Add water, salt and the mung beans and bring to a boil.  Cover and lower heat, simmering for about 30 minutes.

Taste to see if bean softness meets your liking. If the greens you’re using is of a less tender variety (like kale), add it now and cook for a few minutes to wilt in the soup, then add coconut milk, remove from heat, and stir.  If you’re using a tender green (like baby spinach), add the coconut milk first, keeping soup on very low heat, add greens, stir and cook for just another minute to help wilt greens. Serve over warm rice. So warm, so comforting, so nutritious. Delish.

IMG_0057 IMG_0061 IMG_0062

Brrrrr….. How About Some Soup?

It’s ridiculous outside.  We’re having soup.  In case you’d like to do the same, but aren’t sure what kind to make, check out our Soup De Doo, a roundup of our favorite Pantry soups. I’ve got Vegetable, Bean, and Barley Stew working in the Crock Pot and it smells fantastic. What are you doing to keep warm?

SOTW: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

While it is sunny and lovely today, we’ve just come through a long spell of cold, colder, and then (my personal fave) cold and wet.  My soup pot has taken up permanent residence on the stove.  There is, simply put, nothing better than soup on a cold day.  Warms the belly and soothes a grouchy spirit (at least it does mine).  So we’ve been having soup as often as I think I can get away with it.  We have one soup detractor in the bunch – yes, the same detractor that I site for most other food groups, but the rest of us really do enjoy a hot bowl of yum.

IMG_8711This particular soup was so delicious, and so simple, that I am declaring it the Soup Of The Week so that I can share it with you with the appropriate verbal fanfare.  The  broth is so warm and comforting and the wild rice adds so much texture and nuttiness that I may just have to make another batch.  I’d thought I’d made enough to freeze some, but the soup’s popularity defeated that plan. Continue reading

Souped Up – We Double Dare You

So I’m talking to Big Sis on the phone (yes, that could have been just about any day and we like it that way – so glad these babies are cordless) and inevitably the “Whatcha havin’ for dinner?” part of the conversation arose.  I told her I was making bread and chopping veg for soup, a Deborah Madison soup incidentally.  And in another mystery of nature vs. nurture, it turned out Big Sis was also in the process of making soup from her beloved Deborah Madison cookbook.  “Sounds like it’s time for a soup post.”  I’m not sure which one of us said it, but I’m pretty sure it hardly matters.  And so you are the unwitting beneficiaries of our non-coincidentally parallel lives.  There’s a sign post up ahead… Insert Twilight Zone music here 😉  (Bigg Sis here – no italics)  Oh and Little Sis gave me the big fat Deborah Madison book as an impromptu gift.  Made me feel as warm as soup!

My most recent Deborah Madison experiment was a blatant attempt to capitalize on my picky daughter’s relative willingness to eat lentil dishes.  I wanted soup; she likes lentils; the answer was self-evident.  I whipped up some bread to insure my dinnertime victory (carbs are the answer to my daughter’s every question) and checked out the pantry to see what kind of lentil soup would make the most sense.  After a fruitful pantry dive, I consulted my favorite chef and settled on Lentil Minestrone.  Heck, I knew it would make ME happy.

Lentil Minestrone – Adapted from Deborah Madison in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1.5 c chopped onion
  • 2 T tomato paste (I freeze mine in a big blob on wax paper after I open a can and cut off what I need from the frozen blob)
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 carrots cut small
  • 1 c celery cut small
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 c lentils (I used green)
  • 2 bay leaves, several branches parsley and a few thyme sprigs,  (or dried herbs to taste)
  • 9 c water or vegetable stock (I went halfsies)
  • Bragg’s or soy sauce to taste
  • 1 bunch greens, chopped (I used chard from the garden)
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (we used leftover homemade green pasta)

Warm olive oil in a large pot.  Saute onion for about 10 minutes until soft and starting to brown.  Add tomato paste through the celery and the salt.  Cook for a few more minutes.  Add the lentils, the herbs, and water/broth.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about a half an hour. Taste and add salt and or pepper.  If the soup tastes flat, add soy for richness.  Cook the pasta in a separate pot and drain.  When the soup is ready, spoon pasta and raw greens into bowl and ladle soup on top.  Add parm if that works for you.  We just dipped sunflower cheese bread instead. Delish.

That sounds really good.  I think we’ll be swapping soups here over the next couple of days.

My Deborah Madison recipe took advantage of the fact that my son will eat chickpeas – and many other things he objects to – if in soup.  For your slurping from a big spoon pleasure – I give you:

Potato and Chickpea Stew.  from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, p. 252

1 pound Yellow Finn, fingerling, or red potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced (I diced, but not so finely as is my sloppy way)
2 generous pinches of saffron
2 Large red bell peppers, finely diced… (again – I’m a chunky dicer, not a fine dicer)
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into strips  (now you’re talking!)
2 large garlic cloves, minced (I’m a masher, not a mincer)
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika (I used regular paprika – is there a difference?)
1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup medium dry sherry
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, plus their juices (I used diced)
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 2 15 oz. cans rinsed
3 cups chickpea-cooking broth or water – I used vegetable broth here – bean cooking water is pretty gas-forming
salt and freshly milled pepper
Picada on top:
1/2 cup peeled (can you guess?  I didn’t peel), toasted almonds (350 degrees for 8-10 minutes)
2 slices white country bread (I used the whole grain I had) fried up to crisp in 2 Tbsp olive oil – both sides
2 – 4 cloves garlic.
Deborah Madison tosses these 3 ingredients in a food processor.  I added the garlic (mashed) to the saute pan with the bread, chopped the almonds in a chopper, broke the bread into bits and was done.  My food processor was dirty and I prefer sauteed garlic.

Luckily I gave birth to a little free help in the kitchen 11 years ago. Ain’t he somethin’?

Warm oil in a large pot and add onion, saffron, peppers, garlic and potatoes, over medium-low, stirring occasionally until potatoes are softening but firm – about 25 minutes.

Beautiful fragrant saffron

Add paprika, parsley and pepper flakes and cook 3-4 minutes

Add the sherry and cook until juices are thick and syrup-y, about 12 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth to cover. And 1 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of pepper.  Cover and cook over low heat until potatoes are very tender.  She uses the picada as a thickener, I used it as a crunchy topper.

She also adds a Romesco sauce.  I did not do this and thought it was fabulous and it was not hard – but not easy either, so I was done and sampling said it was done as well.  Everyone liked this a lot.

So there you have it!  Little Sis and I are in the soup, all souped up, and will be boiling something tasty up tonight as well!  I hope there’s some soup in your future, it sure is fine!

This post is featured on:

Cold Kickin’ Soup

The kindergarten virus-mobile is in full swing.  I’d forgotten what fun the first two months of the school year can be.  We all had a turn in the first go round, a bit of a cold with astonishing lethargy and dopey-headedness.  The second round is actually just an extension of the first and involves chest congestion, and for my poor little man, a sort of seal-like sound that his body produces when he gets a cough.  While we are all nearly well, I thought little man could use a leg up, and I thought perhaps a little immune system attention couldn’t hurt.  I remembered a soup…  a soup I experimented with, um, last fall when this kind of poo was going on.  There are an awful lot of claims out there about superfoods and magical ingredients.  I honestly have no idea if any individual food is a superfood or not, but I do know that some foods are super and when combined seem to, at the very least, provide relief for sniffling and hacking.  Last time I played with this soup, I’m pretty sure I kicked a cold’s drippy behind in a couple of days.  Was it coincidence?  Perhaps, but either way, this soup is full of healthful ingredients that will help your body do its thing…  And so, even with jalapeños in the list of ingredients, I decided we would all give it a go.  And so I give you:

Cold Kickin’ Soup – adapted from Ming Tsai’s Immunity Soup

  • 1 T oil
  • 1-2 jalapeños, minced with seeds
  • 1 tbsp minced  fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, green and white parts sliced
  • 2/3  lb shiitakes, stems removed and tops 1/4-in sliced
  • 2 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s
  • about half a bunch of kale (I used a small mixing bowl full from the garden), torn from the big part of the stem, and ripped into manageable pieces
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Prep Notes: When chopping the jalapeño, I STRONGLY recommend wearing gloves, or putting plastic bags on your hands.  This advice is particularly important for those of you who wear contact lenses.  Yes, this is the voice of experience.  OW.  To chop fresh ginger, I use the edge of a knife blade to slide the skin off, or I cut if off if that doesn’t work.  For the mushrooms, yes you really DO want to de-stem because the stems are quite rubbery.  Most people who don’t like shiitake mushrooms, don’t like the stems.  If you’ve got a microplane, use that bad boy to zest your lemons.  There.  Moving right along.

Warm oil in a soup sized pot.  Just higher than medium should do it.  Add the jalapeño, ginger, and garlic.  Saute for about 2 minutes.  Add mushrooms and scallions.  Saute for a few more minutes, being sure to give the mushrooms enough time to soften.  Add your stock and soy sauce, bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5-10 minutes to allow the soup to reduce a bit and for flavors to mingle.  Add kale, cook for about 2 minutes.  Add lemon juice, zest, and carrots.  Cook for two minutes longer.  Add black pepper to taste.  Done.  Serve in favorite bowl with giant spoon.

Really?  That’s it?  That’s all to the story?  Of course not.  I didn’t tell you about the rest of the table….  because of course there was a rest of the table.  I am generally a pretty tough customer about having my children try new foods.  We have a rule, borrowed from Big Sis, two real bites of whatever is new.  As I was making this soup, and remembering sweating while I ate it last year (last year’s pepper was far more potent), I realized that little miss was going to have an issue.  And that while I might be able to convince her to try it, she would not be eating it.  I was right (it is nice to right once in a while where she is concerned), and so it was lovely to have on the table a big bowl of brown rice that we sprinkled with rice vinegar with a splash of maple syrup to give it that sushi rice taste (inspired by Big Sis’ sushi salad), and some broccoli I grilled with olive oil and soy sauce, thanks to my good friend at Emmy Cooks.  A bowl full of farmer’s market green beans (raw, yum), and the last of the chickpea nofu (I’m working on the recipe, I promise), and we had a pretty happy crowd, a pretty happy crowd with less chest congestion to boot.  Delish.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

If you haven’t had butternut squash soup before, then this is the time and the place my friends.  Fall brings somewhat reasonable prices to the glorious elongated globules of goodness and this is a very easy way to make something that your family and friends will think took a very long time.  Don’t you love that?

First off, I hate peeling squash.  Too many corners… peels too tough, and many of you already know that I have an aversion to peeling.  So I roasted, let it cool and scooped instead.  Here’s the squash before roasting….

Simply cut 2 butternut squashes in half, scoop out the seeds.  Peel and then cut 2 onions in half and brush them all lightly with your favorite oil.  I brushed the bottoms of the onion and the tops of both.

Place on a baking sheet and in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  I confess this is an estimate.  You want the squash to be soft.

This can be done ahead of time.  Let the squash cool to the point where you can pick it up – or if you’re like me, until the point where patience is no longer functioning and the asbestos fingers inherited from Grandmother Lillian come into play, along with just a little swearing under the breath… which was not inherited from Grandmother Lillian… and scoop out that gorgeous flesh and into a bowl for later use, or right into the high speed blender, or a pot where you can use an immersion blender.  I do not have an immersion blender and have not tested this recipe, so user beware!  I am blessed with a 12 year old Vita Mix.

I placed one whole squash and one whole onion
2 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 a cored but unpeeled apple (I used Gala)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

in the Vita Mix.  I poured out one blender full into a pot on the stove and then repeated.

Even better than bubblin' brown sugar
Oh man is this stuff good.  My 11 year old who is a devoted hater-of-squash ate it.  It wasn’t his favorite, but hey, we can’t have our favorite all the time, can we?  It builds character to suffer through Mom’s favorite once in a while, don’t you think?

Please share your favorite butternut squash recipe, cause I’m on the lookout for more of those glorious globules 🙂