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S.N.8.19 report

Admittedly, winter is the prime time for Soup Night: there’s the warmth of the bowl, the warmth of the red wine, the warmth of being inside, the warmth of the general coziness. But in summertime, Soup Nights come with white wine, fruit desserts, bare feet, and soups served cold. It’s just as fun.

As we learned when my dad came to town, the best way we know to honor a guest is to throw a Soup Night for him/her/them.

This time, Ryan’s parents were in town, which automatically signed us up for some of his Ma’s Gazpacho, a longtime favorite in his household.

My brother Rob was in NYC too. He doesn’t have enough kitchen years in him to have a recipe named after him yet — give him time, folks, I’ve no doubt there’ll be one soon — but I couldn’t escape all of those summer memories as a kid of shucking corn with him and my other brothers.

I ended up with a chilled corn recipe, taken from last month’s Gourmet, but doctored heavily. When I did the soup test run the weekend before, the soup was deemed to thin (would slosh easily, wouldn’t feel substantial) for a Soup Night contender. Yet, the more I looked at corn recipes, the less I could shake it’s chilled simplicity.

I decided to experiment. After consulting some food-savvies, I went with a combination of their suggestions: Added a roux, added a potato, added some cream.

Both soups were deemed delicious. Success!

I’ll post the recipes in a minute, but first, here’s a snapshot of the night in numbers:

Soupers: 46

First-time soupers: 26

Pounds of tomatoes gazpachoed: 8

Ears of corn shucked: 25

Featured out-of-town guests: 3

Super secret featured out-of-town guests: 1

Amazing desserts brought: At least six

Soup Nights looked forward to: All to come

Ma’s Gazpacho
Serves 4

1/4 t fresh ground pepper
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 small green pepper, seeded and sliced
3 tomatoes, quartered
1 large cucumber, peeled, sliced and seeded
1 clove garlic
1/2 t dried or fresh basil
1 t salt
2 T olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chilled chicken broth*

-Blend until almost smooth. Chill.

*for this Soup Night, we substituted vegetable broth for our lovely vegan friends.

Chilled Corn Soup
Serves 6

3 ears of corn, shucked
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T butter
4 1/2 c water
Garnish: sour cream and chives. I also recommend: dill!

– Cut kernels from cobs with a sharp knife, then cut cobs into thirds.

– Cook onion and garlic in butter with 1/4 tsp salt in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add corn and cobs, water, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.

– Discard cobs, then puree corn mixture in batches in a blender until very smooth. Force soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.

– Chill until cold, at least 1 hour.

They eat a lot of soup in China.

I spent 10 days eating there in July and saw soup at nearly every meal. But, surprisingly, with all that soup, not once did I see the classic egg drop or anything featuring won ton. Oh, how the Chinese restaurants of the US have deceived us!

Egg drop and won ton are two classic soups, of course, but we ate such a great variety in a short amount of time that we only saw a couple repeats.

Among the soups I saw and ate, the general rule seemed to be: anything goes. Many of the broths were clear liquid, making it easy to see what was floating around under the surface. I saw quartered tomatoes, lots of noodles, mushrooms, lots of various greens, the occasional scrambled egg. (Scrambled, not dropped.)

Although, even thought the collection of ingredients seemed really random, I would be surprised if it was. The Chinese are well-known for concocting perfectly balanced dishes, and I can only imagine that goes for their soup ingredients, too.

Here’s a few sites that offer a great directory of links and other information about Chinese cuisine:

Finally, although vastly unrelated to soup, is something else I tasted in China. Snakes! In Wine! I did drink it, really I did!

Two things brought me back to the soup blog.

One was Kenen. Kenan said reading this makes him hungry. What better review could you ask for?

The second is this soup I ate over the Fourth of July weekend. This soup was so good, that it stood out amongst all of the rest of the amazing food that I also ate that weekend. Lest you think that’s no big deal, allow me list what passed over my lucky palate that weekend this year:

– a watermelon salad with feta, pickled red onions, toasted pumpkin seeds, and olives (at Sweetwater)
– anise hyssop ice cream (at Marlow & Sons)
– buttery morels on toast (Marlow & Sons)
– awesome guacamole (4th of July party)
– Shackburger (at the Shake Shack)
– cheese fries (Shake Shack)
– chocolate milk shake (Shake Shack)
– key lime pie (Sweetwater)
– an insane chocolate dessert (Sweetwater)
– another insane chocolate dessert (Marlow & Sons)
– red-wine poached cherries over ricotta (cooked at home)
– pesto-flavored pasta with mushroom and garlic scape sauce with garlic scape flowers (cooked at home)
– cheesecake ice cream (cooked at home)
– and this, the second reason for returning to the soup blog:

When the Marlow & Sons waiter described it as a “summer squash soup” I might have stifled a yawn and considered the market salad. How silly of me! I cannot accurately describe just how amazing this soup was, except to say that it was creamy and velvety with hints of squash, perfectly melted Parmesan, and some breadcrumbs and basil floating on top.

It was absolutely perfect.

Want to make it? Try one of these recipes:

Asparagus Avgolemono

The first official soup of spring is here!

When Wiley lent me his Moosewood Simple Suppers cookbook, this recipe was dog-eared. “It’s so easy,” he said. “And so, so good.”

There were two things about this that appealed to me: One, that it featured asparagus, and two, that it was based on the classic Greek lemon/rice soup called avgolemono.

Turns out, Wiley was right on both accounts. This soup consisted of just a handful of ingredients: vegetable broth, orzo, asparagus, dill, egg, lemon juice, and three steps.

When my dinner companion found out I was making an avgolemono, he literally cheered, as it was one of his favorite foods as a child. We made a funny pair of judges: He, the avgolemono lover, and I, the avgolemono novice.

And the verdict?

“Could use more lemon,” he said. “But yum.”

“Yum, indeed,” I said. “But where’s the salt and pepper?”

Want to make it? Here’s one that’s similar, albeit a bit more complicated: Asparagus and Dill Avgolemono (from Gourmet via epicurious.com)

It’s here!

I seriously feel like bringing out a bottle of bubbly.

Yesterday, I finally crossed paths with asparagus at the farmers market.

Tonight, I cook.

Tomorrow, I post.

Stay tuned…

To the untrained eye, it looks like spring is right around NYC’s corner. You’ve got sunny days, birds, little buds of green dotting tree branches. But as anyone who’s lived here for more than one spring knows you should still wear shoes that require socks. Don’t pack away the duvet just yet. And, it’s still cool enough at night to want to hold a warm bowl of hearty soup in your hands.

I went to Wiley’s for dinner and he made an amazing Arugula, Potato, and Bread Soup. The culinary nerd in me was excited for two main reasons: I’d never had bread soup before, and when Wiley’s cooking, you know you are going to leave happy.

Admittedly, I was too busy probing the other dinner guest for travel hints of spending a weekend in Montauk to watch this soup come to life. But as evidenced by how much time Wiley spent chatting with up (a lot) and how much time he spent in front of the stove (not a lot), I’d venture to say this soup was a pretty easy one to make.

The recipe was from a Lidia Bastianich cookbook (I’m pretty sure it was this one), which is appropriate because bread soup is a classic Italian family supper meal. Perfect for a laid-back Sunday evening, don’t you think?