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Archive for August, 2008

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.

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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!

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