Ginger & Greens Soup

A few weeks ago, with leftover collards and other random bits in my fridge, I decided to pull together a version of ginger-greens soup, which I love to nosh on when I don’t feel well, or at least need some cleansing comfort. I had been trying to entice my friend Stevie to come over for dinner for the past few days, but she hadn’t been well. Armed with this soup, I tried again, inviting her for dinner. I could hear slight hesitation in her voice when she asked, well, what are you making? Oh, I don’t know, I replied, just some ginger-and-greens-soup-with-homemade-stock-and-then-a-citrus-salad-on-the-side. I relayed this quickly, hoping that both the force of my words and the actual good-for-the-soul meal would convince her to come. It worked. She came, she ate, she took some home. The next day, she called – I feel better.

Sick Soup, for Stevie

  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • 1 fist-sized stalk of fresh ginger, chopped*
  • 2 cups good-tasting vegetable broth**
  • fresh lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • sea salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

*I learned a great trick from a few months back – you use a spoon to scratch off the skin of the ginger. Its rounded edge allows you to get around the crevices of the gnarly root without losing too much of the flesh.

**As you peel and chop and gather veggie discards, throw these into a pot with about a quart of simmering water. Add salt and any other herbs, and you will soon have homemade stock! I sometimes like to throw in a bit of white wine as well, if I have any lying around. Or, you can freeze the bits until you are ready to make stock, if you already have some lying around.

Chop the onion and cook it slowly in the olive oil, stirring occasionally, over low heat until soft and golden. (Throw the skin, ends, and additional misc. pieces into the pot of water.)

Meanwhile, peel and dice the sweet potato and put it in a large soup pot with 4 cups water and a pinch of sea salt. Thoroughly wash the greens, chop them coarsely, and add them to the pot, along with the chopped ginger. (All of the discarded peels and stems can go into the stock pot.)

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely tender. Add the caramelized onions when they are ready. (Back at the stock pot- After about 30 minutes of simmering, strain the veggie broth, removing the veggies pieces and floating detritus.)

When the vegetables are soft, add the vegetable broth. Stir in the lemon juice to taste and some fresh-ground black pepper. Add some salt if needed. I also like to shave some parmigiano on top, if I’m feeling fancy.

Serves 2 hungry girls, with leftovers for the next day.

This recipe was adapted from Heidi Swanson.

Coconut Macaroons and a very big thank you

I’ve had quite the weekend. Friday night, while in the midst of grocery shopping for a potluck at a friend’s house, I managed to lock myself out of my apartment – I left the keys on the kitchen counter, under the bag of fruit, and my door locks automatically. Shoot, I thought, then proceeded to do what the landlord recommended when the office was closed and something went wrong. I went downstairs, propping open the front door, and went across the street to the restaurant, which is owned by the same company, expecting someone to have keys to let me back in.

I walked in about 8:30 on Friday night, perhaps the busiest time of the week for a popular restaurant, let alone a well-known neighborhood institution. I went straight to the head of operations and carefully explained to the GM Tom that I needed help getting back into my apartment across the street. He looked at me like I was crazy – no keys there. He kindly sent me down the road to the Peter Luger parking lot, where he said I would be able to find the super; he cautioned me, however, that his English was limited. I thanked him and walked quickly down the street, for fear that the door to my building would be knocked shut at any moment.

I found Vladimir right away. Just not the keys to my place. He showed me his keychain – only the front door and apartment, 4, 5, he said. I reiterated and gestured – I am apartment 8, please help! He only shook his head, pointed to the office, and said, 8am Monday. Office opens. Arguing was fruitless, as he continued to shake his head and say he did not understand me, as I listed all the reasons I thought it unacceptable that there was no alternative. Before I could get too frustrated, I ran back across the street and up the stairs to try my door again. Nothing.

As I began to cry, my neighbor opened her door to let a deliveryman in. I asked her if she had any idea who I should contact, and she invited me in to give me the super’s number. Too bad it turned out to be Vlad’s. However, she kindly let me sit and take a breath, commiserating with me that life in New York is so hard and that the landlords have really got to be more responsive and…well let’s just say, she had many things to commiserate about.

I went back across the street to see Tom again and ask if he knew anyone else I could call. He stepped aside and made a few phone calls, but came up with nothing. As I was holding back tears, a locksmith finally answered – I’ll send someone within 20 minutes, he promised. I thanked Tom again and told him I hoped that I would not see him again that night. Then, I crossed the street and waited inside the entry hall to my apartment for the locksmith, who called to confirm the address and to say he was on his way. Then my phone died.

I waited patiently in the vestibule for the first 20 minutes, then began to pace, sticking my head in and out of the building, starting to cry. I feared leaving and heading over to my friend’s (the potluck, and a place to sleep, were waiting), as I did not know whether he had gotten lost or if I would even be able to get back into the building. Finally, at 10pm, I grabbed a cab and headed over to Stevie’s for a plate of pasta and some pjs.

As she poured me a glass of wine, I began to charge my phone and saw several missed calls. The locksmith! I quickly called back and asked in a desperate voice, where have you been? Missed connections – he insisted he’d been waiting for a half hour outside, and I said it was impossible, I’d been looking outside every five minutes from 9-10. We fixed a time, so that I could finish my pasta and wine and make it back in time to meet him. At 11:30 sharp, we met in front of my building, then I ran to get the front door key from Vlad, and we proceeded upstairs. I stood by and watched him try to pick the lock…which we soon realized was a high security lock that he would have to drill through and replace. 3 drill bits, 5 hours, and $582 later, I was in my apartment. Now I just have to figure out if I am able to take that out of next month’s rent.

In the meantime, I am baking coconut macaroons for all the lovely people that went out of their way to help and comfort.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (7-ounce) packages sweetened flaked coconut, adding the first, then more as needed 
  • Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate morsels, melted

Mix the egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl. Add the first package of coconut. Keep the rest on reserve. Fill a level tablespoon with the coconut mixture and place on parchment paper, then pop in a 325 degree oven for 20 or so minutes. Remove from the oven and flip them over on the pan to let cool, so they don’t stick.

 macaroons cooling, pre-chocolate

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Place the chocolate in a smaller pan over the hot water. Stir constantly, as the chocolate melts. Once melted, turn the flame off, but leave the chocolate over the heat. Dip the macaroons halfway into the chocolate, then let set on the parchment paper. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat – or, in this case, package and give away.

Note: I found that the moisture ran through the coconut to the bottom of the bowl, so I had to keep adding extra coconut to blend together. You do have to strike the right balance – too much extra coconut, and it becomes dry, but too little, and the egg white mixture puddles out in the oven, forming a flat, crispy edge around the cookie.

Lenten Promise

Most people make New Year’s resolutions. I think that’s cliche…er, rather, I might have been too hung over from a decadent night of champagne and lobster rolls to think about it. Lucky for me, today is the beginning of Lent, a second go-round for promise-making, with a nearer end in site. So here goes – for Lent, I promise to write more. I spend most of my time thinking about food, preparing meals, studying menus, tasting wines, but I don’t usually get around to recording my thoughts, process, or insight. Which is a shame, as I both enjoy writing and being able to look back on what I’ve done (or in this case eaten). A big part of my phobia, as it were, is a blank canvas and a lack of chronology. That is, if I’ve skipped writing about a memorable something, I am less inclined to write about the next one, and so on. No more! These blogs might be less in depth at times, but at least they’ll be a record. And who knows, maybe this promise will turn into a habit that extends beyond the Lenten season!

For now, I am off to practice my new knife skills that I learned at the Brooklyn Kitchen (although my mamma already taught me the best way to slice an onion). Cauliflower, chicken, and kale stir fry, coming right up! I think I’ll have some leftover Cour-Cheverny with that too.