Batter Licker

November 10, 2011

savory pear soup with crispy pancetta and blue cheese

There are few things I find less appetizing than an overripe pear (except, perhaps, brown bananas, but even those are salvageable). From the cloying sweetness to a texture that manages to be mushy, mealy and gritty all at the same time, pears are one of few barely-past-its-prime pieces of produce that I’d prefer to just toss into the compost bin rather than find a creative way to save.

And yet, almost every time I purchase pears, I go overboard and, despite my best intentions, am unable to get through all of them in time. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I buy eight or three; the Law of Pears Ripening Faster than Kristen Can Eat Them inevitably kicks in.

Apparently the same law applies to free pears. Thanks to my friend and fellow food-lover Elaine‘s recommendation, Frog Hollow Farm sent me a six pack of Warren pears to sample. I frequent their urban farm stand at the Ferry Building, and I love pears, so I was excited to dig in.

I promptly devoured three of them, raw and unadorned.

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I might have been generous enough to share the fourth pear with Jay. Or maybe I demolished that one too. I really can’t recall. My memory is as foggy on that matter as Bill Clinton’s was regarding extramarital affairs. But what I do remember is the pears’ sweet flavor and creamy texture – none of that graininess I usually try to ignore or mask in Bartlett pears.

Then I got married, ran away to Sonoma for half a week, and took couple days to come down from my newlywed love cloud and readjust to real life. Finally, I remembered the two remaining pears. (more…)

April 27, 2011

sprouted bean coconut curry soup

Several friends of mine have been singing the glory of Heidi Swanson’s Coconut Red Lentil Soup for over a year. Now that I finally saddled up and made a variation of that soup, I’m inclined to join their joyful chorus.

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Truth be told, I’m a sucker for anything containing coconut milk and curry. But the beauty of this soup is that its complex and addictive flavor comes together in a relatively simple process – even simpler if you have leftover sprouted (or unsprouted) beans or lentils on hand. (more…)

March 31, 2011

smoky black bean and spinach soup

A few weeks ago, Jay and I enjoyed a weekend in Bodega Bay with his five other former roommates from college and their significant others. After a late morning and early afternoon of local wine tasting, we ventured upon a cute little cafe (whose name now escapes me) for lunch. It was in that cafe that I made a fatal error: I did not order the black bean soup. But luckily, our good friend Matt was up for swapping bites, and that one spoonful inspired this post.

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Subtly smoky from cumin and smoked paprika and very creamy thanks to pureed black beans, the soup was also lightened by the fresh, raw flavors of lime, cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers that clearly contributed more than just a colorful garnish to the bowl. (more…)

January 27, 2011

roasted cauliflower and sunchoke soup

You wouldn’t know it when tasting it – or when looking at it, for that matter – but there’s no cream in this soup … and no cheese. Give your accolades to roasted, pureed cauliflower for the creamily rich texture and to sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes) for the wonderfully nutty flavor they contribute to this soup. And to Chef Frank McClelland.


And by way of thanking Chef McClelland for inspiring me to recreate his gastronomic invention at home, stop into L’Espalier next time you’re in Boston for a culinarily magical meal. In my three visits, I have never left his restaurant feeling any less than entirely exhilarated about his creations – and entirely full.

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During my second visit to that lovely restaurant, I ordered the cauliflower and sunchoke soup as an appetizer. There is nothing I love more than ordering soup at a fancy restaurant. On this occasion, the bowl came with two (or three?) large scallops sitting center stage, decorated with a sprinkling of crispy pancetta and some watercress. Moments after the bowl’s appearance, I watched as the waiter ladled spoonful after spoonful of thick, creamy soup into the bowl and consciously refrained from drooling as the milky substance slowly shifted to encircle the plump seared scallops. (more…)

January 20, 2011

swiss chard and potato soup spiced with cilantro, jalapeno and cumin

So when I loaded up on veggies, especially greens, at the grocery store on Sunday in preparation for a meat- and dairy-free week, I went a bit overboard. By Wednesday, it became clear that I was going to have trouble finishing all the lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard, and that the chard particularly needed some attention soon. But it was cold out, and I had a sore throat, and I just didn’t want to eat any more salad or sauteed greens or greens in any recognizable form, really. I wanted something warm, filling, and soothing for my throat. I wanted soup.

But none of that bland, watery soup. I wanted thick soup, rich with flavor. Then I remembered the whole bunch of untapped cilantro lying in wait in my refrigerator. And the potatoes. And the 6-pack of jalapenos from Trader Joe’s. And thus, this hearty, happens-to-be-vegan chard and potato soup was born.

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This soup is a great way to use up excess greens when they’re starting to look less-than-chipper but haven’t quite gone bad yet. While I chose chard, you could substitute spinach, kale, and even leftover lettuces – whatever excess greens you have on hand – but the darker ones will bring a bit more depth to the flavor. (more…)

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