This month’s Recipe Redux asked us to use a green herb in a different way, or to highlight a rarely used herb.
Nettles (Urtica dioica) are my favorite springtime herb, one that many people aren’t aware of as food, but I love in this Nettles Soup recipe.
They are a bit like the season-vibrant, bitter, prickly with just a bit of a bite from the venom.
Stinging nettles have an interesting way of protecting their stores of Iron, Calcium, vitamin A and vitamin K all wrapped up in a non fat, high fiber package.
To get those vitamins in your body requires picking before the venom pockets are filled and steaming or sauteeing the leaves to breakdown the stingers.
What you are left with is a brilliant green powerhouse of nutrition.
So gather your gloves and long pants, look for an area that has had a bit of disturbance and pick NOW before they flower.
We routinely pick enough to blanch and keep in the freezer for this kind of soup later.
We dry the leaves for a tasty tea to help with seasonal allergies later in spring too.
Our twins actually made the soup.
this is what the onions look like when ready.
When the winds are blowing and my house might lose power, I make chicken and dumplings in my stockpot.
Even when the storm is Hurricane Sandy, clear across the country.
I make chicken and dumplings.
Because soup is hot and wet, filling, comforting, a way of saying that all will be ok.
Although Hurricane Sandy is no where near where I live now, in the far left corner of the United States, my heart and hometown are in New Jersey.
Nestled in a tiny town on the banks of the Tenakill, known for it’s ball fields and willow trees.
Where my brother and his family still live and work.
Where the guys serve as first responders for disasters like fire, car accidents and floods.
Sandy has them incredibly busy. I just found out that my brother hasn’t slept since Sunday night (that’s 3 days and counting).
Although I know the guys are fine, I still wish I could help just a bit. Especially since my nephews are students who do this as a volunteer activity.
Yeah, I know I come from a long line of heros.
I sent a donation to the American Red Cross so they can help those who had trees crush their homes and cars. Please help by sending a donation too. Even a few dollars can make a difference, they really don’t need the work of sorting donations of food or supplies. Let the experts decide what they need and then purchase it.
For right now though, that would mean a plane flight to an airport that isn’t functioning and being put up in a house that is already housing a family flooded out of theirs. So I anxiously watch the Google Crisis Map, watch the storm track over multiple family members and worry for all of their safety.
When I get anxious, I cook. Somehow life is just a bit more controlled when I know that my family will be fed.
This recipe is the perfect antidote to cold wet weather. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have in your home for the soup. It is all good.
Chicken and Dumplings satisfies that need for hot, wet comfort. The soup is very basic, feel free to use what ever vegetables you have around the house to make it uniquely yours. You can leave out the chicken and make a vegetable soup instead The dumplings work on any soup so feel free to use them whenever you want a fluffy top to your bowl. A friend of mine equated them to matzo balls, fluffy and tender. I do believe she is right.
Author: Jean Layton
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: American Comfort Food
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 turnip or rutabaga
2 sweet potatoes
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
½ head of cauliflower
Meat from one chicken- pulled off the bones or 3 cups chicken meat in cubes
½ cup frozen corn
¼ cup frozen peas
2 sprigs fresh rosemary- minced
2 cloves garlic- minced
salt to taste
2 quarts chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 bunch fresh spinach
Wash all the vegetables.
Peel any you feel have tough skins
Cut all the firm vegetables in ¼ inch dice, keeping each one separate
Clean the spinach
slice into shreds or smallish pieces.
In large stock pot, heat the oil over medium high heat.
Add each vegetable starting with the hardest one.
Typically, I put in the sweet potato, carrot, turnip, parsnip and let them cook for 5 minutes
Then the carrots, celery, onion.
If you are using raw chicken, add it now
Cook another 5 minutes or till the vegetables have softened and have a bit of browned edges.
Burnished leaves of yellow, red and orange contrasting with the pine trees.
Pumpkin fields scattered with orange orbs and children running from one to the next with squeals of joy.
Scattered orange flags dropping from cedar trees soften the pathways through the woods on a walk with my dogs.
Orange is the color of fall.
Fall, the time when being inside cozy and warm brings us closer together with those we love.
What better way than to enjoy a simple bowl of soup?
This recipe puts dinner on the table in 20 minutes without skimping on the flavor or the fun.
I chose Pumpkin for the base but Butternut Squash or Sweet Potato would work just as well.
All of the bright orange foods have similar nutritional benefits.
Accompanying the pumpkin with minced apricots adds a layer of sweetness and a bit of thickening as they breakdown, eliminating the need for any flour thickener. Together with the maple syrup, the soup has a haunting sweetness offset with a bit of red pepper.
Be careful to only use 1/4 teaspoon before you simmer the soup. Red pepper gets hotter as you simmer.
Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup with Maple Pepita Brittle
Although I started from a fresh pumpkin, the simple joy of this recipe comes from the ease of using canned organic pumpkin. Feel free to make your life easy. The apricots work to provide a lovely depth of flavor and a bit of natural sweetness. Use whichever milk you would like, I've made this with Almond milk but soy, rice or hemp all work well.
Now that the Thanksgiving dinner is done, what do you do with the leftovers?
Around my house there are family classics so important that we actually make double of these foods just to enjoy them.
One is this soup.
The recipe calls for vegetables to be diced from fresh, and that is wonderful. But, I just cook extra carrots with a bit of dill and butter, extra brussel sprouts and turnips, extra roasted parsnips and a few creamed onions.
Then all I have to do to get this soup on the table is add diced carrots.
Feel free to use up all your vegetable leftovers. Just make the broth and then proceed to soften any not already cooked vegetables in a bit of oil or butter. Pour in the hot broth, add the cooked vegetable leftovers and top with the dumpling batter.
Your soup will be uniquely yours.
Recipe: Vegan Butternut Squash Soup with Cashew Cream
Summary: This is a perfect starter or light lunch for Thanksgiving.
one 4 pound butternut squash-Cut the squash in half length ways. scrape out the seeds and pulp. Place the squash cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Poke the thick part with a pointed knife and you will know if it is done. After baking, the skin can be just pulled off. Mash the butternut squash well. This portion of the recipe can be done up to 5 days before serving.
Exited, curious, nervous. All these emotions coursing through my veins.
I’m on the threshold of another potluck, the going away party for a treasured friend as she leaves for sunnier climes.
She is the excited one, eager to move to where the sunshine is not celebrated.
And her family are the curious ones, will this middle school be as nice as the one I’m leaving? Is there soccer there? Will the pool truly be the heart of the new condo association?
You can hear the nerves in there as well. So many changes in store for these lovely friends, so many adventures already under their belts.
This is this family’s 14th move, or maybe the 15th.
A whirlwind family, easily settling into a new situation, creating a new tribe in each city.
And the current tribe gathered last night to celebrate the feminine leader of the clan.
Bringing foods from home, foods picked up on the way, a few bottles of wine and cider to share.
Gathering to acknowledge just how special Sandy is to all of us, realizing we’ll all get to hear of her adventures on Facebook.
This is where my butterflies start.
Because potlucks are a minefield to a gluten-free person. I’m excited to try new foods lovingly prepared by some of my favorite women.
Curious about a recipe with long history from the Russian Doukhobor tradition for borscht.
Nervous that somehow I’ll get glutened and miss out on the camaraderie by being sick.
My contribution was vegetarian sushi from a place I am certain uses no soy on the veggies, so at least I knew I could eat something.
And I asked questions, just not enough.
That borscht was lovely- bright deep pink, chunks of beets, slivers of red cabbage, caramelized onions, tiny morsels of new potatoes all combined with a bit of broth and topped with a bit of sour cream, or not.
A green salad of fresh romaine, scattered with quinoa, tender dried cranberries, lightly toasted pumpkin seeds and a vinaigrette dressing made with a big, round olive oil. This was the contribution of the other gluten-free person at the party. I’m always grateful when someone else is gluten-free, then I know I can eat at least two dishes.
Another salad, this time a finely shredded red cabbage, topped simply with orange sections, a bit of rice wine vinegar and oil. What a lovely bunch of antioxidants that one was. You just have to love a doctor who can cook as well.
And then the hostesses food.
I thought I was safe, that she understood about cross contamination.
I know that for her work she understands that even a trace of flour would make a cake poison to a gluten-free person.
But in the kitchen, when the wheat hides under another name, there lies the problem.
Salmon- basted with soy sauce and brown sugar. I just didn’t notice the glaze on the fish, I was too busy chatting with some friends I hadn’t seen in too long. I know the fish is wild caught and locally processed, I knew that it had been grilled moments before, the tantalizing smell had greeted me as I arrived.
So a bit of it ended up on my plate, I love salmon.
The homemade Minestrone soup-prepared lovingly with fresh organic vegetables, brown rice pasta shells, home grated parmesan on the side. I was reassured that the pasta was gluten-free and was enjoying the first bite….
I just wasn’t thinking. I was enjoying the party and my friend had been so careful to use brown rice pasta shells.
So, when I found the first pearl of barley, I did my best to mitigate the damage. I put my spoon down, told the other gluten-free person that the soup had gluten and went to find the hostess to ask the questions I should have asked before my first bite.
Was the soy sauce on the salmon gluten-free?
Her surprise that soy sauce has gluten in it told me all I needed to know.
I’d been glutened.
We chatted a few more minutes about how insidious gluten can be before I excused myself. Off to the bathroom with my purse in hand to swallow a couple of glutenzyme. And to marvel at the many ways that gluten can hide in such amazing food.
Luckily this morning, I’m feeling fine. Perhaps a bit more rumbly in the tummy than usual but that could be from all the cabbage as much from the tiny bit of gluten I got.
I just thank goodness I had the glutenzyme along and was able to take it quickly. I know I’ve stopped similar reactions in the past with this product. It works to denature the proteins in my stomach preventing the intact protein from getting to the small intestine. It doesn’t mean I would use it willy-nilly, but it is good insurance.
This is one of those recipes that is easy to reach for as the days get colder. I grate most of the vegetables to speed the cooking time (and the preparation time) but you are welcome to chop them all fine instead. If you prefer a smooth soup, then pour it into a blender or use a stick blender to finish the Borscht to the texture you prefer.
Author: Dr. Jean Layton
Recipe type: Soup
2 large onions- thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 Red or Yukon Gold potatoes- diced into tiny squares.
3 large beets
1 head red cabbage
1 quart good quality Vegetable broth
Salt and Pepper to taste, I use about 1 teaspoon of pepper and 1 of salt if using unsalted stock.
In a large stockpot, place the onions and olive oil over medium heat.
Allow them to cook till well browned, about 10 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes and then again each minute.
Add the tiny dice potatoes and let them cook for another 5 minutes.
Grate the beets and cabbage in a food processor or by hand.
Add to the stock pot with the onions and potatoes,
Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.
Cook for 10 more minutes or till the cabbage and beets are tender.