Simple Spring Soup

 

frikeh herb soup IIEvery (early) spring I am reminded of why I have a vegetable/herb garden. Between the green garlic, sorrel, parsley, chives, and puny escarole I can flavor most anything and I haven’t actually “gardened” in many months. This is the joy of watching things come up and start afresh with no effort at all. It doesn’t look like much when you scan the muddy patches that I call my garden this time of year. However, we were away for a few days last week and I have yet to do much grocery shopping so we’ve been eating out of the pantry/freezer and the garden and we’ve been eating well.

Today’s lunch was a soup of frikeh (scorched green wheat) that I had cooked months ago and frozen, a bit of leftover chicken stock, water, green garlic, a chunk of onion and plenty of parsley and chives and a little squeeze of lemon juice.

frikeh herb soup prepIt took about 10 minutes to make and is just a template for a simple, brothy bowl of soup. Any grain would work and barley or farro would be particularly good. You could skip the grains and just use vegetables or leftover meat but plenty of herbs are key. Use any kind of broth or stock you have or just water. The little bit of lemon juice at the end and the herbs are what stand out here.

Spring Soup

Serves 2-3

2 stalks green garlic, trimmed and minced (greens and all)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
3 cups broth/stock/water
A little toasted cracked coriander (optional)
1 1/2 cups cooked grains (see headnote), frikeh in this case
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs like parsley, chives, chervil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt
Olive oil

Saute the onion and green garlic in a bit of oil oil in a medium pot. When softened add the broth and the cooked grains. Bring to a boil. Add the coriander (if using) and stir in the fresh herbs. Salt to taste. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a good drizzle of olive oil.

Happy Spring!

P.S. I’ve created a new section on my subscription-based Seasonal Recipe Collection called What’s for Dinner? It organizes the site by theme such as Creative Salads, Meals that Make Great Leftovers, Prepared Pantry, Kid-friendly Meals and the like. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you might consider it!

Quinoa and Beets

In this recipe raw, grated beets are added to cumin scented quinoa.

I have a bit of a funny relationship with beets. I like them and often am attracted to beet-related salads on restaurant menus. They are not, however, the first thing I grab at the farmers’ market. And if I do, they often sit in my crisper longer than most other items. Luckily beets last a long time  in the fridge.

I have my few go-to recipes for them like this one. And today’s recipe was recommended to me by a trusted friend and I had actually mentally made note of it when I saw it on Culinate.com a few months earlier. It is a recipe from Maria Speck’s book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. I taught it in a recent class (Grains and Beans in Winter Salads) and it was a big hit.

Be careful when you grate them as the juice flies everywhere and easily stains.

I don’t think I had ever used raw, grated beets before  making this dish and they are surprisingly sweet this way. In my experience red beets work much better than the golden beets both in flavor and appearance in this dish. (Maria suggests using golden ones as an alternative. ) The dish is quick to make, the color is unbeatable and the balance of the sweet beets, the nutty quinoa, the whole cumin seeds and plenty of lemon juice (and a bit of cayenne) is really, really lovely. And of course the garlicky Greek yogurt topping is the perfect complement.

It’s best eaten warm or at room temperature not long after it’s made. I just had some for breakfast this morning right out of the fridge and it was not quite as soft and fragrant so be sure to bring leftovers to room temperature before eating.

This would make a lovely addition to any holiday meal.

Quinoa with Beets, Cumin and Garlicky Yogurt
–adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck

This quick, room temperature dish uses raw, grated beets. The original recipe also calls for sumac, the powder from a red berry found and used all over the Middle East. It has a tart flavor so I substitute a bit of lemon juice (which she also suggests) which works well.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sumac (optional, see note above)
3/4 cup plain whole-milk or Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. sumac, for sprinkling, or 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1¼ cups shredded raw beets (about 1 medium-sized beet, rinsed and peeled)
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 pinches cayenne pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds (they will sizzle) and cook, stirring, until the seeds darken and become fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in the quinoa and cook, stirring frequently, until hot to the touch, about 1 minute. Add the water, salt, and sumac, and bring to a boil. Decrease the temperature to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the yogurt and the garlic in a small bowl until smooth. Sprinkle with the sumac (if using) and set aside.

To finish, remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the shredded beets, cover, and steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and the cayenne. Taste, adjusting for salt and lemon juice, and serve with the yogurt topping.


Fava Beans

I learned how to cook fava beans like this from my friend Carol (of Ayers Creek Farm fame). Favas are a spring/early summer treat in our region and are only in the markets for a few weeks. They are often overlooked because most preparations have you shell them, then cook the beans and then peel each individual bean. And while the result is definitely worth it, it is a more labor intensive and time-consuming process than most veggies require. So since I learned the below method I enjoy far more fava beans each year.

 

You cook the favas, big squishy pods and all in a large pot of heavily salted water until the individual beans start following out of the pods and then you don’t peel the individual beans. So if you like fava beans and wish you used them more, make this and report back. Curious to hear if you love it as much as I do.

Fava Beans with Cilantro, Yogurt and Lemon

 

Carol Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm told me about this method of cooking fava beans which eliminates the time consuming step of peeling each individual bean. This is an Iranian way of cooking favas.

 

2 pounds fava beans in their pods

¼ cup kosher or sea salt

1/3 cup Greek yogurt or plain, whole milk yogurt (or more if you want it saucier)

1/3 – 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro (can use a few tablespoons of chopped mint instead)

1 -2 teaspoons lemon juice (to taste)

zest of one lemon, finely grated

1 medium clove garlic, minced (or 1 stalk green garlic, minced)

1 tablespoons olive oil

salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Place your whole fava bean pods in a six-quart pot (or slightly larger). Fill the pot three-quarters full of water or until the favas are just covered. Add the salt (it seems like a crazy amount of salt but I promise it turns out just fine) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the water stays at a rapid simmer and cook covered, until the pods start falling apart, between 20 and 30 minutes. Drain and fill pot of beans with cold water. This allows you to extract the beans more quickly. You can also just drain and let sit until cool. Remove beans from pods. There is no need to peel each individual bean. The skin should be tender and the beans perfectly seasoned. Toss beans with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Enjoy as a side dish or on crusty bread or tossed with cold pasta for a hearty salad.

 

Fava beans cooked this way (and without the dressing) are delicious with pasta and a bit of parmesan, with boiled potatoes and parsley. I’ve added them to Israeli couscous with some mint and grated, hard cheese.

Food as Comfort

For some reason a lot of sad and tragic things have happened/are happening to people I love right now. And I have that deep, sorrowful feeling of helplessness. When I’m sad I actually have a hard time eating, and an even harder time mustering the energy to cook. So I’m going to get cooking for people and hope that a little warm food might help just a little with the ache of it all. I apologize for the morose post but I guess what is this blog if not personal.

So here’s a recipe for a very comforting and nourishing dish:

Brown rice with lime peel, lemon zest, cinnamon stick

Citrus and Coconut Brown Rice Pudding

–adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters

This takes a while to make but it’s almost all unattended time in the oven and it’s a treat especially in the winter. You can vary this in many ways to suit your tastes.  Mark Bittman suggests pulsing the grains of rice in a food processor a few times to break them up a bit which does result in a more luscious pudding but you can certainly skip the step.

½ cup long or medium-grain brown rice

1 14-ounce can coconut milk (I use full fat but you can use light too) and the equivalent amount of whole milk

½ cup brown sugar

1 two-inch long strip of lime peel (I use a carrot peeler to shave this off)

grated zest of half a lemon

1 small cinnamon stick and/or a 3-inch piece of vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped into mixture and pods added too

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients well in a 2 or 3 quart oven-proof pot or Dutch oven. Cook uncovered for about 45 minutes then stir well. Cook for another 45 minutes and stir again. The mixture should be bubbling by now and might be getting a bit golden around the edge. Cook for another 30-45 minutes. Now it will start looking more like rice than milk. Stir every 10 minutes now. It will thicken considerably as it cools so take it out just before you think it’s the right thickness. But even if it gets really thick it will taste wonderful so don’t sweat it too much.

Remove the cinnamon stick. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold. You can add raisins or other chopped, dried or fresh fruit half way through the cooking. You can also serve it topped with toasted coconut, shaved chocolate, chopped nuts or fruit compote of some kind. It’s very good with slices oranges that you macerate in orange and lemon juice, a bit of Cointreau, and some orange zest and sugar (if you’re feeling fancy!)

This was a quadruple batch a while ago, so know that the above recipe will make much less!

Send some good vibes out in the world and cook for a friend in need!