She came to me in a dream…and had all the answers.
Do you ever have those dreams that impart so much truth, wisdom, and clarity that you commit to remembering every bit upon waking?
I had one of those dreams the other night – the message was relevant and so dreadfully important. The key to my happiness was locked in its meaning. If I could remember, my life would transform. As I stirred from sleep, the details scattered from my mind like raindrops flung from my opening eyelashes. Oh, the horror! Of course, securing life’s answer is never that simple.
I’ve been talking with a friend lately about metamorphosis and transformation. Why do we confine ourselves to be the person we have scripted? I’ve spoken before about our personal “story” – the story that we’ve concocted to describe ourselves…something to put behind the “I.” “I am this,” “I do that,” and “I like those.” When we do so, we conscribe our own possibilities.
So, what did my dream have to tell me? Alas, the details are gone, but snippets are still fluttering in my mind. My dream was about things that hold us back from true transformation – from radically changing our story.
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success – “who am I to deserve this?”
- Idleness – why bother, I’m content where I am
- Comfort in the known – transformation is inherently uncomfortable
- Morals, values and laws that may no longer apply, serve a purpose, or be correct – society’s and our own personal beliefs
- The opinion of others
- The energy to make it happen – with barely the strength to get through the week, how do we find the strength to transform?
If we can overcome these obstacles, then true, lasting, profound change can be ours, but that, my friend, is a difficult road.
The key to everlasting happiness may be elusive, but a bowl of comforting and fleeting happiness can be found in this hearty and soul-satisfying pea soup. Enjoy!
Classic Pea Soup
Enjoy this hearty, smoky, classic pea soup on a chilly fall evening with crusty bread and a simple pear salad.
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups dried green split peas
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 smoked ham hock
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- Sour cream (optional)
- Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook until the onions are soft. Add the bay leaves and thyme. Add the split peas and stir to combine. Add the broth and the ham hock and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. If soup is too thick, add a little more broth. The soup is ready when the peas are soft, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
- Transfer the ham onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones, shred, and stir back into the soup (discard the bones and any skin). Remove bay leaves and season with salt, pepper and finish with white vinegar. To serve, dollop with sour cream (if using).
I am besotted by Autumn, yet my love is unrequited. I wait at windows that darken imperceptibly earlier in the evening, willing the trees to burst into sunset hues, yearning for a chilling of the air that never comes, begging for the first crackling fire in the dusty fireplace. Still, she does not heed my lament. She unfurls day upon day of scorching heat, forcing tanned leaves to wither and serenely suicide without a hint of colorful fanfare. She’ll arrive when she is ready, for her own selfish pleasure and not a moment sooner, no matter my desires.
Despite this interminable summer weather, October in my kitchen means hearty soups and stews like this Pork and Potato Green Chili.
Pork & Potato Green Chili
A hearty, spicy chili of tender pork and potatoes.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 fresh Anaheim chiles – seeded, stemmed and chopped
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 1 ¼ pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 16-ounce jar salsa verde, medium heat
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- ½ cup shredded pepper jack cheese
- ¼ cup shredded cilantro
- In a soup pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add the chiles and onion and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, 5 minutes. Add the pork; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until browned, 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, salsa and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, partially cover and simmer, stirring the chili occasionally, until the pork is tender, about 40 minutes.
- Add lime juice, season with salt and pepper, and divide among bowls. Garnish with the cheese and cilantro.
Slightly adapted from Rachel Ray
Have friends over for dinner this weekend without all the work. “Soup Sundays” is the low-key, fuss-free version of a full-blown dinner party. For my inaugural Soup Sunday, I made two soups a few days ahead and, for dessert, baked a simple apple crostata with the booty from my apple-picking adventures on Saturday. Friends brought bread and salad, we opened a few bottles of wine, and celebrated the first Sunday of October.
I’ve decided to make it a weekly standing date. Next Sunday, we’re making it even more casual with the “Pajama Party” edition.
Slow Cooker Beef and Farro Soup
A low and slow simmer results in tender beef and chewy farro in this comforting and hearty soup. Just let time do its thing.
- 8 cups unsalted beef stock
- 1 ½ cups chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup uncooked farro
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 large thyme sprigs
- 3 bay leaves
- ¼ cup unsalted tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pounds beef stew meat, divided
- 2 ½ cups chopped carrots
- In a 6-quart slow cooker, stir together beef stock, onion, celery, farro, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Dollop tomato paste on top.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add half of beef and cook until well browned, about 6 minutes. Add beef to slow cooker. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and beef. Scatter carrots over beef. Cover and cook on LOW until meat is tender, about 8 hours. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Adjust salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls.
Not a fish fan? The salmon can be replaced with shredded cooked chicken.
Culinary School flew by at such a rapid pace that I barely remember the basics. Today, 11 years later, I couldn’t tourne a potato to save my life, even though we spent weeks perfecting our technique. Knowledge was imparted by Chef, 90% of it sadly unretained by this student.
Someone recently asked me what defines a soup as “chowder” and, as that definition was probably somewhere in my missing 90%, I didn’t have a sufficient answer. Does using seafood make it chowder? Nope. Seafood is a standard ingredient, yes, but not a requirement. Does adding cream make it chowder? Chowders are often finished with cream, but they don’t have to be.
According to The Professional Chef, the tome we relied upon in school, chowder is defined as, “a soup that is thickened with flour, roux or potatoes.” Thank goodness “potatoes” were in that mix, because I’ve been calling this recipe “chowder” for years.
Who knew I could be validated by a potato.
Salmon Corn Chowder
A hearty soup loaded with salmon, bacon, sweet corn, and, of course, potatoes.
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- ¼ cup brandy, white wine, or dry sherry
- ¾ lb. potatoes, cut into ½” cubes
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups frozen or fresh corn
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups cooked salmon, cubed
- salt and pepper
- In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside. Add onion, carrot and celery to the bacon fat and cook until softened and beginning to brown.
- Add bay leaf, thyme, and brandy; reduce, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add potatoes and chicken stock, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- Add corn and simmer until corn is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Add heavy whipping cream, salmon, and reserved bacon. Simmer 10 more minutes, remove bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper.
Meaty beef short ribs and beef shank ensure a rich broth, the star of this Pho Soup. Simmering cinnamon and star anise ensure a wonderfully scented house.
…the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.”
– Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem
No riot of color or chilling air, October’s subtlety in LA is lost to anyone not labeled “native.” Feigning Hollywood starlet ennui, tanned summer leaves serenely suicide from weary trees, “Too hot,” they lament, “I cannot stay a moment longer.” Stifling Santa Ana winds unfurl scents of burning sagebrush with feelings of prickly dread and stopped time. “Earthquake weather,” we proclaim. Porch lights flicker awake by 6:00 pm, lighting barefoot children pedaling bikes in dusty cul-de-sacs. LA quietly shifts into autumn, leaving paroxysms of sunset hues to the other coast.
Coincidentally, this soup popped up on my Facebook memories for today – I first made this recipe exactly seven years ago.
Faux Pho Soup
Meaty beef short ribs and beef shank ensure a rich broth in the Pho Soup. Simmering cinnamon and star anise ensure a wonderfully scented house.
- 1 ½ lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
- 1 ½ lbs. beef shank, cut into 2 or 3 pieces
- ½ onion, sliced
- 1-inch piece ginger, smashed
- 1 bunch scallions, white parts smashed and greens chopped and reserved
- 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
- Fresh red chili or serrano chili, stemmed and halved
- 6 cups water
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 8 oz. dried flat Asian rice noodles
- Mint sprigs, roughly torn
- Cilantro leaves, roughly torn
- Lime wedges
- salt and white pepper
- Brown meat in batches in a large soup pot with a bit of oil. Set meat aside. Saute onion, ginger, white parts of scallions, garlic cloves, and chili until onion begins to brown.
- Add water, soy sauce, star anise, and cinnamon. Return meat and any accumulated juices to pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2 ½ hours.
- Transfer meat to cutting board. Discard bones and membrane and shred meat into small pieces.
- Strain broth through a sieve lined with cheese cloth and skim fat. Add meat back into broth and season with salt and white pepper.
- Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to package directions. Place noodles in individual bowls, add scallion greens, torn mint springs and torn cilantro leaves. Ladle hot soup over noodles and finish with a squeeze of lime juice.