Mexican Lime-Pepper Soup by Guest poster Chris

2013-12-15 18.36.25

Inspired by Cat’s flurry of posts, I took the opportunity to document our humble domestic meal tonight. In rainy, low-ceiling, grey Seattle, this meal comes as a real tonic. The best thing about this meal is that it is a total bonus thrown together from leftovers from—eeck—a week ago!

We had had some friends over a week ago for a belated Channukah party, which was totally rad and super fun, but nothing on the scale of Cat and Gary’s soiree (WHOA—wish we had attended—looks amazing!). We served some roasted chickens, which are always wonderful to eat, but what I savor most is gleaning the scraps left on the bird, setting them aside, and making stock. From the stock and left-over shredded chicken, we got a nice enchilada party with our buddies Pete and Jenell, who at the same dinner inaugurated their first Settlers of Catan match. Then tonight this meal happened, and was worthy of a post…

Again, this meal is just killer when it’s cold out, or your feeling under the weather (too much holiday cheer, etc.). Here’s more or less the ingredient list:

Two fistfuls of shredded chicken per person

A bowl or two of stock per person (homemade obviously worlds better than store-bought)

An onion or shallots or something, chopped

Some garlic, minced

Oregano (we had fresh on-hand), chopped

Cilantro (fresh—is there any other kind?), chopped

2-4 corn tortillas per person, cut into thin strips

Fresh cracked pepper, more than you think is rational

Expensive and rare colored salts, to taste

2 limes per person, or more than you think is rational

Grated extra sharp cheddar (Tilamook was on hand)

Optional is cotija cheese (We had it, so threw it in, why not)

Olive oil for sauteeing

Canola oil for frying (1-2 cups)


  1. Take shredded chicken and fry it in hot olive oil in a pot that you will make the soup in, tossing the onions and garlic on top, medium-high to high. The goal here is to take cooked chicken and brown it in the pan. The nice auburn crust on the chicken is great for looks, but the brown bits that develop in the pan are important for flavor, and when you see this develop after 5 or so minuted, throw some water in, a cup or two, and deglaze the pan by scrapping the brown bits off on high.
  2. Throw a bunch of stock in and simmer with oregano and a Bill and Melinda Gates generous amount of black pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, heat canola oil, maybe a cup, in a smallish sauce pan until the surface dimples with heat. Throw a test tortilla strip in—if it floats immedately your temp is good. Smoking is bad, here as elsewhere. Throw the tortilla strips in, a handful at a time, and have a slotted spoon or a spider on hand. Fry until blond or golden brown, set on paper towel to cool.

2013-12-15 18.25.13

  1. It’s best to have the cilantro chopped, the cheese grated, and the limes cut into Mexican wedges ahead of time, so that when your tortillas strips are ready to go you throw the whole thing together in the bowl—the tortilla strips will crackle, still being hot with micropockets of roiling oil.
  2. Put strips in bowl, ladle chicken and chicken broth on top, throw some cilatro, sharp cheddar, and cotija on top like Emeril—BAM!Ô —and squeeze the lime on top.
  3. Enjoy with loved ones. Listen to Frank Ocean’s song Pink Matter on Rdio.

2013-12-14 19.17.18

Vegan Chipotle Squash & Carrot Soup

So today I should be working on my (last?) paper and presentation for med school, on prescription drug costs or something like that. So what better time to put that off and write up a recipe I’ve been sitting on for a few weeks?! Exactly.


All I’m saying about this one is that the doll really liked it, ok?


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 5 carrots
  • 1C cooked black beans
  • 1 head garlic
  • 6oz firm or extra firm tofu
  • 2 chiles in adobo sauce (adjust for preferred spiciness)
  • 4C vegetable stock (adjust for preferred viscosity)
  • 1 C chopped cilantro
  • Olive oil
  • Salt


1. Turn oven to 450. Peel the carrots and slice them ¼ inch thick. Pierce the butternut squash in several places with a knife. Cut the top off the head of garlic.

2. Oil half of a cookie sheet. Place the carrots and the head of garlic (cut side down) on the oiled side, and the whole squash on the non-oiled side. Bake in the oven until the veggies are all squishy, 40-50 min. Keep an eye on the garlic to make sure it doesn’t burn.

3. While the  veggies are in the oven, make the tofu croutons. Squeeze out the excess water in the tofu and cut it into ½ in cubes. Heat a non-stick pan with olive oil and fry the tofu cubes, flipping half way through, so that all sides are a nice, crunchy golden-brown.

3. Remove the veggies from the oven. Carefully cut the squash in half and spoon out the flesh, tossing the seeds or saving them to make a snack. Put the stock, 4 or 5 roasted cloves of garlic, carrots, squash and chiles into a food processor and puree. Add salt to taste. Adjust the amount of stock depending on how thick you want your soup.

4. Add the beans at the end and mix them in, then drop the tofu croutons and cilantro on top. Yum! Vegan.

Pea and Mint Soup

Splendid Treasures of the Turkomen

Today marked the opening of my first exhibit at my new job–Splendid Treasures of the Turkomen Tribes from Central Asia. It has been exciting to work on this show, to delve into a crash course on Turkmen (as they are known today) people, clothing, carpets, and jewelry. And I have to admit, it’s nice to see an “Associate Curator” credit at the entrance with my name next to it.

The view from my museum office.

The view from my museum office.

Unfortunately, a few hours before the opening, a snow storm hit Knoxville. And while 2 or three inches of snow is nothing in Chicago, in a hilly town like Knoxville with snow plows few and far between, it means a complete and utter meltdown. Only four guests showed at the opening, so we had a lot of Turkmen food to get through. And while it was delicious, it’s quite pastry and meat heavy, so once I finally walked through the slush and back home, something hot and lighter was in order. All I had in the fridge were some leftover green onions, and some frozen veggies. Fortunately, this soup came to the rescue. This recipe is an old standby–you can make it when you literally have nothing in your home, and it is comforting and fresh at the same time. While “pea soup” doesn’t sound too promising perhaps, I promise this is great, and it comes together in 15 minutes or less.

Pea Soup

Pea and Mint Soup

  • 1 large bunch of green onion + 1/2 a yellow onion OR 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried mint
  • 1 tsp. dried dill
  • 16 oz. bag of frozen organic peas
  • bouillon cube (enough for making 2 C. stock) and water OR veggie stock
  • fresh ground pepper
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
  • goat cheese or Greek yogurt to garnish (optional)

Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium until it starts to wilt and/or turn translucent. Add the dried herbs and saute for another minute or so. Stir in the frozen peas, breaking them up. Barely cover the peas with water and add the bouillon cube, or simply cover the peas with stock and don’t add the bouillon. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add some fresh ground pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes or so until the peas are tender. Remove from the head and add the lemon zest and juice. Puree with a stick blender or in a food processor till smooth. Serve immediately, and serve hot, with an optional dollop of Greek yogurt or some crumbles of goat cheese.

Winter Soup: Sausage, White Bean and Kale

The weather in Basel has been grey, cold and rainy.  Although the temperatures aren’t anywhere near what we experienced in Hanover, I still am yearning for a glimpse of sun.  At least the the weather isn’t  stopping us from enjoying the full range of festivals Basel has in store. We enjoyed dozens of rides for the fall festival, Herbestmesse.  We got completely drenched with friends, but felt like we were kids again enjoying the gluhwein, brautwursts and cheesy bread. Granted I got totally motion sick at the end of the night…now we’re waiting for the Christmas markets to charm the city center.

The only other excitement with the weather turning is that we are in soup season again!  There is nothing better than having a hot pot of soup just steaming and reducing on your stove.  This recipe is one of my favorite soups because it’s hearty and really flavorful.  I also love kale and finally found some at the French markets.


– 1 garlic clove (minced)

– 1 dried red pepper (chopped)

– 4 shallots (minced)

– 2 onions (minced)

– olive oil

– 2 sausages (I like to get merguez or something flavored. They had fennel ones at the store, which were delicious – chopped)

– 4 Cups Chicken Broth

– Parmesan rind

– 2 bay leaves

– 10 stalks of kale (chopped)

– Salt and pepper to taste

– 1 can of white beans


– Heat olive oil in a pot (preferably a Le Creuset-like pot) and when hot toss in onions, shallots, garlic and chili. Saute until onions are translucent

– Place in sausage and brown the sausage. You want to get a nice brown base at the bottom of the pot.


See the brown?!

– Pour in chicken stock and degalze (very important to make sure you get a good soup base)

– Bring to a boil adding in the bay leaves and parmesan rind


– Turn the heat down low to reduce for an hour or so

– Remove bay leaves and what’s left of the rind and add kale and white beans

– Bring back to a boil and serve to beat those winter blues away!

– Optional garnish: parmesan cheese and parsley


Tomato Coconut Milk Soup

Hurricane Sandy

The weather lately has been crazy, as anyone looking at the aftermath (and continued destructive path) of Hurricane Sandy could tell you. We’re out of harm’s way here in Tennessee, but we sure have had our NYC/NJ/New England friends on our minds the past few days–many people I know are out of power, and many that I don’t know are dealing with flooded homes or burned homes. What a massive, scary storm. Stay safe everyone!

The cold front that ended up helping to make Sandy into a superstorm hit Tennessee, and the past few days it has been chilly. I’ve been craving something simple and hot and cozy, and this soup hit the spot. It’s also good for lunch leftovers, which is great since I don’t have time to cook lunches and dinners all the time.

The soup, which is adapted from 101 Cookbooks, has endless variations, and so I look forward to making this one a staple at our home. Yum.

Tomato Coconut Milk Soup

Tomato Coconut Milk Soup

adapted from “A Simple Tomato Soup,” 101 Cookbooks 
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste

  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes (pref. fire-roasted)
1 14-ounce can light or full fat coconut milk
  • to serve: any of the following that sound good to you – cooked brown rice, lemon wedges, toasted almond slices, fresh herbs, a poached egg

In a large pot over medium heat the olive oil and saute the onions until soft – 10 minutes or so. Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute or so. Stir in the salt, curry powder, coriander, fennel, and chile flakes, and cook just until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, the juices from the cans, and the can of coconut milk. Simmer for fifteen minutes or so, then puree with a hand blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot over rice or with any of the other toppings you desire. Can also be served at room temp or chilled with a dollop of yogurt, as in the picture above.

Cucumber Yogurt Soup

It is hot in Chicago right now–as in almost 100 degrees hot, and too-hot-to-turn-on-the-stove hot. Add to that the fact that we don’t really have AC in Chicago (because of odd window shapes, we can only have window units that cool a room or two), and really I just didn’t feel like cooking tonight. Nevertheless, after two weeks of travel and eating out a lot, I was looking forward to detoxing with some healthy food, which meant that Cucumber Yogurt Soup was calling my name.

This is truly one of the easiest and most satisfying recipes in the whole world, and it welcomes some improvisation. Tonight, I added in some herbs I had around, as well as some cubes of avocado. The creaminess of the avocado worked really nice with the tang of the soup, but diced tomato, cucumber, some drops of basil infused oil, or a dollop of pesto would be nice here as well.

The next scorching night you have, please, make this. You won’t be disappointed. It also makes a great dinner party starter when you want something pretty, but quick to make.

Cucumber Yogurt Soup

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks (or 1 1/2 medium cucumbers)
  • 1 32-oz. container of plain lowfat yogurt
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • a small handful of herbs, such as fresh dill, basil, and/or parsley
  • 1/8 C. olive oil
  • Optional garnish: cubes of avocado, tomato, and/or cucumber; flavored olive oil; pesto; additional snipped herbs

Place the yogurt and the cucumber in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice and salt and process again. Add the fresh ground black pepper and the handful of herbs and process till completely incorporated. Taste the mixture for salt, adding more as needed. With the food processor or blender running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until it emulsifies. Chill the soup until cold and serve with optional garnish. Serves 4-6 depending on serving size.

Wild Rice, Barley, and Mushroom Soup

As with much of the United States, Chicago has had unseasonably warm, even record-breaking temperatures, over the past few weeks in March. However, yesterday it settled into more normal Chicago “Spring” weather: cool, wet, foggy, and misty.

We got home after a day of walking and I felt like soup. Inspired by our recent talk about barley  and some wild rice lingering in the pantry, I decided to whip this soup together. As an aside, can I say that having dried quality mushrooms around is a life saver. They imbue everything with a rich, earthy flavor, and I think that this soup could have been too light without the dried porcinis that I threw in on a kind of whim–I wanted a soup that had a full flavor without being heavy, and this hit the spot. I threw in a cup or so of cooked white beans as I had them ready in the fridge and figured the protein would be nice, but they’re optional and the soup would be great without them too.

As usual, I didn’t have any milk or yogurt on hand to make biscuits as we haven’t been on a big grocery shop lately, so we ate this with buttered arepas, and it was delicious.

Wild Rice, Barley, and Mushroom Soup
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks of celery diced
  • 1/2 C. pearl barley
  • 1 tsp. fresh sage (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
  • 1 tsp. Mediterranean seasoning
  • 1/4 c. wild rice
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 5 c. stock
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 1/4 C. dried mushrooms (porcini)
  • 1 C. cooked white beans (optional–I used butterbeans, because I had them around)

Melt butter and oil in heavy pan and add onions. Saute over medium for 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic cloves and saute for one minute. Add in celery, carrot, sage, and other herbs and saute for a minute. In the meantime, rinse barley and rice under water in sieve, shake to dry and then add to pan. Coat grains with oil and butter andmix thoroughly with other ingredients. Add the wine and stir over medium until absorbed.

Add the stock to mixture and cover with lid and bring to simmer. Simmer halfway covered and bring 1 C. water to a boil. Soak mushrooms in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserving soaking liquid and add liquid to simmering soup. Dice the soaked mushrooms and add to the soup, along with cooked beans, if using. Simmer entire mixture for 1 hour, or until all is done.