Archive for February 2011
Of course I meant to blog about the first impromptu soup swap I had back in December, but we all know how much I’ve been blogging these days. Starting again is like drafting that first post, when I couldn’t even type out complete sentences. Still, I’ve missed the daily discipline of blogging. I hope to recommit to this daily (hell, or at least weekly) practice these last four months of my pregnancy.
Fortunately, I can draw inspiration from the second soup swap I attended today, skillfully arranged by Chef Intaba through Slow Food Corvallis. All the participants brought six quarts of soup, and then we traded. We returned home with six different kinds of soup to eat right away or store in the freezer (if you can find the space! That’s why folks invest in chest freezers here.) You come home with such variety, instead of tiring of that one big pot of soup that sits in the fridge ignored for a week. Portland-based food writer and radio producer Deena Prichep aptly captured the conviviality of these events in her soup swap pieces for The Oregonian and OPB.
Rule #1 of hosting a soup swap, I’ve learned the hard way now, is to only prepare one type of soup. I made the mistake of preparing one to share and another one to share with guests during the event. Baltimoregon, when will you learn to put all your eggs in one pot?
For both swaps, I made Molly Katzen’s standby Brazilian black bean soup from her Moosewood Cookbook (see recipe below), recommended to me years ago by Dan’s aunt Amy. Most Brazilian black bean concoctions–think feijoada–involve smoky pork, but the Moosewood recipe is, of course, vegetarian. It’s bright and citrus-y, punched up with orange juice, diced tomatoes, cayenne and cumin. I even used locally-grown Black Valentine beans from Matt-Cyn Farms.
Such events really showcase ethnic and culinary diversity. Slow Food Corvallis president Ann Shriver made an Ethiopian lentil soup with spicy berbere sauce. Several attendees made lentil soups, made with green French lentils that don’t get so mushy when cooked. One participant stressed lentil soup’s low-glycemic index, which she turned to when facing the risk of gestational diabetes while pregnant.
Another woman of indigenous Mexican descent made a healthy version of posole. Chef Intaba drew on her Jewish heritage with her grandmother’s split pea soup. We won’t tell anyone she subbed her own smoked pork belly for the flaken, which her bubbe stewed for hours in the pot. Another swapper offered potato-leek soup with German butterball potatoes to represent her heritage. A West African chicken and peanut soup served during our meal was also memorable. Now we have a fridge and freezer full of soup to get us through the week.
How I’ve missed blogging, but somehow haven’t been up it. I’m halfway through my first pregnancy, pregnant with a boy(!) we just learned. That might explain why I didn’t have too much morning sickness and always felt like eating first trimester? Unfortunately, second trimester has surprisingly so far been more of a slog.
But I wanted to write to sing the praises of muhammara, another great roasted red pepper (with walnuts and pomegranate) dip that apparently hails from Syria. I fell in love with this recipe we just had from Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. Dan’s former department chair prepared it as part of a delicious Middle Eastern spread she put together for a visiting economist from Turkey. Shawna and her husband, Rolf, sure know how to entertain. They’re especially known for their Scandinavian delicacies–gravalax, pickled herring, fresh currant-infused aquavit, home-smoked duck. Rolf is from Sweden. He even grows pinot noir grapes, which he bottles into a coveted “Grapes of Rolf” vintage. A case or two of his wine has been known to woo job candidates here.
Back to muhammara. Like avjar, it has an addictive tang that pairs so well with pita and goat cheese or feta. If you, like me, try to avoid imported bell peppers this time of year (apart from the carbon footprint, they have that off, less-than-fresh taste), just substitute jarred roasted red peppers instead. Why bother roasting peppers out of season anyway? For another muhammara variation, check out this one from Ivy Manning in the current issue of Portland’s MIX. Pomegranate molasses is a key ingredient that you’ll enjoy having around for salad dressings. I believe Corvallis cookbook author Jan Roberts-Dominguez also has a muhammara recipe (with hazelnuts instead of walnuts) in her new Oregon Hazelnut Country cookbook.