Russian Mushroom Soup

There is a surprisingly tasty and enchanting restaurant downtown. It feels like your European grandma’s house–full of lace, fancy cabinets and glassware (though mismatched), and creepy/homey/charming trinkets. Although my grandmother isn’t Russian, I could see elements of her European roots here.

I realized the first time I ate there that I didn’t know what to expect of Russian food. I patted myself on the back for recognizing some of the names, but by no means could I expect what flavors would work together, which pictures matched up with the food, or most important of all–which infused vodka to accompany everything.

To introduce myself, I got a few smaller dishes, and the crowd I was with was down with sharing, so we all got to taste some of each others’. What left the strongest impression on me was the mushroom soup. It felt like hunter-gatherer food. Light and refreshing, but also somehow sustaining and filling. The broth wasn’t thick and the ingredients hadn’t been stewed down, but the flavors somehow worked together marvelously.

Now that I’m on this mushroom kick and the cold weather swooped in for a visit, we tried to make some at home.

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Russian Mushroom Soup

  • 2 morells (feel free to skip this expensive ingredient that we bought on a whim)
  • handful of woodear mushrooms
  • handful of oyster mushrooms
  • 1 cup or so of porcini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 med onion
  • 2 med potatoes
  • 1/2 of a celery root
  • 1/2 of a fennel root
  • 1 parsnip
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tbs peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbs whole allspice

 

  1. In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onions. If you’re using fresh everything, great, if not, rehydrate the dried ones first.
  2. In a separate pan, cook barley as per package instructions.
  3. As the mushrooms approach done-ness, bring to a simmer 4 – 6 cups of water with the roughly chopped celery root, fennel, carrots, parsnips and bay leaves in a separate soup pot. After about 10 minutes, add the potatoes as well.
  4. Once the mushrooms have lost all their moisture and have gotten somewhat mushy, add them to the soup pot. Let simmer for about 10 minutes
  5. Add nearly the rest of the ingredients : barley, peas, garlic, peppercorns, and allspice. Let simmer for 10 minutes
  6. Add the parsley and dill.
  7. Let stew until the flavors have melded beautifully, about 10 more minutes.

I found the whole peppercorns and allspice lent a good flavor to the soup, but I got tired of crunching down on them. Now, I wish I had used a cheesecloth or something to keep them in the soup. I’ll experiment with that and let you know, but if you have any suggestions for me I’d be very appreciative! For added flavor, you could use broth instead of water.

Aigo Bouido

Oh man, this soup.

I couldn’t stop myself from eating a pound of bread and two bowls of this soup. After that, I couldn’t do a lot of things. But after after that, I felt amazing.

I’d been feeling a little under the weather when this soup came on my radar. The fact that it would help with my sickness was an bonus, an accessory. It is no secret that I love garlic, so when this recipe made it into my brain, of course I jumped for it. I’ve always believed fervently and zealously in the power of garlic. It’s to the point that I even “convert” people and do things like make them read the Wikipedia page. It stops me from getting eaten by mosquitoes when I go to Louisiana, it keeps my heart healthy despite eating like someone from Louisiana, and it comes to the rescue when I’m coming down with something. Generally, I have a little soup I throw together on mornings when I need to eat but am feeling too bad. Aigo bouido reminded me of that soup on overdrive.

I’ve been on a Julia Child kick ever since reading her memoir, which is where I found this recipe. Although I was able to find her version online, I decided to make a Frankenstein’s monster, pulling my favorite parts out of all the recipes I found. Broth seemed more flavorful than water, a bread bowl seemed tastier and easier than toastlets with fresh mayonnaise, and despite her saying that it would be easier to peel the garlic after boiling it, I peeled it like normal.

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Falling in line with what I vaguely think I know about garlic, I smashed it instead of slicing, and I didn’t strain it out. It was delightful biting into a chunk of aromatic garlic.

*On that note, when you eat this, make sure that whomever you make out with is also eating this soup.

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In her book, she said that she made it after a rough and stormy Mediterranean day, full of wind, salt, and poor spirits. But this soup livened everybody up again. It is surprisingly light and refreshing, which is part of why I wanted bread with it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be very substantial which might lead to accidentally eating the whole pot. IMG_5160

 

Aigo Bouido

  • 1 – 2 bulbs garlic
  • 6 – 8 cups veggie broth
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 tbs olive oil (or butter, or both)
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 2 cloves (don’t skip!)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp sage
  • salt
  • pepper
  1.  Crush garlic. Heat oil in med/low pot. Add garlic and cook until they begin to golden.
  2. Add herbs and stir. Cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and cheese together.
  5. After the 30 minutes, temper the egg/cheese by very slowly adding a cup of broth. Once tempered, return mixture to pot.

Beef and Two Mushroom Soup

…or stew, I’m not quite sure.

We weren’t feeling well the other day, plus it conveniently rained, so I decided to make a hearty soup. Soups are really easy to play with and they’re hard to mess up.

Following my wont, I made a pretty freaking huge batch. But that’s ok, ’cause I like it so much.

I used:
Two 32 oz containers of beef broth
About a pound of potatoes
1 yellow onion (cut to your liking)
3 stalks celery
About a pound of meat (optional, personally I’m not big on meat in soup for some reason–but if you still want the protein, toss in an egg or two)
Button mushrooms
Wood ear mushrooms
Salt
Pepper
Nutmeg (it works really well with savory beef dishes)

Start by cutting your veggies. I diced the onions, cut the potatoes into 1 inch ish cubes, the baby carrots in half, and the celery into 1/2 inch ish slices. And toss them into your soup pot with your seasonings. If you want it to be thick, you can add some corn starch here. A few teaspoons should do.

Now pour in your broth, stir, and start cooking. I covered the pot and warmed it to a 7 for 15 minutes. When I checked on it to stir, I lowered it to 5 for another 15 minutes. (I have a crazy powerful stove and was worried about the veggies on the bottom.) You basically want to make sure that the potatoes are as soft as you want them. (The other veggies are going to be super soft too, so if you want them a little crunchier, add them at the half way point.)

While the soup’s warming up, prep your mushrooms. (Pretty much just slice them.)

I just used some normal button mushrooms and some dried wood ears. Normally you’d have to reconstitute the wood ear mushrooms because they’re dried up, but not so much when you’re adding them to soup. (Although, I did the first time I made ramen.)

With the mushrooms in the pot, add the beef, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

The mushrooms will have changed size and color, and that’s a tasty thing. And now just serve when you’re ready.

My take on real ramen

I made sure to say “real” ramen because I wanted to emphasize that I didn’t use the instant noodles or powdered broth. This was an attempt to recreate deliciousness I’ve had at Japanese noodle shops.

Based on the times I’ve been to such restaurants, it seems like there’s a wide variety of toppings. For this I used some of my favorites: boiled eggs, garlic, wood-ear mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.

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This was to be for two people, so I only bought one box of broth and one package of noodles. It was very very filling, so I’d say that it could easily be stretched to feed three to four people.

I started by boiling the eggs, because it took the longest. You need them to be hard boiled, not soft, unless you trust the freshness of your eggs and like a runny yolk.

While that was going, I had to reconstitute the mushrooms. I bought them dried, so they had to rehydrate in boiling water for 5 minutes. I seasoned the water with some soy sauce. One thing I’ve noticed that the broth is often seasoned with soy or miso. Once the mushrooms were done, I added them to the broth, with their own broth included.

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And, as recommended, I boiled the noodles in water, separate from the broth. Once drained, I put them in the the broth, along with the bamboo shoots, sliced boiled eggs and some garlic.

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The hardest part was distributing the soup and extras into the bowls. It all just barely fit.

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It was very warm and very filling. It’s also highly customizable, so have fun with it. I was able to get all of the ingredients at my local grocery store, including the authentic noodles.

Pumpkin Soup

This is probably something that most of you haven’t had outside of a Thai place. This doesn’t have coconut milk like the Thai one would; it’s just pumpkins and some seasonings. This was another attempt to recreate something my host mom would make fairly often for dinner. She was kind of afraid of spices, so there’s not much in here, but I do have some suggestions.

First of all, you need at least one potimarron. I don’t know the exact translation for that, as far as specific species goes, so I just bought three of the only edible pumpkins my grocery store had. They called them pie pumpkins. (Most of the pumpkins for sale were for jack-o-lanterns.)

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They weren’t very big, so I bought three. But, it ended up being only one roommate and I who actually ate it, so two might have been better. They were kind of hard and tedious to cut up, but I’ve never dealt with pumpkins before so I don’t know any special methods to make it faster. (If you do, totally let me know.) But I can show you things that did make it easier for me.

First I cut the pumpkins into quarters and started taking out the seeds.

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I wanted to save the seeds because I’m going to try roasting them, but without the extra care of separating them out, this process would be a lot faster. But if you’re interested, I started by making cuts around the seeds and general innards, just to make it easier to pull out in one chunk.

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Next I pulled it out all at once–and don’t worry if there are some that just stick behind–and started “plooping” out the seeds into an empty jar. It would have been easier if I had a bigger target though.

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After that I set myself to cutting the pumpkin into small chunks. I went through a couple different methods. The first involved peeling off the outside with a vegetable peeler and scraping off the rest of the tendony stuff with a paring kinfe.

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That was the most time consuming and least effective method. What I ended up doing was, after removing the seeds, I went ahead and cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces from which I removed the outside and inside nastiness. Though it may seem like that would be the longer method, it actually went a lot faster and got all of the extra stuff off. And because this whole process took so long, I stored the already cut chunks in warm water so they wouldn’t dry out and would possibly soften a little.

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Next I sweated half an onion and some garlic in the pot I planned on cooking the soup in. That gives a little extra flavor to the whole thing. Because you sweat them, they get really tender and disintegrate by the time the soup’s done, so there’s nothing left but flavor.

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Sweating veggies is really easy. All you have to do is cut them into smallish sized chunks and throw them in a pot on med-low heat with some oil. Stir occasionally so they don’t burn, and add water once they turn translucent. It around 10 minutes, but it’s not the sort of thing you want to walk away from.

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Once the onions and garlic are good, add enough water to cover the bottom, just to cool them off. Then start adding the pumpkin bits. After that, add enough water to almost cover them. This would be a good point to add any dried herbs you might like. I think rosemary is really good, but feel free to experiment.

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Next, cover and cook on high, checking on it every 10 to 15 minutes to stir. I didn’t need any more water than what I added in the beginning, but that’s something to keep an eye on too, when cooking. It’s neat that every time you open the lid, you’ll see that they’re more and more broken down.

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After about 40 minutes of cooking, the soup was still a little too chunky for my taste, so I whisked it around to break up the last of it and it came out fine. There’s always the option of a food processor, but that might end up messier than you were intending.

Next I cut up some emmentaler into small cubes and put them in the bottom of the bowls that would soon hold soup. You can do this with a lot of different cheeses, it’s just that emmenthaler is relatively cheap and tastes good.

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Next ladle and enjoy!

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Egg Drop Soup

One thing you’ll notice as this goes is that I really like soup, and pretty much anything that will make and keep me warm. I’m comfortable in 80 degree weather and I walk around in a blanket most of the time because my roommates insist on keeping the thermostat at 73. As such, soups, teas, hot chocolate, cider,… they’re all my best friends. And here’s one that you can make really quickly for pretty cheap too.

This was inspired by one cold day when I had 6 eggs in my fridge about to go bad. After that all I had to buy was chicken broth, green onions, and ginger (either fresh or powdered). The one I made here also has bits of chicken in it, because I happen to have some of that hanging around my fridge and needed something to do with it.

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(I didn’t use the sugar, it’s just there because of poor picture planning.)

The amount of broth you use depends on how many eggs you have, and vice versa. I had 3 boxes of broth for 3 eggs, but I could have easily done more. I decreased the amount of eggs because I also added two cut up chicken thighs. What makes this so fast is that you can do all the prep work while the broth is boiling.

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So you cut up the veggies, chicken, and ginger. I used two green onions, but if you’re a green onion kind of guy, add more. And as for the ginger, if you use real ginger, I recommend grating it with the smallest holes, or running it through a food processor. You want it to be very small so that the flavor can spread out and blend with the broth more effectively. But (and don’t tell my mom I said this) sometimes powdered stuff, like onions, garlic, and ginger are better for the even distribution of flavor. (Mom feels like it’s too artificial, but it’s just dehydrated, so it really is ok.) I’d recommend about 1.5tbs of powdered or 2tbs of raw. But don’t forget you can always add more. You can also test taste it before you add the chicken.

And the eggs, put them in a bowl and mix them up. I’m not worried about cholesterol, so I kept the yolks in, but if that’s a concern of yours, feel free to take them out. They make the color nicer too. With a lot of soups, you can just drop the eggs in and stir it up, but when there’s a lot of soup or when there are multiple eggs, I find it easier to mix them up before hand to avoid having huge clumps of eggs instead of nice little ones. Also, when you just drop it in, a lot of times the yolk stays whole.

Add the chicken and ginger while the broth is warming up, but wait for it to boil to add the eggs. That’ll make them cook nice and instantly. There’s a fun trick you can do with the eggs, if you want. While holding the bowl over the pot, use a fork to scoop in the eggs. That will ensure that there are small bits of egg everywhere, but it takes a while. If you’re impatient, you can pour it in from the bowl. But! But, do it slowly and don’t do it all at once.

After everything is in and cooked–don’t forget to scoop out some chicken and check on it–turn off the heat and add the green onions. You want them to retain their color and some of their texture, so you don’t want to cook them for too long. If you like them really crunchy, you can hold off putting them on until they’re in the bowl. They’re kind of a garnish, but they sneak a little nutrition and flavor in there.

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