Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Soup and Survival


I was not supposed to get the flu, but I did. It came after a cold and a stomach bug.  It hit me hard (despite the infamous flu shot) and left me resolved to shore up my reserves.  Enough is enough.  After four days of convalescing, I ate two huge bowls of this amazing soup and suddenly the run down feeling left my body.  That was yesterday.  I made it again today to prolong the feelings of self preservation, restoration, survival.  The winter is nowhere near over, so if I have to eat this every day, I just might do that.

This magical soup, "sick soup" came to me by way of text message from my cousin Laurie, who got it from her friend when her own son was sick.  Before that, I can't trace it any farther back.  I'd like to thank the universe for putting this soup out there for me because the healing properties are numerous.  12 cloves of garlic.  Ginger, onion, cabbage, chili, lime juice.  Grandma's chicken noodle soup is cowering in the corner feeling pretty meager next to this.

I think we all agree, getting sick is the pits.  But winter and germs are here to stay, so in case you need it- here's the recipe.  Stay strong.

"Sick Soup"
This soup lends itself well to variations. The photo below shows a version I just made using shiitake mushrooms and firm tofu.  Add the mushrooms about half way through the cooking, and stir in the diced tofu once you have turned off the flame.

6 cups water
1 white onion, cut in half then sliced thinly
1 medium cabbage (use as much of the cabbage as you like), sliced into 1 inch pieces
12 cloves garlic, peeled (thinly slice 6, and chop the other 6)
4 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 red chili cut in half, seeds removed and thinly sliced (omit the chili if serving someone who cannot tolerate spice)
juice of 1 lime
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
salt to taste

Boil the water in a large pot and add all the ingredients except the lime juice, sesame oil and salt. Cover the pot and simmer the soup over medium heat for 30 minutes.  Turn off the heat, add the lime juice, sesame oil and salt to taste.  Enjoy this soup piping hot.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brownies - lifting spirits

These days, my refrigerator is stocked with kale, mushrooms of all shapes and sizes, colorful peppers.  I  buy so much fruit we can barely eat it before it gets too ripe.  But today I want to share a brownie recipe because this time of year  there is already enough nutritional advice being dished out.  This is about lifting spirits, and these brownies have that capability.  


In August, a close relative cautioned me not to lose myself with the birth of my second child. I think a lot about what aspects I may have lost, whether those features of my life/self were important to me and how becoming responsible for two small people opened up a whole new world.  Some days I feel like super woman, capable of carrying a large baby through the NYC streets in 19 degree weather, toting all the groceries,  naming every car make and model in a four  block radius for an eager three year old.  Other days, I feel vulnerable, crouched deep in the trenches of motherhood with a sick child, overwhelmed with the sheer duty to these two young lives, but abounding with love. 


While I can strive to find balance and prioritize time for myself, the fact is, my work is cut out for me. My joy comes (in between tantrums) in the form of restorative hugs, toothy grins, impromptu dance parties with Roman. When I need a little guilty pleasure that I don't need to share, there is chocolate.  Not meditation, yoga or free time- but chocolate.


There is no 'one size fits all' recipe for brownies.  There are a million versions that people claim are the best, and maybe they're all partially right. I have strong opinions in this matter and my ultimate brownie is flourless, almost fudge-like, loaded with toasted walnuts, and made with the best chocolate I could find.


I wish you all the best in 2013.  I hope you'll treat yourself to something delicious on your way.

My Best Brownies
This brownie recipe from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz knocked my socks off, although I made a few changes to his already "perfect" brownies.  I substituted hazelnut flour for the all-purpose flour.  I also added espresso powder to make the chocolate stand out even more.  I have written the recipe below exactly as I made it.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup hazelnut flour (you could also use almond flour or regular flour)
1 cup toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the inside of a square cake pan (mine was 8 inch) with parchment.  Lightly grease the parchment with butter.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over medium heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, espresso powder and vanilla until combined.  With your wooden spoon, beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the hazelnut flour and stir energetically for one full minute.  Stir in the chopped, toasted nuts.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the center feels almost set.  This took about 40 minutes for me, but check starting at 30.  Let cool completely in the pan before lifting out the parchment to remove the brownies.  These will keep for four days at room temperature.  I chose to wrap mine individually and freeze them for a treat when I need it.
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