Okra Gumbo with Sausage and Fish

My friend Mike offers us his classic gumbo recipe with okra, andouille and seafood. I wish I had gotten a chance to taste it, but the color of that roux is evidence enough that it must have been great.

This recipe was adapted from several in Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. This gumbo is a family favorite. It isn’t too spicy, has a delicious toasty, nutty complexity from the roux, and the okra keeps it from being too thin (the darker you make a roux, the less thickening power it has). It is, however, a definite time commitment. This is a recipe where you should have everything completely prepped and lain out before you start heating the oil for the roux.

Gumbo previously: Gumbo with Chicken, Andouille and Shrimp
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Spicy Carrot and Potato Soup with Chimichurri

spicy-carrot-potato-soup

An added benefit of roasting a whole chicken is having the bones to make stock afterward. So last week I found myself with a flavorful broth but little else in the kitchen besides carrots and potatoes. Good thing anything can be made into soup.

I found a BBC recipe for Spicy Carrot and Potato Soup with Parsley Pesto. Well, the Argentine equivalent of parsley pesto is chimichurri, and I happened to have some made already.

The soup itself was simple: broth, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, two tomatoes for acidity, salt, pepper and a dried cayenne pepper. It’s nice on its own, but as I found with the bean and vegetable soup, a spoonful of pesto or chimichurri really enlivens it.

Soups previously: Vegetable with Chimichurri, Carrot and Cilantro, Sopa de Lima, Butternut Squash with Lime, Chili and Bacon

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Butternut Squash Soup with Lime, Chili and Bacon

butternut-squash-soup

Do you know how many variations of butternut squash soup there are? I really was surprised to find so many different recipes for something I had thought was pretty standard.

Do you start with mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) or just squash? Do you simmer the raw squash in stock or cook it in the oven first? Do you add cream? Flavor it with nutmeg or something else? You probably can’t go wrong. I’ve yet to try a butternut squash soup I didn’t enjoy.

But here’s one more version, and I only share it because in my searching I didn’t see a recipe exactly like it. I’m always trying to do something a little different, and I’m happy because this soup is simple but has a few elements to make it interesting. A quick breakdown:

  • Squash and onions (if you have a flavorful stock, I say don’t bother cutting up anything else)
  • Vegetables are roasted for deeper flavor
  • No cream to weigh it down
  • Lime juice serves as the acid (instead of commonly used apple cider)
  • Crisp bacon or pancetta pieces make each bite better
  • Cayenne or chili powder for kick


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Vegetable Soup with Chimichurri

With a big bunch of spinach wilting in the fridge, I went to Gourmet.com and sifted through a few pages of search results before I found this Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic Sauce. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The first ingredient was fennel bulb, which is something I’ve been looking for a reason to buy lately since it is normally expensive in the States, but here I got a bulb for the equivalent of 33 cents. The next ingredient was pancetta, which usually indicates a recipe will be delicious, plus, I had some in the fridge. Carrots, cabbage, zuchinni, potatoes, onion? All things I already had. I picked up some fennel and white beans, and decided to skip or substitute anything else.

Instead of basil-garlic pistou, I used a version of chimichurri I had made the night before. Chimichurri is the It-sauce in the States right now, but it’s an Argentine classic made from chopped parsley, garlic, oil and a few other ingredients. Also making my soup a little more Argentine was the reggianito cheese I used in lieu of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The addition of garlic-herb sauce is what really takes this soup to incredible heights. The combination of vegetables and beans and pancetta is quite good, but the broth would be a little bland without the shot of adrenaline from the pistou or chimichurri. As a whole, it’s a hearty but not too heavy soup, perfect for these cool days in Buenos Aires before spring arrives. Or for the start of fall, if you’re in the opposite hemisphere.

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Carrot and Cilantro Soup

What do you do when your best friend is sick in the spring? You find a comforting soup that has fresh flavors. Knowing Kat wasn’t feeling well, I searched her giant The Soup Bible for “light and refreshing” recipes. Carrot and Cilantro Soup was one of the few that was still served warm. It sounded great, so the next day I came up with a version of my own. I didn’t have The Soup Bible, and I like making up recipes anyway.
As with nearly every soup, I started with carrots, celery and onions (mirepoix, if you will). I also diced some rose potatoes to give the soup enough weight to stand alone as dinner.

I know coriander and cumin work really well with carrots, but didn’t want the cumin to overwhelm

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the soup. According to The Flavor Bible, cumin is a medium weight spice, with moderate to loud volume and a heating function. Ground coriander seed, however, has light weight, moderate volume and a cooling function. Perfect! (Also, I am aware that I mentioned two cookbooks with bible in the title. I won’t dwell on what that says about my relationship with food.)

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Shrimp and Chicken Noodle Soup

I’m not sure where my head was when I made this meal. Luckily it turned out tasty, but I did so many silly things along the way, like forget several ingredients I bought specifically for the dish. Seriously, I didn’t remember to put ginger in until I went up for seconds. Who makes anything Asian-inspired without ginger?

thai-soup

But let me explain the little bit of thinking that did go into this dinner. I wanted to improvise another soup, this time with light Asian flavors. I started with Trader Joe’s all-natural vegetable broth, which I brought to a boil with some frozen shrimp shells I had the presence of mind to save last week. I just finished reading Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, and she talks about keeping bones and shells and other normally disposed items to use later in stock.

After a bit, I removed the shells and added chicken, carrots and green onions. Then came the hard part: figuring out how to make it taste like something. I added a good amount of soy sauce and some Singapore seasoning I brought from my parents’ house. I think it’s a blend of curry, pepper and lemon that is meant to go on fish or chicken. Then I remembered to add a few garlic cloves (you know, that ingredient that goes in pretty much everything. My mind was clearly somewhere else.)

It was starting to taste all right, but it took on new complexity when I gave it a glug of white wine. I figured I’d apply the same idea I learned a week earlier when I saw sherry listed in a stir-fry recipe. I’m not sure the soup would have been worth anything without it.

I added bok choy and peas. (Not snap peas, even though I had them in the fridge. No, that would have been the smart thing to do.) Then I put the shrimp in, followed soon by thin glass noodles.

We served it with bean sprouts, cilantro and spicy sriracha sauce.

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