DON’T LET IT SNOW!
It’s been a rough week or so. As you know, NYC was hit by more than a foot of snow last Wednesday, which, amongst many other aftereffects, caused the postponement of my cooking class for the JCC of Central NJ (1391 Martine Ave, Scotch Plains, NJ). This followed a weekend when there was no electricity or heat in my apartment from about 8:00 pm Friday night till after noon. And I’m still waiting for my landlord to fix the ceiling in my front room that is cracked and falling. Then this past Monday, my computer crashed and hours passed till I got it squared away. I will have to ramp up my search for a new laptop.
And today I woke up to another coating of snow on the ground and predictions of more on the way. Snow causes a separate problem for me — my apartment is on the first floor in the front. So everyone entering the building tends to stomp their feet to remove the snow, which, of course, is not pleasant when I’m trying to sleep. My Jersey JCC class is now scheduled for February 2, but I’ll have to see how the elements proceed today and tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’m in the mood for something warn and substantial. Nothing is as comforting and nourishing as a bowl of soup. The very name soup is evidence of its appeal. Every European language adapted some variant of this onomatopoeic sound of sipping heated liquid. During the medieval period, sop (sup) referred to a large piece of bread onto which porridge and broth was poured. The British took it a step further: Since soup (the combination of bread and broth) often served as the mainstay of the evening meal, one was said to the soup or sup, thus supper. If any food can be called universal, it is soup. Most cultures boast some form of ubiquitous native soup: Russian borscht, Provencal bouillabaisse, Italian minestrone, and Jewish penicillin (chicken soup).
I’m considering either a Southern gumbo or Italian cabbage soup. You can whip up a vegetarian gumbo by omitting the meatballs. Or I might opt for something else, depending on what I find in the market… after I trek through the new snow.
(6 to 8 servings)
A brown roux serves as the base for this Cajun and Creole classic. Since the flour loses most of its thickening ability during the long cooking process, the liquid is traditional thickened with okra or filé.
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
1 pound (455 grams) Creole meatballs (see below) or 2 pounds (900 grams) smoked sausage or kielbasa, sliced ½-inch thick
1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into 10 pieces
½ cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
½ cup (120 ml) all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (2 cups/480 ml)
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped (½ cup/120 ml)
1 medium rib celery, finely chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts (2 liters) chicken broth, at room temperature
10 ounces (285 grams) okra, stems removed and cut into ½-inch rounds
2 bay leaves
About 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) cayenne
4 medium scallions (white and green parts), chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh parsley
1. Heat 2 tablespoons (30 ml) oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs or sausage and sauté until browned. Remove the meatballs.
2. Add the chicken and brown on both sides. Remove the chicken.
3. Heat ½ cup (120 ml) oil in 6-quart (6-liter) heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until about 200 degrees (95 C), about 1½ minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until reddish brown, about 20 minutes. (If the roux begins to smoke, remove from heat and stir for a minute, then return to the heat.)
4. Add the onions, pepper, celery, and garlic and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes.
5. Gradually stir in the broth. Add the meatballs, chicken, okra, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. Add the parsley and scallions. Serve with rice.
Filé Gumbo: Omit the okra. Just before serving, remove the pot from the heat, let the boiling stop (or it will turn stringy), and stir in the 1 tablespoon (15 ml) filé powder. (NOTE – Filé is ground sassafras leaves that produces gelatinous thickening and a slight earthy flavor to gumbo. Do not use both filé and okra as the soup will be too thick.)
1 pound (455 grams) ground beef
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground black pepper
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) dried thyme
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) cayenne
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) chili pepper
¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) crushed red pepper
Combine all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. Shape into 1½-inch meatballs.
Rivolita (Italian Cabbage Soup)
(6 to 8 servings)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive or vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (2 cups/480 ml/8 ounces/225 grams)
2 medium (about 3 ounces/85 grams each) carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts (2 liters) beef, chicken, or vegetable broth or water
1 large head (3 pounds/1.3 kg) green cabbage, cored and shredded
3 to 4 cups (700 to 900 ml/1¼ pounds/575 grams) peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
3 to 4 cups (700 to 900 ml) cooked white beans
Salt and white pepper
1 loaf Italian or French bread
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
1. Heat 3 tablespoons (45 ml) oil in a stockpot or other large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic and sauté until softened (about 10 minutes).
2. Add the stock or water, cabbage, tomatoes, and bay leaf and simmer until tender (about 60 minutes). Add the beans and heat through.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (205 C).
4. Line the bottom and sides of a large casserole with thick slices of Italian or French bread. Pour the soup into the center and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until heated through (about 20 minutes). Serve hot.