Recipes Regurgitated: Soups Need Flava

Earlier this week, I said I'd try out a couple of new soup recipes from The New York Times to see if they'd fit my ease/healthiness/expense categories. While neither of them were breakaway hits, I guess they could have potential for someone out there, but it's a matter of taste (hahahaha! see? because I'm talking about food! anyway...). I'm always disappointed when a recipe comes out pretty crappily, especially because I usually end up putting in a lot of effort to be rewarded with something that magically takes my hunger away without filling up my stomach (I could start a new diet craze of preparing, and then being scared to eat, disgusting food).

So how did the recipes stack up? The answer: in half-filled bowls in my sink. Yeah, they were not great. But how not great were they? The answer: well, I'll tell you, using my handy-dandy review system.
Recipes will be given one to five happy cleavers (*) for the following categories:
Shopping ease -- which includes convenience of finding items and cost
Preparation -- for it to be a regular weekday recipe, it should require no more than half an hour of actual work. Also did the preparation require special tools? How many knives did I go through? Big clean-up afterward?
Recipe readability -- The New York Times is notorious for dropping made-up words like "balouquet" into a recipe as though they expect me to know what it means. I hate this in life, but I hate it even more when I need to understand something so I don't accidentally poison myself. Did I have to wikipedia the recipe? That is bad.
Health Factor -- while most people might disagree, I really am trying to get into this "good for you" thing. Could I brag to my mom about this recipe? Would I be forced to lie when I go home?
Taste -- arguably the most important aspect of a recipe, how'd it turn out? Did it make my tastebuds rejoice? Did I make happy moaning noises that made my roommate uncomfortable? Did I dream about it? Were the dreams scary? All things to consider.
Now, let's get on to the evaluations! (full recipes printed below)
The New York Times says: This is a heartier version of garlic soup, a meal in a bowl with a generous egg yolk enrichment and lots of spinach, a good source of iron.
I say: Flat, thin, made me stink for a few days.
Shopping Ease -- Most of the ingredients were fairly simple to find in the big grocery store, and all of them (with the exception of the Gruyere cheese) could be found in my little corner store. Nothing was too terribly expensive, with the exception of that stupid cheese, which was $9 a chunk and is used in the recipe to lightly sprinkle over some croutons. Boo.

Preparation -- While on the whole not too difficult, I had some problems. Namely: the whole first step of the recipe involves boiling water, getting ice water, dropping garlic into both, and then gently crushing with a knife to remove the skins. I cried malarky and used a garlic press. Incredibly easy and worked much better than the 4-step phases of water directions the NYT suggested** Also, they asked me to make an herb garni, which while cute (I used a coffee filter and sewed up the ends), it did require extra equipment (coffee filter, needle, thread).

Recipe Readability -- ok, "bouquet garni?" What the hell is that? I went to wikipedia and learned it is essentially a teabag you make yourself. Like I already said, the first part of the recipe is dumb and can take 2 minutes, not 20. The last few steps also threw me, since I kept getting confused about which bowls they meant.

Health Factor -- seeing as they come from a series of recipes called "Recipes for Health," it stands to reason they'd be pretty good for you. This one was loaded with garlic, which is heart-healthy and useful in weight control, and spinach, which we all know turns you into a squinty sailor with big muscles. Calories were a laughably low 209, with carbs a high but respectable 23 grams. Basically, this soup will beat Michael Phelps in the Olympics.

Taste -- disappointing. The broth, which was basically garlic water with runny eggs, was thin and unappealing, rather than "hearty" and "comforting," as described (that also annoyed me. a soup does not "comfort." get with it, grey lady). There weren't very many strong flavors, and while I don't like to be overpowered, I do want to actually taste my dinner. The heavy spinach content also ended up giving me a stomachache the next day, and I still sort of smell like garlic. This one gets bah-leted.

The New York Times says: This silky fall/winter puree tastes rich, though there is no cream or butter in it.
I say: Needed cinnamon.
Shopping Ease -- again, nothing too exciting. Potato, sweet potato, squash, and that's essentially it. Nothing I couldn't pick up anywhere, although it's doubtful I'd keep any of it around the house. What's more, everything was ridiculously cheap. This whole soup probably cost less than $5.

Preparation -- easy, although it took a while to slice up everything and I could have used a Titan peeler. Still, it was a "set it...and forget it!" kind of meal, so I'll give it high marks for that.

Recipe Readability -- this recipe is easy-peasy, something you could do with a kindergartener. The only problems I had were the squash splashing in the oil as I dropped it in the pot, and it was a little unweildy getting hot soup into a blender. Still, the language was easy enough to understand.

Health Factor -- this is another one of those rub-it-in-pizza's-face healthy meals. The sweet potatoes and butternut squash are low-calorie, high-fiber, high in Vitamin A and C, and high in iron. With just a tablespoon of oil, it's incredibly healthy. Calories clock in at 189, carbs at 38.6 grams

Taste -- meh. There was nothing terrible about it, but again, nothing all that good. It was bland and boring, and I had to spice it up myself. I got creative and cooked up some bacon that I needed to get rid of, hoping the saltiness would balance things out a little. Nope! The soup was like a taste sponge, and I worried about adding too much. I finally shook a few teaspoons of cinnamon on there, and that made it much, much better, something I was eating with gusto rather than pity

2 heads of garlic
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon olive oil
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, a couple of sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a fresh sage leaf
Salt to taste
1/2 cup small macaroni shells
6 1/2-inch thick slices country bread, toasted and rubbed with a cut clove of garlic
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)
4 egg yolks
1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
Bring a medium saucepan full of water to a boil.
Fill a bowl with ice and water.
Separate the head of garlic into cloves and drop them into the boiling water.
Blanch for 30 seconds, then transfer to the ice water.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, then drain and remove the skins from the garlic cloves.
They’ll be loose and easy to remove.
Crush the cloves lightly by leaning on them with the side of a chef’s knife.
Place the garlic cloves in a large saucepan with 2 quarts of water, the olive oil, bouquet garni, and salt to taste, and bring to a gentle boil.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 hour.
Strain and return the broth to the saucepan.
Taste and adjust salt, and bring back to a simmer.
Add the macaroni shells to the broth and simmer until cooked al dente.
Distribute the garlic croutons among 6 soup bowls and top each one with a heaped tablespoon of cheese.
Beat the egg yolks in a bowl.
Making sure that it is not boiling, whisk in a ladleful of the hot garlic broth.
Add the spinach to the simmering broth and stir for 30 seconds to a minute, until all of the spinach is wilted.
Turn off the heat and stir in the tempered egg yolks.
Stir for a minute, taste and adjust seasonings.
Ladle the soup over the cheese-topped croutons, and serve.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium-size Yukon gold or russet potato, peeled and diced
6 cups water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
Salt to tastse
Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the ginger and stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the squash, sweet potatoes, regular potato, and water or stock, and bring to a simmer.
Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are thoroughly tender.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (or you can put it through the fine blade of a food mill or use a regular blender, working in batches and placing a kitchen towel over the top to avoid splashing).
Return to the pot and stir with a whisk to even out the texture.
Heat through, adjust salt and add pepper to taste.

*The happy cleaver was discovered, with delight, at the IconArchive. Design by Mongelechi Che

1 comment:

  1. Hate to call you out, but "blanch" isn't a real word. While it's tempting, if you can't find the exact word you're thinking of, just replace it with a simple word or phrase that has the same meaning:
    "[Shut your eyes] for 30 seconds, then transfer to the ice water."