Shari's Seinfeld Soup

Vegan.  Just the word makes me lose my appetite.I think bland, dull, fibrous and flavorless. But vegan has been infiltrating my world since 2012 so it is time to adjust.

This infiltration of dietary restrictions was brought to my attention by a friend from book club who wrote an email to the group stating that she was pondering what to serve for the next dinner.  She wanted to be sure to accommodate everyone.  The email jokingly commented that we were a very easy crowd to please;  she only had to consider vegan, vegan-ish, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, lactose-intolerant, low-carbohydrate, low-fiber and paleo.  The amazing thing is that her email joke was not far from the truth!  My turn to host book club was on the horizon so I started testing vegan soups in a bit of a culinary panic.  After a couple of unsuccessful trials that Hubby refused to eat, I gave up and hosted book club at a local vegan restaurant.  But I was still contemplating a vegan soup.

Whenever I think of soup, I am reminded of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, The Soup Nazi.  Based on an actual soup kitchen in New York City, Seinfeld and his friends are obsessed with soup from a local take-out place, but the method of ordering is very strict and the cook, alias Soup Nazi, kicks people out and refuses them soup if he doesn’t like the way someone orders. "No soup for you!" screams the proprietor.

The episode spurred much activity at the New York soup kitchen that was the inspiration for the show, and over the years Seinfeld fans developed recipes for the infamous Mulligatawny soup and passed them around amongst friends and fellow Seinfeld fans.  One day when I was whining about needing to find something vegan to cook, my sister-in-law Shari told me about Seinfeld soup and passed along the recipe.  With only a few minor changes like using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, I made it vegan. ( It can also be made Paleo by eliminating the corn and using cauliflower instead of potatoes.) This one passes the Hubby taste test and its' hearty, healthy ingredients should suit almost everyone.  Hopefully you will find, like I did, that vegan CAN be delicious!  It takes a bit of time to make this soup, but it is much more forgiving than ordering from The Soup Nazi.

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"You can't eat this soup standing up, your knees buckle." -Jerry in The Soup Nazi

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Shari’s Seinfeld Soup (with Vegan option)

16 cups water 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegan) 2 large potatoes, peeled cut into 1-inch cubes 2 large carrots, peeled and diced 2 stalks celery, diced 1 medium onion, diced 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes 1 cup corn, frozen or fresh-cut from cob 2/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced, fresh or from jar 1/2 cup tomato sauce 1/2 cup shelled pistachios 1/2 cup roasted cashews 1/2 cup fresh italian parsley, finely chopped 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 2 T butter (or olive oil for vegan) 3 T sugar 1 tsp curry powder 1/2 tsp black pepper 1/4 tsp dried thyme 1 bay leaf 1/8 tsp dried marjoram 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg salt to taste

 Combine all ingredients in a VERY large pot over medium-high heat.  If your pot isn’t large enough, start with 1/2 the liquid and bring all the ingredients to a boil, then simmer until liquid reduces enough to add the rest of the liquid.

Total simmering time is about 3.5 hours.  Stir about every 30 minutes.  The soup will reduce and become thick, dark, chunky and delicious. Add salt at the end if you think it needs it.

NOTE: I don't think it needs the added sugar in any version. To make it Paleo I leave out the sugar and corn and substitute cauliflower or sweet potato for the potatoes.

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Frances' Summer Tomato Soup

Just when you think you have plenty of amazing and interesting friends in your life, someone comes along and knocks your socks off.  My new friend Frances would have thrown out some hilarious Southern phrase instead of saying "knocks your socks off" but I can't remember a single one she uses, even though she has had me laughing out loud on many an occasion with her wit and charm.  One of her phrases had something to do with crocodiles or alligators in a swamp but my memory isn't nearly as sharp as hers.

Someone as multi-talented and accomplished in the arts as Frances should not also be a sharpshooter in the kitchen.  But she is.  And her recipes incorporate all things inherent in those Southern girls we love to hate...beauty with ease, elegance and taste.  Yes, she has them all, and so do her recipes, which incidentally are written up with style in her BOOK  Atlanta at Table.  I recently found out she has another book coming out next year and as much as I would like to hate her many accomplishments, I will have to settle for just being in awe of my amazing friend.  And maybe a tiny bit jealous.  Or maybe a lot jealous.  But let's just call it admiration.

A few months ago, I was admiring Frances on her blog and told her I wanted more recipes like the one for her famous brownies.  Shortly after, I received a copy of  Atlanta at Table which is chock-full of her recipes! She included an endearing note that made me admire her even more.  And once I read the book and tried some of her down-home Southern recipes, I just couldn't contain my admiration any more and had to share her greatness.

Before I get all stalker-ish, I'm going to move on to talking about this soup.  I had to try it because I truly didn't believe this slightly strange combination of ingredients, combined with such simplicity, could be that good.  But it is.  It really is. Serve it on a hot summer day as a starter, or for lunch with a few sautéed prawns and summer squash on the side, and you too can be amazing like Frances.

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"What you admire in others will develop in yourself." -Christian D. Larson

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Frances' Summer Tomato Soup (from Atlanta At Table)

6 to 8 best, ripe tomatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds (OR two 28-oz cans) 1 T tomato paste 1-1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 1 T balsamic vinegar 1 tsp brown sugar 1/2 tsp coffee (leftover or made from instant) 3/4 T fresh chopped tarragon OR 1 T other fresh chopped herb like basil, dill, cilantro or marjoram.  (I used a combination of basil and sage.) 3/4 heaping cup plain yogurt Sprigs of fresh herb for garnish

Cut tomatoes in quarters and drop 1/2 of them in a food processor.  Process in short pulses to obtain a chunky puree.  Add the second 1/2 of the tomatoes and repeat.  Place the chunky puree in a bowl and add salt and pepper.  Stir in remaining ingredients, reserving about 1/3 cup of yogurt for garnish.  Cover and chill.  To serve, ladle soup into bowls and give each a dollop of yogurt and a sprig of fresh herbs.

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Molly's Winter Squash Soup

I don’t know Molly.  But I feel like I do.Molly is the author of A Homemade Life and has a blog called Orangette.  Molly tells me things about her life and talks to me on her lovely blog, which is probably why she has so very many “friends”.  And funny enough, this isn’t actually Molly’s soup that I am writing about because Molly got it from another blogging “friend” named Lisa, whom she has never met.  And as Lisa tells us on her thought-provoking blog called Coffee In The Woodshed, she adapted it from a recipe she read in Better Homes and Gardens.  So when I went to find correct credit for my blog post, I found a trail of inspiration for the soup that started for me as Molly's soup.

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There is something about my newfound world of blogging that has, well, opened my world. Molly and Lisa don’t know me, and I don’t know them, except for reading their occassional missives on life, but somehow I know them better than some of my neighbors.  They have opened their hearts and lives to readers from all over.  They allow us to peek into their blog and get to know them from afar.  And they inspire me.  I suppose inspiration is the reason we all write our blogs.  I write to inspire myself, but I hope in the process, that I also inspire others.

No surprise I'm sure that I am particularly drawn to food memoir blogs, of which there are endless choices.  Some of my favorite people I don’t know inlude Ashley (notwithoutsalt), Maureen (Rose Water & Orange Blossoms) Molly and Lisa.  And of course I am also inspired by blogging friends that I actually know like the authors of Eat-Drink-Garden, The Silver Pen, The Maili Files and Pamela Says.

Sometimes it is the recipe that inspires me to get up and get cooking.  Or sometimes a story or recipe reminds me of something in my life.  There are so many little memories stuck in my brain somewhere.  And someone else’s story can bring one out of the depths and dust it off.  Often, it takes a lot of dusting and my mom gets a call with me saying “do you remember when ....?”  How lucky I am to have my mother’s memory to help me with my dusting!

But this time, Molly inspired me with her recipe.  It sounds so delicious, with the sweet squash and fragrant curry and notes of coconut and onion all finished with a hit of spice.  But it tastes even better.  Thank you Molly and my blogging “friends” for the endless inspiration.

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives.. Some lessons are painful, some are painless.. but, all are priceless.” - Unknown 

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Molly’s Winter Squash Soup

1 winter squash (butternut or Kabocha or other) about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 1 medium onion, chopped 1-4 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1 tablespoon curry powder 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth 1 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk 1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (like Sriracha) (optional)

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, cover, and cook on low 4-5 hours or high 2-3 hours. When the squash is soft, use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it’s smooth and velvety.  You can also puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender – be careful!  Or you can use a potato masher; the soup won’t be quite as smooth but will still taste delicious.  Ladle the soup into big bowls, top with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream or a squeeze of lime juice, and serve with lots of bread!

Variation: For a nice protein boost, add a cup of dry lentils at the beginning — very tasty!

This soup also comes together beautifully on the stovetop. It requires more tending but cooks up in about an hour. Saute the onion and garlic in some coconut oil or olive oil until soft, and then add the curry powder and continue to saute for about a minute, until nice and fragrant. Then add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until the squash is soft. Then use your immersion blender to proceed as above.

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