This time of year, I like to not only keep warm, but also arm ourselves against all the colds and flu floating around. In one afternoon, I created three delicious, nutritious soups that will satisfy many occasions and purposes. My schedule often keeps me working until 8 or 9 at night, making my mealtimes rather erratic. In my attempt to maintain my New Year’s Resolution of creating health and fitness for myself, I need to keep any late meals as light as possible. Also, because of this schedule, The Boyfriend is often left to his own devices for dinner. These soups also offer delicious options that will help him stay healthy despite his hectic schedule and late night gigs.
Vegetable Soup for the Veggie-Averse
Soup #1 is a simple vegetable soup, made from (don’t shoot me) a frozen vegetable soup mix! It’s what I make when I don’t have much time for chopping and breaking vegetables down into useable parts. Of course, I augmented it with lots of garlic, onions and even some fresh spinach, for nutrition’s sake. And, I flavored it with cumin, coriander and a pinch of saffron. My veggie stock, water and a handful of chives round out the cast of characters in this smooth, satisfying concoction. I sometimes make it with curry spices for another variation, and I also like to have some grilled chicken in the fridge for The Boyfriend to dice and add to it if he wants a heartier meal.
Wild Mushroom and Leek Soup
This is my favorite late dinner. It’s brothy and light, but satisfying and incredibly flavorful! Dried porcini mushrooms create a bold, savory, umami-filled broth, while hedgehog, chantrelle and crimini mushrooms make a warming, earthy combination light enough for an after-eight meal, keeping me from feeling stuffed before bed.
Tomato Kale and White Bean Soup
This soup has truly inspired me…inspired me once and for all to start canning! I don’t generally like using canned tomatoes, but when I took the Chili Challenge, posed to me at the end of last year, by my friend Paul, I suddenly remembered how useful they can be. But, fears of BPA and dented cans had kept me away for a long time. Now, whenever I run out of this beautiful soup, I make sure to seek out a big can of good, diced tomatoes. There is nearly an entire bunch of dinosaur kale in there, plus a can of cannellini beans. Leeks, sliced garlic, stock, water and cumin are all in there too. It sounds simple…simply delicious, that is! So, as we approach summer and the season of tomato abundance, be aware, I’ll be slaving away over a stock pot with my tongs and sanitized jars, honing my skills in preparation for canning season!! I may just start with the dry adzuki beans I have in the pantry right now. I’m sure they’ll take nicely to a home preservation process. Having beans in this soup makes it a little heavier, so it’s perfect for a regular dinnertime meal, when I just don’t have time to make more than a salad when I get home.
But soup isn’t all I’ve been eating lately. On my days off, I’ve been preparing for an extremely exciting event, coming at the end of March.
I’ve mentioned my job a few times, and I have to say, it’s paradise. Yes, I work in a mall, but it’s like none other. On the roof of Santa Monica Place, is a dining deck. This floor is filled with gourmet restaurants, a food court with a large play area for the kids and a local gem called The Market. Inside this Market, you’ll find two inspired restaurants, The Curious Palate and M.A.K.E. You’ll also find a cheese and charcuterie shop and a bakery, both of which are run by The Curious team. If you need a little something sweet after your meal, there’s N’ice Cream (an exciting gelato shop) and Chocolate Opulence (the name says it all). Time for coffee tawk? Check out GroundWork Coffee. And if you’re in the market for farm fresh skincare products that will transform the way you look and feel, visit Benedetta. But I don’t work in any of those heavenly establishments; you’ll find me at VENOKADO (the wine and gift shop) or COOK by venokado (the kitchen supply store). At the wine shop, you can get everything from a bold Barolo to bamboo baby bonnets, and taste some great wines and cheeses to boot! At the cook shop, we have cast iron cookware, inspired salt and pepper shakers and even giant spaghetti…like 4 foot long-spaghetti!
In the event that you’re not shopping for goods, you may be shopping for knowledge. There are two culinary schools inside The Market. Matthew Kenney Cuisine is not a cooking school, per se. It’s a raw foods academy. Students come from all over the world to learn the fine art of creating raw meals with the simplest ingredients. M.A.K.E. is the restaurant attached to this school (with its own separate kitchen), and is quickly growing in popularity. I’ve had some amazing, beautiful food here!
The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories is the other venue for culinary knowledge. Teaching both professional and recreational cooking courses, Gourmandise is also where my exciting event will be taking place! They host a program called Follow That Chef, in conjunction with the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. This is where a chef, author or food blogger (like me!) guides a group of onlookers through the farmer’s market, purchases the ingredients for dishes that will be demonstrated in the Gourmandise kitchen. I’ll have the honor of being followed on March 23rd, complete with a book signing! If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you there!!
Until then, keep on cooking, and have a delicious day!!