Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy soup

I've only recently started using fresh ginger, in cooking. My first hunk of that beautifully ugly root came to my as a rather accidental gift. Or rather: an intentional gift given on an accidental Sunday afternoon.

I'd met up with an American living here in Buenos Aires, a VP at a boutique winery based in Mendoza. I was looking for some sort of job in the wine industry, and he was kind enough to meet with me, and discuss my plans. It was an easy Sunday at a cafe near both of our homes, and the time wasn't so much an interview as a casual meeting. After an hour or so, his wife Martha joined us, and, shortly after meeting me, she invited both me and Bennett to their house for lunch. "I made soup yesterday," she said. "There's so much, we'll never eat it all. It's very good."

The soup was good, full of chicken and beef and hearty root vegetables. The men kept running from the lunch table to the living room, where the US national soccer team was playing Brazil. That is something that usually would have annoyed me to no end, but I was too busy being interested by the slow speech, the lovely English of Martha, a native Argentine.

Martha, who reigned Queen of Rhetorical Questions. For instance, when Bennett and Mickey were in the living room, watching the soccer game just before the food was served, she called, "Miiiiiickey?"

And he called, "Yeah?"

"Would you like to eat lunch in there, or in here at the table?"

"In here!"

"Let's eat at the table. It's much nicer to have lunch in here."

So, of course, we had lunch at their stunning, castle-like table.

Later, when the boys had left, Martha asked me a question: "Do you want to know what makes this soup so good?" She pulled a chicken bone out of her bowl, very gracefully, and set it aside. "It's ginger."

Bennett and I spent the rest of the day at Mickey and Martha's house, eating and talking and drinking wine. We left, both of us with full bellies, and me with ginger in my purse. Martha had given me her piece of ginger, which I kept happily in my kitchen cupboard. I put it to good and varied use: cookies, sauces, black beans and coconut milk, and, of course, soups. The smallest knob of ginger gives a certain happiness to even the simplest of soups.

Happy Soup: Cream of Carrot (with Ginger!)

Oh . . . I know, I know. More carrot and ginger. But really, the pairing is so good -- especially when you add some extra vegetables, like potatoes and onions, for extra umph. The cumin and Schezwan spices add another dimension of flavor, and just a hint of orange keeps this soup very happy.

2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 small potato, peeled and sliced
3 small garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 small knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon Schezwan pepper blend
salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring five cups of water to a boil. Add all the vegetables, and simmer, uncovered, for forty-five minutes.

Puree all the vegetables in a food mill, or blender, if you're fancy. If you're not fancy, use a potato masher. If you're not fancy, and a little overeager for a very smooth soup, try smooshing the cooked vegetables through your salad spinner/pasta strainer, make very little puree for a rather large mess, and then dump everything back into the warm soup pot.

Add the sugar, heavy cream, orange juice, and spices. Heat the soup over a low flame, until piping hot. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

1 comment: