SalmonBerry

Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

Spicy Garbanzo & Barley Soup

In Nutrition, Recipe on December 24, 2014 at 7:36 pm

“It’ll destroy you if you try to make it mean anything to anyone other than yourself.” ~Henry Rollins

my eye

My eye after chopping onions for this soup

Eating Junior Mints (a leftover movie theater purchase) while taste-testing a spicy soup recipe does not mix well. Other things that do not mix well: my eyeballs with freshly chopped onions, soup-eating in sunny, 73 degrees F weather or milk with spaghetti (why do parents do that to kids?).

Tori Amos & Sarah McLachlan mix well together and used to accompany me on road trips to Ventura County during my previous life as an environmental consultant. Three hours of singing at the top of your lungs while cruising the empty PCH at 530am is cathartic. Singing at the top of your lungs while recipe-testing is also cathartic so I put both of those women on for good juju while exploring this Tunisian-inspired soup.

moroccan spices

Homemade harissa paste: water and olive oil added to chili flakes, garlic, parsley, caraway, and coriander.

This recipe is adapted from 101cookbooks.com who further adapted it from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi, which according to my extensive Google research (not really), appears to be inspired by a common Tunisian breakfast soup involving garbanzo beans in a thin garlic and cumin broth served over stale crusty bread pieces and topped with, potentially, one or all of the following: egg, olive oil, harissa, capers, tuna, lemon, olives, more cumin, etc. It sounds amazing and inspired me to eat this soup again in the morning with a raw egg poached right into the broth. A smell a business idea for a food truck…that’s another topic…

The great thing about this soup is it uses only water as the base instead of a vegetable or meat broth. This allows all the fragrant North African spices and delicate flavors of the carrot and celery to really stand out.

Garbanzo Bean Broth:

garbanzo-barley soup ingredients

The thin, water-based broth perfectly highlights the spices and veggies that provide the base for this delicious soup.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small onions, diced

4 – 8 cloves garlic, depending on how much you love garlic, crushed

3 large carrots, peeled and diced

4 – 6 celery stalks, diced

2 tablespoons harissa paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 1/2 teaspoon whole caraway seeds

2 cans, drained, garbanzo beans

6-8 cups water

Fine grain salt and/or black pepper, to taste

Grain to Serve it Over:

barley or farro

Is it barley or is it farro?

1 cup barley or farro (which did I have on hand?)

3 cups water or vegetable broth

Creamy, Herby Feta Paste:

3 1/2 oz feta, broken into large chunks

1/4 cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)

1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped or just ripped from stem

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/8 teaspoon fine grain salt

*for a non-dairy version, add herbs to this cashew cream recipe

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring, until translucent. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and continue cooking for another 5- 10 minutes. Add the harissa, cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds and cook for a another 5 minutes, stirring well, until fragrant. Add garbanzo beans and water into the vegetable mixture along with salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 10 minutes.

barley garbanzo soup bowl

Hydrating and Hearty

Meanwhile, rinse the barley, add to a small saucepan, and cover with 3 cups cold water (or veggie broth for more flavor). Bring to a boil and simmer until most of the liquid is gone or barley is soft.

To make the feta paste, put the feta, crème fraîche, cilantro, mint, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small food processor or hand blender until a smooth, creamy paste forms. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Serve by adding cooked barley to the bowl and spooning soup over grains and topping with a dollop of creamed/herbed feta paste. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Potato Leek Soup with Dill Oil

In Nutrition, Recipe on December 24, 2014 at 3:03 am

“The point is to write as much as you know as quickly as possible.” -Kurt Vonnegut

disco joy

Go where the joy is

I’m not sure in what context he said the above quote but I thought it was inspiring and could be applied to almost any creative pursuit.

There can be this palpable rush of needing to get it all out of you already.

I’ve always liked to write but I used to be confined, as an environmental consultant, to the rigid rules of technical writing. It feels so liberating to blog about food and nutrition and yoga; however, I hold back from doing much writing and mostly stick to presenting recipes. I am self-conscious about the fact that I have neither an English degree nor experience in journalism and editing. Jeez, I was even terrible about keeping up a diary as a young girl. I now journal regularly but that doesn’t necessarily make you a writer, right?

Kurt Vonnegut’s formal education was in biochemistry and he also obtained a Master’s degree in anthropology: “I’m on the New York State Council for the Arts now,” he told The Paris Review, “and every so often some other member talks about sending notices to college English departments about some literary opportunity, and I say, ‘Send them to the chemistry departments, send them to the zoology departments, send them to the anthropology departments and the astronomy departments and physics departments, and all the medical and law schools. That’s where the writers are most likely to be… I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.”

butter in dill oil

Every good soup begins with butter…and dill oil.

Reading this single quote by this one author inspired me to just do it already. Just start writing about anything and everything that popped into my head. It’s OK that I didn’t get my degree in English Lit. I feel aligned with Vonnegut in that I have two science degrees, so why not pursue writing?! I’ve always been a voracious and quick reader and have consumed so many books in my lifetime that you would think I’d have absorbed decent sentence structure and a vast vocabulary.

For my trip to India last fall, I decided to list “writer, nutritionist” as my occupation when filling out my visa forms. This was an attempt to start establishing myself as a writer in my subconscious while actually attempting to become a working writer. This proved to be problematic as I was then labeled a journalist and had to fill out additional paperwork stating that I would not be acting in a journalistic capacity while in India and, although I requested a 10-year visa, I was only awarded a 5-year visa. Apparently, I’ve got to reach enlightenment by 2018 and then I’m on my own.

potato leek soup

Drizzled, topped, and sprinkled with dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere cheese

So, on to the soup…obviously there are a TON of potato-leek versions out there but they aren’t all good or even all that simple (which I feel like this humble soup should be). This is a really quick and easy soup for the busy holiday season. It’s perfect to make when you are tired of preparing all the fancy holiday dinners and just want something nourishing. A bonus is that you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

I think this soup caught my eye b/c of the toppings. I am sucker for garnishing and embellishing my food. So the addition of a drizzle of dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere was more than I could resist. Plus, this soup requires few ingredients and can easily be made vegan (sub olive oil for butter). I simplified the preparation a bit without sacrificing taste (I think) and feel free to get creative with the toppings. Pureed soups sometimes need a bit of embellishing in order to give them depth and texture.

potato leek soup - ingredients

Leeks, dill, and red potatoes…and not much else.

I used red-skinned potatoes which are perhaps not the most “thin-skinned” potato but look prettiest in pictures so, thus, were chosen. Yukon Gold potatoes are perhaps the creamier and thinner-skinned choice for this soup. Experiment.

The following makes a large pot (8-10 servings):

1 small bunch of fresh dill
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3.5 pounds leeks
6 TBSP unsalted butter
Sea salt
3 medium-sized, or 4-6 small, potatoes, thinly sliced
4-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of knife

4 cups veggie broth, for cooking, and up to 4 cups more for thinning the soup

Toppings: almond slices, toasted and Gruyere cheese, grated

Use a hand blender to puree the dill and olive oil into a creamy green emulsion. Set aside.

Cut the dark, tough green leaves from the leeks, trim off the roots, and wash/rinse well. Use a food processor to chop the leeks in two batches. 

In a large soup pot, heat the butter and 5 tablespoons of the dill oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, stir in the leeks and a couple big pinches of salt. Stir well, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften up, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and garlic and 4 cups of veggie broth. Simmer until potatoes are soft and mushy. Puree with a hand blender and then continue to add veggie broth until the consistency suits your taste.

Bring back to a simmer, then serve topped with almonds, grated cheese, and a generous drizzle of the remaining dill oil.

A Pact Against Perfectionism

In Mindfulness on December 21, 2014 at 4:03 am

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there is still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” – Dita Von Teese

me and tima

My sister, Fatimih (left), and I

While G-chatting with my sister (she’s in New Zealand, I’m in California), we each confess that we are stuck creatively – stalled and not producing up to our own expectations. She says her obsession with being organized is hindering her creativity while I do too many things at once without fully finishing any of them. Even while chatting with her, I am writing a blog post, making soup and taking photographs of the process all the while drinking wine and eating chocolate.

stack of books

My multi-tasking disease extends to reading for pleasure

I suspect she is also an avid multitasker. This used to be a badge of honor for me when my children were toddlers. I now see the falseness and futility of multi-tasking and, yet, I still do it. Multi-tasking makes me feel busy (not the same as productivity) which I learned at a young age is what adults do – they keep busy. Constant busyness keeps us from facing the fear and self-doubt that is universal for everyone. Some of us are just better at carrying on in the face of it.

The paralyzing combination of control (from our mother) and perfectionism (from our father) that we’ve each inherited has kept us both from leading the creative lives that we so desire. She’s a brilliant photographer and graphic designer (logos for Salmonberry and Yuwei) and curator of all things visually beautiful and she deserves to be seen.

So we made a pact:

We will simultaneously post each week – photographs for her, blogs for me – no matter what. It’s about creating content and momentum and not about whether it is perfect or important or anything else other than an exercise in doing what we say we are going to do and moving past self-consciousness.

It’s like a support group for sisters paralyzed by perfectionism. This is my first post of the project and here is Fatimih’s first contribution.

mary oliver poem

From Mary Oliver’s “The Mockingbird”

Intellectually, I realize that the only one judging me so harshly is myself and yet I still fear derision by this imaginary “audience”. I am not always like this. I’ve had long stretches of productivity and creativity with barely a thought of what people might think. It feels amazing and beautiful and I want that freedom again. But this sense of flow seems to sneak up on me and, while I am in it, I rarely recognize it’s inherent beauty. Only in experiencing the sudden contrast of paralyzing self-consciousness do I grasp the specialness of that time. I’m seeking to be more conscious of the flow. To revel in it and foster it.

Anyway, I miss my sister. She is so far away and this is a way for us to be connected and perhaps tell a story as well. We aren’t sure where this will take us or how it will evolve but…welcome to the experiment!

Chicken (& Kale) Soup for Your Soul

In Nutrition, Recipe on December 19, 2014 at 12:32 am
sunset

Sunset at Windansea Beach, December 16, 2014

So there is this couple that lives a block away from me and I see them walking down to the water each night at sunset with their hands in each others back pockets. They are the same height, have the same sun-bleached blonde hair and tanned skin. I think they are in their early 50s but I don’t know them well, they seem so satisfied and filled up with just each other, that I don’t even dare introduce myself. And I admire them from afar, thinking that they must have it all. Just last week a beautiful, mint condition, Airstream trailer appeared on their street with the CA license plate: 2HOBOS. Not thinking of them at all, I suspected it must be the two hipsters with the perfect beards I see watching the waves at sunset these days. But, alas, it belongs to the golden couple and not for glamorous reasons. He has a brain tumor and a year to live. They’ve sold their house and are embarking on an adventure together for however long they have…

jung and dylan quotes

Just do it already!

And now I’ve digested that information and I’m sitting on the floor of my kitchen with a bottle of wine and my laptop while the chicken (and kale) soup simmers. Pearl Jam’s “Black” comes on the sound system and the melancholy envelopes me while thinking that I STILL envy this couple. With all the dramatic doom and gloom of a terminal diagnosis and the romance and passion of selling it all and driving off into the sunset. Why? Is it because I fear that, if tomorrow, I was given a year to live, there is no one who would leave their current life behind and join me on an adventure until the end of my life? Or is it because I am thinking of all the things that I DON’T do because I am fearful?

I’ve been making a lot of chicken soup lately. It nourishes me – body and soul. But it also worries me that I make a lot of soup when I’m not physically ill – I am rarely sick – because this means that I am in fear mode. The antidote for fear is massive action (Tony Robbins said that). This mantra has worked for me in the past; however, right now my “massive action” is half-assed. There are 19 unpublished drafts in my list of posts for this blog. Why? I get a burst of action and I write and cook and take pictures and then completely freeze when it comes to publishing.

chicken stock

Making your own chicken stock makes for REALLY good soup

Really good chicken soup starts with really yummy, homemade broth. I usually roast a 5 to 6 lb chicken using this recipe and, since our household is only 1 adult and 2 children (50% of the time), those extra pounds are used for stock and soup. Take that extra chicken carcass (and whatever meat is left on it), put it in a crockpot, cover with water, and simmer on low for 24-48 hours. Your home will smell amazing. Leave the whole lemons and garlic and thyme that stuffed the bird with inside – these will disintegrate into full flavor for your stock. Drain your stock through a colander into a soup pot (not the one you will be using to make soup) and pick out the bones – this is an exercise in finger-burning and super tedious but well worth it. Let it sit there and cool for awhile, if needed. Meanwhile…make sure you have the following ingredients:

64oz organic, free-range, chicken broth

water (maybe)

2 sticks salted butter

1 head of celery – chopped

garlic – as many cloves as you like – smashed with the back of your knife

2 onions – chopped

1 bunch carrots – chopped

salt n pepa – to taste – don’t be afraid to pile it on

crushed red pepper, depending on your audience

fresh thyme – LOTS

Baby kale leaves (boxed or bagged)

chicken & kale soup

Serve over baby kale or egg noodles or brown rice or anything at all, really…

Melt butter in soup pot and add the smashed garlic. Chop all the veggies and sauté with garlic in butter. Add plenty of salt and pepper. Sauté until veggies are a bit soft. Then add broth from the crock pot creation. Bring to a boil and simmer until veggies are super soft. Add additional (store-bought) chicken broth and more seasonings, if needed. Bring to a simmer and then add reserved chicken from broth-making adventure. Separate thyme leaves from stems (I use an entire container of fresh thyme) and mix into soup pot.

When ready to serve, place a handful of baby kale leaves in the bottom of a bowl and ladle hot chicken soup over the greens. They will wilt to bright green perfection. This soup is so nourishing and soul-stirring that you will eat nothing but this for days and feel warmed and satisfied to your very core.

Breathe

In Mindfulness, Yoga on December 2, 2014 at 8:09 pm
0208_130502_Salmonberry

Daily practice

If you can breathe, then yoga is for you. Yes, that does mean absolutely everyone.

Avoiding yoga by saying it’s not your thing or you tried it once is like saying that you’ve tried food and it just didn’t work out for you so you’ve decided not to eat.

Yoga is merely connecting to your breath, and, as a result, your body, wholeheartedly. Every single day. Every single vulnerable minute. Every single exposed nanosecond.

In a simple, yet constraining, seated twist or in a challenging, open-hearted backbend. Finding the place in a pose – and in your life – where you can truly breath, with depth and ease, is no mere feat. How you get to that place will be different for everyone. The magic of asanas is that they are designed to take you to this place of connection. To unlock the mystery of what is holding you back. To release the pent up emotions. The ones that are much more subtle then the overt twins of anger and anxiety that can usually be fended off by a good, long run. Emotions like shame, self-doubt, and contempt.

0224_130502_Salmonberry

Beauty in the struggle

No wonder you avoid yoga practice. It can feel super icky.

And it’s not the hurts-so-good burn of lactic acid build-up during a spin class. This is down-and-dirty, how-can-I-ever-look-someone-in-the-eye-again, kind-of hurt. But then you stay with it, you don’t avoid it, you breathe through it, and suddenly you have moved into a different pose/place/time and all is effortless. You feel light and shining and powerful and graceful and humbled and grateful.

Yoga is not balancing on your forearms while touching your toes to the top of your head. Yoga is not sitting in lotus for hours without moving a muscle. Yoga is not folding your sweaty self in half in a heated room. And, yet, if that is the yoga that works for you, then it is. Yoga is about viciously carving out time for yourself to work on the “you” that is outside the physical plane. It is the time you take to connect your body, mind, and spirit. The practice you do in order to sit with your self and your breath in silence without wanting to bolt from the situation. Without wanting your current reality to be different.

Yoga works on you energetically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you don’t buy that, it doesn’t mean that yoga is not for you, it only means you haven’t done enough yoga. You haven’t fully surrendered to the possibilities, to the potentiality, of really practicing yoga. This is a phenomenon that you can feel. It very visibly shows up in your life through the intensely radical as well as the softly subtle changes that occur once you commit to your practice.

0215_130502_Salmonberry

Freedom and peace is revealed

I used to run a lot. I still do. Just not as much. Running felt wonderful and cathartic and afterwards, for awhile, I was at peace. But it was never sustainable. Quite easily I would find myself jolted out of the flow and into reactive mode. Practicing more asanas, more often, allowed me to finally sit in mediation and actually capture that sustainable peace – for, like, days and weeks.

I am moving toward longer stretches of peaceful bliss and I always will be…