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There are those nights when you have recently done a little bit of refrigerator Darwinism, and well, the larder is a little bit bare of staples. When the stuff you can make easily is all used up. Maybe you are broke (hello!) and trying to stave off grocery shopping for just a few more days. Fortunately, there are usually some odds and ends left in the cupboard that you can add up for some value of soup – whether it is beans, split peas, vegetables… or our favorite standby, Cheese and Weasel Meat.*

This might have been the result of one of those nights. The potatoes had gone bad. All I had was a small assortment of orange vegetables, two green apples, a couple of onions, half a head of garlic and some stuff in cans. The youngest was in the grips of a norovirus, and I was in the grips of ennui, while the eldest was in the grips of a fierce hunger.  Also, did I mention totally broke? So no pizza delivery, no take out, plus it’s the worst storm in a long time, so nobody wants to go driving. Hrm. To the internet! An amalgam of several internet recipes was made, and It Was Good.

Take one small onion, dice well.

Chop one clove of garlic.

Saute in a little butter and olive oil

Add to that, one yam, cut up very small, and two small carrots, also cut up fairly small.

Throw in a can or two of butternut squash puree.

Cut up one Granny Smith apple.

Let that all cook for just a bit, then throw some vegetable stock or water into the pot so that it is covered but not super liquidy.  You want this to be somewhat thicker than thin. Let it come to a boil and then simmer until everything is done and falling apart**. You can, at this point, do the food processor thing if you want a very creamy soup. You can add a little milk or cream or half and half –  whatever, if you want it dairy-creamy.  Also, a handful of brown sugar at this stage is nice as well.  I recommend using either curry spices, Chinese five spice or pumpkin pie spices or a little nutmeg. I used Five Spice, and it was excellent.  If you omit the milk and the butter and just saute in olive oil, hey, it’s pareve. But I really think the butter adds something. Dairy is a good thing.

Yeah, I know, it’s totally simple and weird, but it tasted SO GOOD.

I used this recipe and this one, and sorta, came up with something based around what I had on hand.

*When this used to happen and Mr. B&B was still living with us, the children would ask him what was for dinner and he’d stare at the interior of the fridge for a second, look bleak and answer, “Cheese and weasel meat.” and then he’d usually come up with something like, tacos.  It is now a family tradition.

**If you have a gas stove, this is where you don’t want to get distracted by the internet and leave a tuxedo cat in the kitchen because you might then see a tuxedo cat come streaking OUT of the kitchen, smoking. I’m just saying.

This is a great recipe that I got from my friend Cass, who is vegan, and whose blog post on the subject seems to have disappeared, so I can’t credit her properly.  But it’s hers. Not mine. I just altered it a little.

We eat a lot of vegan and vegetarian food around here at Casa B&B for two reasons. The first being that one of the kids is a vegetarian. The second being that I can’t figure out how to keep the meat separate from the dairy correctly yet, so I just don’t buy any. Meat that is.  This soup is great because you could make it totally vegan/pareve, vegetarian/dairy, or meat depending on your preferences or who is coming to dinner.

You will see a range of ingredient amounts. If you use the smaller amount, it will make enough for a hungry family of 3-4 to eat at least two dinners with an individual lunch or two left over, or for that family to have some dinner guests.  If you use the larger amount, that’s where the “for days” part comes in, and trust me, it really is FOR DAYS unless you have like, 12 people in your family. Also? Sure, cooking is chemistry, but unlike working in a lab (or baking), you can totally wing it. Plus, you don’t need goggles or a lab coat.  Which may or may not be a plus, depending on your views about lab coats and goggles. Personally, I think they add a little something to any occasion, but I digress. The point is, if you have other veggies threatening to die, hey, throw ’em in. Ingredients and amounts are relative. The recipe as written is sort of my starting point, but it’s a little different every time

Ingredients:

1 medium or very large yellow onion

2-4 carrots, chopped small

2-4 celery sticks, chopped small

3 TBS olive oil (ish)

1-2 green bell peppers, chopped

1-2 yellow, orange or red bell peppers, chopped

1-2 cans of corn OR 2-3 ears, just cut the niblets off the cob OR frozen corn will work

2-3 sweet potatoes

1-2 cans of Ortega diced green chilies (OU)

1-3 regular cans of S&W diced tomatoes (Triangle K)

3-6 cans of S&W black beans (Triangle K) OR you can make your own from dried. I don’t have time.

1.5 – 3 TBS cumin*

1.5 – 3 tsp chili powder*

1- 2 tsp. oregano*

kosher salt

vegetable stock or water – amount is variable, some folks like thick soup, others prefer it thinner. Go for what you like.  I use vegetable stock, or mock chicken stock – Imagine brand is kosher.

optional: 1-3 (or more) chipotle peppers en adobo (I cannot find kosher chipotles en adobo. Cass does not make the original with chipotles, and it’s good without, I just like it better when it is spicy and redolent of smoky chipotle goodness.)

So, make your mirepoix (chop your onions, carrots and celery into small bits), and saute in olive oil.  When that is nice and the onions are starting to soften, add the corn, peppers, and sweet potato.

Saute this for a bit until the peppers soften. Then add your diced green chilies, chipotle and spices, half the can of tomatoes, and your beans (drain well if using canned), reserving 1 can or 2 cans and half the tomatoes (amount to reserve entirely depending on if you are making the small or large version of this) and your stock.

Stir well, bring to a boil and then turn it down to simmer and walk away for an hour or so. Do some homework. Blog.  Clean. Wash your laundry. Maybe come back and give it a stir once in a while so it doesn’t stick, but otherwise you can just go get distracted for a bit.

About 30 minutes before you want to serve, get out your food processor and give the remaining beans and the diced tomatoes a whir, then add those to the soup. This will make it thicker and almost creamy in consistency. Cook another 30 minutes, then it should be ready to serve. Adjust salt and seasonings. Serve.

Toppings:

Pareve and totally mandatory for maximum NOMS: Sprinkle some diced red onion and cilantro on top.

Dairy: A nice grated sharp cheddar and/or some sour cream (this is our preferred way of eating it) along with the onion and cilantro.

Meat: Throw in some shredded dark meat chicken with your red onion and cilantro. If you plan to do this, do use chicken stock instead of vegetable, unless you want to keep the soup base pareve.

Variation: use less stock so that you get a thick consistency, but otherwise keep it the same, and cook in your crock pot on low – et viola, black bean chili!
It is SO good. My children totally freak out with squee when I make this and it is a winter staple. We probably have it or the chili variation at least once every ten days or so in the cooler months. It is totally healthy, cheap to make, and did I mention, lasts for days?

*I found this place for kosher spices, but haven’t tried them yet so can’t vouch for their quality. I usually shop at Penzey’s. I need to call and find out their kosher status.

I first knew I was in trouble when, shortly after making the decision to begin to keep kosher (in small steps), I met with my new rabbi and casually mentioned, “I’m having trouble with kosher, because I’m a foodie and I’m finding it really difficult to give up things I love, like sushi and restaurants.” The poor rabbi looked blank and asked me what a “foodie” was. I felt a sinking feeling. I was entering strange waters. This worried me because, holy cow what if there are no foodies in Judaism??? Well, a little exploring on the internet took the edge off that one. There are a few!

While I don’t think keeping kosher is ever easy for anyone, Jews who are frum from birth don’t think about this stuff the way someone does when they are coming to it for the first time.  They don’t miss cheeseburgers, have never had a slab of perfectly slow cooked pork ribs and they instinctively understand the maze of rules that one has to follow in order to keep kosher because they have been navigating that maze their whole life.

I am not frum from birth. I do not know the rules yet, in fact, I despair of ever figuring them out completely. More importantly? I’ve got a very big problem here.

I do NOT like cholent.

Or borscht.

Or kugel.

Or gefilte fish.

Confession: I dislike Ashkenazi food intensely, except for a few things like bagels, bialy, blintzes,  matzoh balls and babka. I’d say one of these things is not like the others except “balls” is a B word too, so it can stay.

“Well what DO you like?” one might ask.  Problematic. I DO like pork buns, dim sum, pulled pork sandwiches, steamed crab in season, lobster, cheeseburgers with bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, avocado and eel rolls, shrimp tempura and frequently eating out in restaurants that are NOT brought to you by the letter K (for kosher).

But (there’s that letter again) it is very important to me to make keeping kosher part of my life. So we begin. No more pork. No more shellfish. Phase out mixing meat and dairy. That’s where I am now. Ordering cookbooks, reading up on kosher rules, and figuring out what step to adopt next. I haven’t given up eating in restaurants, I still eat in my mother’s non-kosher home and I haven’t koshered my kitchen yet.

Most of the recipes I try out in this blog, at least for now, will not be truly kosher because I do not have a kosher kitchen – YET. Give me time. That process should be fraught with hilarity as I struggle with the reality that my grandmother’s beloved and perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet will have to go. Watch as I reconcile myself to eventually having to own TWO sets of Le Creuset pans in different colors! Oh, woe. I am already conflicted. On one hand, the skillet… on the other? New Le Creuset in two colorways. It’s a struggle.

The ingredients I use may not always have a hechsher on the package. YET. But one day, they will and one of the things I hope to document here is where to get great, gourmet kosher ingredients. Because good food starts with good ingredients! And hopefully the OU thingie on the package…

The recipes I plan to try out WILL be “kosher” in the sense that they won’t mix meat and dairy, they won’t contain pork, shellfish or other forbidden foods, and most of them will come out of specifically kosher cookbooks.

It should be fun. Then again, there might be whining. But it will always be tasty, I am sure.

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