Sunday, August 24, 2008

Here's Mud in Your Eye

I don't really know what that means, "here's mud in yer eye", but it's some sort of toast or something, right? Anyway, I took Julia's advice (and The Southerner, who agrees with her) and didn't mention to any of the guests that I thought the soup looked...well...less than appetizing, and they all dished it up and many of them had seconds and I think you could call it a success. I ended up making a peach and onion chutney to go on the homemade bread that I toasted on the panini grill. That was VERY popular. And two of our guests brought these nifty crackers - pumpkin seed and cranberry - along with a round of Brie. And Carol donated truffles to the cause, so all in all, it was a very lovely Sunday Soup.

Nathan brought his friends from Dawson (Yukon) and a bouquet of beans from his garden. Later we examined the map and marveled over how far north Dawson is and that anyone can survive in minus forty degree weather, but there they were, living proof that it can be done. There were a few Sunday Soup virgins too, and the "regulars", although Calvin missed since it was raining and we were all inside. He'll be wondering about his catnip fix. I should've sent some home with Carol.

I spent most of yesterday and a lot of today in the kitchen. Besides the soup, I cooked a lot of other things, put up ten pounds of peaches (I sliced them for the freezer, but "put up" makes me sound like Suzie Homemaker and there's something appealing about that!) and a whole bunch of zucchini too, and did a lot of cleaning to boot. You'd think I would've earned a well-needed rest by now, being that it's nine-thirty pm, but alas...there's still a hungry Southerner in the house. Soup is just an appetizer after all. Luckily, I planned ahead and turned some of that squash into a cheesy-mushroomy-squashy- pasta casserole. It should be done just about...NOW!

Today was joyfully loud, the conversation fun, and the food good. All in all, a very pleasing, rainy afternoon. See y'all next week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Got Great Personality

Truth be told, I'm a little worried about Sunday Soup tomorrow. I made the soup today and well...has anyone ever tried to set you up on a blind date and when you asked what the guy (girl) looked like your friend said, "He has a nice personality"? The Southerner would say, "I'll tell you what's the truth." Tomorrow's soup tastes great, but it ain't pretty.

It was super labour intensive too. And ironically, it was one of the labour intensive steps that turned it the colour of mud. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you might remember when they made polyjuice potion to make themselves look like Crabbe & Goyle? Well, that's about what my soup looks like. But it tastes great, I swear! Maybe we can have a theme day about Blindfold Sunday? Or Eat With Your Eyes Closed Cuisine. Oh, I know! I'll have The Southerner get the first big bowl and once they see him eating, they'll know it's okay. No...that won't work. Everyone knows he'll eat anything. After all, his other nickname is No Dog.

Julia Child would be so disappointed in me if she were reading this. She would say that I should just serve it and never admit that it doesn't look exactly the way I meant for it to look. And I suppose she's right. But she has the advantage that instead of calling it Black Bean Soup with Roasted Vegetable Stock, it would have the fancy name:
Soupe aux fèves noir avec les actions végétales rôties. That sounds so much better! Even if they do both look like le dirt.

I'm going to go for humour (here) and distraction (tomorrow - bruschetta with spicy peach topping) to complement it. And if all else fails...maybe I'll break out the biscotti I made tonight too.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cheesy Chowder

Today I made a cheesy potato chowder. It was distantly related to a recipe my mother uses to make a cheese and sausage soup, but by now there are so many degrees of separation, not even Kevin Bacon could connect it back to the original recipe. Okay...I know...lame joke, degrees of separation, sausage, sue me.

Anyway, I used a very sharp cheddar and there were red potatoes, carrots from one of The Southerner's gardening pals, onions from The Southerner himself, and a few other secret ingredients. It was a big hit, despite the fact that it was a pretty warm day today.

Nary a Steve to be seen this week, but the crowd that was here is beginning to resemble "regulars" which is kind of neat. And there was plenty of soup with just a little left over for me and The Southerner to have for lunch tomorrow. We had a moment of panic when it looked like Calvin's perfect record had come to an end. It was way after six before he showed up for his dose of catnip, although Carol showed up on time, keeping her flawless attendance record intact.

The bread was an Irish Whole Wheat Herb Soda bread, made from a recipe; one I was a bit wary of following, actually, because it had herbs like basil, thyme, and sage, but also a bit of brown sugar and dried currants. It was like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be sweet or savoury. In the end, it was just delicious and everyone agreed it was a hit.

The only problem with the bread is the name. I'm still having trouble with the word "herb" because when I lived in England after college, one of my friends teased me relentlessly about pronouncing it the American way with a silent "h". So, being the conformist that I am, I quickly started pronouncing it the British way. And then, years later, I married The Southerner and he would not STOP harassing me about being all hoity-toity and fake British, so I switched back to the American silent "h". And now, here we are in Canada, and they say it the British way! I cannot win! I am going with the voiced "h". When in B.C., do as the British Columbians do, I say. Don't even get me started on the word "scone".

It's actually raining now that everyone's gone home. In the four months that we've done Sunday Soup, we've only ever had to eat it inside once, so if you run into any locals, don't let them fool you into thinking it rains here all the time. The clouds are way too high for that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

August 16th

Yesterday I took Miss Southerner down to the ferry in Victoria so she could head back home. We had a fabulous visit and I will miss her loads (and not just because she did the dishes so willingly...although I do feel spoilt!). Anyway, while I was there, I dropped in on one of my favorite restaurants, Soup Etc. on Douglas Street. I was in a big hurry to catch my bus back home, so I was not able to enjoy any of their fabulous soups, but instead had to grab one of their fantastic paninis (the "etc." in their name). While I was waiting, I perused the soup menu longingly and saw a butternut squash with green apple. That piqued my interest immediately, because, as you know, The Southerner is growing squash, squash, and more squash!

I asked the man working the counter if it was his own recipe and he said that they have a chef who makes up the soup recipes for them. I was so intrigued though that as I hurried to the bus depot with my lovely fresh mozz sandwich, I started wondering if maybe I should just go back for the soup and take a later bus, but I was hot and tired and so I kept going. However...

When I got home, I put "butternut squash and green apple soup recipe" into google and found a bunch of recipes! Yowza! I may not have gotten to try it yesterday, but I will in the future. And no, it is not this week's soup because while zucchini and yellow squash are showing up in every corner of the kitchen like hard boiled eggs the day after Easter, we're still waiting on the butternut squash. Stay tuned for more when its ripe though because we will be trying this soup for sure! And if you're in Victoria, do stop by Soup Etc. for a bowl of soup or an outstanding panini. Tell the guy behind the counter that the crazy lady who made him take her Sunday Soup business card sent you!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Plethora of Steves

Yesterday all the men at Sunday Soup, except for The Southerner, were named Steve. No kidding! That wold be four guys named Steve packed onto our tiny deck (one Steve was missing or we would've had five). While it was somewhat confusing for them, it did make it very easy for Miss Southerner to keep track of her new acquaintances.

The soup was most excellent. Again, I can say that without being all "ain't I hot stuff" because I generally followed the recipe, so it was more my ability to follow directions than my culinary expertise. The zucchini and basil muffins were a big hit too. I took a risk and made a double batch, even though I hadn't tried them before, but it paid off because everyone had plenty and there is still a lot left over. I might've added a little extra basil, but for the most part I followed
this recipe. Oh, and I added some fresh ground black pepper too.

One of the Steves brought an apple pie, and two of the Steves were too late for it because we'd already cut it into eight pieces and were eating it when they arrived. SS may go from 4pm - 7pm, but if you want pie, you better come early. Or bring your own!

For a while, it seemed that everyone working at our library was named Susan. I would've liked to invite them all and see if they could outnumber the Steves, but alas, I've waited too long and most of them have moved on. We're down to one Susan and a Suzanne there now. They could've come and taken on the Steves in a soup eating contest!

Oh, well...even without all the Susans, it was a very nice Sunday Soup and it didn't rain, but it was cool enough that my white bean soup was warming and soothing, just as it should be. Have a great week!

Y'all come back, ya hear?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Rainy Day Soup

After a nice, warm week, we did get some rain today. Okay...not rain, but a few drops. As my friend Ralph the farmer says when they get some rain, but not enough, "one drop per acre". It wasn't a lot more than that, but it was enough rain for me to make a white bean and garlic soup for Sunday Soup even though all the recipe comments said, "a wonderful soup for a cold winter evening". It's kind of light though, flavoured with sage and a little bit of cream. Velvety smooth! I think it's just fine for summer. At least around here where mild is the best way to describe what the locals call "hot weather".

The Southerner still has this weird phobia about rain. I think it's probably because in the South, dangerous weather often accompanies rain. Like tornadoes, thunder storms with ground lightning, trees and small animals flying through the air sideways. That sort of thing. It doesn't just rain down south, it RAINS! Here you can tell the tourists...they're the ones with the umbrellas and rain gear. The rest of us west coasters just muddle on through the puddles. The Southerner wants to be one of us, but he also thinks his rain gear is way cool, and since he never got to actually wear it in Tennessee because it was always too dangerous to go outside in the rain, he breaks it out at every opportunity. Actually, what he does is carry it in his backpack "just in case". I find it very endearing, but frankly I'd rather he carried food in his backpack as I'm much more likely to want that if we get lost on a hike!

Anyway, along with our rainy day soup, we are having zucchini and basil muffins (we have a LOT of zucchini, surprise, surprise! See the Squash co-op post further down if you don't know WHY we've got so much) We're having the muffins assuming they turn out. I usually like to make a test batch of anything I've never tried beforehand, but Miss Southerner is still here visiting us and so I've been sort of slacking off in the kitchen (despite the fact that she does the dishes! Did I mention we're trying to figure out how to adopt her?).
Just in case the muffins turn out "only fit for No Dog", we're making a loaf of our usual bread tonight as back up.

And because you should never really have a nice dinner without a little music, check out
this link to see The Southerner and Miss Southerner sing for their supper last night.

Monday, August 4, 2008

August 4th

After a week of much needed rain, the sun came back out, proving to the locals that summer was not over yet despite their certainty that "fall was in the air". In fact, it's supposed to be 30 degrees this week (mid-eighties). Wahoo! When I started Sunday Soup, I thought that on the really hot summer days I might make salad instead of soup, but that was before I spent a summer in our new locale (western Canada). Down south, I can see why this idea might've made sense, but even with the warm and sunny weather yesterday, by 6pm, we were lending our guests fleece shirts to keep them warm in the shade on the porch. So the soup pot is still on and I expect it will continue through the summer.

One of the many Steves that we know came yesterday (we know a lot of them, but they're all special in their own way) and brought his entire family. We've had some of his family here at different times, but never all four of them here at the same time. That was a very nice surprise!

One of the nice things about living here is that people don't bring you hostess gifts like flowers (not that I'm opposed to flowers)...they bring you produce! Brenda brought The Southerner some beets! I'm not sure if they read my post last week and knew that because I had come around to zucchini (I'm eating zucchini bread as I type this) that The Southerner was going to try beets now, or if it was just coincidence, but either way, we have a beautiful bunch of beets with the greens, which is like getting two veggies for the price of one because the greens are delicious too! I expect we'll eat them before the weekend, so no borscht in The Southerner's immediate future. I think that might be too much to ask of him this early in his introduction to beets!

Oh, and just so you know, our house guest, Miss Southerner, who he brought with him from Tennessee is fantastic to have around the kitchen. If you're not careful, she'll do ALL the prep work and the dishes too. Gosh, hate that... :-) In fact, she's making French toast now out of leftover bread.

The Southerner, our friend Kathy (who was also here yesterday), and Miss Southerner are going to do a gig this weekend at Steve's theatre (along with another pal who was absent yesterday), so at the end of SS, they broke out the guitar and did some rehearsing. Oh, boy! This is going to be one good show! I can hardly wait! All I do is listen (and provide pre-show food, and after-show food, and rehearsal snacks, and...well, you get the idea...I'm the caterer), but I am a really good listener, and I'm looking forward to this week of music in our kitchen.

And speaking of music, we know about a zillion musicians and we've told them all that next week is going to be a music oriented Sunday Soup in honor of Miss Southerner's visit, so I'm expecting a lot of people next week (you know...offer a musician a free meal and the soup pot better be deep!). Not sure what the soup will be, but I have a whole week to think on it. Send your suggestions and remember, it's got to feed a lot of hungry musicians, so cheesy & creamy soups are out unless I want to take a loan out to buy the ingredients. I guess I could leave The Southerner's guitar case open in the kitchen and see if anyone throws in money!
The late great Mr. Fatboy and Elizabeth the guitar!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August 2nd

Sunday Scoop - 2 August 2008

Photo copyright Victor Anthony 2008

I know I generally try to go for an aura of suspense on Saturdays...keep you coming back for more on Sunday, but The Southerner is about to return home after ten days away, and he's bringing a Miss Southerner with him to visit, so I'm not sure how much time I'll have to post tomorrow. She's no relation, but she did play his daughter in the Smoke on the Mountain plays at the Cumberland County Playhouse last year. Also, Sunday Soup will be competing with a wedding and reception tomorrow. We're invited to the reception, which starts right when SS ends, and it's just down the street, so we'll be wandering over there afterwards. Should be fun.

Okay...this week's soup was inspired by all the fabulous (although somewhat expensive) Walla Walla onions available here, locally grown and organic. The Southerner is growing some too, but he had to grow them in the ground, as opposed to the greenhouse, so the ones from the farm are softball size, while his are still maturing (just like can hope, anyway). So today, I tackled French Onion Soup.

I know that this is normally a cold-winter-warm-you-up soup, but when you make it with fresh summer onions and use vegetable stock instead of beef consomme, it's actually quite light. I had been wanting to try it for ages, but didn't have any oven-proof bowls (or at least not enough for all the guests at SS). However, then I learned this nifty trick for serving FOS to guests! A party trick, if you will. You make the soup as usual on the stove, and then just before you're ready to serve it, you put all the bread slices on a cookie sheet, broil them until they're toasted, flip them over and place some Swiss cheese on them, and then return them to the broiler until they're hot and bubbly. When you serve the soup, you simply lay a slice or two of cheesy toast right in the bowl and cover with the soup! Voila! I tried it today and it worked. Boy, did it ever work! Yummm!

I was doubly glad too because earlier in the day I'd been at a garage sale and they had a bunch of the exact kind of bowls you see in all the magazine spreads for French Onion Soup, but you know, they were so ugly and as The Southerner says, "Ugly hurts my eyeballs" and so I couldn't bring myself to buy them. Glad to know I don't need them! At least not for FOS.

And now for a few words about the recipe. I used Tyler Florence's recipe from, but I made some changes. He uses red wine, which seems interesting if you're using beef broth or consomme, but with vegetable stock, it seemed like it would be too heavy, so I went with the queen of French cooking, The divine Ms. Julia, and used white wine. I'm actually thinking that even the white wine sort of overpowers the sweetness of the onions and I might just skip the wine entirely next time. Since I don't drink, Carol donated a few bottles of her homemade wine. Thanks, Carol!

When I was reading the reviews of TF's recipe, a lot of people said they had trouble getting the onions to caramelize and I thought smugly to myself, "Ha! It just takes a have to be patient." Well, after an hour I was no longer patient and my onions were more golden than caramel coloured, which I found annoying. Especially since I caramelize onions all the time. But they were also starting to fall apart and I was in danger of onion paste, so I just went on to the wine step. I think that it might have been because the onions were sooooo fresh that they just had a lot of liquid in them. Who knows? Do you? Any tips? They were plenty sweet...and it all turned out just fine.

A lot of the reviewers complained about this soup taking too much time, much longer than the recipe said it would, and it really did. I think it took me about two or three hours to make this soup! However, I was busy cooking a zillion other things because No Dog The Southerner will be home any minute and will be really super hungry!

I didn't want to spend every minute cooking while Miss Southerner is here, so I planned ahead. Over the last two days I have made:
Rhubarb Bread
Zucchini Bread
No Knead Bread (two loaves)
Zucchini bake (a Julia recipe given to me by a reader of this blog!)
Two kinds of enchiladas
A tortellini salad
Onion and cherry chutney
A pot of Chili
A bunch of pizza crusts (now in the freezer)
Black beans
Fresh pesto
Onion soup
and I have Swiss Chard from The Southerner's garden ready to sautee the minute they walk in the door.

I probably made a few other things I've forgotten about since I'm sort of wiped out after all this cooking! Are you hungry yet? What are you cooking this week? I will blog about the actual SS at some point, but maybe not tomorrow! Have a good week, and eat your soup!