It’s A Soup Off!: The Winner is Announced!

Hey there, souping fans!  So, it was a cold, sludgy day in February where the Greatest Soup-Off of All Time went down in the kitchen of an Allston, MA, Victorian.  The menu was diverse, and the soups were spectacularly crafted.  It was an East vs. West showdown, with both chefs stepping up their game for the final battle!

In the Red Corner was Alex with a hot and sour soup that combined the flavors of several exotic mushrooms, tiger lily buds, and bamboo shoots.  Paired with it was a tall glass of chrysanthemum bubble tea.  Absolutely astounding in both aroma and taste, Alex’s soup definitely showcased the chef’s creativity and skill.

In the Blue Corner was Rebecca (me).  I mixed together a corn chowder containing jalepenos, pepper sauce, and Old Bay to give it a spicy kick.  My pairing was a cold, American brew: Harpoon beer.  I also added a dollop of yogurt mixed with spices (pepper sauce, salt, and Old Bay) and chopped cilantro to the dish.  It performed wonderfully and served as a cool-down to the heat of the soup.  I believe my piece really showcased my skill at cooking hearty, old-fashioned comfort food.  

Roughly 20 people were in attendance, with 3 official judges.  The judges were to vote based on a set of criteria (flavor, aroma, consistency, etc) and the rest were left to voting for one or the other.  It was a close one, but with the results in, the winner is… Continue reading

It’s A Soup-Off!: Cooking Under Pressure

 

photo by jonesor via flickr.com

photo by jonesor via flickr.com

 

 

The day of reckoning is upon us.  I am stressed to the max with work and class and other personal obligations!  My head is a frantic blip on the radar, and my friends have been wonderful about dealing with my constant phone calls/emails/messages.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling flustered I do two things:  1) I reach out to as many people as possible.  2) I cook.

Cooking when you’re stressing out is interesting.  For many, it’s calming.  It’s something that makes sense to the day.  Me, I’m an angry stress-cooker.  I’m impatient, I’m fiery, and I’m in a fury.  The dishes I make tend to come out spicy and bold, as if I’ve somehow transfered the storm going on in my head into the dish.  Cooking becomes cathartic only if I’m in a frenzy doing it.

So, with the Soup-Off coming this Sunday, it’s going to be interesting.  For one, I will be sharing my cooking space with another person, something I’m not used to.  It’ll be fun to see how he deals with me and my frantic, energetic cooking.  Secondly, I’ll be running around all weekend leading up to the Soup-Off, which will put even MORE energy into my stress-cooking.  I’m intrigued to see how that all gets incorporated into my final product.  Hopefully I’ll resist being too heavy handed with the cayenne pepper…

Happy Souping!

It’s A Soup-Off: Soup Improv.

You know those moments where you are rendered in awe, IN AWE, of your own genius?  Well, tonight, I had such a moment.  I returned home from a great night out, suddenly famished.  Scouring the contents of my freezer and cabinets for what measly odds and ends my erratic schedule has accumulated, I decided to switch my souping skills into high gear by grabbing what I could and improvising.  Here’s what happened:

 

Turbot, Turnip, and Spinach Soup

2 cans Chicken Broth

1 can Cannelloni Beans

1 cup chopped frozen Spinach

1 cup frozen turnips

2.5 cups cooked rice

1 seasoned Turbot filet (from Trader Joe’s)

Salt, Pepper, and Olive Oil to taste

(note: all measurements are approximations– you really just have to get a feel for it)

Directions:

1.  Turn on your soup-making play-list.  Mine included Rage Against the Machine and 311 (it was a hyped-up sort of night).

2.  Combine cans of broth with a bit of water (about 1/4 cup) and Olive oil (1/2 tablespoon), salt and pepper. Place over medium-heat.

3.  Add in Spinach and turnips.  Turn burner on medium-high.

4.  After about 5 minutes, add in defrosted fish and cannelloni beans.  Cook until frozen spinach and turnips are cooked through.  Add in rice.  Serve piping hot.

 

So.  Good.

It’s A Soup-Off!: A Mid-Week Update

Preparations for the Soup-Off are swiftly underway; we’ve announced our soups, figured out the logistics of this fantastical event, and exchanged more trash-talking than one would think a souping competition warrants.  What can I say, we’re hard-core.

In related souping news, Cookstr.com features Chef Mario Batali, today.  Included in this feature is the recipe for Mario’s Caldo Gallego soup.  Reading over it, it reminded me of this fantastic Portuguese Kale Soup my grandparents make.  All it involves is chicken broth, chopped kale, olive oil, chorizo*, salt, pepper, and chunked potatoes.  Throw it all together, let it simmer and stew, and perfection!

See, the thing I love most about soup is it’s simplicity.  While there are some soups that can involve dozens of steps and one-of-a-kind ingredients, the most satiating to me are those you can whip together using whatever you find in your fridge.  There is a distinct delight in the creativity that soup encourages; as someone who loathes the measuring and planning-out processes of cooking, I find soup liberating in the sense that it’s just me, the pot, my wall of spices, and the contents of my cabinet.  I’ve never had a soup mishap– even the time I accidentally added cinnamon instead of cumin.  Soup is forgiving, adapting, accommodating, comforting.  The only time you incur it’s wrath is when you burn it.  Otherwise, it’s like a committed lover, satisfying you to the last drop.  And with that thought, Happy Hump Day, soup-lovers!

 

* I substitute turkey kielbasa for chorizo and it offers a similar flavor.  I would not, however, attempt to use a meatless/soy-based product.  It won’t provide the adequate flavor this soup requires, and I envision it turning into globs of mush while the soup is stewing… gross.

It’s A Soup-Off!: Meet the Competitors

With the competition swiftly underway, here’s a chance to get to know who you’re voting for!

 

IN THE RED CORNER:    

 

Name: Alex

Souping Nickname: it’s still just Alex

Date of Birth: Capricornchowderisforgeezers

Current Location: Allston slums

Marital Status: Rigatoni

Earliest Souping Memory: My older brother pushing the back of my head, face-plant down into the bowl

Soup Mantra: Umumsheemum, Umumsheemum, Umemsheemum

If I Could Serve Soup to the Queen of England, It Would Be: really freakin’ awkward

Souping Soundtrack: John Lee Hooker

Souping Philosophy: Funny you should ask. I picked up this recipe from one of my old coworkers that I haven’t talked to in about 1 1/2 years, so I think the journey of becoming reaquainted with an old friend will be transfered into this soup. It will not only be glorious on the tastebuds, but there will also be this whole existential aspect to it that I believe will even be palpable. This soup will be able to make abstract and intelligent comments on this mixed-up world through an underlying philosophical understanding of human interaction.

What Your Competition Should Know: I’m not actually right handed…

Qualifications: My mother is a cook, my brother is a cook, my Aunt Evelyn is a cook, her husband Herb was a cook. My cousin Ryan is a cook, my good friend Matt and his sister and his sister’s boyfriend are all cooks, and if I didn’t go into media, I would’ve probably been a park ranger or something. But if that didn’t work out, I was thinking maybe something with animals, like at the MSPCA or something. But if that didn’t work out… I probably would’ve gone to the peace corps, I guess…

MENU–

Soup: Hot and Sour Soup w/ Shiitake, Woodear, and Cloudear mushrooms, Tigerlilly buds, bamboo shoots, and other glorius and intriguing items in this hearty and complex meal.

Side: not telling yet (gotta leave something for the imagination!)

Drink: Sapporo (Japanese beer)

IN THE BLUE CORNER:    

 

Name: Rebecca

Souping Nickname: “The Yellow Dart”

Date of Birth: Will this affect my Green Card application?

Current Location: The Royal Borough of Brookline, MA

Marital Status: Single and ready to mingle

Earliest Souping Memory: Helping my mom prepare and cook Cream of Broccoli. I was allowed to stand on a chair at the gas stove, with a little apron on and my hair in a braid, and stir the soup. Sounds endearing until you realize my mother allowed her 4-year old to stand precariously perched over an open flame!! I think there are child slavery codes against this.

Soup Mantra: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

If I Could Serve Soup to the Queen of England, It Would Be: a devious ploy to get closer to her grandsons. So, Cockaleekie?

Souping Soundtrack: Mozart’s Requiem and the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans

Souping Philosophy: Regardless of the transcendent nature of my competitor’s soup– real souping talent comes from deep within your gut. No amount of fancy, dainty lil’ ingredients can match up to the sheer power and satisfaction of good ol’ fashioned chowder cooking. I believe the taste and skill of my soup will supersede whatever shitake he plans on cooking.

What Your Competition Should Know: I once ate a penny. I don’t really know how that’s relevant to a soup competition, but I just thought you should know. Maybe it’s what gave me my superior palate.

Qualifications: A Bachelor’s in Kicking Serious Souping Butt, with a Masters degree from the Chuck Norris Institute of Taking Names Later, concentration: International Culinary Studies in Soup Karate, Class of 2008.

MENU–

Soup: Southern Corn Chowder with Crab

Side: Alex isn’t telling you only because he doesn’t know. Pressure’s on!

Drink: An ice cold microbrew

It’s A Soup-Off!!

 

photo by Roby72 via flickr.com

photo by Roby72 via flickr.com

Nothing spices up a friendship like a hearty dose of cooking competition!  In days’ time, a friend and I are taking each other on in a survival of the fittest cheffing throwdown.  Our chosen medium: SOUP!!!!!

I don’t really remember the logistics of how it all began, but what started as a relatively friendly culinary discussion soon became a challenge of “My soup is better than your soup.”  And, thusly, a Soup-Off was born!

Such a competition seems entirely appropriate as temperatures in the Northeast continue to rise and plummet, dramatically.  Mother Nature sure has a bone to pick with New England.  However, nothing warms a heart and soul more than a hearty crock of soup.  It has inspired writers (Sendak) and artists (Warhol) alike.  Soup is a unifying medium that is present in most all cultures.  So, in a lead-up to this magnificent competition, I will post competitor profiles, Soup-Off updates, and other fun soup-related knowledge.

Feel free to share your favorite memories of soup in the comments!

Let the souping begin!