March 31st: Starch March

Soupruary celebrated breadth and depth spread over a month’s time. In comparison, the group in attendance at the last night of Soupruary envisioned solitary, intense evenings dedicated to one month themed food in excess proportion. And so it was with the inaugural celebration of Starch March. We waited until the last night of the month, so the starchy-ness of the offerings had to be serious. There was no time for a do-over.

Location: Our Starchy Apartment

Guests: Jenna, Victor, Anne, Helen, Andrew, Tavia, Jonathan, Louisa, Tore, Hillary, John, and us

The single starches
Fingerling Potatoes
Fried Plantains
Fried Yuca (with Garlic Aioli Mustard Dipping Sauce)
Black bean dip
Tapioka pudding

The multi-starches
Burritos -with wheat tortillas, black beans, pinto beans, roasted corn, and rice (also with non-starches cheese, chicken, sour cream, and hot sauce)
Super Starch Curry – with lentils, chickpeas, peas, potatoes, rice, and naan

The entertainment:
The deep fryer. Fried yuca is tasty. It’s like a delicious, flaky french fry alternative. This starchy delicacy was the perfect reason to try deep  frying for the first time. Among many other kitchen appliances, we have a “multi-cooker.” What is that? Well, a “multi-cooker” pot with its own electric heating element, temperature controller, drain basket, and lid, a versatile device useful for multiple cooking situations (in theory). It is a passable vegetable steamer AND a terrible rice cooker AND a fickle and imprecise crock pot AND can boil water in for pasta or a soup in intermittent spurts. It has the ability to under cook the top of things while burning the bottom. With all this previous experience, you would think one might not want to try deep frying in the “multi-cooker.” You might think having a quart of boiling 375 degree oil in this machine on your kitchen counter is something to avoid and you would be wrong. It turns out that deep frying is the only thing the “multi-cooker” is actually good at. It turns out that dropping starchy food into a vat of boiling oil is pretty entertaining and the results are pretty tasty.

Next up: Crepril
This once a month thing is pretty manageable.  You have weeks between blog posts (sorry about that) and a lot less shopping to do, so we’re sticking with it. Crepril is coming up this Saturday with a variety of sweet and savory offerings.


Some Souptistics

Ok. Soupruary is over, but that left us some time to look through the blog and learn some things.

Number of nights: 29
Number of soups: 31
Number of guest hosts: 7 (covering 9 nights)

Total attendance: 268 diners over the 29 nights
Average turnout per night: 9.24 Soupruarians

The smallest turnout was two, by design, on Soupentine’s Day. The largest was 19 at Jonathan’s Mushroom Barley night. The Leap Night Soupinale was the second largest with 18 people.

Bowls of soup served: approximately 425-450
Volume of soup served: approximately 45 gallons

Best attendance records were as follows. In 5th place, Tina with 5 nights. Tied for 3rd place, Tiffany and Mark with 9 nights (8 shared appearances and one individual appearance each). In 2nd place, Jenna with 11 nights. And… In 1st place, John, our roommate who joined us for 16 of the 29 nights of the month.

Perhaps the most mind blowing stat is the number of unique Soupruary attendees. Counting everyone who came to any of the nights and ate at least one bowl of soup, there were 112 different Soupruarians. We ate soup with 110 different people in a month. I didn’t know I knew 110 different people, not internet friends, but actual living, breathing, soup eating people who joined us in person. Thanks for sharing soup with us!

Aron and Jackie

Soupruary 29th: Potato Leap Soup

Thankuary for a great Soupinale to an awesome month of Soupruary. This was the end to the longest Soupruary ever. In honor of the leap year, we made Potato Leap Soup. “What is a leap?” you say. It’s nearly identical to a leek, but you can only get them once every four years.

Compared to last year, Soupruary has been warm and clear, which is good because it was a full 1,440 minutes longer that last year’s Soupruary. Last year our first guests slogged through a snow storm to claim their tomato basil and the winter weather kept coming all month long. This year guests were more likely to get sunburned on their way to soup (in the unlikely scenario that the arrived several hours early wearing no shirt) than to get stuck in a snow storm. That was true until last night.

For once, we actually had the soup, two pots of it, finished at 8:00. At 8:05 we were ready. At 8:07 we started wondering why no one was here yet. At 8:10 we started worrying that no one was coming and worrying that we were going to have to eat a lot of soup. It was more worrying than looking at the hairy monster face of an untrimmed celeriac. At 8:15 we were getting really anxious when John came home. Luckily our biggest crowd of the month streamed in soon after and kept arriving in waves until about 9:30.

Once the guests arrived, we had a great time. People talked it up, souped it up, and we had a really relaxing night. Maybe the snow that delayed everyone’s arrival also kept them here in the warmth a little longer. It was one of the best nights of the month. It’s been really nice catching up with all our friends and meeting a few new ones too. Thank you to everyone to inspired us, sent us recipes, visited, hosted, brought side dishes or dessert or bread or drinks, cleaned dishes, and ate soup with us in real life or vicariously through the pictures on the blog.

This blog post marks the end of the month, but we’re planning to some additional content in the next week or so (please don’t hold us to that timeframe) featuring some extra recipes and exciting souptistics from the month.

Location: Our Souperie (House of Soup Cambridge)

Guests: Mark, Tiffany, Jenna, Tasha, Aiden, Keenan, Shu, Tavia, Karen, Alisha, Chi-Fong, Karen, Tina, Daniel, Mike, John, and us

Menu: Potato Leap Soup, spring onion and bacon bits and sour cream garnish, garlic bread, baguette, cheese, mix green and basil salad, and assortment of fancy desserts (ginger snap cookies, lemon bars, raspberry bars, chocolate brownie bars, mini chocolate chip cakes, and fancy mini torts)

The entertainment:
Figuring out what to eat for the other 11 months of the year when we don’t make soup every day. The candidates are:

Jamuary, Panuary, Lambuary, Clamuary, Spamuary, Hamuary
Soupruary (there are no alternatives)
Stach March
Mayo, Mayoli (if Mayo isn’t fancy enough), Maycon
Spoon June
Stewly, Brewly, Pholy, Grilly, Bar-B-Qly
Saucegust, Fungust, Quinoaugust, Rawgust
Souptember, Steaktember
Croctober, Woktober
Noodlember, Fermember
Blendember, Dessember (a.k.a. Dessertember), Deep Fried December, Dim Sumember, Duckember

We’re planning on hosting one of these nights once per month. If you have any suggestions for other foods of the month let us know.

The soup:
Potato Leap Soup is like the Olympics or the World Cup or US Presidential elections. It’s one of those things that you only get to experience once every four years (if your lucky). Accordingly, grocery stores almost never stock leaps. If you can’t find them, leeks make and excellent substitute. We were lucky this year, and stocked up on some giant leaps (pictured below, with potatoes).

Our potato leap soup came in two forms, one vegetarian with cream and the other with homemade chicken broth. The recipe came from Corrie’s 2009 Soupruary blog. Thanks again, Corrie, for the inspiration for this crazy undertaking.

This was a soup that relied on our trusty immersion blender. The blending process gave even the version without cream a thick, creamy texture. Thank you potatoes. The homemade chicken broth once again enhanced the flavor of the soup. We should note that we’ve become a bit of broth snobs – we prefer starting to cook at 4pm just so we can make our own broth, because we really do believe it tastes better. (We should get a giant pot and make broth by the gallon and hoard it in the freezer, but that would make for a lot of pulled chicken.)

Top the potato leap soup with chopped baby leaps as garnish (by that we mean green onions which look like tiny, little leaps), and proudly present the Soupruary finale.

Potato Leap soup recipe:
(enough for one big pot, for 12-15 people)

8 T butter
4 extra large leaps, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot (if you have an extra in your fridge at the end of the month), diced
Bottoms of the mini-leap, looking green onions (since the tops became garnish)
3 to 3.5 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, diced
2 T salt
2 t black pepper
12 cups homemade chicken (or vegetable) broth
2 cups water
(1 cup cream optional and definitely not necessary if you have good homemade broth)

Melt the butter in a stock pot over medium heat, add the leaps, garlic, shallot, and green onion and cook until leaps are tender (about 10 minutes). Add potatoes, salt, pepper, and water, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender (carefully, not completely sealing the lid so you don’t have a potato-coated kitchen). Stir in the cream (if you’re adding it) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Soupruary 28th: Mushroom Soup

Normally the 28th would be the last night of Soupruary, but this is the first ever Soupruary leap year. So, we got to enjoy soup on the 28th knowing there was still fun to be had. Second to last is a pretty sweet spot. For potential Soupruary hosts out there, pre-leap night seems to be the day when beer coming in the door outnumbers people coming in the door at about 4 to 1. Get drinking. You only have one night left.

Location: Our soup tureen (tureen being a vessel from which ones serves soup, interpreted liberally to describe where we live)

Guests: Jim, Cara, Dave, Tim, Tina, Bev, Kobe, John, and us

Menu: Mushroom soup, baguettes, pulled chicken bbq sandwiches, mixed greens salads, assorted desserts

The entertainment:
We closed out the night by singing Rockapella’s Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego theme song. Aron and Tim provided the beats, and Jackie and Cara sang.

If you haven’t heard this theme song, you should fix this immediately. (If you don’t know it, you most not have grown up watching PBS in the ’90’s) It’s seriously got to be one of the best TV theme songs, ever. It’s a full length song. With four verses. Amazing. Plus the show that it accompanied was pretty great, too.

Side note: The next morning, Carmen Sandiego featured prominently in xkcd, but sounded slightly different than the version we watched as kids.

The soup:
This soup was a creamy blended mushroom soup, although it didn’t actually have any cream in it. The combination of blended mushrooms and homemade chicken broth gave the soup a rich flavor, and we thickened it up a bit with a rue. We also roasted a couple mushrooms for garnish.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised. We didn’t really have any specific recipe in mind when we added “mushroom soup” to the soupendar, and so this was a bit of a last minute decision. The recipe’s simplicity was appealing, but we would make it again not because it was simple but because it tasted delicious.

We had so much pulled chicken from all the homemade chicken broth that we’ve made recently, that we served the soup with pulled chicken sandwiches.

Mushroom soup recipe:
adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s recipe inLes Halles Cookbook (quantities serve 10)

8 tbsp butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 shallots
1 small leak, white and light green parts only
12 ounces white button mushrooms
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms
1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/3 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
12 cups homemade chicken broth
2 sprig of flat parsley
Salt and pepper
5 ounces Amontillado sherry
butter and flour for a rue, if needed to thicken the soup

Soak the dried mushrooms in 4 cups of warm water for 30 minutes. Save soaking water. It has a lot of flavor. Strain the water through a fine strainer and save for one paragraph of this recipe.

Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and add the onion, shallots, and leeks. Cook until the onion is soft and translucent, then add the fresh and soaked mushrooms, all sliced, and 3 more tablespoons of butter. Let the mixture sweat for about 8 minutes, taking care that the onion doesn’t take on any brown color. Stir in the chicken stock, mushroom water, and the parsley and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour.

Blend thoroughly using an immersion blender. (If the soup is not thick enough, use some butter and flour to make a rue in another pan. Add a cup or two of the soup to the pan with the rue and whisk until smooth, then transfer back to the pot and bring to a boil.) Remove from heat, add the sherry, mix well, and serve.

Soupruary 27th: Wonton

By guest host Chi-Fong

What better way to kick off the week than with some soup? I had moments of doubt about hosting dinner on a Monday night, but it turns out wonton soup is super easy to make, particularly if (unlike me) you know how to use a food processor. The best part is that you get to make your guests do most of the work (wrapping them), and they thank you for it! If Tom Sawyer were ever to host a soupruary night, this is what he would make.

Location: Ginny’s apartment

Guests: Alisha, Chi-Fong, Karen, Katie, F-Pack, Michelle, Aron, Jackie, and Anna

Menu: Wonton soup, potstickers, baby bok choy with garlic, sesame tangyuan soup

The entertainment:
Alisha’s dog, Ginny, provided most of the entertainment with her excited kitchen antics and ensuing unabashed cuteness. Also her fur, which got all over everyone.

Editor’s addition: The guests also thought that wrapping the wontons and dumpings were entertainment, even though Chi-Fong thought that this was work!

The soup:
This recipe is an ancient family recipe passed down through generations, having survived dynasties of war-torn Chinese heritage… just kidding. This recipe is an amalgamation of what I can recall from making dumplings at home, recipes found online, and a last-minute phone call to my mom. Also, wontons are traditionally made with pork, but we used ground turkey because it’s healthful, tasty, and more welcome to our Jewish compadres.

Plus our side dish:

We finished off the night with a dessert soup! The little soup balls were made of rice, and filled with a sesame paste (plus a bit of peanut butter). They looked much prettier in ball form, because they oozed dark-colored sesame paste when they were broken. But they tasted delicious, and were served in sugar water.

Wonton Soup recipe:
10 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cooking wine
1 head of Shanghai baby bok choy
1 pound ground turkey
2 tbsp cooking wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
a splash of sesame oil
3 stalks of green onion
1 tbsp of fresh ginger
~100 wonton wrappers

Heat about 10 cups of chicken broth on the stove in a big pot. I used 8 cups of Wild Harvest brand chicken broth from Shaw’s) plus about 2 cups of water and about 1/4 cup of cooking wine to dilute it a bit. I think if I had made 12-14 cups of broth it would not have gone to waste.

Wash a head of Shanghai baby bok choy (or any tender leafy green vegetable you like) and cut the leaves into lengthwise strips. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine:
1 pound ground turkey
2 tbsp cooking wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
a splash of sesame oil, just enough so the smell makes your mouth water

Mix these together with the implement of your choice (i.e. chopsticks). The key is to always stir the meat in the same direction, so pick one and stick with it! This will make your filling stick together nicely. Don’t ask me why. All I know is my mom told me so and it works.

Mince 3 stalks of green onion and about 1 tbsp of fresh ginger. Mix these into the meat mixture.

Time to wrap the wontons! There are a few different ways to do this, but any technique that keeps the meat inside the wrapper is a success in my book. I like this way: Don’t be greedy by trying to fit a huge blob of meat. Smaller is better. This recipe makes enough filling to fill ~100 wonton wrappers (available at your local Asian grocery store and not to be confused with dumpling wrappers, which are circular).

By now your giant pot of broth should hopefully be thinking about boiling. Once it does, add as many wontons as you can fit without overcrowding. We added about 30 wontons to a pot of 10 cups of broth.

Cook for 5 minutes (or at least until the broth comes to a full boil again). About a minute before you are ready to serve the soup, drop in some of the baby bok choy strips you cut earlier. Repeat until you’ve cooked all your wontons and baby bok choy. If you run out of broth to boil the wontons, you can either freeze the extras (spread them on a floured baking tray, stick the tray in the freezer for ~5 minutes, then stick the frozen wontons in a freezer bag) or fry them up like potstickers!

Soupruary 26th: Mulligatawny

Soup for the masses (at least masses of soup for our masses of friends) has been the guiding principle of the month. The idea of a Soup Nazi is so much in contrast to the spirit of Soupruary. We democratized Mulligatawny for our Sunday supper. YES, soup for you. The process of spreading democracy does not happen without it’s bumps in the road.

In theory, this soup was a replay of one of last year’s favorites. In practice, Aron never wrote blog posts for the last fours soups of Soupruary 2011 and the recipe was lost to the ether. But then a glimmer of hope shined through as two folded sheets of paper appeared. On them were recipes for Mulligatawny. Not just one recipe, but four recipes with different ingredients on each and most of the directions missing.

And so began the process of Soupual Anthropology (Soupual: from the Latin, meaning of or relating to soup). Aron figured if some conglomeration of these same ingredients was his inspiration for the soup last year, that it would work again this year.

Location: Our Soup Shack

Guests: Diana, Taylor, Jen, Tim, John, and us

Menu: Mulligatawny, rice, flat bread

The entertainment:
We talked a bit about the giant novelty check that Jackie had brought home earlier in the day. Her and her team (4 of them present at the dinner) had won the audience choice award at a social enterprise pitching competition. They conspired about their future plans to try to deposit the giant check in an ATM. Tim talked about the precautions that should be taken when carrying oversized novelty checks on the T, namely avoiding potential assaults by irate panhandlers. Jackie’s team took note.

The soup:
The soup had a wide array of Indian spices, including hot Madras curry powder, as well as spicy peppers in cayenne powder, jalapeno, and serrano form. Those three little serrano peppers had way more of a kick than Aron thought. It was lucky that he didn’t add the other two that were left on the cutting board, and more lucky that the final ingredient on two of the four recipes was a can of coconut milk, which mellowed out the spice significantly. The end result was a delicious, but still spicy soup and fingers that tingled from capsaicin contact for about six hours. Everyone got to enjoy the soup. Only Aron got to enjoy the burning finger feeling.

Mulligatawny recipe:
2 large yellow onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded, chopped
3 serrano peppers, de-seeded, chopped

1 t cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 T Madras Curry
1/2 T fresh ginger
1/2 t corriander
3 T brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup chopped cashews
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1.5 cups chopped cooked chicken, from the broth that you had made earlier
2 cubed granny smith apples

1 can coconut milk
Lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

Saute 2 large yellow onions, diced, in butter until they start to brown. Add the diced carrots, garlic, celery, de-seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper and serrano peppers (beware of tingle  fingers), and saute for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the spices and cook for another 5 minutes, still stirring sometimes.

Add 10 cups of chicken broth (homemade is better) and 3 cups of dry red lentils, rinsed. Add enough water to cover everything, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the pistachios, cashews, almonds, and cooked chicken from the broth that you had made earlier. (If you don’t have cooked chicken you can cut up raw chicken and put it in along with the broth above. Allow the chicken to cook 5-10 minutes before adding the lentils.)

Add the 2 cubed granny smith apples. Let it simmer another 5-10 minutes. Taste it. Adjust seasonings.

Finally, add the can of coconut milk and the lemon juice, taste, and serve.

Serve with rice, and cilantro and yogurt garnish.

Soupruary 25th: Kubbeh Adom

Once upon a time in Jerusalem, Jackie and Aron went to a restaurant and had a delicious soup that they raved about for days on end. Bryan did not join them for this soup – he took a nap. And while Bryan sticks to his principles and never regrets naptime, he was very jealous that he didn’t get to enjoy this scrumptious soup. So, when Kubbeh Adom was added to the Soupendar, Bryan became very excited and ventured up to Boston. We used a recipe from one of our Israeli friends, Rotem, and spent the day cooking and came up with something very tasty.

Location: בית מרק (pronounced “Beit Marak,” Hebrew for “House of Soup”)

Guests: Jenn, Ian, Jessica, Luca, Tiffany, Mark, John, Bryan!, and us

Menu: Kubbeh Adom soup, garlic & roasted pine nut hummus, 2 types of whole wheat pita, freshly baked bread by Jenn, chocolate chip cookies

The entertainment:
Friendly chatter (Bryan can’t remember what we talked about, but he remembers it being fun and friendly). Some stories from Aron, Jackie and Bryan’s trip to Israel in the fall (with Jenn) were definitely included.

The soup:
This soup is an Iraqi/Kurdish/Jewish soup. It’s like combining the goodness of Borscht, Matzah Ball Soup, and Meatballs. That theoretically would make it a Russian/Jewish/Italian soup, but its flavors definitely bring out the Iraqi and Kurdish elements.

The recipe was translated from Hebrew into English by our friend Rotem, who was worried that her English translation wasn’t good enough, but which we thought was an amazing translation. We searched for a couple recipes online as well to get a sense of the variations of the soup, but when the recipes disagreed we always opted for Rotem’s recipe.

Kubbeh Adom is a somewhat complicated soup, and so Jackie, Aron, and Bryan tag teamed the cooking. All three of us started by making the chicken broth, the meat balls that are inside the kubbeh, and the beet broth (which is the base for the liquid part of the soup). We finished the meat balls (assembled in Chinese checker board and Star of David formation, see below), but then Aron and Bryan had to leave. Jackie finished off the chicken broth and the beet broth. Then Jackie had to leave, and Aron and Bryan returned home. They made the dough that surrounds the meat balls, and combined all of the elements into the final soup. If this had been a relay race, we would have done pretty well.

When making the beet broth, we took out a cup of liquid to be used in making the kubbeh dough. This made the kubbeh dough red, which we thought was cool. Too bad you couldn’t see this effect, because everything in the soup looked red.

The soup was very well received. The sweetness of the beets mixed well with the citric acid (also known as lemon salt), and the fresh chicken broth tasted great too. The kubbeh (meat balls in dough) added a necessary solid component to this soup. Additionally, the fresh baked bread from scratch worked extremely well to soak up all the extra broth to finish off our bowls.

Kubbeh Adom recipe: (Special thanks to Rotem for the translation!)
The kubbeh filling:
~1 lb of ground beef
1 medium onion, grated and drained
~15 stalks of parsley, finely chopped
4 celery leaves, very finely chopped
4 mint leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed (we actually used ~3 cloves)
Bharat, a Middle Eastern spice
Sugar, a pinch
Olive oil

Put in a bowl the ground beef, onion, parsley, celery leaves, mint leaves, garlic clove, salt, Bharat, a pinch of sugar and a little olive oil. Mix to unified paste. Make from the paste about 25 balls the size of a ping-pong ball. Store the balls in the freezer until they are frozen solid, at least two hours.

The beet broth:
1/2 cup oil
2 red onions, medium, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
5 beetroots, medium, peeled, halved and sliced
2 liters of water, boiling (we used slightly less water, and supplemented liquid with chicken broth)
Chicken broth (takes the place of some of the water)
Lemon juice, from two small lemons
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
0.5 teaspoon of lemon salt (aka citric acid)
Celery leaves, a bundle of leaves tied with string

Heat ½ cup oil (olive or other), add the red onions and saute for about five minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, dont let them go brown. Add the beetroots and saute about four minutes.

Add the water and cook five minutes more. Remove a cup of liquid and set aside (for use in preparing the dough). Add rest of the liquid in chicken broth form (if you’re making homemade chicken broth at the same time as the beet broth, you can just add the water here and add the chicken broth in the “combined soup” step).

Add the lemon juice, salt, Bharat, brown sugar, honey, lemon salt, and celery leaves tied with string. Cook for 20-15 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning to be sweet and sour soup. Set soup aside until the kubbeh are done.

The kubbeh dough:
1.5 lbs of semolina
1 teaspoon of salt
Beetroot water (from above)

Put in a bowl the semolina, bahrat and a teaspoon of salt and stir. Add the beetroot water (and more water if necessary) and put the dough ingredients that will create a mixture in texture like soft modeling clay. Set aside for 20 minutes.

The kubbeh:
Take a piece of the dough and flatten it. Put in the center of the dough ball frozen meat and seal around the dough. Remove excess of dough and seal the kubbe with little water (if the dough dries during the filling, you can add a little water and knead again).

The combined soup:
Re-boil the beet broth soup, and place gently the kubbeh inside. If you made your beet broth and chicken broth at the same time, add the chicken broth to the soup here. Cook for an hour on medium heat.

About 30 minutes before soup will be finished, add chopped carrots, celery, and kale, if desired.

Contributions to this post were made by Soupruary guest Bryan