just what the student doctor ordered

Flu season has officially announced its nasty presence throughout the country. It seems that I can’t turn on the radio, open my email, or walk through the halls of the hospital here without being reminded of the especially aggressive season that’s taken hold, and furthermore, of the seemingly low efficacy rates of the vaccine this year. All this adds up to the need to prophylactically boost my immunity. That means plenty of sleep, hydration, and of course, stocking my fridge and pantry with immunity-boosting foods.
I made this soup with flu prevention and health promotion on my mind. It’s loaded with ginger, turmeric, spinach, carrots, and quinoa. A dash of red pepper flakes adds a generous dose of heat that promises to clear out your sinuses. I enjoyed the flavors of this soup as I was concocting it, but I felt there was something slightly off about the many different textures that were at play. So, I whipped out my favorite new Christmakkah gift (thanks, Erica!), a mini food processor, and blended the soup until smooth. This helped the spices and flavors meld together even better. I served the soup with a sprinkling of cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. If you had it on hand, some yogurt would make a nice addition. After having this soup for dinner, I’m feeling in pretty good shape. Hopefully it brings you a delicious dose of flu prevention too!
Immunity Boosting Soup
2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

3 tbsp finely grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp garam masala
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 quart chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
6 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 large bag washed spinach leaves
Cilantro and lime, for serving
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion for about 5-7 minutes, until slightly golden. Add carrots and saute another 2-3 minute. Add ginger and garlic and saute another minute. Add spices and stir well. Add broth and water. Allow mixture to come to a boil and then add the quinoa. Boil soup for about 10 minutes, and check to see if quinoa is done (should be softer, but not mushy). Add spinach leaves and allow them to wilt for 2-3 minutes, being careful to not overcook the spinach. Taste soup for seasonings and adjust to your liking.
For pureed option: Allow soup to cool a bit before blending it in batches in a food processor or with an immersion blender.
Serve with cilantro and lime wedges. Yogurt would also be a great addition!

precious cargo

On Saturday morning my sister and I were packing up our things to return to school after a lovely Thanksgiving break. As I crammed my no-bigger-than-3oz-of-liquid-abiding belongings into a tiny carry-on suitcase, I jealously watched her fill her car with Costco-sized bags of lentils, giant bottles of honey, containers of cranberry sauce, and a big mug of coffee. But although the constraints of air travel prevented me from toting all the contents our leftover-laden fridge back to Chicago, I did manage to bring a sizable stash of the most important Thanksgiving remnant with me: the turkey.

In our family we do turkey two ways: smoked and fried. My dad has worked on perfecting his techniques for over a decade, and now seemingly effortlessly produces juicy, perfectly seasoned birds that our family devours. The smoked turkey has an apple cider, ginger, and orange brine that my mom brews days in advance. The fried turkey is injected and bathed in mojo, an homage to our Cuban roots. I can never decide which I like more, and luckily I don’t have to.
My dad packed me a bag each of smoked and fried turkey minutes before departing for the airport. I diligently quadruple bagged them in heavy duty ziplocs, fearing that I would permeate the plane with eau de smoked turkey. I didn’t plan to dig into my stash mid-flight, but hunger struck one hour in, and that turkey delectably perched in my backpack pocket was all I could think about. Apologies to the men sitting next to me, but a hungry, turkey-toting girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do… which is awkwardly pull shards of turkey meat out from under my seat and consume it as unassumingly as possible.
Just a few pieces satisfied my airplane craving, which meant that I was still left with a substantial amount of turkey to last me throughout the week. I wanted to turn it into something more than plain meat, and with the wintry weather finally taking its hold here, soup seemed like the perfect route to take. I gathered inspiration from some of my favorite soups—my mom’s chicken soup, mushroom barley soup, and quinoa soup that I ate many bowls of in Peru—to make a turkey, mushroom, and quinoa soup, which made plenty of leftovers that I froze to get me through the thick of finals and the time when I’ll return home once again.
Turkey, Mushroom, and Quinoa Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced into large pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 lb white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme, chopped
3/4 cup white wine
2-3 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped
32 oz. chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup dry quinoa
1 bunch turnip greens (or other leafy green)
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook about 3 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips and cook for another 5 minutes, until they brown a bit. Add mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Season with a bit of salt and pepper (be careful not to over salt, as leftover turkey and chicken stock will also have salt). Add white wine and allow to cook down for about 3-4 minutes. Add chicken broth and turkey meat. Bring soup to a boil, covered. Allow soup to boil for 10-15 minutes, until carrots and parsnips are soft but still tender. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Cover and bring to a boil again. Cook for another 10-12 minutes. Add turnip greens and cover again. Boil soup for another 3-5 minutes, until greens wilt and quinoa is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

chili weather

It happened.
Today the temperatures hit the low 40s. I walked in the dreary rain to buy a hot coffee to keep me going through an afternoon of midterm reviews, puzzled by the fact that just yesterday I was basking in the sunshine. The Miami girl in me dreads the transition into the chilly depths of fall. These first forays into the 40s are just the beginning of months of wearing layers upon layers of clothing and watching hard-earned summer tan lines fade into a monochromatic abyss. But the newfound Midwesterner in me has come to appreciate the coziness that accompanies the change in weather. Nights like tonight, where a weekend of studying looms ahead and the cold wind blows me straight into my apartment and a pair of sweatpants, invite the creation of a comforting meal.
Kate and I came together this evening to concoct this hearty, spicy vegetarian chili. We used three types of beans: garbanzos, black beans, and lentils, the latter which help impart a more ground beef-like texture without using meat or any meat substitute. Making this chili was all about eye-balling ingredients, so the measurements written below are a bit rough, but in our opinion, making a big pot of soup is all about adding dashes of this and that until your tastebuds are satisfied.
Served with homemade cornbread that Kate whipped up and a healthy dose of drugs (pharmacology studies, that is), this chili helped combat the inevitable chill that is taking over the city.
Three Bean Vegetarian Chili
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
4 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp oregano
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 can garbanzos, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup dry lentils
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup frozen corn
In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion for about 5 minutes, until beginning to become translucent. Add garlic and carrot and saute another 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and jalapeno and saute another 3 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and tomato paste and allow to cook for about 1 minute. Deglaze the pot with red wine. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and beans. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent contents from sticking to the bottom of the pan. At this point, sample the chili and add salt, sugar, frozen corn, and any more spices to suit your taste. If the chili has absorbed a lot of liquid, add water in 1-2 cup increments. Allow chili to cook for another 25-30 minutes, stirring often, until lentils are tender.
Serve with a generous hunk of cornbread and toppings of your choice. Our recommendations: cheddar, diced avocado, cilantro, and lime.

enjoying the (sea)fruits of my dad’s labor

(A note from Kate): Joanna is still off on her South American adventures, but here’s a post from her archives in the mean time. Bon appetit!

The other night my dad revealed a prized possession that had been hiding in our freezer: a bag containing two Florida lobster tails. He caught these himself about a month ago during “mini lobster season,” a coveted two-day period in July where lobster-loving Floridians are permitted to catch and keep up to six lobsters a piece (official lobster season is from August to March; at other times of the year it is illegal to catch any Florida lobster). Although most of my dad’s bounty had been consumed immediately, these two tails remained, poised to be the start of a gourmet dish.

We consulted a Miami-inspired cookbook and a recipe for lobster gazpacho jumped out at us. The recipe was beautifully simple: lobster tails cooked unadorned and a soup that blended together a few basic ingredients. This no-frills preparation exquisitely showcased the natural sweetness of the lobster meat and the vibrant freshness of the vegetables. To add a special touch, my dad went all out with toppings of golden tomatoes, red onions, scallions, and baby lettuce, the latter two which grew himself in box gardens in our backyard. From catching the lobster to growing the garnishes, this gazpacho was a true labor of love from my dad, and one that I savored with the utmost appreciation.
Gazpacho with Grilled Lobster Tails (adapted from The Food of Miami)
Serves 6

2 large tomatoes, chopped with core and seeds removed

2 cucumbers, chopped with seeds removed
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 tbsp sherry wine vinegar (or combo of sherry wine and red or white vinegar)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lobster tails
Combine first seven ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. To cook lobster tails, heat grill to medium-high and grill in shell for about 7 minutes, turning once. Remove from shell and cut into chunks. Divide soup and lobster meat evenly among 6 bowls. Garnish with tomatoes, red onion, and any other preferred accompaniments.

summer soup and other contradictions

I’ve never been much of a soup girl. I can find a role for potato soup as sick food or tomato soup as a condiment for grilled cheese, but soup is no star of my culinary show. Leave it to me, then, to get a craving for a food that I am categorically indifferent towards, and during the least soup-appropriate month of the year.

If there’s such thing as a seasonal hot soup for August, though, this is it. It manages to be (a) fresh (b) hearty and (c) a soup I actually like, which is a totally novel combination, as far as I know. I had to resist the urge to add garlic or spices or protein of some sort to this recipe, but in the end I was glad that I left it alone.  The simplicity is the charm, in this case, and the pistou lends enough interest to keep you from being bored.

I recommend this recipe highly for all you butternut squash soup lovers out there! There’s just enough of the nutty, butter, onion and squash flavor without the autumn heaviness that winter squash would bring to the dish.

If you’re still holding on to the end of summer too tightly to even consider dusting off the soup pot, the pistou is worth making on its own. The leftovers were perfect on top of scrambled eggs the next day for breakfast.

Summer squash soup with mint-parsley pistou

For the soup
1/2 stick (4 T) butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 lb yellow summer squash, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium sized potato, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock

For the pistou
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c chopped green onions
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus black pepper, to taste.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the salt and cook until soft and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add squash, stock, carrots, and potatoes, and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender or food processor.

While the vegetables simmer, make the pistou. Pulse mint, parsley, and green onion in a food processor or chopper until finely chopped. Add oil a little at a time, then water and salt, blending until incorporated.

Serve each bowl with a tablespoon of pistou and a piece of crusty bread or toast.