(Soup by candlelight)
When you get a bit older it gets harder and harder to get together regularly with your friends.
You work really hard during the week, scrape together something for dinner or succumb to the lure of takeout, collapse after a glass of wine, and somehow get all the chores, housekeeping, shopping and laundry done over the weekend in time for Monday, or not! Somewhere in there you fit in hobbies, the children’s events, family time and hopefully there is a smidgen of time left to visit with friends. Or perhaps nap!
My pal A___ and I had the luxury of spending a lot of time together when I was “between engagements” and we found it rather sad that after I found a day job plus an occasional weekend gig that between my now-busy schedule and her insane work/boyfriend/teenager/church schedule we were not seeing too much of each other any more. Well, this was not acceptable so we began trying to set aside one night a week that has become our Girl’s Night In. Somehow, miraculously, it turns out Wednesdays are relatively free for both of us and we generally hang out at the Roost where all we have to contend with is a moderately demanding cat and a seemingly endless supply of wine.
Coincidentally Wednesdays are the day of my bi-monthly produce delivery from Farm Fresh to You. This gives us the perfect excuse to cook a healthy meal using that day’s bounty, which will hopefully offset the weekly wine and bacon consumption, and give me an opportunity to experiment a little with recipes and get some honest feedback.
This week’s produce delivery coincided with my wine club delivery from Casa Rodeña from New Mexico, so I really needed a Sherpa to help me home. Feeling like my arms had been slightly overstretched I slogged home on MUNI and dumped everything on the kitchen table and chatted with A___ on the phone while I began dinner preparations.
Naturally, in my usual post-work daze yesterday while shopping, I forgot several key ingredients necessary to test drive a new soup recipe, so A__ stopped by a store on her third trip across town. Somehow seven miles can feel like a hundred if you transverse it often enough.
The object of our desire was an inventive soup recipe posted by Heidi of 101 Cookbooks blog, and shared with me on Twitter via the fantastic Carina Ost. The soup is a mélange of red lentils and yellow split peas, curry and coconut, tons of herbs and the kicker, yellow raisins plumped in curry broth.
I clattered about with pots and pans, knives and cutting boards and juggled the phone and quickly threw together the soup base. Using legumes and lentils take a bit of time together to simmer gently so I used that time to tidy the kitchen and stow the weekly abundance of veggies. We are still getting summer vegetables and fruits, this transitional time of year is my favorite as we have the best of both worlds.
Despite a rash of days with hot weather, on this night the fog crept in on massive elephant feet, the Roost was cozy with the radiator steaming away in the corner and the kitchen redolent with the scent of toasted cumin and a whiff of coconut.
Eventually A___ arrived bearing bags of cilantro, fresh ginger, Semifreddi’s sourdough and more wine, and in moments our soup supper was almost done.
We had some moody Indy rock on the iPod and sipped the last of a bottle of really excellent wine from Napa, an ’04 Cabernet Sauvignon from Atlas Peak, before opening a bottle of a Sangiovese meritage from New Mexico. Wednesday is Wine Wednesday and it was nice to toast each other with something exceptional, although our usual plonk from Folie á Deux is quite satisfying too.
I heaped bowls with spoonfuls of chewy warm farro and ladled over the creamy rich pale golden soup and then piled handfuls of chopped cilantro and green onion shards over the top.
Pogo lolled on the floor under the Japanese slat bench, peering up hopefully with an occasional white paw appearing between the slats, while we slurped our soup and used slabs of sourdough spread thickly with Irish butter to sop up the streaks of soup left behind.
After dinner, I pulled out a pretty plate with rose filled chocolates and a few liquor chocolates left over from my last Giants game (Go Giants!!), we finished the last of the wine and had our fill of discussing men, work and everything under the sun. We desultorily played with my works-in-progress on the yarn front. The hour grew late and our feet started getting hot, the indicator that bedtime was rapidly approaching.
Another lovely Girl’s Night In was complete, and after hugs goodnight I put the soup away and tumbled onto the bed fully dressed and was out like a light within seconds.
There is no better night than time spent with your best pal, good wine and a great bowl of soup.
Heidi’s Neighbor’s Coconut Red Lentil Soup (with HAL modifications)
1 c yellow split peas
1 c red split lentils (I found both at Whole Foods in the bulk section)
6 c H2O
A small bunch of carrots, diced
A 2″ piece of ginger, peeled & chopped
1 tsp powdered ginger
2 T curry powder, toasted*
2 T butter
A bunch of green onions, sliced
1/3 c golden raisins
1 14 oz jar of whole plum tomatoes, torn into shreds with your hands
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
Salt to taste
one bunch of cilantro, chopped
Put the dried beans and peas in a mesh colander and rinse well, then dump in a large pot. Add the water, the carrots, tomatoes and the powdered ginger and simmer for 30 minutes.
Toast the curry* in a small skillet for a few minutes then pour off to a plate to let cool. In the coolish pan add the butter and sauté most of the green onions (keeping several handfuls of the green tops for the garnish) and the fresh ginger until everything is soft. Add this to the soup pot after the 30 minutes, along with the curry, the raisins and the coconut milk. Add some salt and simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt again and add the pepper.
Serve over farro and add the cilantro and green onion tops.
Eat slowly with a good friend.
A confession, I used powdered ginger at first because I was out of fresh, until my friend came over with her rescue bag of groceries. I think it is good addition though, it added a warmth and depth that I really enjoyed. I also prefer thinner soups and added more coconut milk that the original recipe called for. However, as the soup stands, or after being chilled down in the fridge, it will thicken up to a stew consistency because of the legumes.
Original recipe is here
A big thank you to Carina and Heidi!