Tag Archives: Soup

Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Leeks

I wanted to share an article I wrote for a friend’s site a few years ago about this time of year, it is one of my favorite recipes still.

As winter recedes and Spring takes her dainty steps forward we yearn for Spring flavors but are limited to winter produce. Sometimes, the best solution is to simplify and intensify the brightness of our chilly weather vegetables. In this mood, I focused on the bright green sprightlyness of the humble leek.

I found an enormous specimen at the market; heavy, fatter than the circumference of my wrist, squeaky fresh and deeply oniony. I sliced it thinly and washed it well in icy water, separating the slices into lacy rings. Some I scattered on a small baking tray, drizzled with fruity olive oil and Maldon salt, to be roasted until crispy in a slow oven.

Mondo Gordo leek

In my favorite soup pot I melted a knob of butter and tossed in the remaining mound of leeks and a sprinkling of salt. They caramelized slowly and filled my little kitchen with the sweet onion aroma unique to the leek. A fat russet potato was peeled and diced and added to the pot along with a few pints of cold filtered water. An aromatic local Bay Laurel leaf was tossed in, bounty from a recent hike, the tinyiest dash of earthy cumin and a grating of a fresh nutmeg from a friend’s vacation in Jamaica.

By the time the soup had finished simmering, until the potato was tender and the leeks succulent, the leek rings had finished baking and were lightly golden and crispy.

Baking leek rings

A few quick bursts of the immersion blender in my soup pot and my dinner was ready.

I plopped into the bowl of creamy, soft green soup a dollop of tangy sour cream, a few fat curls of sheep’s milk Pecorino and a tangle of crispy leeks. Each spoonful of this humble potage yielded a different mouthful of the essence of leek and a promise of spring.

Creamy Leek Potato Soup with Crispy Leek Rings

The creaminess of the soup comes from the potato and the addition of
sour cream at plating. This recipe is also wonderful without the dairy for a vegan entree or starter. Also, best of all, this recipe is gluten free!

1 large or 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced, including the tender green section, 3 cups
2 T olive oil, divided
1 T unsalted butter
1 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
A few grinds black pepper
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced, 2 cups
1/2 bay leaf or one small leaf
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
4 cups water
Sour cream
Sheep’s milk Pecorino, shaved into curls using a sharp vegetable peeler

The Soup
In a soup pot melt the butter with the rmaining 1 T olive oil and
saute the remaining leeks on medium heat until tender. Add potato,
water, salt and pepper, nutmeg and the bay leaf. Simmer until potato
is very tender, 20 – 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Purée until creamy
but the soup still retains some texture.

Crispy Leek Rings*
Preheat the oven to 250 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Wash the leeks well in cold water in a large bowl and separate them into rings. Repeat until no dirt remains in the bowl and spin them dry in your salad spinner. Sprinkle enough leeks onto the tray to cover it, and drizzle with 1 T olive oil and sea salt. Bake for 30 -60 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

(* Thank you to Molly Katzen for sharing her original recipe, Leek Chips when we were chatting on Twitter one night.)

To Serve
In each bowl, add a fat tablespoon of sour cream, a few pieces of the
Pecorino and a good heap of crispy leek rings.

Serves 4 with some squabbling over the remaining crispy leeks

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Infusion Class at The Fifth Floor

Out of the wealth of fantastic restaurants in San Francisco I have a few favorites and the Fifth Floor is ranked highly among them.

Their burger – bourbon – beer special is a frequent indulgence and Chef David Bazirgan’s treatment of foie gras is incomparable. Foie mousse stuffed buratta – foie-ratta! It is the most luscious thing ever on a plate.

When I heard through friends that Chef Bazirgan was going to teach an infusion class I had to go, no matter what.

I hailed a cab and hobbled over to the Fifth Floor, which is located in the Hotel Palomar, and entered the lounge during the daylight hours. It was a very weird feeling to see the place with so much light and empty except for our exclusive group.

What a delightful afternoon this turned out to be and I expected no less.  Most of the other attendees are friends from Twitter and from various food and cocktail events around town. I love how Twitter and Facebook has brought so many of us together, where before in a large city we may have otherwise not met.  My network expands all of the time – it is rather like witnessing the Big Bang theory in action.

Chef David and his bar manager, Brian Means, greeted us with a glass of sparkling wine and ushered us into the dining room where a demonstration table was set up with rows of comfy chairs.

Brian started things off with a tangy aged Pink Elephant, a cocktail of Beefeater gin, lemon, Small Hands pineapple gum, Rosato vermouth, orange bitters and smoked Absinthe.  This concoction was aged for two weeks to mellow the flavors. The Absinthe was smoked using a smoker gun.

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A few of these and you will see pink elephants.

Chef David showed us the smoker gun for a treatment of egg yolks. He forages for Douglas fir needles and other necessary herbs in his kitchen from their rooftop garden, various areas in San Francisco including the Presidio and the San Bruno mountains.

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Chef David firing the smoking gun assisted by Amy

Chef loaded the smoker gun with the Douglas fir and inserted the output nozzle into a hotel pan filled with fresh, raw egg yolks and sealed the pan with plastic wrap. The container fills with a thick fog of smoke and the egg yolks are infused with the aromatic scent for 30 minutes. Then the yolks are delicately transferred to a plastic bag filled with a dab of olive oil and sea salt and cooked in a sous vide (temperature controlled immersion bath) at 165 F for 45 minutes.  The softly cooked egg yolks are whisked to a creamy consistency with a bit of neutral oil and used on a beautiful shaved asparagus salad, which is on the regular tasting menu, or, for today, as a dollop on top of a tiny crostini with a quenelle of beef tartare.

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beef tartare crostini with Douglas fir smoked egg

Although I was not able to indulge in this little bite my friends assured me it was fantastic, with the smoke displaying as a subtle enhancement to the creamy egg.

The absinthe for the cocktail was infused with smoke in much the same way, although we were not privy to the organic material used to create the smoke.  Chef recommended purchasing a smoking gun at Polyscience, where they can be had for under $100 or locally at TriMark Economy Restaurant Fixtures on 7th Street.

Our next demonstration was something that many of us love but perhaps don’t think of as an infusion – miso soup.   The base for a miso soup is dashi, which is an infusion of konbu (seaweed) and bonita (tuna flakes).  Chef purchases his ingredients at the same shop I do in Japantown and he uses the best konbu and bonita he can find.  Because the packaging for these products are in kanji therefore naturally we have no idea which products Chef purchased, but I always follow the lead of older Japanese ladies when I shop for my dashi ingredients.

Chef noted that dashi is an essential, simple and yet subtle infusion, and his recipe (end of post) is a classic preparation.  He soaks the konbu  in fresh water for 30 minutes, then gently simmers this for 10 minutes.  Then, he removes the konbu and lets the infusion reduce for about 5 minutes over high heat.  The shaved bonita flakes are added to the hot infusion and allowed to steep for 10 minutes and then it is strained.

In a small bowl he mixes together the miso paste, using  3:1 red to yellow miso and then a ladleful of the hot dashi is whisked in, and the loosened paste is added to the rest of the dashi.  At this point your miso soup is ready to serve, and it is a question of what kind of garnish you would like to use.  This being the Fifth Floor the garniture was exquisite. Chef prepared pickled shitake shreds, cubed tofu, foraged seaweeds, onion blossom buds from the roof garden and daikon micro greens.

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fancy garniture for miso soup, Fifth Floor style

Chef David ladled the miso into teapots for ease of serving to the class, but it is also a clever way to serve to your own guests, as the teapot keeps the soup very warm and it has great panache.

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an elegant way to serve a simple soup

The chattering in the room ceased except for appreciative murmurs from everyone. Amy and Brian lined up for a cupful and Chef took a moment to enjoy some too, having had a really busy week between the usual filled nights at the restaurant, the Share Our Strength event Thursday and the foie gras dinner at Alexander’s the night before. We agreed that miso was our go-to soup when feeling draggy or under the weather. To me, it is far more satisfying than even chicken matzo.

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beautiful miso soup – warm, comforting and restorative

As the food section of the infusion class drew to a close, Chef David passed around a pot of eucalyptus infused oil that he made by crushing branches of young eucalyptus from the Presidio and allowing it to steep with a neutral oil, such as canola. He uses this light and floral oil as a finish to some of his dishes. I was surprised that it did not have any tinge of menthol, just a very pleasant herbiness with a familiarity that comes from growing up driving through the Presidio.  He also discussed the common and classic of infused vinegars but did not want to demonstrate them because, knowing we are “foodies” he felt this particular demonstration would be superfluous.

Since the class was so informal it was such a treat to have the opportunity to chat food with a chef of this caliber. He made a delicious razor clam ceviche for the Share our Strength event and an attendee inquired about his source for clams, which turned out to be very close to her hometown on the east coast. Another person asked about his contribution to the foie gras dinner the night before so Chef David pulled out his iPad and showed off his photo gallery, which is also available to view on Instagram.  He and his wife are also expecting his first baby quite soon.  Mazeltov!

With a fresh pour of sparkling wine in our glasses, and for me a little help from Amy with my purse, we transitioned over to the lounge to discuss infused spirits and tinctures with the Bar Manager Brian Means.

Brian had a large trolley filled with interesting dropper bottles of various mysterious ingredients, little containers of spices and herbs and a huge glass barrel of lemoncello.

Brian started off by discussing the commonly known infusions in the world of finely crafted cocktails, namely vermouth, bitters and infused vodkas.

He demonstrated a unique use for vermouth, namely Aperol, an Italian aperitif similar to Campari.  He brought around a tray filled with Asian soup spoons, and nestled into each spoon was a egg yolk shaped sphere of a pale jade hue with bright red bits of what looked like tobiko scattered over the top. This was fact an Aviation cocktail formed into a sphere with crunchy bits of dehydrated Aperol.

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The Aviation is a well-known cocktail in San Francisco (and elsewhere) comprising gin, maraschino liqueur and usually egg whites, but this time the liqueurs were mixed with sodium alginate, a form of powdered seaweed, and formed into a sphere using a calcium lactate solution which creates the skin of the sphere. Fun stuff indeed! The Aviation ball popped in the mouth and then the bitter and crunchy bits of the dehydrated Aperol provided the final KaPow of sensation.

Next dessert wine glasses filled with a golden liquid were delivered to our waiting hands.  The fragrant scent of lemons filled our heads as we sipped Brian’s housemade lemoncello (recipe below) made from Greek lemons.

This was heady stuff and after all that we had imbibed so far most everyone was sipping this slowly.  Brian makes an infusion of peeled Greek lemons with Everclear, a very high-alcohol spirit (known as moonshine back in my youth but now available commercially).  The peels sit on the alcohol for several weeks then are strained and diluted with sugar syrup.

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Lemonhead time – lemoncello, a classic liqueur originally from Sicily 

The color is achieved purely by the duration of the peels infusing with the alcohol. Meyer lemons are also wonderful for this concoction or any citrus fruit peel can be used for a different effect. I immediately thought of kumquats and plan to make up a batch once I see them in the market again.

Vermouths are infusions of herbs and spices that are blended into red or white wine, sweetened or not.  A common herb in vermouth is gentian, which I had always associated with the color violet (look at your crayon box!) but is a traditional herb used as a tonic.

Another common infusion is bitters, which are technically tinctures. In older times before advanced medicines, the local quack or healer would make tinctures of healing herbs and spices to treat ailments.  Today, they are a base for many cocktails and are a very potent infusion of herbs and spices and alcohol.  Brian passed around his collection of housemade tinctures:  black pepper, habanero, espresso, cinnamon, lemon, vanilla (same as a vanilla extract), black walnut, cherry, and my personal favorite, candy cap mushroom.   The base for tinctures does not have to be Everclear, bourbon and rum are often more suitable for a base depending upon the ingredient to be infused. Brian’s favorite tincture is a citrus bitter (recipe below).

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I could not get enough of this tincture, candy cap mushrooms in a bourbon base

The final infusion Brian discussed is a newcomer to most of the cocktail crowd, fat washing. I have had a lot of experience with this when I created bacon bourbon and bacon vodka several years ago. Bacon fat is added to the alcohol base and left to infuse for a few days. The mixture is then frozen to allow the fat to be removed easily, and after straining a few times through cheesecloth the mixture is ready to use.    My fat washed bourbon made the best bacontini.

Brian, of course, takes fat washing to another level by making infusions of roasted pecans with butter infused into bourbon, or coffee beans and cacao nibs with Everclear.  I really want to try making butter pecan bourbon once I figure out this allergy-intolerance business.

Brian recommended a wonderful book, which I have in my collection, the Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. I think it is an essential to any cook or food and cocktail enthusiast. He sources his amazing collection of herbs and spices from Scarlet Sage Herb Company in SF, or the Rainbow Market. There is a shop in Berkeley as well but as I am rarely there I didn’t jot down the name, my apologies.

Brian was so kind to gift us all with a bottle of his habanero bitters. I am compiling food and drink ideas to use with this vial of liquid volcano with a fruity edge.

We lingered for a while over the last of our lemoncello and wandered out into the bright blinking daylight for a cocktail and snack at Jasper’s to decompress and have more conversations about the wonderful world of infusions.

I hope you enjoy Chef David and Brian’s recipes, I am going to make the bitters after my next grocery store run. The Fifth Floor will be hosting another infusion class in either April or May and I highly recommend you snap up a ticket once they announce the dates.

RECIPES:

Chef David Bazirgan’s Fifth Floor Miso Soup (includes Dashi)

Brian Means’ Fifth Floor Lemoncello

Brian Means’ Fifth Floor Citrus Bitters

Fall Produce Explosion

My CSA delivery today was an explosion of all the bounty that is Fall…

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  • A Sugar Pie pumpkin
  • Curly kale
  • Ruby red beets with greens
  • Nantes carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Garnet sweet potatoes
  • Yellow onions
  • Fennel
  • Red radishes

My brain is swirling with ideas for this produce. There is so much of it that I have to take it home in two batches!

For the Sugar Pie pumpkin, it will grace the counter in my day job’s reception area until after Halloween next to the cauldron of Sees Candy halloween treats. We do Halloween right at the office!

But after Halloween I think I will make my favorite chicken pumpkin soup with Marsala. The broccoli is dinner tonight with cauliflower left over from last week; a quick stir-fry with some hosin sauce should do the trick.

The kale and beet greens sauteed together with garlic and ginger will make a nice side dish to a roast chicken. The carcass of the chicken and the leftover meat will become the soup.

I am also in the mood for a Thai curry so perhaps some of the pumpkin will be used for that, thinly sliced with the rind on.  Many salads will be created given the size of this head of lettuce and I have some lovely Italian tuna packed in olive oil and the fennel for one night.  Carrots will  be put into everything.  There are never enough carrots.

But now I’m running out of ideas…

What on earth am I going to do with two large bunches of radishes?   Help me please!

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Ramen Rocks

Ever since Top Ramen hit the shelves it has been my favorite snack, but it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco that I discovered the deliciousness that is true ramen. I consumed many a vast bowl of ramen in J-town since then, and still do have a packet or ten in the pantry. If I can’t decide what I want for lunch or dinner I turn to ramen. My favorite food movie of all time remains Tampopo. It’s no wonder that I turn again and again to a deep bowl filled with golden noodles, miso or soy based broth, a billion topping options and dashes of togarashi.

Earlier this year I decided to embark on a quest to eat the best ramen in the City and nearby environs. Since my shoulder injury cooking for myself hasn’t been happening but I learned I can still eat ramen, even using chopsticks in my left hand. Yay, ambidexterity!

Thus begins my journey of bliss in a bowl, a journey of many spoons, chopsticks and soup splatters across my clothes, a journey into the center of satisfaction.

First off, I frequent Hapa Ramen at lunchtime at the Ferry Building Thursday food carts. I go there almost every week since they started. The City has been abuzz about this stall since its opening last year and brave long lines and uncertain weather to eat this ramen. My favorite is the Big Daddy Ramen which once consumed causes me to positively slosh back to the office where I long to sling a hammock in the server room and nap the afternoon away.

The Big Daddy features a rich porky broth loaded with seasonal vegetables, pork belly, nuggets of crispy karaage – Japanese fried chicken – seaweed, nori and a slow cooked soft egg. Here, look and it’s better in person.

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Their own kimchee and pickled veggie garnish is so popular they have now wised up and are charging for it. I am not a kimchee sort of gal but theirs is brilliant as a topping or nibble post-ramen. They also make little fried tidbits on occasion such as this pork-shrimp-radish cake.

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The rich broth at Hapa is the thing and I would like to bob in their propane-heated giant pots like they were hot tubs and bring a spoon. Mmm, long pig (just kidding). These folks are *dedicated*, they’re more like acolytes than cooks. I also follow Ritchie on Twitter, he’s just generally amazing.

Onwards on my quest, I headed south in the dead of winter like a magpie after tinsel or in my case I was after yarn at Stitches West, which I visit every year with my pal E__.

It was a cruddy rainy day and we had to park what seemed miles away from the convention center. We did not bring umbrellas. After gorging our totebags with yarn we slogged the long trip back to the car and shivered in our sodden clothes for the long drive back home. E__ suggested stopping for ramen, and we were rejuvenated instantly at the prospect.

Sadly though, our hopes were dashed when Ramen Dojo in San Mateo was inexplicably closed. Disaster!

Fortunately the miracle of the iPhone saved us and we saw on the map that there was another place 5 minutes away in Burlingame.

Behold the unexpected joy of Ramen Club. Apparently this place has almost a cult status and we lucked into it. Luck or destiny?? My pal Jeters told me that she dines there frequently.

We sat at the counter, warmed our hands around mugs of steaming tea and ordered the seasonal special.

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How could we say no to bacon ramen? And corn. And butter? It had to be wrong but sure enough each huge bowl was topped with pats of salted butter. I learned later this is common in the Sapporo region.

The chef stir-fried the vegetables first in a huge wok, then added the miso broth, divided it between our two bowls and topped them with all the good stuff including extra roasted pork and eggs. ZOMG. This was best ever.

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I am still thinking of those noodles, hand pulled no less, the bacon, the pork, and the sweet corn, all coated with butter.

Recently E__ sang at a concert in Palo Alto. Her chorale group is incredible – Masterworks Chorale, you must hear them soon and often – lately I couldn’t swing the ticket cost but instead I was allowed to usher the event, bad wing and all.

After the concert, souls filled with beautiful music but achingly empty in our bellies we headed once again to San Mateo see if Ramen Dojo was open. Huzzah, it was, and it was a good night for ramen judging by the masses of people milling outside the tiny restaurant storefront.

This place seats 24 only and there were *so* many people ahead of us. We persevered, catching a whiff of their famous spicy garlic pork broth that poofed out the front door when it opened briefly to disgorge happy diners or receive hungry new patrons.

It was freezing cold outside, our exhalations enveloping us like SF fog. We stamped our feet and our order size kept increasing each minute we waited. After seventy minutes we were still determined. And ravenous. They ran out of slow cooked eggs but we didn’t care. Finally it was our turn!

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As we were seated we heard the hostess say they were almost out of noodles. Thankfully there was emough for us. We ordered spicy garlic ramen with extra everything: pork, roasted seaweed, corn, quail eggs, it already comes with bamboo, whole roasted garlic cloves and red peppers. We ordered karaage and octopus filled wheat balls too.

Everything arrived quickly. The spicy garlic pork broth was incredible. If the line wasn’t so long I would get on the train and head down there several times a week after work. We got there at 6:3 pm and they’re only open 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm so I think it’s safe to conclude you need to be there as close to their opening to ensure a bowl is yours.

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20110402-114100.jpg(karaage wings!!)

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We ate it all. I mean that. For the first time in my life I ate an entire bowl of ramen. Behold, the bottom of the bowl. I may never see it again.

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I don’t remember the drive home. My feet were hot and so was the tip of my nose. I could have repelled a horde of vampires with my garlicy countenance. It was divine.

And this is just the beginning. I have many more places on my list to visit and would love to know your favorites.

The Details:

Hapa Ramen

Ramen Club

Ramen Dojo
805 South B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401

Joy To The World, And A Great Bowl of Soup

I was happily ensconced with my family over the holidays and we celebrated a wonderful Christmas with way too much food and dare I say too much football?

To help offset the three pounds of butter we used for our dinners, a new historical *low* I might add, I made a healthy lunch of butternut squash soup for Christmas eve.

We have been visiting the local grocery store up here in the country daily, and on Christmas eve, two times. The store was established in 1852 as a stagecoach stop and owned by the family continuously. They have the nicest staff. Since my stepdad shops every day he, and by extension, we are well known. It is expected that you chat with the grocer, the butcher and everyone else. It is the country after all! I was joking with the clerk about the massive butternut squashes they have in the product department, they easily weigh 7 pounds.

“My stepdad called it Junior.” I laughed as I cradled it in my arms, “Junior is going in the soup pot today!”

The clerk told me she had always wanted to cook one but was afraid of trying. I told her how easy it was and that I would write about it for her. So, Carol, this is for you!

I make this soup a lot during squash season and never thought it worth writing about until talking with Carol. I can now see by looking at this giant squash how intimidating it could be to someone. But in reality, once you get the beast cut into half, it is no work at all. The soup is quite basic, albeit delicious, and can be quite versatile flavorwise by adding a few different spices or aromatics.

First off, tackling the large squash: give it a good wash and dry, then lay it down on the cutting board and with your biggest knife cut off the stem. Off with Junior’s head! Then, split it down the middle and use an ice cream scoop to eviscerate the seeds. The oven was already hot at 400 F and I had put some foil on a cookie sheet and spread some oil around. The squash halves got plunked onto the foil cut side down, and into the oven for 45 – 60 minutes.

Meanwhile I did my manicure and watched some (more) football with my stepdad.

An hour later, I took the tray out of the oven and stuck the squash with a fork. The tines slid right through with no resistance. The skin was browned a little here and there and was puckery in places. I returned to watch another quarter of the game while the squash cooled. Piece of cake!

At this juncture you can scrape out the squash into a bowl, add butter and salt and pepper and stir well with a fork and eat. Or, you can use the meat in a variety of other preparations, such as a casserole with pasta and breadcrumbs (and bacon), as a filling with ricotta for ravioli, in the dough for gnocci, or my embarrassingly simple soup. As you can see this squash preparation takes little skill or cooking talent, you just need a bit if courage to cut the huge thing open, then the rest is easy. You can use this method with any kind of squash, including pumpkin. I prefer cooking it cut side down as it ensures the meat stays tender and moist. If you want to have a glazed squash, you can turn it over after 30 minutes, add some butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper and bake for the remaining 15 minutes or so until it is tender.

But back to the soup, in a large pot I put a pat of butter, a chopped onion and some chopped fresh ginger and let that saute until the onion was tender, about 10 minutes. I used a big spoon and scooped the squash out of its skin and added it to the pot.

I went out the garden and cut a sprig of rosemary, and back in the kitchen tossed it in with a bay leaf and a sprinkle of sweet curry powder onto the squash. Everything was topped off with 8 cups of chicken stock, I gave it a vigorous stir and resumed keeping my stepdad company while knitting a sweater in the family room.

Thirty minutes later the soup looked like this:

I used the immersion blender to smooth it out, this time finally remembering to remove the bay leaf first, and lunch was ready. I dished it out into warm soup bowls and topped each one with a hefty dollop of sour cream as a sprinkle of chives. We were still eating the Funions so I added some along side the soup bowl as well.

We tucked into our hearty soup and listened to the rain ping on the roof. Chatting about this and that, mostly about that, we whiled away the afternoon decorating the house and the tree for Christmas, satiated with good company and good soup.

I hope you give take home a “Junior” of your own this winter for the soup pot.

(recipe here)

Wednesday is Girl’s Night

(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
Black pepper
one bunch of cilantro, chopped

cooked farro

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!

Feeling Leeky

I was delighted and honored to be asked by Stephanie of Wasabimon to write a guest post this week.

Please go visit and check it out!

>> Creamy Leek Potato Soup with Crispy Leeks <<

Posole, Chicos!

Last year or so when visiting Santa Fe, the other city that holds my heart, my dear pal L___ and I visited the farmer’s market. Coming from SF farmers markets are a favorite haunt, but here in SFe they are not common. In fact, this was the first one, ever. Can you imagine? They had a spanking brand new building just for the market, and a new outdoor concrete apron for more stalls, along side the historic tracks of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railway, now used by the Santa Fe Southern line.

(update: this was the first season of the farmer’s market in their new building. SFe is such a cool place, they have had farmers markets since the ’60s. Thanks, L___, for researching this for me!)

It was Fall and the few stalls there were bursting with the bounty of the season: apples, potatoes, and corn. One stall in particular was fascinating. A wizened Indian man and his wife were selling their produce. He pulled out his well-worn Buck knife and carved off succulent pieces of his apples, very imperfect apples but so juicy and sweet. They had been planted on his land a long time ago and were nearing their end. We got to chatting, it wasn’t very busy, and I picked up a bag of dried corn. I asked him, “What do you make with this?”, and he looked surprised. “They’re chicos!” he said, as if *everyone* knew this and that explained everything. I smiled and told him I was from SF and we had hominy there but not chicos. He didn’t know about hominy, but after I described it, he smiled and said, “Oh, posole…”.

(inside the farmer’s market)

I bought a bag of chicos, and a bunch of apples, and then he told me that the chicos were from corn he grew himself. I munched an apple and listened, enraptured. His farm used water diverted from a tributary of the Rio Grande, he was lucky, he had water most of the year. He planted corn, and when it was ripe he cut it and laid it out in the field to dry a bit. Then, he dug a large pit and filled it with piñon branches and set them alight.

Piñon is the best smelling wood on the planet and they regularly shed branches in the harsh winters so it seems that everyone has a bounteous supply without killing off the piñon “forests”. It also burns fast and hot, and makes gorgeous glowing embers.

The farmer then laid sheets of corregated metal over the coals. Then, a layer of burlap went on, and the corn ears on top. More burlap and the whole thing was covered up with earth, like a big corn luau.

The next day or so, when the coals had burned out, the now dried and smoked corn was unearthed. At his leisure, sitting in some shade over an oilcloth, he would rub the dried cobs against each other to release the kernels from the cob. The cobs were used for fuel and the chicos were ready to be stored. He said this is always how they dried the corn and I just wonder how many generations back this process had been repeated. I had a sudden image of a man like this kind soul, sitting in the shade of a hogan, singing and rubbing corn. New Mexico does things to you, everywhere you look you see the spirits from hundreds of years ago suddenly standing near you, or you sense them from a whiff of smoke from a long extinguished fire.

I also purchased dried beans, snake beans he called them, I’ve seen something similar here from Rancho Gordo called rattlesnake beans. The farmers wife rummaged around in a box under their folding table and pulled out a little slip of paper with her posole recipe and handed it to me with a smile. “It’s good,” she said, “just simple food.”

Later during my stay, L___ made me her posole, which was so delicious. We started dinner a bit late and watched silly movies and ate way too many blue corn tortillas with locally made chipotle salsa waiting for the soup to finish. Cooking at high elevations also requires longer cooking times so it must have been 10:00 pm before we had dinner, but what a dinner it was and it was fantastic to slurp such good soup made by a friend.

Alas, I had to head home. Another souvenir I brought back was an ice cream pint container filled with mild fire-roasted Hatch green chile. I froze it before heading home and triple-wrapped it in plastic and nestled everything in my suitcase. Despite a five hour delay on the way home the chiles were still mostly frozen and had not leaked! I have been rationing them like gold and had just a half-cup left.

So, yesterday, while rummaging through my pantry I found the chicos and beans and realized I really needed some posole, despite the warming weather. It never really gets all that warm here anyway, with a few rare handful of days, and I enjoy soups and stews any time, even for breakfast!

Before I went to bed I set the beans and chicos to soak. This morning I drained and rinsed them and popped them into my crockpot. I had also thawed the chiles and two humongous Dakota smoked sausages from Lockeford. Sadly, there was no pork in the freezer but I had chicken breasts.

I wasn’t exactly following the farmer’s wife’s recipe with the sausage and chicken, and I add a bunch more things to jazz up the posole, so I hope she (and you) forgive me for the embellishments.

A strong Spanish onion was halved and sliced, a few carrots and celery ribs were dispatched, and the chicken cubed up and added to the pot. The green chile and their gooey juice were poured in, half of one of the humongo sausages and a couple winter tomates were diced for general purposes. The seasonings went in next: garlic, oregano, salt, bay leaf, black pepper. Then 8 cups of chicken broth were poured over all, I put the lid on and remembered to turn the thing on (for a change!) and went for a walk in the balmy sunshine.

When I came home the posole was coming along but the beans weren’t tender yet so I endured the incredible scents wafting from the kitchen rather ill-humoredly until 7:30 pm when everything was finally ready.

Everything was meltingly tender, including the chicken, which was not dry, by the way. I ladeled up a bowl, added a handful of cilantro and a diced avocado and dug in. The chiles were just perfectly warm, like sunshine in your mouth. The chicos were chewy and slightly smokey with a distinct corniness. I love these beans too, they retained faint pink spots from their former ruby dappled marks and were so creamy. The broth was divine, the best part, rich and spicy without being hot with the fresh bite of the cilantro and a cool unctous bite of avocado.

I almost forgot the sounds of the traffic outside and the hissing of the radiator and thought I heard that vast silence of the high desert, silent except for the singsong of coyotes and the loud flapping of the ravens flying overhead. It was a bowl of home, or rather a home I long to have.

REC: Heather in SF/SFe Posole.

1/2 c chicos or posole or hominy
1/2 c dried beans (I used rattlesnake beans but pintos or white beans would be good instead)
2 T salt
12 cups of water

2 chicken breasts, cubed, and 8 oz smoked sausage (kilbasa), sliced
— or —
2 boneless pork chops, cubed
1 T olive oil
1 Spanish or red onion, halved, then sliced
3 carrots and 2 celery ribs, halved and sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 c Hatch mild green chile, or 1 small can mild Ortega chiles, or hotter chile – to your preference
1/2 tsp Mexican rubbed oregano
A few grinds of black pepper (I used ___ lavender pepper)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
8 c chicken broth

1 bunch of cilantro
2 avocados, halved, seeded, diced then scooped out of the shell with a spoon
1 lime, cut into sections

In a large bowl pour in the chicos, beans, salt and water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse.

In a small skillet sauté chicken breasts in the olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

In a crock pot, place soaked beans and corn, then meats, vegetables, herbs, spices and broth. Turn on high and cook 4 hours or until beans and corn are tender.

If you aren’t using a crock pot, then in a soup pot sauté the chicken as above and then remove. Add vegetables and sauté briefly with a bit of salt and pepper. Add herbs and spices, the meats, the beans and corn and broth. Cover and simmer for 60 – 90 minutes or until the beans and corn are tender.

Ladle the soup into each person’s bowl, top the soup with a handful of cilantro leaves and a mound of avocado. Add a squeeze of lime and serve.

Serves 6

If you want more of a stew, increase the beans and corn to 1 cup each. I’m more of a brothy girl myself.

Technically, posole is both a soup and the ingredient used in the stew, e.g., corn kernels soaked in lye and then dried. Hominy is a Mexican preparation and has a softer consistency. Posole corn can be hard to find outside of New Mexico and I have never seen chicos outside of the Santa Fe farmer’s market, so the dried hominy is a great substitute. But if you ever see posole or chicos for sale, snap them up!

(the piñon forest, do you see why I miss Santa Fe?)

A Beautiful Bowl of Soup

I will confess that I watch every cooking show out there. It was my Saturday morning habit since high school to watch our local PBS station for all the cooking shows. I absorbed all the advice, tips, methods and creativity like a dry sponge thrown in a bucket. Half the time I would fall asleep though, due to staying up till the wee hours celebrating the end of the work week, so you might say that some of that learning was through osmosis!

In the early years of cable the cooking shows were terrific, now not so much but I still leave it on, even if I’m not paying attention to it overmuch. This week, on a wild and stormy night, I was knitting away on a pair of socks and all of a sudden my attention was snapped to the tv like a cat spying a laser light flashed on a wall. Ina Garten was making chicken soup.

Chicken soup holds a spot of great affection in my heart, and I have tried more variations upon a theme than Mozart. Like Mozart there is no one good recipe for chicken soup, and, in my mind, there is always room for another recipe in my kitchen.

I liked the look of Ina’s chicken soup. It had fat little meatballs made of chicken, which appeals to me much more than a beef or a pork meatball. This soup also had fresh spinach, tiny soup pasta and carrots, and *dill*! How divine it looked! I really wanted a bowl right then and there.

The next day I was still thinking about it and the rain had calmed somewhat when someone twittered that they were actually making this very same soup! It seemed like the thing to do so I pulled chicken breasts and sausages out of my cleverly packed freezer, and headed to the store between rainstorms for spinach and herbs, and a few other necessities such as Cambozola and rose champagne. I also needed Pecorino and they had just cracked a huge wheel of it, so delicious.

A pile of Pecorini, destined for my soup

Back indoors in the nick of time, I started making my beautiful bowl of soup. This recipe is a whole lot easier if you purchase ground chicken, but I have an aversion to pre-ground meats. Do you really know what is in it, when it was ground and how well the grinder was cleaned? So given that and how easy it is to grind up a couple of chicken breasts myself, I popped on the grinder attachment on the Kitchen Aid and in less than 2 minutes the chicken was done. Then I cubed up a piece of good sourdough bread and tossed it into the grinder. This cleans out all the chicken from the grinder but also is a quick way to make fresh breadcrumbs.

In the minichop I minced up some garlic and handfuls of fresh parsley, added the cheeses and then popped the skins off of the sausages and mixed everything up.

meatball collage

These sausages are special, from the Lockeford Meat & Sausage Co. on the highway up to the Gold Country. For years I have wanted to stop there and it was all at once worth the wait and yet I am kicking myself for not stopping there earlier. They make about twenty varieties and the four kinds I brought home were not nearly enough. Although the soup recipe called for a half pound of chicken sausages, I had purchased exactly a half pound of fat little breakfast links from Lockeford so they were destined to be used in my preparation.

Lockeford collage
(the Lockeford Shop window, me and my haul of snausages, a painting of pigs above the shop counter – cute! If you go, check out the maple, the apple, the breakfast and the Dakota sausages, oh so good!)

I especially like that the meatballs are baked, so I formed them into little balls and baked them off, in two batches, and then started chopping the soup vegetables. Because I adore carrots I used a whole bunch, plus a fat Spanish onion and the last of the celery. I also had some green beans left from a giant packet from Costco so I added about 2 cups of them too. That’s the nice thing about soup, you can really add anything in the fridge to it and the additions only make it better.

veggie collage

The vegetables were sauteing in a nice glug of green olive oil and by that time the meatballs were finished roasting. I couldn’t resist and had to sample one. Well, three. Well, okay four but they were really delicious. They have a snappy bite with a good chicken flavor overlaid with a nice garlic and herb note, then the subtle earthiness of the cheese comes through.

Chicken meat balls 2

While the meatballs were cooling, and I was trying to resist temptation and avoid snacking on any more, I added a lot of chicken broth to the pot, although sadly not homemade, and a hefty glass of wine (some of the wine was for me too naturally).

New Message
(Michael and David Enigma, a Viogner, 2006. Note the sheen of condensation on the glass. My fridge is too cold, so if you pour a glass of wine and it looks like this, it’s too chilled to drink. I take my white wines out of the fridge to sit for 30 minutes before serving.)

The vegetables and broth simmered away together and I splashed about in the sink washing a wonderful bunch of Cal-Organic spinach. This was the perkiest, most gorgeous bunch of spinach ever, so delicious and tender.

Perky spinach

I had a smidgen of a packet of good soup pasta in the pantry, this is artisanal extruded pasta from Italy, fat miniature stars, and they look so adorable when cooked up and nestled in your soup spoon. I tossed them in the soup for 12 minutes. Next time, I will cook them separately to keep the soup more brothy.

Good soup pasta

The meatballs and a huge mound of freshly chopped dill went in the soup pot next, then a few grinds of fresh black pepper. A moment later all the spinach went in, swirled around with my wooden spoon, then it was time for dinner. Of course I burned my tongue a little because I couldn’t wait for the soup to cool for a moment before trying it. I sat curled up on a chair next to the radiator, listening to the rain patter on the windows behind me while I enjoyed my beautiful bowl of soup. What a perfect rainy evening!

Beautiful soup

Ina’s Italian Wedding Soup

Meatballs
2 chicken breasts, ground*
4 breakfast sausages, removed from their casings, or ½ # chicken sausages
1 fat slice of sourdough bread, ground or 2/3 c fresh white bread crumbs
1 clove of garlic, minced
A large handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
¼ c Pecorino Romano
¼ c Parmesan, plus extra
3 T milk (I forgot to put this in but it was fine)
1 egg, beaten a little
½ tsp. salt and 6 grinds of pepper
(olive oil)

Soup

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch of carrots, scrubbed well and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 c fresh green beans, chopped into ½” lengths
10 c chicken stock
A glass of dry white wine
1 c small pasta (cook separately in salted water if desired)
A large handful fresh dill, chopped
A large bunch of fresh spinach, well washed, stems removed, large leaves torn in half
Salt (if needed) and pepper

Mix the meatballs

Mix well with your hands all of the meatball ingredients, and then wash your hands. With damp hands, roll a tablespoon of meat mixture to form 1” – 1 ½” balls, place on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 30 minutes at 350˚ F or until they are cooked through and browned. Try not to eat too many.

*If you don’t have a meat grinder or a KitchenAid grinder attachment, you can grind the chicken breasts using a Cuisinart. Use the metal blade, cut the chicken into large chunks and pulse about six times or until the meat is ground nicely. You can also grind your own fresh breadcrumbs in the Cuisinart. Use the same method with a clean bowl and pulse until the bread is is small crumbs. If you don’t have any of this equipment, put it on your birthday/Christmas wish list and buy pre-ground chicken meat at a really good butcher.

Make the soup base

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the soup vegetables until tender, 10-15 minutes. Then add the stock and wine and simmer for 15 minutes. Then, add the pasta and cook until tender (unless you cooked it separately). Add the meatballs and dill, simmer a minute, then add the spinach. Stir in the spinach down into the broth and simmer until it is tender, another minute. Serve with extra Parmesan if you want. Excellent on a rainy night.

(here is a link to the original recipe)

I hope the next rainy night you try making this soup. Or on any night! I also think these meatballs would be a great appetizer for a potluck if they are served in some sort of sauce, I will work on that and let you know. I am not sure why this is called wedding soup. It has never been served at any of the zillion Italian weddings I have attended. If you know the origins behind the name, please do share.

In Search Of: The Yeti

No, not really the Yeti but the elusive perfect soup dumpling…

I can almost hear Leonard Nimoy’s voice in my ear narrating as I venture forth on my quest.

I heard tell that there was real hole in the wall in the inner Sunset that had good soup dumplings. When I heard I had a chance to lunch with a dear friend while her company was on haitus we quickly nailed down a date and rendevouzed at the metro stop at Market Street.

We hopped on the N Judah to the inner sunset and danced between raindrops to find the King of Noodles. In what must have been a converted garage space, this little restaurant is unassuming and yet immaculate with amazing scents wafting from the tiny kitchen.

We claimed the last table and examined the menu and the specials. We knew that soup dumplings were the main thing but there were so many other intriguing dishes listed, and *so cheap*!

First up, I wanted to try the pan fried soup dumplings, and the beef chow fun with XO sauce. E__ wanted garlic chive pancakes and shrimp and pork wonton soup. We both were excited about shrimp and garlic chive dumplings and very curious what salt and pepper tofu was but the potential quantity of food was getting a bit excessive, even at these prices.

After a bit of a wait we ordered and sadly they were out of pan fried soup dumplings. E___ pinch hit by ordering the salt and pepper tofu instead, and everything else we discussed getting, rationalizing that the leftovers would be great. They were, and the salt and pepper tofu turned out to be the surprise hit of the day.

Soft squares of tofu crisply fried and dusted with Sichuan peppercorns, salt and perhaps a little sugar, they were all at once crunchy, chewy, squishy, salty and spicy. Ever movie theater and sports complex should sell these and they would outsell popcorn in a heartbeat.

The focus of the day, however, was soup dumplings and I was most anxious to try them. From what I had heard and what captivated me was the thought of a tasty dumpling filling surrounded by a pocket of savory soup *inside* a sealed dumpling. Magic, you say? Conceptually it is easy. The usual dumpling dough, rolled out and encasing a ground filling with chicken or pork or both, aromatics like ginger and garlic and seasoned with soy or what have you. Then the magic, a large spoonful of jellied aspic or chicken stock reduced until it forms a jelly when chilled. When the dumpling is steamed, the aspic liquifies and becomes amazing soup inside the plump dumpling. Doesn’t that sound fantastic? Imagine a bite of this, bursting in your mouth, the flavors pooling on your tongue, the sensation of hot soup, tender but toothsome meat, slighly chewy noodle, ahhh. Food porn.

The execution of a successful soup dumpling is another matter. I have heard soup dumpling horror stories: burst, dry dumplings, soggy dumplings or tough thick noodle casings that defy chewing. But thanks to my pals on Twitter I have compiled quite a list of places in the Bay Area that have rocking soup dumplings and the King of Noodles was high on the list.

Our ordered arrived. Six plump dumplings were nestled atop leaves of Napa cabbage, steam still swirling up from inside the bamboo basket. Little ramekins of red vinegar diluted with soy and shreds of tiny juilienned ginger floating around were delivered with soup spoons. With the same care given to a game of Operation, we plucked up a dumpling with our chopsticks and deposited into the soup spoons. Carefully now, we nibbled a tiny corner off of the tender noodle casing. Puffs of steam blew sweetly in our faces and we discretely slurped out the hot soup, trying to balance our greediness to eat with the danger of incinerating our tongues with boiling hot soup. Then, a quick bath in the dipping sauce, we ravished the dumpling in great chomps. It was divine, all I had hoped and dreamed of, and I had two more dumplings left to consume! Totally addicted, I dreamed of daily visits to this dumpling heaven, becoming a regular, miraculously learning Mandarin by osmosis, eating every item on the menu, slowly gaining the trust of the staff and chef, and then finally allowed into the kitchen to learn the secrets of their dough, filling, aspic and construction methods. Well, perhaps not, but a gal has to dream after all.

We turned our attention to the garlic chive pancakes. Pancakes in the Chinese cuisine have as many variations as the dialects in China itself but this pancake was of a configuration unlike any we had seen before. And trust me, living in San Francisco, we both have eaten tons of amazing Chinese food. These pancakes were almost quesadilla-like, without the cheese of course, folded over to incase a hearty filling of chopped garlic chives, minced ginger, dried shrimp, and silver noodles. They were amazing, delectable, and it was hard not to fight over the last one. I was getting full at this point and we hadn’t even tackled the other three dishes!

Onward then, we plunged onto the wonton soup and the shrimp dumplings. The filling in all three dumpling products we ordered were distinctly different, and each were fantastic. The shrimp and green garlic chive dumplings were almost sui mai in texture but shaped like a traditional dumpling. A succulent curl of fat pink shrimp was cuddled by a robe of garlic chives and seasonings that were perfect as-is, no dipping sauce, no hot sauce, just naked. But the King of Noodles makes their own chile paste that is as fiery as Vesuvius and, after one recovers from the lip numbing heat, the sweet chile and pops of garlic enhanced both the dumplings and the chive pancakes. Suddenly, it was very warm in there and in a vain attempt to dilute the chile we swirled perfect jasmine tea around our mouths, exhaling vast clouds of steam like the Hogwarts Express.

The wonton soup was excellent. Playing mother, E__ ladled out a petite bowl of steaming soup, lighter in taste than what is inside the soup dumpling, but rich with perfect dots of golden chicken fat glistening on the surface. The wontons were pork filled and tender and luscious. I love how silky the noodle casing became in the soup and they just slithered down our throats. To our surprise, the large tureen was also filled with fat coiled rice noodles, thick slices of shitake, and halved baby bok chow. I have always wondered how on earth anyone is expected to eat these crisp-tender greens, too big for the spoon, too drippy for chopsticks and frankly so slippery between the plastic tools it was almost impossible to even get it near ones mouth. But we managed, flipping droplets of broth all over the table and each other, as if we were standing on the bow of a Red & White ferry on the bay during a typical small craft warning.

I must interject at this point to say that E__ and I are true ladies, gentile and well versed in the feminine arts, as well as our professional accomplishments and a strong passion for the Giants. But no lady, not even the bluest of the bluebloods could deftly manage the trickery of baby bok choy in broth without some collateral damage.

We took turns between the various dishes spread across out table, serving each other courteously like Chip and Dale, glancing longingly to the XO noodles and knowing we couldn’t even manage a bite.

They were happily packed for home along with shameful amounts of everything but the pancakes and the soup dumplings, long since scarfed down. Alas, we abandoned the remainder of the soup to the busboy’s attentions. We did not, however, leave behind a single cube of tofu, which upon reheating later was still as divine despite the departure of its former crispness.

After paying the exceedingly modest bill for our bounty, we strolled back to the train stop and headed our way to our respective homes. I don’t know about my friend, but I promptly took a deep and satisfying nap. Food coma!

The XO noodles were incredible, even the next day. My stomach growls at the thought of them even now.

King of Noodles
1639 Irving Street
(between 17th Ave & 18th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 566-8318

My rating: 6 out of 6 dumplings!!

I look forward to visiting the next dumpling place on my list, would perhaps you like to join me?