Cooking for two is boring -- I want to cook for the entire blogosphere!

Thursday, September 6

Meals for the Invalid: Carrot-Orange Soup and Cream of Broccoli

If you read any old cookbooks, you're likely to find a section on how to feed the elderly, ill and infirm. Invalids, they used to call them. Often invalids needed special foods -- easy to digest and chew, but full of things that would keep one's strength up. Things like beef tea, toast, and that old standby, chicken soup.

A few months ago I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and I found myself wishing for a granny to dust off her old housewife's Bible. In pain, in a oxy haze, unable to chew anything at all, I needed the kind of food they don't tell you how to make anymore. You realize how much you take eating for granted when you can't chew. After a day of apple sauce, smoothies, and ice cream shakes (even cottage cheese curds proved too formidable for my poor, beleaguered mouth), I realized I needed to get some of those nourishing, strength-giving foods in me soon.

When you can't chew things properly, your choices are restricted to things that don't require much chewing. The best solution is to whir up hard-to-chew things until you've got something even an invalid can deal with.

Which is a long way to say: I made soup.

I really wanted soup that would be full of flavor and full of fiber and protein. I also didn't want to spend all day in the kitchen. I made two soups that were easy to prepare and kept well for the week. They should do well for you the next time you have four teeth yanked out of your mouth, or just feel like a soothing meal.

Carrot Orange Soup

This tastes like sunshine and feels like a soup that would get a four-year-old to love her vegetables. I made this even after I could chew again. It's also incredibly budget friendly if you make your own stock from leftover vegetable bits and ends you store up in your freezer.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Fairly standard recipe, I go light on the cream. It's comforting and homey in the winter, but isn't out of place in the springtime either.

Recipes for both are in the Joy of Cooking and can be found here (use Cream of Cauliflower recipe for the broccoli soup, omitting the nutmeg and cooking the broccoli no more than 10 minutes, as few as 6, depending on age of the vegetable):

Friday, January 20

Blackberry Gin Cocktail

Blackberries. Sloe Gin. Anything else need to be said, really? This is sweet but sophisticated.

Blackberry Gin Cocktail

In a bowl, muddle a half-pint of blackberries with 1/2 cup superfine sugar. Whisk in 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice. Strain and discard seeds and blackberry mush.

To make the cocktail, fill a lo-ball glass with ice and add about two fingers Averell damson plum gin. Add half an ounce cognac and approximately 2 tablespoons raspberry puree. Top with seltzer.

Serves 4.

Sunday, January 15

Apple-Pear-Cranberry Coffee Cake

If you are like me, your fridge still contains half a bag of cranberries from Thanksgiving.

"Oh shoot, I should have frozen these. Don't they last only a month in the fridge? Oh well, they don't look so bad. [They are happily turning into Craisins.] I don't see any mold. Hmm, what can we do?"

You may also have bought a few very late season apples from the farmer's market that turned out to be more mealy than crisp, and perhaps you didn't get around to making that pear, blue cheese and walnut salad at Christmas, so you have a squishy, browning pear mingling with the celery in the crisper drawer.

"Hmm, I wonder if we put all together we can make something - I'm sure the texture won't matter once they're cooked." Rummaging in the cupboard and cookbooks ensues.

I'm sure by now you're thinking, "I am never eating at her house." Don't worry, I'm not some kind of crazy hoarder, and we do throw food out. But if it's salvageable, why not? One reason I love baking is you can turn something totally unappealing into something delicious - the magic of chemistry.

Here's a bundt coffee cake I made, with apple and pear in the filling and a cranberry swirl. It's very moist, with a strong taste of the fruit. It's a mix of several different recipes, mostly The Joy of Cooking mixed with a little Cook's Illustrated.

Apple-Pear-Cranberry Coffee Cake

1 apple and 1 pear (or 2 apples/2 pears)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt (I used 1 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs

About 2 1/2 cups cranberries
3 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp lemon, lime or orange juice
pinch table salt
pinch ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • Have all ingredients at room temperature. Butter and flour a bundt or tube pan (don't skimp - this is a very moist cake). Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg.
  • Make the filling first: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the cranberries begin to burst and the cornstarch has made the liquid jelled and glossy, about four minutes. Set aside to let cool.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Combine yogurt and vanilla in a small bowl.
  • Peel and chop apple and pear into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until light colored, a few minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  • Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream mixture. Stir until smooth, then fold in the apple and pear.
  • Scrape 1/3 of batter into the pan, then top with half of the filling. Add another third of batter and the rest of the filling, then top with remaining batter. Take a small spoon and dip it to the bottom of the pan, repeating five or six times around the pan, to marble the filling.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for five to 10 minutes, then invert on a rack to cool (be sure to tap the pan all around to make the cake come loose). Cool before serving.