It's Soup Season
The Soup Edition
As you read this, I’ll be on my way to Australia! I’ll spend some time in Melbourne and Sydney with family and friends. We’ve got a family wedding to attend, and it’s going to be several days of good food and partying.
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I will probably never write a newsletter about how to pack, but I might write one about how not to pack. I could improve at packing for trips, especially trips longer than a week, but I haven’t. I am what you call a panic packer. I need to pack my entire closet because I never know what to wear and for what occasion. The Southern Hemisphere and, for that matter, Australia is currently in full summer glory. This might imply shorts and beachwear, but my cousin Jarryd is tying the knot, which means I need to carry wedding attire. There are a couple of other events that we need to attend leading up to the big day, so those require different outfits. Then there’s the matter of shoes; I panic when it comes to shoes. Gym shoes always seem like a nice idea, but I rarely use them (I know there’s a 95% chance that I’ll pack despite my cousin Gizelle's advice). I’ve also briefly entertained the idea of packing a small Dutch oven for my aunt, who loves my Staub collection. She taught me how to make pork vindaloo in my Dutch oven the last time she visited me and was very impressed with how tender the meat turned out. Unfortunately, or fortunately for her, there is no Dutch oven flying with me as she’d need to haul it back to New Zealand. I’m working on keeping my madness under control.
At Serious Eats this week, I’ve written a guide to roasting butternut squash (which you can use in place of the pumpkin in the soup recipe that follows in this email). I like adding baking soda to vegetables like squash, which are rich in pectin (a structural carbohydrate in plants) and sugars. Baking soda helps soften the pectin making the vegetable softer in texture. It also does two more things. The baking soda acts as a catalyst and pushes forward two food flavor-producing reactions - caramelization of sugars and the Maillard reaction (a reaction between sugars and the amino acids in proteins) to produce nutty and bittersweet flavors.
I’ve also shared my recipe for roasted butternut squash and brussels sprouts tossed in a spiced honey herb dressing that relies on this idea of cooking with baking soda. Try it out for yourself and see how it improves the flavor and texture of butternut squash.
On a side note, my editors at Serious Eats informed me that my essay on brining beans was their most popular article last year! Thank you to everyone who read it and enjoyed the experiments. I have some exciting results to report next month from some new food experiments that I think you will find very sweet (hint..).
Image credit: Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez
Before heading to the Southern Hemisphere, let me leave you with four comforting soups this week.
This is an extra-lemony chicken soup made even better by adding a generous amount of fresh dill and parsley. Winter is the citrus season, so if you’re fortunate enough to grow your lemons or have access to plenty of them, use them here. Eureka and Meyer's lemons work beautifully in this chicken soup, but the latter adds their unique scent, which plays off well with these flavors. Fresh ginger cut into matchsticks and a tiny hint of saffron tie the elements of this soup together.
Kimchi is one of the most powerful flavoring agents you could have on hand in your kitchen. Its deliciously tangy sourness makes the lentils stand out like stars in a dark sky at night. Sauerkraut can be used as a substitute for kimchi. However, I’d recommend adding mild chilli powder to compensate for the heat loss.
Some of you might be sick of pumpkins, and I feel your pain. The fall onslaught of pumpkin recipes (which I am guilty of) makes us run for the hills at its mere mention. However, if you’re up for it, I recommend this creamy pumpkin soup with ginger for a cold day. Any other winter squash can replace the pumpkin.
This is a soup about leftovers. I’ve used ham in this chickpea and pasta soup, but you can skip the ham or use other leftover meat from a rotisserie chicken or shrimp. This soup responds well to smoky flavors, so I’ve used smoked sweet paprika but feel free to amp that smokiness up by using smoked salt or even smoked meat.
Until next time,
If you enjoyed this article and the recipes, please feel free to leave a comment, like, or share it with your friends. I appreciate your support.
Oh, these all sound dreamy.
Thanks for another great newsletter, Nik. Your story about packing reminded me of how I travelled from India to the US 22 years ago, with my trusty prestige pressure cooker and my sumeet mixie in my suitcase.
I've seen many recipes with the chickpea/ pasta combination but mixing beans and pasta has always seemed weird to me. Is there anything you can say that would nudge me to try? Safe travels -- hope you have a great trip!