You know when you're hiking and everything is beautiful and peaceful, but then you start to feel panicky because you realize it's been way too long since you saw a trail marker? If you don't see one soon that's going to be a disturbingly long u-turn, at best. And then all of a sudden there it is:the beloved marker! You immediately relax, you aren't lost at all!
That's what today felt like for me on a metaphysical level. See for the last few days I have spent my every free moment thinking about soup. I'm working on a cookbook and recently I have taken a sharp turn down soup alley. Am I seriously writing a book on soup?! is something I keep saying to myself. But I keep hiking because it feels right. And today I saw a trail marker.
So here is what happened. I live in a little guest house, a casita, right next to my work. The little house doesn't have a full kitchen, just a mini-fridge, a coffee maker, and a sink. Just as I was leaving work for the afternoon I realized that I forgot to eat lunch. Of course since I'm a Chef I would never bother cooking something nice for myself, so I grabbed a container of leftover cooked vegetables in the fridge and headed back to the casita. As soon as I got there I started to scold myself. Cold vegetables for lunch? That's sad. You're sad. What the heck. I don't want to eat that go back to work and at least heat them up. But no, it's a whole 4 minute walk so that was definitely not going to happen.
So I sized up my available mise-en-place. I basically keep no food in the house but I did have the bare essentials. In my case, fish sauce and limes. And I had the coffee-maker. I doused the vegetables in lime and fish sauce, heat water through the coffee-maker, poured it over the vegetables and stirred.
Literally it was the best vegetable soup I've ever eaten. You can see from the picture how clear the broth was. How tender-crisp the vegetables still are. It was such a revelation, such a perfect addition to any desk lunch rotation.
This is a good technique for reasons beyond convenience. See, the second benefit of this recipe is that when you cook your vegetables separate from your liquid you allow them to remain independent from one another. Not always an ideal thing for soups, but in the case of fragile vegetables it can be. The vegetables are never agitated so they don't have the opportunity to make the water/stock cloudy/coloured. And the liquid has less of a chance to overcook the vegetables. Everyone wins!
Want to re-create this lunch? I've written the recipe below. If fish sauce isn't your jam you can use soy sauce instead. Or salt , pepper, and lemon for a more Mediterranean flavor profile.
1 cup broccoli, 1" pieces
1 cup zucchini 1" pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup kale, chiffonade
1/2 jalapen, sliced thin
1 cup fresh mint, parsley and cilantro
salt, to taste
fish sauce, +/- 2 teaspoons
lime juice +/- 2 teaspoons
Saute the broccoli and zucchini in olive oil with a bit of salt for a few minutes- until slightly softened. Add the ginger and garlic, jalapeno, and kale and cook until the water is nearly evaporated. Turn off the heat, stir in the herbs. Season aggressively with fish sauce and lime juice. When ready to serve put the vegetables in a bowl, pour hot water over top..
View of the casita from the back. Jungle heaven!