Chilled Watermelon Soup with Roasted Apricots and Tomatoes

A shallow white soup bowl full of watermelon gazpacho with roasted apricots, tomatoes, and red onions on a red, white, blue floral background. Small fresh basil clusters are arranged on the gazpacho and background.

Soup is best served cold on a hot day and this gazpacho-inspired recipe is a fine example of chilled summer soup at its best. Make this soup when local produce is readily available, this is the time to let seasonal fruits and vegetables shine. Roasting apricots, tomatoes, red onions, and a jalapeño  pepper or two gives the soup depth of flavour and a solid base for the raw ingredients. It’s absolutely crucial that this soup is chilled for at least 12 hours in order for it to taste spectacular, 24 hours is even better if you have the time. Use a fruitier extra virgin olive oil if possible, the biting peppery taste of the oil you use to cook with isn’t complementary to the lovely sweetness of the soup. I’ve also used avocado with success, it gives the finished product a delicious buttery quality. I love using sherry vinegar in this recipe as a nod to traditional gazpacho and I’ve added some additional lime juice to really underscore the sweetness of the watermelon. I like to serve this chilled watermelon soup with something tangy and rich such as creme fraiche or high-fat yogurt, finely diced avocado also works well. Pack this soup into jars for an easy picnic addition or any on-the-go meal, it’s also incredibly refreshing after any outdoor activity when temperatures are in full mid-August mode.

chilled watermelon soup with roasted apricots and tomatoes:

(makes enough for several meals and will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator)

4-5 cups of watermelon, cubed with seeds removed

6 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into quarters

6 fresh apricots, cut in half with puts removed

1 medium-sized red onion, cut into quarters

1-2 jalapeño peppers, cut in half with seeds removed

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 medium-sized cucumber, cut into a fine dice with seeds and peel removed

1 sweet pepper, cut into a fine dice

A generous handful of fresh basil, cut into a fine chiffonade

4 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup fruity olive or avocado oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the watermelon in a food processor and pulse until completely blitzed. Set aside.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes, apricots, onion, and jalapeño pepper(s) on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until everything begins to brown, stirring occasionally.
  4. Scrape the roasted fruits and vegetables into the food processor with their juices. Pulse a couple of times being careful not to process until smooth, the goal is a chunky salsa-like texture.
  5. In a very large jug or bowl stir together the watermelon, roasted and chopped vegetables, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and fresh basil. Season generously with salt and paper.
  6. Cover the soup and refrigerate for 12-24 hours before serving chilled with your preferred finishing touch.

IMG_2824

Greg Gonzalez of Cigarettes After Sex has the gentlest of  singing voices, the most obvious comparison would be Hope Sandoval when she’s singing with the Warm Inventions but I also hear echoes of Low when they’re at their most sparse. This dreamy EP is just gorgeous, it’s also an album that gives me a definite feeling of time and place. It makes me think of reading in bed, sunlight filtering through semi-closed blinds, and the distinct smell of dust and library books. CAS has a playful yet melancholic sound that fills the room because of its lo-fi simplicity not despite of.

Cigarettes After Sex – Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby

Simple Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian slow cooker chili in a shallow white bowl. The chili is topped with an egg, sliced avocado, and scallions.

This simple slow cooker recipe for vegetarian chili is reliable, comforting, and very adaptable. I realize it doesn’t follow any of the strict guidelines that a truly authentic chili would, but I think that’s what gives this recipe a sense of fun and spontaneity. I dreamed this version up while I was taking an early morning train from Seattle to Vancouver. The sun was just beginning to come up, bouncing across the steely water and turning the waves gentle shades of lilac and rose; Mt. Rainier was a constant blink of gold in the distance. The tracks would briefly touch on forested areas that were coated with softest white, Puget Sound weaving in and out of view as we got closer to the Canadian border. The quiet of the early morning train was welcome as I read my new copy of Niki Segnit’s Flavor Thesaurus, a superbly witty and informative read that I warmly recommend to anyone curious about pairing and truly tasting food. If you’re anything like me you find it impossible to read about food without planning meals in your head and by the time we got home to Vancouver I was in a state of absolutely needing to cook something nourishing and wonderful. My plan was to make something in my slow cooker, so that I could take a nap and then get up to the smells of simmering vegetables. I decided on vegetarian chili, which for some reason I have always made instead of a regular chili with meat, so I felt comfortable riffing on tradition. If you want to try different vegetables I would recommend frozen corn, poblano peppers, diced carrots, celery, cremini mushrooms, roasted peppers, eggplant, or butternut squash. It’s very important to cook the onions and other aromatics together first in a skillet, the onion flavour loses some of its intensity and the spices gain focus before they’re added to the slow cooker. I’m particularly fond of topping my chili with a crispy fried egg and avocado, both lend a soothing creamy component that is only further enhanced by a quick application of Sriracha.

simple slow cooker vegetarian chili:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and minced (or seeds in, if everyone is in agreement on their heat tolerances)

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cocoa powder or 2 small squares of dark chocolate

2 tsp. cumin

1 small zucchini, cut into thin quarter moon slices

1 green pepper, diced

1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into a small dice

1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes and their juices

11/2 cups of tomato juice (or Clamato if you’d like the Canadian version of this recipe)

1 Tbsp. salt

Generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper

Potential toppings: crispy fried egg, sliced avocado or guacamole, sliced scallions or radishes – maybe lightly pickled in some lime juice, Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, sour cream, shredded cheese, crumbled feta or Oaxaca cheese, cilantro, fresh basil, shredded carrot, salsa, Sriracha, salsa, roasted tomatillos, lime wedges, roasted corn, parsley, torn spinach, shredded Iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, corn chips, pickled jalapeños, chopped olives, and anything else you can think of.

  1. Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the diced onion, garlic, and jalapeño until soft. Add a pinch of salt and the chili powder, cinnamon, cocoa or dark chocolate, and cumin. Stir for 2 minutes or until the spices become very fragrant. Remove from heat and reserve for future use.
  2. Combine the cut up vegetables, bean, tomatoes, tomato or Clamato juice, salt, and pepper to taste in a large slow cooker. Add the cooked onions and other aromatics and give everything a good stir to combine.
  3. Cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve with the toppings of your choice and hearty buttered bread. This chili is even better the next day, when any excess liquid has had time to be absorbed and it keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days. Freeze any remaining chili for up to 6 months.

I’m so excited for Wild Nothing’s new album, Life of Pause, to come out in February; each of their songs always feel like a sharp and smart breath of fresh air. These new songs have so much energy, lots of shoegazey influences, and just the perfect touch of Bryan Ferry – all of the suitable components that make an ideal music for Ashley trifecta.

Wild Nothing – To Know You / TV Queen

 

 

 

Creamy Parsnip Soup with Marinated Eggplant

White bowl of creamy parsnip soup with eggplant as a garnish on a hot pink background.

There’s something to be said for soup after a 5 day period of eating nothing but extremely rich food, especially if its at the beginning of December and the cold weather practically makes it the required light food of choice. This parsnip soup is deceptively creamy, its texture suggests the use of heavy cream when in actuality the blame falls firmly on Greek yogurt. You won’t miss the the fat, and in fact the yogurt is preferable as it lends the soup a soft tanginess that ensures its subtlety isn’t drowned by its own voluptuousness. That being said, the amount of butter and oil called for could easily be reduced by half but I think the fat adds an extra layer to its already silken perfection. Marinated eggplant is a favourite of mine, and if you have a jar of it already then please feel free to use that (I never do because I tend to devour jars in their entirety with a fork, all in one sitting). The eggplant isn’t necessary but it’s definitely a good thing, so make it if you have the time. You could always make the soup and eggplant the day before, blending the soup before you want to heat it up and letting the eggplant mellow in its juices at room temperature an hour before serving. Some parsley or cilantro would be beautiful as well, just snip them with scissors into very small pieces – you’d want just enough to add a dusting of greenery to the final picture.

creamy parsnip soup:

1 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil

1 large bunch of scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cloves of garlic, each cut into 3 pieces

2 lbs. of parsnip, peeled and cut into smallish pieces

4 cups of vegetable stock

1 tsp. curry powder

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Kosher salt, to taste

  1. Melt the butter and oil together over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the scallions, garlic, and parsnip and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a gentle boil. Turn the heat down to encourage a gentle simmer, cook with the pot lid on for 20 minutes or until the parsnip is very soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Using either an immersion blender or a stand up version blitz the soup until silken and very creamy. Pour 3/4s of it back into the soup pot and blend the Greek yogurt and curry powder into the remaining soup, add to the soup pot. At this point it’s a good idea to test for seasoning, the soup will almost definitely need salt and even some extra curry powder if you’re inclined.
  4. Heat the soup over low heat until nice and hot, being careful not to let it boil. Serve in a shallow bowl with the marinated eggplant strewn across the surface.

marinated eggplant garnish:

1 small eggplant, cut into medium sized dice

Olive oil for drizzling

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. red chilli flakes

1 tsp. kosher salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon or 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scatter the eggplant pieces in a single layer over a parchment lined baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the dried oregano, chilli flakes, and kosher salt evenly, tossing to coat.
  2. Roast for 25-35 minutes, stirring periodically. When they look evenly browned and crisped at the edges remove from the oven and transfer to a small bowl. Spritz with lemon juice or add the vinegar, stirring once again to coat.
  3. Use immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, bringing them to room temperature before using as a soup garnish (these are also very good cold as an addition to an antipasto salad plate).

Oh, this is such a pretty one! Hex is an amazing album, just perfect for traipsing alone around the apartment in the depths of intellectual introspection or, more likely, pondering what to make for dinner that night or where your cookbooks should go in your solarium/office. With me it’s the latter, for I wouldn’t be myself if I wasn’t constantly adding lists to my lists of lists.

Bark Psychosis – Absent Friend

Congee with Shredded Chicken

Chicken congee in a square bowl with garlic and chill paste

I think I’ve made this congee with shredded chicken three times in the last two weeks, mainly on my Sundays alone (which is actually a Monday). Sunday/Mondays are the days when I tend to do writing work and clean the apartment. Lately it’s been either grey or white skies I wake up to, both are like opening your eyes to a soft embrace, especially when you don’t have to leave the house for work or errands. Making congee takes at least 2 hours of almost totally hands off time, so I usually begin making it once I’m ready to sit down and write. That way, towards late afternoon when I suddenly realize I haven’t eaten yet, I’m treated to an incredibly nourishing and soothing mid-afternoon meal.  You can use a whole chicken if you’d like, although I’m more likely to have chicken thighs in the freezer so I use those instead. It’s imperative the chicken have both skin and bones intact, these ensure the congee ends up richly thick and gives immense flavour to the broth. Simple to assemble, congee can be eaten alone or with a wide variety of condiments. Some of my favourites include sambal oelek, sriracha, lime wedges, slivered scallion, a splash of fish or soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh basil or cilantro, extra grated ginger or garlic, napa cabbage, and shredded carrot. This is ultimate comfort food so make every attempt to eat in your pyjamas, curled up on the couch under an afghan with a good book. Bonus points if it’s raining and you have the windows open so that you can smell the overwhelming greenery just outside your apartment.

congee with shredded chicken:

4-5 large chicken thighs OR 1 whole chicken, skin and bones intact

3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 2 or 3 pieces

3 Tbsp. jasmine rice

1. Place the chicken and ginger in a large pot with a lid and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for at least an hour and up to two.

2. Strain the broth through a fine sieve into another pot, reserving the chicken and allowing it to cool. Bring the broth to a very low simmer and cook the rice for at least a half an hour and up to a full hour (the rice will begin to disintegrate, but you’ll have an amazingly thick congee in the end).

3. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred into large pieces. Portion into large shallow bowls and cover with the hot congee. Eat as is or load up on any of the suggested condiments or anything else you think might taste delicious.

I can’t listen to music with a lot of singing, or lyrics, when I’m writing for work; I find it incredibly distracting. I love songs such as this one, a slowed down Dead Can Dance sort of sound. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and feeds into my love for dark days and solitude for long stretches of time.

Bvdub & Ian Hawgood – Beauty is in the Eye of the Pretender

Creamy Sweet Bell Pepper Soup

Bowl of sweet bell pepper soup in blue bowl with grilled cheese sticks

And just like that summer has become a distant memory, forever tucked into the backs of our minds throughout winter as a time full of golden light and perpetual warmth. The rain is back in Vancouver, very much needed but selfishly difficult to accept as routine again. The sunny days we have now seem muted and pale but remain beautiful nonetheless. I’ve been resisting warmer clothing, which occurs naturally as someone who runs hot all of the time; t-shirt weather extends into October for me. When I went to the grocery store I found a massive bin full of sweet bell peppers of all colours and sizes, from the mellowest of greens to waxy midnight purple. Having bought far more than I could eat before they began their slow decline in my fridge, I decided to make a simple pureed soup that would showcase their wonderful sweetness without masking it with excess seasoning. The balsamic vinegar added towards the end of the recipe gives the soup subtle oomph, it makes all the difference without being easily recognizable. I think the best way to serve this soup is alongside grilled cheese sandwiches that have been cut into toast soldiers that are crisp and easily dunkable. However, if you’re in a more virtuous frame of mind (and this soup is already virtuous in its own right as its richness stems from arborio rice rather than heavy cream) I would suggest finding the last of the good seasonal tomatoes and putting them to use in a crisp ice berg lettuce salad with shallots and chopped celery.

creamy sweet bell pepper soup:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

4-5 sweet peppers of various shapes and colours, roughly chopped

1 medium sized onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tbsp. arborio rice

2 1/2-3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, depending on how big the original peppers were

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar or other sweet vinegar

1 cup of whole milk

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

1. In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped sweet peppers, onion, and garlic. Cook until soft, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the arborio rice and cook for another 2 minutes coating the rice in olive oil as you stir. Pour in the stock and bring to a gentle simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

3. Transfer the soup to a blender and blitz until smooth. Heat over medium-low heat, adding the balsamic vinegar before whisking in the milk, don’t allow the soup to boil. Adjust for seasoning and serve piping hot with a side of grilled cheese or a green salad.

Autumn has always meant repeated Glenn Gould listening; while I’m making dinner, while I’m writing, while I’m walking, and while I’m reading. I love his confident, calculated flightiness and soft humming as he plays. I adore how entrenched Glenn Gould is in Canadian cultural history, his part in afternoons spent watching National Film Board of Canada movies in my darkened elementary school library (those being the school memories I can recall easily, mainly the smell of the carpeting, yellowed books, and Ms. Caldwell’s dry but kind voice). This reminds me of hibernation and of the comfort that can be found as the summer slips away for the year, it makes the transition seem gentle and less looming.

Glenn Gould – Goldberg Variations

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

picture of steaming chicken noodle soup

Depression is a sour and familiar thing. I have been on steady decline this past winter, practically running straight down a mountainside before I finally broke down a few weeks ago. Depression is, as I said, familiar to me. I have spent my whole life oscillating back and forth between the two extremes and every emotion between them; I still consider depression the short straw in this game. I’m in a state right now where I feel like a magnet repelling everyone and everything, the closer you get to me the more sad and alone I feel. I’m in its tearful grip as I write this, not in good faith that I’ll feel better soon but with the knowledge that I’ve survived before and the pendulum always swings.

And so, I make soup. I make a stock that I cook for hours, its golden smell turning my apartment into a warm cocoon. I chop up all of the vegetables slowly and precisely, adding them one at a time, listening to the hiss of the stock as it hits the pan; method is the opposite of madness in this scenario. I was able to use the ample leftover chicken meat and bones from this recipe to make the stock and bulk of the finished soup. In the past I’ve kept chicken bones in the freezer for stock, you can poach 2 chicken breasts in the stock for shredding. I fall into something like The Nothing from Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story (what an astute metaphor on his behalf) when I think of anything except this very second, so it is helpful to have something as simple as chicken noodle soup as a project to keep my mind here in the present.

chicken stock:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Chicken bones, you can accumulate these gradually in your freezer or use the bones from a whole roasted bird

Carrot, celery, leek, and onion ends and scraps, leftover roasted shallots if you have them on hand

A couple of garlic cloves, smashed

2 bay leaves

6 whole peppercorns

Sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley

12 cups of water

1. In a very large stock pot brown the chicken bones in the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the vegetables scraps, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, fresh thyme and parsley, and water.

2. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, halfway covered, for anywhere between 2-6 hours. Strain through a fine sieve and allow to cool. Skim the fat off the top of the stock and strain once more. Proceed to chicken noodle soup recipe or date and freeze for future use.

easy chicken noodle soup:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small white or yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 stalks of celery, sliced into thin half moons

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

6 cups chicken stock

1 1/2-2 cups shredded chicken

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped

Juice of half a lemon

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1 cup egg noodles or broken spaghetti, cooked separately

1. Cook the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to soften.

2. Add the chicken stock, shredded chicken, bay leaves, and thyme. Simmer for 20 minutes before adding the parsley, lemon juice, black pepper, and noodles. Simmer for 5 more minutes, remove the bay leaves and serve while still piping hot.

I’ve been listening to lots of Cat Power and Mazzy Star, too. Music is integral to keeping you anchored when you feel anything but.

The Microphones – The Pull

Red Lentil Soup with Cashew Cream

 

Red Lentil Soup 2

I’ve had a jar of red lentils sitting in my kitchen for months now. They’re beautiful to look at, like small coral pebbles, but I’ve been procrastinating using them. It’s only now that it’s November in Vancouver and the sky has become perpetually black that I really crave hearty soups combined with warm spices and hot pieces of naan. This recipe makes a very generous amount of soup. I was able to have it almost all week for lunch at work in various forms, my favourite being the last of the soup over brown basmati rice with the cashew cream drizzled over top, garnished with pickled onions and cucumber slices.

It is only recently that I have discovered the incredible potential of cashews. As someone with a peanut and hazelnut allergy I have learned by habit to stay away from nuts in general. I bought a large amount of cashews to use in a failed attempt at making raw energy bars which left me with 2 cups of raw unsalted cashews in my freezer just sitting there and the entire time I had no idea how delicious they are to snack on and how versatile they are to cook with. I quickly became addicted to their buttery texture and could totally see how perfect they would be in recipes that demanded a velvety and voluptuous mouthfeel. The raw cashews are soaked overnight, as one would do to legumes, and then blended with a small amount of water and the rest of the recipe ingredients. This creamy sauce will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days but the raw garlic flavour will intensify quickly so it’s best eaten quickly if you aren’t a fan of pungent garlic (which I am, I actually love it a few days in after being made.)

I know their are many wonderfully skilled bakers out there who would be able to make freshly baked naan with ease, but regret that I’m not one of them. Instead I rely on store bought naan that I have heated up in the oven. This is my method: heat oven to 300 degrees. On a large baking sheet spread the naan out in a single layer. Sprinkle a scant amount of water over the naan and bake 3-4 minutes or until the naan feels soft and warm.

red lentil soup:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium sized onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 Tbsp. coriander

1 carrot, peeled and cut into a small dice

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup of split red lentils

7 cups of vegetable stock

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Lime wedges and cilantro for garnish

1. Saute the onions and garlic over medium heat in a large stock pot. Cook until very soft, about 8-10 minutes, and stir in the ginger, cumin, and coriander. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the diced carrot, sugar, tomato paste, and lentils. Stir until the lentils are evenly coated before adding the vegetable stock. Allow to simmer gently, partially covered, for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (as with many soups, this recipe benefits from sitting overnight to let the flavours fully develop.) To serve add a dollop of cashew cream to the soup and garnish with lime wedges and cilantro, have a pile of warm naan on hand nearby.

garlicky cashew cream with lime and cilantro:

1 cup of unsalted raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained

1/2 cup of water

1-2 cloves of garlic, cut into a large dice

Juice of 1-2 limes

1/2 cup of cilantro, packed

1 tsp. kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until creamy and completely emulsified.

So I saw Slowdive perform live earlier this week at The Commodore and I feel words won’t do me justice when I say it was the best concert I’ve ever been to. They played all of my Top 10 best ever favourites and sounded completely true to how I always hoped they would be. Of course I’m now in a Slowdive listening frenzy in an effort to recreate the show (it’s sort of working) so I’ll leave you with Slowdive by Slowdive, the first song on their Vancouver setlist.

Slowdive – Slowdive