Chautauqua: Haven for Learning and Culture

The landmark Miller Bell Tower at Chautauqua

The landmark Miller Bell Tower at Chautauqua

My husband and I have become evangelists—for the Chautauqua Institution, a unique and wonderful community in the westernmost county of New York, between Buffalo and Erie, Pa.

It’s a combination of college campus, music festival, writers’ workshop,  arts enclave and summer resort, with a little more than a hint of the religious movement that gave it its start 143 years ago. One person we met called it “summer camp for the adult brain.”

And it’s nestled into a picturesque small town chock full of Victorian-era houses, gardens galore and quiet streets. Walking and biking are the primary means of transport (though shuttle buses are available).

Training for Sunday School teachers

The Baptist House at Chautauqua

The Baptist House at Chautauqua

Originally called the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, the institution was created in 1874 as a two-week program for Methodist Sunday School teachers. The assembly took place following a revivalist “camp meeting” held annually on the shores of Lake Chautauqua. Founders John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller thought religion teachers needed more than revivalist spirit. They brought in speakers on a variety of academic subjects and provided music, art and physical education opportunities. It wasn’t long before the assembly totally eclipsed the revival meeting.

The Chautauqua idea caught on quickly, attracting the general public as well as religious educators. Soon there were numerous “daughter Chautauquas” and traveling Chautauquas throughout the country.

The founders’ vision still drives the institution, which now has a nine-week season every summer, from the end of June to the end of August.

Every week has a theme, and every weekday morning there is a lecture from a nationally known speaker on that theme. Every weekday afternoon there’s a lecture on a related theme in the “interfaith” lecture series. And every evening, six days of the week, there is fabulous entertainment: from the resident Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, from the music school’s orchestra, from the opera program or resident ballet company, or from top-notch visiting artists.

In between there are more lectures, book reviews, movies, discussion groups, recitals, art exhibits, nature walks and other activities – more than any one person can do.

For an additional fee there are three productions by the resident theater company and  a whole catalog of “special studies courses” on a wide variety of topics. There’s a golf course, tennis courts and indoor pool, and a lake with small beaches and boat docks. There are reasonably priced day camp programs for children from 3 to 16.

Religious life at Chautauqua

The Episcopal House at Chautauqua

The Episcopal House at Chautauqua

In deference to its history, Chautauqua provides many avenues for religious expression, including daily Protestant services with visiting clergy in the large amphitheater and a Sunday evening “sacred song service.”

Quite early in Chautauqua’s history, various Protestant denominations began operating guest houses so their congregants could stay at Chautauqua for a reasonable fee. Catholics and Jews weren’t particularly welcome in the early days, but now both groups have residences among the “denominational houses” on the grounds – and a Muslim house is in the discussion phase.

The newest of the denominational houses is the Everett Jewish Life Center, which opened in 2009. My husband and I started staying there for a week at a time in 2014. Last year we learned that they were looking for a new “host couple” and we jumped at the opportunity.

This year we spent 10 weeks at Chautauqua. Our duties included welcoming the guests to the Everett Center’s five guest rooms, shopping for food, preparing and cleaning up from breakfast, helping set up seats for the weekly films and speakers, and general trouble-shooting. Others handled the cleaning and maintenance and the programming.

In return, we got to enjoy almost everything Chautauqua had to offer. We heard incredible speakers, including Dahlia Lithwick, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Lewis Black, Jacques Pepin, E.J. Dionne, Bill Moyers and Stella Rimington, the former head of British intelligence and the model for Judi Dench’s “M”.

We saw fabulous entertainers, including Jay Leno, the Capitol Steps, Garrison Keillor, Sheryl Crow and the Beach Boys.

The landmark lakeside bell tower at Chautauqua.

Not a denominational house, just a pretty one!

Visitors can stay at one of the 15 denominational houses with  guest rooms, the beautiful Victorian Athenaeum Hotel or at a rental house, apartment or room. There are also less expensive hotels and cabin communities a few miles away.

A word to the wise: The denominational houses get booked up fast! The Everett center has only a few openings left for 2018. The United Methodist House starts taking reservations October 1 and continues until the rooms are filled. The Catholic House has a lottery: get your application in between November 1 and November 30 and they’ll let you know soon afterwards if you’re “in.”

All of the denominational houses welcome people of all faiths, though some give preferences to church members; some allow you to become an official member of the tribe by paying a small membership fee.

Like any good evangelist, I’m willing to “testify” for Chautauqua! If you have any questions about the program or about the Everett Jewish Life Center, please contact me.

The recipe below is for one of the breakfast casseroles I served to our guests at the Everett center. I got it from food.com. It would be a great brunch or potluck dish. Be sure to plan ahead, because the recipe calls for the dish to sit overnight in the refrigerator. You can probably get by with letting it sit just a few hours, but I don’t recommend baking it right after you mix it up; the bread needs a chance to soak up the eggs and milk.

Spinach and Artichoke Strata

Spinach and Artichoke Strata

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 2-in. long thin strips
  • 9 eggs
  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
  • 3½ cups milk
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 9 slices day-old Italian bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 (6 oz.) jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  • 3 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the peppers and saute until tender, about 6 minutes; set aside.
  3. Beat eggs in a large bowl until frothy.
  4. Stir in the spinach, milk, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and fresh ground pepper.
  5. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with a little bit of the butter.
  6. Use the rest of the butter to butter one side of the bread slices, then cut the bread into 1-inch cubes; you should have about 9 cups of cubes.
  7. Spread half the bread cubes evenly in the casserole, then top with half the pepper strips, 1 jar or artichoke hearts, half the scallions, half the spinach mixture and half the cheddar cheese.
  8. Repeat layers in order, ending with the cheddar cheese.
  9. Cover dish and refrigerate overnight.
  10. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
  11. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  12. Bake uncovered about 1 hour until golden brown on top and firm in center (a knife inserted in the center should come out clean).
  13. Let stand about 15 minutes before serving.
https://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/chautauqua-haven-for-learning-and-culture/

 

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Categories: AppetizersBreadsDessertsMeat, Poultry & FishSaladsSide DishesSoupsUncategorizedVegetarian Dishes

Bean soup from the Jews of Greece

Rabbis and leaders of the ancient Jewish community of Greece, circa earlky 20th century.

Rabbis and leaders of the ancient Jewish community of Greece, circa earlky 20th century.

I recently attended another program in the series “The Forgotten Jewish Refugees,” presented by our local Sephardic synagogue.

“Sephardic” usually refers to Jews who are descended from those who were kicked out of Spain and Portugal in the late 1400s. Many resettled in Northern Africa and the Middle East–but most of those areas already had Jewish communities dating from the time of the Romans. These are technically not Sephardic, but usually identify more with them than with the Ashkenazic Jews, descended from those who lived in Central and Eastern Europe.

The original Greek Jewish community is thought to have started in the first century BCE, when Jews were being taken to Rome as slaves after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Some of the ships ran aground. Some of the prisoners made it to shore and settled among the Greeks in the area that would become Ioannina. This is thought to be the oldest Jewish settlement in Europe.

Cheese and spinach burekas

Cheese and spinach burekas

These “Romaniote” Jews kept themselves separate from the “newcomers,” the Sephardic Jews who arrived from Spain after 1492. They spoke Yevanic, a form of Judeo-Greek, while the Sephardim spoke Ladino, a mixture of Hebrew and Spanish.

In the 12h century, traveler Benjamin of Tudela documented large Jewish communities in Corfu, Arta, Corinth, Thebes, Thessaloniki and other Greek towns.

By the early 20th century, about 40 percent of the population of Thessaloniki were Jews.

The Jewish population of Greece was savaged by the Holocaust; approximately 86 percent were slaughtered by the Italians and Germans. Today, only 4,000 to 6,000 Jews remain in Greece. Most of the others live in the U.S. or Israel.

As usual at these presentations, we were served a sample of several delectable Greek-Jewish foods. There were spinach and cheese burekas, salad with beets and feta cheese, baklava, sesame candy, and this delicious bean soup, called Fasolada.

As soon as I got home, I made a big pot. It’s easy to make, very tasty, and the perfect thing for a cold winter day.

I chopped the onion and grated the carrots in my food processor, and used bottled crushed garlic, making the prep very easy.

Fasolada (Traditional Greek Bean Soup)

Fasolada (Traditional Greek Bean Soup)

Ingredients

  • 500 g (18 oz). dry white beans
  • 2 or 3 carrots, grated
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 Tbs. bouillon powder (I used a box of vegetable stock instead)
  • 130 ml (1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil (I used less – about ¼ cup)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • A pinch of paprika, hot or sweet
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few potatoes, cubed and peeled, optional

Instructions

  1. Place the beans in a pot or large bowl and cover with water; soak overnight.
  2. When you're ready to cook, drain the beans.
  3. Chop the onion and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add the crushed garlic and grated carrots and saute for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, drained beans, vegetable or chicken stock (if using) and cover with water so the water is about 2 inches above the beans.
  6. Add the bouillon powder, if you use it, the spices and salt.
  7. Bring to a boil and lower the heat; cook covered for 2 to 3 hours until the beans are soft.
  8. If you like, add the cubed potatoes and continue cooking another 30 minutes or so until the potatoes are soft.
https://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/bean-soup/

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Categories: Soups

Cooking her way back to health

Photo by Allan Ajifo via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Allan Ajifo via Flickr Creative Commons

Jessica Fechtor

Jessica Fechtor

Jessica Fechtor was 28 and leading a wonderful life, married to a smart and charming man she met in college, living in Cambrige, Mass., on her way to earning a Ph.D. at Harvard.

Then, with no warning, an aneurysm burst in her brain as she worked out on a treadmill while she was at a conference in Vermont.

Fechtor has just published a wonderful book, Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me HomeDescribed as a memoir with recipes. it details her remarkable journey back to health, through the initial neurosurgery to repair the aneurysm, another surgery to battle a raging infection, a horrible reaction to medication and a long rehabilitation.

For 10 months, she lived without a piece of her skull, which had to be removed because of infection. The hockey helmet she wore for protection only partly hid the deformity. She lost the sight in one eye and her sense of smell (which happily she regained). Then she underwent a final surgery to repair a golf-ball-sized dent in her temple.

Learning to be a good guest

Jessica always loved to cook, but when she came home from the worst of her hospitalizations, she had to relinquish that pleasure to her friends and learn how to be a good guest in her own home.

Photo by Kurtiss Garbutt via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Kurtiss Garbutt via Flickr Creative Commons

“A good guest, we think, is an easy guest. A considerate one. She arrives on time with a bottle of wine or maybe a gift, some chocolate or homemade jam. She asks what she can do. She wants to help. She insists.

“What these best of intentions miss is the most basic thing of all: that a good guest allows herself to be hosted. That means saying, ‘yes, please,’ when your’re offered a cup of tea, instead of rushing to get it yourself. It means staying in your chair, enjoying good company and your first glass of wine while your host ladles soup into bowls. If your host wants to dress the salad herself and toss it the way she knows how, let her, because a host is delighted to serve. To allow her to take care of you is to allow your host her generosity. I’d always been too distracted by my own desire to be useful to understand this. I got it now.”

The early part of Jessica’s book alternates between chapters about her health crisis and recovery and chapters about how she met and married her husband, Eli. Later chapters describe her long rehabilitation. Each chapter concludes with a description of dish that is meaningful to her, along with a nice recipe. There’s baked ziti, kale and pomegranate salad, almond macaroons, apple pie, buttermilk biscuits, cherry clafoutis and more.

A food blog as therapy

Jessica's blog, www.sweetmanadine.com

Jessica’s blog, www.sweetmanadine.com

As Jessica grew stronger after her first surgeries, she became restless. Not quite ready to return to her graduate studies in Jewish literature, she took the advice of a friend and started a food blog. She called it Sweet Amandine after her favorite almond cake. But in order to write about cooking, she had to cook.

“The kitchen became my arena for testing myself physically. I’d page through my cookbooks and stack of rumpled recipes in search of ones that felt safe….When the making and the eating were done, I’d sit down and write. Often, after a few minutes of staring at the screen, my eyes would begin to ache and my neck would tighten with nausea. I’d wish I could unscrew my head, so heavy and big, and just lay it down beside me for a while. Every few sentences of so, I would take a break. Sometimes, I would move to the sofa and close my eyes, string together the words for the next line in my mind, then make my way back to my desk and write some more. It might sound painfully slow, this limping, bit-by-bit way of writing, but as phrases became sentences became paragraphs, I felt like I was flying.”

Her anecdotes and reflections about food were ones she’d been sharing with friends and family for years, in letters or over the dinner table. Cooking, and writing about cooking, helped her begin to feel normal again.

“That cooking shifted my attention away from myself was a tremendous relief. In the kitchen, I got to care again about the small stuff that’s not supposed to get to you, but does when you’re normal and well. Now, when the biscuits burned, it was my privilege to care. The twinge of annoyance as I whisked them from the oven was proof I was getting better.”

Jessica and Eli now have two young daughters and live in San Francisco.

I found her story quite moving and look forward to trying some of her recipes, like this one for cream of asparagus soup. Jessica says the flavor improves after a night in the fridge, so make the soup in advance, and reheat it before adding the lemon juice.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 lb. asparagus stalks, tough bottoms snapped off
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 - 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop the onion.
  2. Cut the asparagus into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
  3. Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot over medium-low heat, add the onion, and cook, stirring, until softened.
  4. Add the asparagus pieces, a couple of pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  5. Add 4 cups of vegetable broth and simmer, partially covered, until the asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Puree the soup in batches in a stand blender, or use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot. (If you use a stand blender, wait for the soup to cool a bit and fill the blender only one-half to three-quarters of the way full with each batch, then return the pureed soup to the pot.)
  7. Stir in the creme fraiche or heavy cream, then add up to another cup of broth, if necessary, to thin the soup to the consistency you prefer. (If you refrigerate the soup overnight, add the additional broth before reheating.)
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Stir in the lemon juice just before serving.
https://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/cream-of-asparagus-soup/

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Categories: Soups

Chard and Lentil Soup from MasterChef contestant Amanda Saab

AmandaSaabThe Detroit Free Press did a food story about the start of Ramadan a few weeks ago and featured home chef Amanda Saab, a former Detroit-area resident who now lives in Seattle where she’s a hospital social worker.

Amanda’s claim to fame is that she was (as of July 25 at least) a contestant on Fox TV’s cooking contest program, MasterChef.

Hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, the show has contestants complete various cooking tasts each week, including “Mystery Box” challenges. The winner receives a cookbook deal, $250,000 and the title of Master Chef.

Amanda, 26, has been a “foodie” since the age of 5, when she stood on a step-stool to pass tools to her mother in the kitchen. For her 16th birthday she requested, and received, a KitchenAid stand mixer.

Amanda, of Lebanese heritage,  is also a fellow food blogger, who gave me permission to reprint one of her posts. So below is her description of meeting one of the Mystery Box challenges on MasterChef, which she posted on June 11.

Amanda at work on the MasterChef set (photo from Fox TV.)

Amanda at work on the MasterChef set (photo from Fox TV.)

Unfortunately, the MasterChef rules prohibit Amanda from sharing the corn cheesecake recipe she made for the show, so I’m offering her recipe for Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup, which she says is a favorite for breaking the daily fast during Ramadan.

Crabs and Corn! (from www.amandasplate.com)

If you missed last night episode of MasterChef, you can watch it here.

Mystery boxes are always a little nerve wrecking. You never know what is under there and you really want to impress the judges and win the advantage.

To my surprise and delight, I lifted the wooden box to find live crabs!

After Hussein and I moved to Seattle three years ago, we of course did some food exploring. One of my favorite spots was Pike’s Place Market. There you can find the freshest fruits, vegetables and of course seafood! We love crab, especially the Dungeness crab, so when I saw that under the Mystery Box, I knew exactly what to make!

I made Dungeness crab cakes with a mango and arugula salad and an avocado cream sauce, and it earned me a spot in the top three dishes of the night!

Beside me was Olivia, who made a beautiful crab Benedict, and Jesse, who made a crab dumpling soup with a crab, avocado and apple salad! Jesse came out on top and won a huge advantage!

Jesse was able to decide who would make a sweet or savory dish. He asked which basket I preferred (what a gentleman) and I said “sweet” and that is what I got.

A sweet using corn

Once we entered the pantry, we learned what the ingredient was: CORN! I would have never guessed that! How was I going to make a sweet corn dish?

Well, corn is naturally sweet, so in my mind including it in a dessert was not that far out. I also knew that Chef Christina Tosi has a corn cookie (amazing) and uses corn flakes in several of her desserts, including her famous cereal milk!

I decided to roast the corn and make a cheesecake! The kernels were little golden nuggets in the smooth creamy, cheese filling. The crust was made with crushed corn flakes and corn pops! I also popped some popcorn and made a popcorn ball with salted caramel. For garnish I pulled some sugar (I also added corn syrup to the mixture) and crushed some tortillas for a “dust” on the plate. I was very proud of this dish and wish you could have seen it.

I may just have to remake it for you all.

The youngest contestant, Justin, was sent home. He is an incredibly bright young man with an even brighter future ahead of him! He just graduated high school and is on his way to culinary school!

The two best dishes in the elimination challenge were by Shelly and Stephen who will act as team captains in LAS VEGAS!!!!

Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup

Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups green lentils
  • 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 Tbs. yogurt for topping, optional

Instructions

  1. In large pot, heat olive oil.
  2. Add in minced garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes
  3. Add Swiss chard and leeks to pot until cooked down by half.
  4. Pour vegetable stock into pot and add in the lentils.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 22 minutes, until lentils are tender.
  6. Squeeze fresh lemon on top of the soup and drizzle with yogurt.
https://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/chard-and-lentil-soup-from-masterchef-contestant-amanda-saab/

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Categories: Soups

A global quest for the culture of—turnips

turnipsWhen it was her turn to host our regular canasta game, my friend Jan served a wonderful turnip and leek soup, the recipe for which I offer you this week.

There was something about being served turnips, in any form, that struck me as odd.

I love vegetables, but I have never cooked with turnips. I’ve hardly ever eaten a turnip, except when we visited a family in Scotland and were served a plate of “neeps and tatties”–turnips and potatoes mashed together.

It occurred to me that turnip is simply not a Jewish thing. My grandmothers didn’t cook with them. My friends–with notable adventurous exceptions like Jan–don’t serve them. I can’t recall being served turnips by a kosher caterer, even though kosher foodies have become much more adventurous in the past 10 years or so.

I went to my bookshelf, where I have eight specifically Jewish cookbooks, and looked for “turnip” in the indexes. One suggested adding a turnip to the broth when cooking chicken soup. That was it!

The only other mention of turnip in the Jewish books was a recipe for pickled turnip in a book of Syrian Jewish recipes called A Fistful of Lentils. Pickled turnips are ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cooking; you often see a piece of one, usually neon pink due to the beet juice it’s pickled in, used as a garnish in Middle Eastern restaurants. To me that hardly counts as an useful recipe. My daughter, who has some trendy, newer Jewish cookbooks, found all of one recipe, for turnip salad with sour cream – which doesn’t sound at all appealing to me.

So I thought I’d look up more information about these common but strange-to-me veggies.

turnip vs rutabagaTurnip? Rutabaga? Swede?

Alas I didn’t get any satisfactory answers as to why turnips are not a Jewish thing. They were known in the ancient Middle East, and they grow well in northern climes, where most of what we think of as “Jewish food” developed. They’re easy to grow and inexpensive, considered a staple, not a gourmet treat.

Wikipedia says there is evidence that the turnip was domesticated before the 15th century BCE, and was grown in India at this time for its oil-bearing seeds. It was well known in Hellenistic and Roman times.

Turnips are often confused with, and can usually be interchanged with, rutabagas, which are larger and have yellower flesh. Trust the British to confuse things. In the south of England, the larger, yellow vegetables are called swedes, possibly because they developed in Scandinavia as a cross between turnip and cabbage. But in Scotland, Ireland and northern England (and parts of Canada), the white root veggies are called swedes and the yellow ones are called turnips.

Turnip jack o'lanterns, photo by Popeyee via Flckr Creative Commons

Turnip jack o’lanterns, photo by Popeyee via Flckr Creative Commons

In Britain and Ireland, where pumpkins were unknown until a few hundred years ago, jack o’lanterns were made from turnips; at Halloween, the large turnips (what we in the U.S. would call rutabagas) would be hollowed out and carved with a face, then carried around with a candle inside. Fans of the wonderful PBS series Call the Midwife saw this on an episode a few weeks ago.

The greens are good too!

In the United States, turnips are harvested in the fall and can be stored over the winter. Turnip greens are harvested and eaten year round, often cooked with a ham hock or piece of fat pork meat; the juice produced in the stewing process is known as pot liquor.

Here are some other uses of turnip in various food cultures:

A historical market celebrating a turnip

A historical market celebrating a turnip

In Turkey, turnips are used to flavor şalgam, a juice made from purple carrots and spices served ice cold.

In Japan, pickled turnips are sometimes stir fried with salt or soy sauce. Turnip greens are included in the ritual of the Festival of Seven Herbs.

In the Tyrolean Alps of Austria, raw shredded turnip is served in a chilled remoulade as a winter salad.

Turnips are used in variety of dishes in the Punjab and Kashmir regions of India and Pakistan.

In Iran, boiled turnip-roots with salt are a common household remedy for cough and cold.

The turnip may be the only vegetable with its own historic marker. The plaque, on Main Road in Westport, Mass., celebrates the return of farmers Aiden and Elihu Macomber from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition with seeds from a turnip exhibited there. The seeds did well, and “Macomber Turnips” are still grown in New England.

Turnip and Leek Soup with Kale and Toasted Walnuts

Yield: Serves 4

Turnip and Leek Soup with Kale and Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lb. leeks (4 medium), white and light green part only, sliced
  • 1 lb.turnips, peeled and cut in wedges
  • 1/4 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced, or 1/4 cup medium-grain rice
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 oz. curly kale, stemmed and washed
  • 1 Tbs. walnut oil
  • 1/3 cup (1-1/2 oz.) toasted walnuts, chopped (toast in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, till fragrant; take care that they don't get too brown)

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes.
  2. Add the leeks and continue to cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic smells fragrant, 30 seconds to one minute.
  3. Add turnips, potatoes or rice, water or stock, bay leaf and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour. The turnips should be very tender. Remove the bay leaf.
  4. While the soup is simmering, blanch the kale in boiling, salted water until tender, 1-1/2 to mines, or steam for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain and squeeze out excess water. Slice the kale into thin slivers and toss with the walnut oil.
  5. Using an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender, puree the soup. Strain the soup to remove any fibers from the turnip and return to the pot.
  6. Heat through, stirring, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Ladle into bowls and top each serving with a spoonful of greens and a sprinkling of walnuts.

Notes

You can keep the pureed soup in the refrigerator for a day or two before serving. Whisk the soup before you reheat it.

https://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/a-global-quest-for-the-culture-of-turnips-with-turnip-and-leek-soup/

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Categories: Soups

Chicken Soup Redux

Song & Spirit soupSong and Spirit Institute for Peace is a marvelous organization based in Berkley, Mich., not far from my home. One of its founders and directors, Steve Klaper, is a neighbor. In a previous life, when I worked in corporate communications, he did a lot of graphic design work for me. Now Steve, a Jewish cantor, his wife, Mary Gilhouly, and co-founder Brother Al Mascia, a Franciscan friar, run an interfaith organization that offers not only religious (and inter-religious) services but also a wide variety of community services. Steve sent this piece out to his email list on March 31.

Song and Spirit founders Mary Gilhouly, Steve Klaper and Brother Al Mascia

Song and Spirit founders Mary Gilhouly, Steve Klaper (Mary’s husband) and Brother Al Mascia

It began (like many scathingly brilliant ideas) as a short conversation in the hallway at Song and Spirit. Brother Al was carrying a large can of powdered chicken bouillon and stopped for a moment to talk about a new initiative he had in mind.

“Chicken soup for the hungry!” he said with great enthusiasm.

He continued, “A fellow I used to work with downtown found a recipe that uses canned chicken and chicken bouillon and we just have to add water, noodles and a little seasonings and we’re good to go.”

Hmmm… he’d lost us at “canned chicken’”…

“Don’t we have friends at area synagogues who might want to pitch in to make ‘real’ chicken soup? Who better to make chicken soup than our Jewish friends! All the Temples have such active Social Action committees and Teen Youth Groups – maybe they’d like to pitch in?”

Brother Al and Cantor Steve prepare for an interfaith service at Song and Spirit.

Brother Al and Cantor Steve prepare for an interfaith service at Song and Spirit.

Temples to the rescue

Within hours, we had firm commitments from two area temples with whom we had worked on many other projects. Both were delighted to find volunteers of all ages who wanted to participate in making homemade soups of all kinds to help their neighbors in need.

So nearly every week – for more than four months now – Song and Spirit picks up 5-gallon containers of hot, homemade soup made by volunteers at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy and Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park. (A third temple is coming on board soon!)

Serving as the hands of God

Outreach Coordinator Greg Allen works tirelessly with Brother Al to deliver the huge, heavy pots to area shelters struggling to find enough to feed lunch to the many in our area who are in need.

Brother Al with the Song and Spirit Care'avan

Brother Al with the Song and Spirit Care’avan

And Greg never ceases to be amazed at the sincere gratitude of those he serves.

“You know,” he said after returning from a soup run on a frigid, winter afternoon, “all they had to offer for lunch today at the shelter was a single hotdog on a bun, and then we came in with five gallons of piping hot soup. Honestly, I don’t know who was more excited, the people who got to serve the soup or the people who got to eat it.”

He paused, thinking, “Then again, maybe it was ME!”

What’s so important about having an Outreach program at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace? We allow everyday people the opportunity to act as the hands of God – and they become people who make a difference in the world.

From the editor:
This week’s recipe is something I call Cheater’s Chicken Soup, because you don’t start from scratch, which can be expensive. Making soup from powdered bouillon is disgusting (as Steve notes above). This is a cheap and easy way to get home-made flavor without sacrificing a chicken.

It’s not a normal recipe because you have to start by roasting a chicken, which you can enjoy for dinner. You’ll make the soup another day. So this is more of a method than a recipe – but it makes a great soup! One chicken carcass will make enough soup for two. Want more? Freeze the chicken carcass until you have a few of them; with three chicken carcasses, and three chickens’ worth of “juice,” you can make more than a half-gallon of soup!

Add some cooked egg noodles and maybe some of the carrot you cooked with the soup before serving.

Note: you can cook this soup a long time. Once I put it on the simmer burner at 6 p.m., planning to finish it at 9 when I returned from a meeting. Well, my husband and I both totally forgot about it until the next morning, so it had simmered more than 12 hours. No harm done – the soup was very flavorful!

Cheater's Chicken Soup

Cheater's Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 whole broiler chicken or large Cornish hen
  • Garlic powder
  • Other herbs and spices to taste (e.g. paprika, onion powder, sage)
  • 1 large onion, cut in quarters or eighths
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 or 2 stalks celery
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks, optional
  • Fresh or dried dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked egg noodles for serving

Instructions

  1. Roast a whole chicken: rub it with garlic and other spices, put it in a greased baking dish, and put it in the oven at 375 degrees (350 for convection) for about an hour and a half.
  2. After 20 minutes, baste the chicken every 15 minutes or so; this gives it a crispy, brown skin.
  3. Continue roasting until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of the thigh and the drumstick wiggles easily.
  4. Remove the chicken to a serving platter.
  5. Pour the chicken “juice” from the pan into a glass or plastic container with a lid. Add a half-inch of water to the roasting pan and swish it around to deglaze the pan, then add that liquid to the container.
  6. Cool the liquid a bit, cover and refrigerate. Leave overnight unless you are making the soup right away. If you don’t plan to make the soup within a few days, put the “juice” in the freezer.
  7. Enjoy the roast chicken for dinner. Remove any leftover chicken meat from the bones to use for another meal (but don’t pick the bones too clean), then put the carcass in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer and take it out when you’re ready to cook the soup.
  8. When you're ready to make the soup, cover the carcass with water, add the vegetables and the dill, salt and pepper, and slowly bring to the boil.
  9. When the water boils, turn the heat down to the lowest setting possible and cover the pot.
  10. Open the container of chicken “juice” (thaw first if you froze it). The fat will have risen to the top and hardened and you can scrape it off. You can throw the fat away, or save it to use in place of other fat in cooking. It’s super in matzoh balls!
  11. Add the chicken “juice” to the soup pot.
  12. Cook the soup for several hours. Strain through a strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth.
  13. (If you don’t have quite enough soup, or it doesn’t taste strong enough, you can add a little powdered chicken soup stock – your soup won’t be 100 percent homemade, but it will taste much better than something made with powder alone.)
  14. Correct the seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.
  15. Before serving, add some cooked egg noodles and perhaps some of the carrot you cooked with the soup and a few chicken shreds you picked off the boiled carcass.
https://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/chicken-soup-redux/

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Categories: Soups

Cure the winter blahs with chicken soup

Chicken noodle soup, photo by Lucy @ Tea for Two via Flickr Creative Commons

Chicken noodle soup, photo by Lucy @ Tea for Two via Flickr Creative Commons

In these gray and cold winter months, what could be better than a nice, hot bowl of chicken soup?

It’s guaranteed to warm you up, both physically and spiritually. It’s not for nothing that it’s called “Jewish penicillin” and that all those books full of pithy statements about positive living–and there are hundreds of them–are called Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Chicken soup really can help cure the common cold! Researchers have found that chicken soup reduces upper-respiratory inflammation, according to a study published in 2000 in the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians. Nasal inflammation is what causes stuffy head and runny nose.

The inflammation is caused by an increase in white blood cells that rush to the site of a viral infection and try, usually unsuccessfully, to kill off the virus. The Nebraska study found that fewer white blood cells were present in people who had eaten chicken soup. Another benefit: Just by being a hot liquid, chicken soup will loosen congestion and keep you hydrated.

Chicken soup with matzo balls, photo by Marlin Farnaux via Flickr Creative Commons

Chicken soup with matzo balls, photo by Marlin Farnaux via Flickr Creative Commons

Hold a chicken soup cook-off!

If you’re looking for a fun wintertime activity, consider a chicken soup cook-off. You can do this socially with a group of friends or co-workers–have everyone bring a different chicken soup to a potluck–or you can run a cook-off through your congregation or organization as a fundraiser.

Temple Shir Shalom in suburban Detroit recently held a Chicken Soup Cook-off as a charity benefit. They invited ordinary household cooks as well as restaurateurs and caterers to enter a  pot of their best chicken soup in one of three categories: chicken noodle soup, matzo ball soup and creative/contemporary chicken soup.

More than 500 people paid an entry fee to sample the soups and vote for a People’s Choice winner. A panel of professional foodies also named winners for each of the three categories in both a professional division and a home cooks division.

The judges rated the soups for taste, texture, flavor and overall impression.

Personally, the chicken soup I make most often is what I call “Cheater’s Chicken Soup” because it’s a free by-product when I cook chicken.

Indian chicken soup, photo by Fifth Floor Kitchen via Flickr Creative Commons

Indian chicken soup, photo by Fifth Floor Kitchen via Flickr Creative Commons

Make “Cheater’s Chicken Soup”

I often make roast chicken, using either whole or cut-up birds, for our Friday night Shabbat dinner. When the chicken comes out of the roasting pan, I pour off the “juice” and then deglaze the pan by adding a cup or so of water and swirling it around to loosen all the nice brown bits. This goes into the same container with the “juice.” If I’m not going to use it within a few days, I freeze it.

Whenever I make a whole roast chicken, I save and freeze the carcass.

When I have at least one carcass and a couple of chickens’ worth of “juice,” it’s time to make soup! I defrost the carcass and the chicken juice (scrape off any chicken fat that has risen to the surface) and put it all in a large soup pot.

I add a large, unpeeled onion cut in quarters (the onion peel helps give the soup a little color), a stalk of celery and a carrot cut in chunks, a half-dozen whole black peppercorns and a few teaspoons of dried dill (or fresh dill from my garden if it’s summertime).

I cook this covered for several hours, then cool and strain through cheesecloth, keeping the carrot chunks to serve with the soup. I add salt to taste when I reheat it. I confess I sometimes add a little powdered chicken stock if the soup tastes weak–but the result is way better than soup made entirely from powder.

I often add noodles or matzo balls before serving.

Chicken noodle soup by John via Flickr Creative Commons

Chicken noodle soup by John via Flickr Creative Commons

The Chicken Soup Cook-off winner!

Today’s recipe is a little more complex, but I’m sure the effort is worth it.

This recipe was the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Temple Shir Shalom Chicken Soup Cook-off. It comes from Elwin Greenwald, who owns a wonderful take-out joint called Elwin & Co. in Berkley, Michigan.

It’s named for his grandmother. “My Bubbie Gratzielle left Poland for Sorrento. Italy, and brought her recipe with her to America!” he told the Detroit Free Press, which printed the recipe. The photo below, which appeared in the Free Press, is by Elwin Greenwald.

Bubbie Gratziella's Italian Chicken Soup

Bubbie Gratziella's Italian Chicken Soup

Ingredients

    For the soup:
  • 2 stewing chickens, cut up into pieces
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 to 6 carrots, roughly chopped but not peeled
  • 2 to 3 parsnips, roughly chopped but not peeled
  • 1bunch of celery, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 6 medium sweet onions, roughly chopped
  • 1cup white wine (sweet is OK)
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • Coarse black pepper to taste
  • 1tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • small bunch flat leaf parsley
  • small bunch dill
  • 1small box (8 oz.) orzo or pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 2 diced and sautéed zucchini
  • For the Chicken Dumplings:
  • 1 lb. ground chicken breast
  • 2 medium sweet onions
  • ½ cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
  • 2 medium eggs lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Toss cutup chicken in a little olive oil, then place it skin-side down on a large sided baking sheet.
  3. Next, toss the carrot, parsnips, celery and the onion in some of the olive oil and spread evenly on another sided baking sheet.
  4. Place in the oven and roast until the chicken and vegetables are golden brown but not cooked all the way through, about 45 minutes.
  5. In a very large soup pot, place the wine, salt, pepper, sugar, tomato paste, bay leaf, parsley and dill.
  6. Add the chicken and the vegetables, making sure to get all the brown bits left on the pan.
  7. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Gently simmer for not longer than 1 to 2 hours.
  8. Meanwhile in a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dumplings and mix well.
  9. Using a small scoop or dampened fingertips, pinch off small pieces and set aside.
  10. Strain the soup through a colander or strainer into a second pot. Remove and reserve pieces of the chicken meat.
  11. Add the dumplings, orzo or couscous and the zucchini and simmer until ready to serve, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  12. Just before serving, add the reserved chicken meat to the soup.
https://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/chicken-soup/

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Categories: Soups