Sunday, February 20, 2011

They Can't All Be Winners, or the soup that failed

It's a chilly night here in Arizona.  Now depending on where you're reading this, you'll either agree with that or find it outrageous, because the temperature was in the fifties (it should be in the seventies).  Also it was raining.  So it seemed like a good night for soup.

The other night, we stopped for supper between rehearsals at a place called Souper Salad where they serve--guess what?--soup and salad.  They had a really tasty soup that they called Butter Bean Soup.  I figured I could duplicate it pretty well once I was sure what butter beans were.  When I looked on the internet, I saw two possibilities:  lima beans or fava beans.  I am not too familiar with fava beans, beyond that arch reference to them in "Silence of the Lambs," but these beans were big, so I figured that's what they were.

We stopped at Whole Foods and got some dried fava beans, gave them a quick soak, and put together a soup in much the way I do split pea soup.  After a while, I gave it a taste, and I could see a bit of a problem already:  the beans had these thick husks on them that weren't getting any softer.  After two hours of cooking, the insides were soft, but the outsides were like leather.  I puzzled for a little while and then had an inspiration:  put it through a food mill.  So I did.  Well, now I had a decent pureed soup, but it had almost no taste!  None!  Adding some salt and pepper didn't help much, so I began tossing things into the pot.  (By now, I knew it was a lost cause.  Any time you start rooting through the spice cabinet in the hopes of finding the magic elixir that will salvage a dish, you know you're pretty much doomed.)  I found some curry spices--cumin, coriander, and a bit of curry powder--and tossed those in.  So now, I've got a brownish-green, baby-food-like puree with bland undertones and glaring curry notes.  Blech.

It's simmering now.  I have some popovers in the oven.  We'll eat some of the soup, which looks, um, pre-digested, but I doubt we'll keep the leftovers.  At least the popovers will be good.

I was going to write tonight about a wonderful French cherry concoction called clafoutis.  I made one today as a riff on the cherry theme that dominates Washington's Birthday.  (How did we end up with a tradition of making things from cherries in February?  It's about as far from cherry season as you can get .)  I promise, I'll share that recipe eventually--maybe in the summer when there are oodles of good cherries in the markets.

Instead, I thought in the interests of full disclosure, I'd let you know that not every night around here is a feast.  Sometimes you end up with a real flop.  But at least it makes a good story.

I hope your dinner turned out better!

(Note to self:  next time, use lima beans.  I bet they'll make a decent soup.)

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