Sunday, October 7, 2012

When Artists Cook

Hi, It's Jenn from Just Add Water Silly again. I've been thinking about what "when artists cook" means and how being an artist influences the way I handle food and recipes. What I realized after some deep pondering was that I cook the same way I paint abstracts. The painting above was done a year or so ago, I sat down, chose my favorite colors and splooshed them around on the paper. I painted with abandon, happily watching the paint combine and flow, not too worried what would be the outcome, assuming it would be fantastic when I was finished.

When I'm in the kitchen cooking something, it's just that way. I may have a recipe but I never follow them to the letter. In fact, I tend to go off on my own tangent most of the time, like the painting, I fling new ingredients in until I'm satisfied. most of the time I end up with something successful, which is kind of miraculous actually, lol.

When the abstract painting above dried I was somehow unhappy with the outcome, kind of like a recipe that wasn't coming together. There was something missing, something I think I was missing when I looked at it. It was pleasing but didn't have the spark or focus that I wanted it to have. It needed something but I was unsure what. I think many recipes are the same, they need tweaking, a new view, a little spark. That's why I nearly always play around a little (Ok, a lot, lol.). I'll get a base going then start smelling ingredients and spices that I might add. If the smell is pleasing with the scent that's already lingering in the air from the base recipe then I'll add the new ingredient. If I'm not sure, I'll do a test with a few tablespoons of the base and the new ingredient/spice added. This "trial & error" method is so much like the method I use to bring a piece of wayward art to life. I looked at that abstract for months, as it sat in my open file folder. It seemed that the painting had marinated long enough in my brain and one day I saw it differently. I finally knew what was missing, what the focus should be. I got out my Micron pens and a couple pencil crayons and discovered a pink rose with leaves surrounding it. It had just needed a little tweaking.
Title: "Undiscovered Rose"
Recipes work just that way with me, I throw around a bunch of ingredients then tweak with little additions until it's just right. That's exactly what I did when I first made "Kitchen Sink Soup". Everyone opens the refrigerator sometimes and thinks, "hmmm, those veggies aren't gonna make it much longer, what a waste." That's what happened a few hours before I created this spectacular soup. I had a fridge full of veggies that were just begging to be enjoyed so I got them all out and started playing.
I already had a basic recipe (read: boring) that asked for cabbage, carrots, onion, celery and a zucchini but I knew it truly needed some love to help it come to life. I started by roasting a whole head of garlic (cut the head off, exposing the garlic cloves. Make a tin foil bundle around said garlic, pour olive oil over the garlic, close package and roast at 400 degrees F for 45-60 min) and chopping up a bunch of onion, carrot and celery. I then sautéed the chopped veggies in a little olive oil and butter. I was kinda brutal to them, as I let them get pretty brown and yummy before I added the roasted garlic and poured the whole shebang into the big stock pot to play with all the other ingredients. (the full recipe follows this post) After I had added the other veggies and filled the stock pot with everybody, I just covered the whole veg mix with chicken stock. Then I added some left over jarred pasta sauce, a big can of chopped tomatoes and a can of corn, liquid and all. The spices were next, along with a few tablespoons of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. I turned up the heat and let everybody cook for an hour.

In the end, the recipe needed a little something, a tweak to make it unique and memorable. I know you're gonna be shocked by what I added but I tell you, it works! The addition of  about a half a cup of peanut butter (I told you!) gives this soup a creamy consistency and it's out of this world good, for serious! Here's the whole recipe, hope you try it and love it.

 Kitchen Sink Soup (A La Jenn)
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 1 head cabbage, chopped (bite sized pieces, ~1")
  • 3 large carrots, sliced (into bite sized rounds)
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped (bite sized)
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini, (bite sized)
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 1 pkg. pea pods (if available, chop to bite sized pieces)
  • 1 large can chopped tomatoes (26 oz)
  • 2 cups pasta or tomato sauce (or 1 small can tomato paste)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar or Splenda (adjust to taste)
  • enough chicken broth to cover veggies
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • spices to taste (thyme, marjoram, basil, poultry spice, even some chili spice)
  • olive oil & butter for sautéing veggies & roasting garlic
  1. Roast garlic.
  2. Saute the carrots, celery and onion in olive oil & butter until they get a nice brown color, 15 minutes or so.
  3. Add the roasted garlic (squeeze it out of it's skin) and mix into trio.
  4. Add all other veggies (except pea pods & zucchini) to large stock pot and add sautéed veg to this.
  5. Cover all veg with chicken broth (you'll probably need a couple of liters or quarts).
  6. Add the tomatoes, corn and pasta sauce.
  7. Add your spices, sugar and salt & pepper now, be fairly generous.
  8. Stir all together.
  9. Simmer soup until cabbage is nearly cooked, usually an hour.
  10. Now add the zucchini and pea pods and simmer another 10 minutes or so, until soft.
  11. Check flavor for spices etc. Adjust accordingly.
  12. Stir in the peanut butter when off the heat.
  13. Enjoy hot from the pot although it's even better the next day, hot and bubbling.
  • This soup is terrific, low calorie and gluten free and can be doctored up with cooked ground beef or chopped chicken at the bottom of the bowl before the soup is ladled in.
  • If I want to be really decadent, I have been known to make what I call "dinner in a bowl". Layer some chopped chicken then broken up bread then shredded cheese into a deep bowl. Ladle on very hot soup. It's like a wonderful surprise every time you dig down.
  • This soup freezes perfectly too, it makes a ton, so freeze in plastic and thaw when needed!
  • The peanut butter can be left out until one ladles out the soup into a bowl, then a generous teaspoon can be added and stirred into the hot soup.