Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to the Grind


I woke this morning slightly confused to find myself in New York City. See, I was supposed to be back here a week ago, but, like so many others, my travel plans fell victim to the blizzard in New York. My original flight was canceled and the earliest that Virgin America could rebook me was not early enough to make it back for my class at The French Culinary Institute last Wednesday. Rather than continue to fight lines and standby lists at the airport, I extended my stay in California and what was meant to be a five-day trip, turned into 12.

I would have been disappointed to miss any class at FCI, but last week was my buffet night. In level 4, students spend two weeks preparing food for a buffet that the entire school attends. I had been working on a foie gras terrine, head cheese, kimchi and bulgogi, a carrot sesame terrine, a dark chocolate crepe cake, duck confit, and cassoulet. I was enormously disappointed that I did not get to taste the final products or help my team present all of the food. Disappointed isn’t the right word, I was inconsolable.

But, as one learns to do, I made the best of it. I visited with old friends and enjoyed walking around town in sandals and a dress, soaking up the sun. So much so, that by the end of my trip, wool coats and waterproof boots seemed like a distant memory. Until of course, I awoke this morning to find myself in my Chelsea apartment, with the floors slanted ever so slightly westward.

I walked the 1.5 miles to work this morning to shock my body back into acceptance of the cold weather. After work, I am heading home to clean out the fridge (food tends to spoil when you are gone a week more than planned) and to make a bevy of soups, including this one, so I have a stockpile of lunches and dinners for the week.

This soup is comforting and hearty. Ground walnuts are used to add flavor and a bit of thickness. The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, but this time of year I always use canned in soups and stews. Tomatoes were not meant to grow in January and when they do, they have little flavor. If you are not comfortable with vermicelli or can’t find it, feel free to use a more traditional pasta.

Ground Walnut and Tomato Soup
Adapted from Real Food Magazine

4 T butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 t salt, plus more to taste
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t whole coriander seed
1 cup walnuts, finely ground
2 cups water
2 oz vermicelli, broken into pieces
28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sweat until softened. Place the garlic, salt, pepper and coriander in a food processor and process until ground and combined. Add the spice blend to the onions along with the ground walnuts and water, Bring to a simmer and add the vermicelli. Simmer covered for 20 minutes. In a separate pot, cook the tomatoes over low heat until softened. Add the tomatoes to the soup and simmer for five minutes. Add the parsley, cilantro and remaining tablespoon of butter to the pot and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, before serving.


Through My Kitchen Window said...

A sense of how devastated you were comes through loud and clear. Still, it sounds like you made the right decision in light of the circumstances. Imagine battling for a place on standby in those conditions. Awful.

SaintTigerlily said...

Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

wow great recipe and glad you are back not necessarily home :) safely
yum yum i can't wait to make this!

emiglia said...

oh no! did you ask someone in your class how it went?

Julie said...

Welcome back to NYC!

I've never thought to put walnuts in soup for thickening - what a great tip!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely recipe. Your soup is perfect for our damp and cold winter days. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Anonymous said...

First, good job getting home in one peace. Traveling can be so tiring in those conditions. I haven't heard of putting ground walnuts in soup like this but I think I have everything on hand to give this a try. It sounds like a perfect winter soup. Thanks for sharing.

rachel said...

Love reading about your adventures in culinary school, kinda feel like I'm living vicariously....Hope you enjoyed the warm weather, because we're knee-deep in a north-eastern winter, now. Makes me miss California and Australia (and all the all the other warm-weather places I've lived). You're one Left coaster that got it figured out though with the soup...

Anonymous said...

Looks like you really did make the most of your extended visit to California -- not a bad place to be stuck when it's so cold and snowy in NYC! I do understand, however, how you must've felt missing those classes. I missed out on the Maternal & Infant Nutrition Conference during grad school due to travels home, and while I enjoyed the time with family, I really wished I could also have been at the conference.

This soup is a very different, unique soup. I've never seen something like it. I'm intrigued by the wonderful flavor combinations and textures.



Sydney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sydney said...

Hmm would never think to put walnuts and tomatoes together. Sounds interesting. Just had the best butternut squash soup topped with a few soft oozing marshmallows and pistachios while home in SF at Bin38!! Was super yummy.



Kimberley said...

I am so excited to start reading your blog! And I love the idea of ground walnuts in a soup. And that carrot sesame terrine.

pigpigscorner said...

I was "stranded" back home last year, that's because of the volcano eruption. Glad though as I got to spend more time with my family =)

Anonymous said...

Sounds yummy! I'm in soup mode these days, and always look for a new one to try.

rino said...

i like it..

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cocoa and coconut said...

I love the ingredients in your soup. Walnuts in there are really usual. Sounds like you've been busy with travel!

essay writing said...

The meal is looking very good and in my home party i make it because its looking tasty.