ROOT | VERSE

narratives of food, drink, & life

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Eating By Color: A Wintry Rainbow Soup

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At first it might seem a little fantastical. You might feel a little silly walking through the produce aisle, portioning your fruits and vegetables according to their pigment. But there is some evidence to substantiate this approach, and in the end if painting by numbers makes the masterpiece, then I’m all for it: after all, nature isn’t really big on “originals’.photo (5)

Last night I read poems at a cafe in Bushwick. Emerging out of the subway, the snow was assaulting and powdery like bags of flour thrown into my face. One New Yorker told us before we arrived that you live or die according to how close your apartment is from the subway. I thought he was being dramatic. Turns out I now understand.DSC_0854

At the end of the night, I ducked into the subway, relieved for the brief moment of respite. Riding the three stops back to my apartment I remembered the wintry rainbow soup my family would make, and knew I’d be cheating myself if I didn’t set about making it immediately.

The version presented here rests heavily upon what produce I’ve been able to procure in my neighborhood. But more important than any one ingredient, is the color of the soup. There must be white, green, yellow, orange, and purple to make this soup right. There’s a hidden logic this criterion that some may be interested in parsing. For me, I’m too busy eating.DSC_0827

A note on the preparation: your favorite vegetable stock will do great. Depending on how much time you have, spending some extra time will make this soup so much better. I prefer making my own stock, which can be easily done using the odds and of vegetables from a week’s worth of cooking, roasted and seasoned according to your liking, and simmered in a pot of water for at least an hour. The key is to roast the vegetables first. Believe me, it’s worth it. For this stock I added potatoes, celery, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, and onions.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 parsnip, chopped
  • 1 small red beet, chopped
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of kale, chopped
  • Salt, pepper, sage, turmeric, to taste

Directions

In a large pot, sauté onions on medium low heat until translucent. Add garlic and increase heat to medium. Add celery, carrots, beets, and parsnips and cook for 5 minutes.

Add broth or stock to the vegetables. Simmer covered on low for at least an hour.

Add kale and simmer for three minutes. Add salt, pepper, sage, and turmeric to taste.

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5 Warming Winter Eats

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Moving to New York in the wintertime is, at the very least, a significant challenge. But there is something intangible that comes with 10° temperatures. 

When the so-called “Polar Vortex” made its second trip to my new neighborhood, a peaceful calm descended. Lights illuminated the drawn shades in what seemed to be greater volume than I had noticed before. All the bustle was muffled by the overpowering chilly force of nature.

Handfuls of compacted snow whirled into the air that comes in hard gusts out of the air vents above the subway when the train arrives. “Brooklyn is a snow globe right now” I said to a friend in California, “It’s magic.”

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I find myself dreaming up new, warming eats and drinks. In memory of one of my favorite European travel discoveries, I’m on the hunt for the best Pirogue in Brooklyn, and hopefully someday I will make a borscht recipe that is an incontrovertible favorite. 

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In the meantime, here are some of the warm items around the web that are making it to the top of my list: 

1) Winter Vegetable Green Curry– A colorful, simple, and tasteful green curry made with seasonal vegetables. 

2) Winter Fruit Pie With Walnut Crumb– A rustic winter pie from Epicurious.  

3) Coffee Brewing In The Great Outdoors– Though it may seem like light years off, thought of brewing fresh coffee the right way in the great outdoors is an ongoing daydream. Kinfolk recently published a lovely article on the subject. 

4) Vegetable Morrocan Stew– A delicious stew from the journal over at Hearth Magazine.

5) Chicken Pho Recipe– As always, recipe-master Deborah Perlman does it again. Nothing quite compares to the Pho-a-plenty streets of San Francisco, but this brings me back. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Drinking Chocolate in Poland, or How to Survive a Thousand Winters

Krakow is a place that knows cold. In January, the mean temperature is 27 °F, and often the temperature dips far below that, especially in the evenings. The icy winters do little to cheapen the magic of this old city, however. All that is required to fight back the biting wind is a warm drink.
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A subtle, yet important, distinction is made among some between hot chocolate and drinking chocolate; the difference being that drinking chocolate is made with melted chocolate, rather than powdered chocolate, or some kind of watered-down concentrate. We’ve discussed warming beverages before, but this one takes the cake.
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At Nowa Prowincja near the old-town square in Krakow they serve a rich, buttery, hot chocolate that more closely resembles chocolate pudding than it does the thinned out excuse for hot chocolate in your average coffee shop.

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The chocolate is continuously slow-churned, giving it a richness that is surprisingly smooth, and makes the cold winter nights just slightly more bearable.

Simply The Best: Hühner Haus

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Simplicity in food is an underrated art. For me, it is also the most important and abiding quality of my most favorite meals. How do we transform simple chords into new songs? I’ll forego sophistication for consistency on any occasion. Time and again I am drawn to places that provide very simple meals, but somehow do it better than everyone else. 

Rotisserie chicken restaurants dot the Berlin landscape with the same ubiquity that taquerias do in the mission district of San Francisco, or pizza parlors in mid-town Manhattan. Every place promises to be better than the rest, and city’s residents can easily be divided into hardline camps according to their gastronomic preferences. As far I’m concerned, there’s only one rotisserie chicken restaurant in Berlin. That restaurant is Hühner Haus. 

The chicken is perfectly seasoned, always fresh, and cheap. What makes Hühner Haus incomparable to any of its competitors however are the sauces. A creamy garlic and yogurt sauce, a curried garlic, mayonnaise, and curry ketchup each compliment the tender roast chicken in different ways. And that’s it. There is no need to embellish, or change a winning formula. In the span of a month I ate at Hühner Haus four times. Each time I received the exact same meal as I had at the previous visit. Which is harder than it looks. 

Lángos: Deep-Fried Death Trap

Lángos.

The culinary equivalent of it sounded like a good idea at the time. 

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During our month long stay in Budapest, we ate this dangerous/amazing street food five times. Each time we did, the experience became both progressively better and worse.

There are Serbian, Czech, Polish, and other variations on Lángos but Hungarians are the progenitors of this amazing heart attack food.

Lángos is deep-fried bread essentially, with a yeasty dough that sometimes includes potatoes and sour cream which makes it almost like a mutant latke. The dough (roughly the size of a small pizza) is dropped into a vat of oil, and slathered with garlic sauce, sour cream, and mounds of cheese.

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The way people talk about Lángos in Budapest is similar to the way New Yorkers talk about pizza, which is initially what attracted me to it–that and the carnal grossness of the food itself. For such a simple set of ingredients there was an amazing amount of variation among the Lángos that we tried.

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In search of the perfect specimen, I found three major categories:

-The Death Cracker: with less yeast and no potato, this version was crunchy and oily. We found these at a couple of markets, none of which were recommended to us.

-The Nuclear Lattke: These contained mostly shredded potato, but were topped and prepared just as traditional Lángos is. Not the original, but satisfying nonetheless. This popular variation is sometimes called “Potato Lángos” or krumplis lángos

-The Last Supper: There are some Lángos that are softer..the dough is thicker, almost like a pizza crust. We found our favorite through our friend Kalman, who swore it to be the best, at the market on the Buda side of the city called Feny Utca Market.

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I now believe that in the manner in which cats are said to have nine lives, humans are given around five Lángos before the body revolts. Once the quota is surpassed, the territory is treacherous.  So choose your Lángos wisely, and the experience will be unforgettable.