Something for the soul

by carlyjunehaase

I wanted to make a nice cake last week. My favorite actually, Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) because it’s September and officially Fall (here in Germany) and well, cake just sounded nice. The problem about living solely with your significant other is that you have a lack of mouths to feed. I know, I know, there are so many people out in the world with too many mouths to feed and here I am complaining about not having enough. I just hate wasting food. If I’m going to bake a lovely cake (and spend half the afternoon doing just that) I want there to be more than two people to enjoy it, simple right?

So since we were having dinner with my boyfriend’s parents on Thursday and going out of town over the weekend, a cake didn’t really make sense. (I also didn’t have any available half-afternoons where I could feasibly make said cake) You might be thinking: “dinner with the parents?” “weekend getaway?” doesn’t sound too bad to me… 

I’d have to agree with you, as a matter of fact that sounds completely awesome. Only problem is that we were not partaking in a sweet lovers weekend (I’m imagining lazy breakfast-in-bed type mornings and sunny strolls along the beach) but were actually participating in the grueling process known as apartment hunting. Maybe some of you can sympathize.

I have limited experience looking for an apartment. In the USA as long as you aren’t in say, San Francisco or Manhattan, finding a place is relatively straightforward. At least it has been for me. Find a place, prove you aren’t a serial killer and sign on the dotted line. Done.  Our first place together in Germany was also miraculously simple. We looked at one place online, we went and visited the apartment and liked it, applied and were accepted. After this weekend I’m starting to realize how abnormal that is.

Long story short we had eight appointments lined up on one day and out of that group only saw three. Some cancelled because they had already found someone, in some cases the realtor made a mistake and the current resident wasn’t actually home at the time of the appointment (interesting) and of the ones we did see they were a healthy mix of small, tiny and kitchen-less.  Yeah you read me right there. In Germany it’s normal to bring your kitchen with you when you move from place to place. Sometimes there is the option of buying the current kitchen from the previous owners but in this case there is simply a room and the rest is up to your imagination (and wallet).

Which brings me to the recipe. After getting home late last night tired and dejected (insert chosen adjective here) I didn’t want to cook or eat anything that required more effort that tipping a box of cereal.  I thought I’d share with you something I made last week, something that I want to make again right now and would if only I had such a great zucchini again. Of course I suppose two small ones would work fine as well.

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It was a gift from a friend of a friend’s garden. Something that I could never grow myself and represents, to me at least, the best of summer’s bounty. I call this Harvest Soup. Inspired by this magnificent zucchini the rest of the ingredients are a compilation of what I had in my fridge at the time and what I like best. Feel free to substitute as you wish.

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I think the thing that makes this soup particularly flavorful (and delicious eaten either hot or room temperature) is my take on the pistou I add right before serving. I start by making a paste out of crushed garlic and salt. Using the back of my knife I gradually work the salt into the garlic pressing until the garlic and salt form a smooth paste. To this I add about 1/3 cup crushed canned tomatoes and a big bunch of fresh basil. I mash all of this together (a mortar and pestle would be useful here) and then stream in olive oil. The last step involves adding freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese. Stir until combined and drizzle (generously) over ladled portions of soup. This my friends is delicious.

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Harvest Soup

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

1 large or 2 small zucchinis, chopped

1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced

1 red onion, diced

1 leek, sliced

5 carrots. peeled and chopped

5-6 small yellow potatoes. chopped

1 can white beans

4 cups vegetable broth

salt

pepper

For the pistou:

1/3 c olive oil

1 garlic clove

big bunch fresh basil

1/3 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan reggiano cheese

salt

Start by heating the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Cook the onion, leek, fennel and carrots together for 5-10 minutes until translucent. Add the zucchini and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Next add the white beans and stir to combine all the ingredients. Add the vegetable stock so that all the vegetables are covered. Add more stock or water if necessary. Simmer for 15 minutes uncovered and then add the potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Check for seasoning.

While the soup is simmering get the pistou ready. Mash the salt and garlic together with the back of your knife to from a paste. Add this to the tomatoes and fresh basil. Mix, crushing all of the ingredients together using either the back of a spoon or a mortar and pestle. Stream in the olive oil and then finish with the parmesan cheese.

Serve the pistou with the soup, drizzled generously over the top. And maybe have a little cheese and bread on the side. I think it works.

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