Creamy Two-Potato and Dill Soup

dill 1 2.2.14My mother doesn’t like dill. I do. Neither of these preferences is particularly important. They’re just preferences.

And yet, it’s the reason why I automatically reached for the package of dill when I was grocery shopping a few days after I’d visited my mom.

I don’t remember, were we watching a cooking show together? Possibly that, and the TV cook was likely using dill, which would have prompted the “I don’t like/I do like” conversation.

That little exchange lifted dill up out of the recesses of my mind, so that, when I saw the package of it in the store, it was inevitable I should reach for it and bring it home, where I promptly added it to a salad.

Then, the other day, when I took notice of not only potatoes in the fridge, but also sweet potatoes, I thought what a nice soup that would be, and what a great place to stir in fresh dill. So I made potato soup: russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, garlic, vegetable broth…and dill.

While I peeled and diced the potatoes (four medium russets, about 1 1/2 pounds; two medium-largish sweet potatoes, about 1 pound), one thinly sliced celery stalk simmered in a lightly coated pan over medium-low heat. I was keeping the heat lower on the celery, and also added some salt, so the celery wouldn’t cook too fast and brown too much while I diced the potatoes.

Then I tossed in the diced potatoes, along with four minced garlic cloves.

Stirred it all up. Added a little water to keep things from sticking, and put the lid on to keep moisture in and cook through.

Fifteen? Twenty minutes? Not sure…but enough time to clean up a little, empty the dishwasher, put a few other things away.

Took the lid off the pot at one point to check doneness, and was rewarded with the wonderful aroma of garlic. Added a little more water. Lid back on.

When all the potatoes were fork-tender (regular potatoes waiting patiently, because sweet potatoes were firmer and took longer), I added vegetable broth.

I had a one-quart carton, and added half, then used a stick blender to purée. The broth was a rich yellowy-orange, and lent a warm tone to the white potatoes (the sweet potatoes had turned out to be white when I peeled them). I added a little more broth at a time, wasn’t sure how much I’d need. Turned out the whole carton of it was just right.

dill 2 2.2.14Tweaked seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turned off the heat, and stirred in a couple of generous tablespoons of chopped fresh dill.

Ultimately, this is brothy mashed potatoes! Dressed up a little with the addition of sweet potato, bringing, well…a little sweetness.

And then light, grassy (in a good way!) dill freshness.

Creamy, savory-sweet, garlic-infused potato soup with dill…comfort-food soup.


Celery and Rice Soup…Alas, Without Biscuits

celery 2 3.16.13I must confess. Biscuits look good, but didn’t taste good.

And I’m not sure why. It might be a baking powder issue. Did I miscount teaspoonfuls? Maybe.

Did I use too much dill? Not sure.

Possibly due to the capers. Since they’re jarred in vinegar, maybe the vinegar reacted with the baking powder.

I took a bite of the celery. That seemed fine.

Those are the things I mixed in with the dry biscuit ingredients: thinly sliced celery, a tablespoon of capers, a tablespoon of chopped dill, a little lemon zest from the half lemon I had left from the soup. They are ingredients that go well together, and I thought they’d work here, having successfully added a few herbs to biscuits before.

Ah, well. I’ll try again another time, and maybe that’ll clear up what happened here.

Still, the soup came out just fine.

Celery and rice. Light and easy.

Into a pan heated with enough oil to coat it, I added one small onion, thinly sliced, and three minced garlic cloves. I let them soften in the pan, then stirred in four cups of thinly sliced celery, and salt and pepper. Allowed the celery to cook and begin to soften.

I stirred in a cup of brown basmati rice, and let it cook a little, not quite browning, because liquids were being released from the vegetables, but, still, the rice releasing its lovely aroma. Then I poured in six cups of vegetable stock, and tossed in half a lemon, seeds removed. Lid on the pot, heat up to high. When it came to a boil, I reduced the heat to low and let it all simmer for about a half hour while the rice cooked.

I tasted from time to time, because I wanted the lemony back note, but didn’t want it to become too sharp. When the rice was cooked, I took the lemon out.

Even without the biscuits for accompaniment, a really nice soup. Light, uncomplicated, and the roundness of the lemon flavor complementing tender celery.

Celery Chips

celery 3.9.13Potato chips. Sweet potato chips. Kale chips. Any-vegetable chips.

So, celery chips, too.

It was a night for easy. Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup simmering on the stove, and some thinly sliced celery in a 400° oven, with the idea of something crispy to sprinkle on top.

It could’ve been crispy onions. It could’ve been crunchy tortilla chips. But celery is my focus for a few weeks, so I tried that.

I turned the oven on to 400°. While it heated up, I sliced several celery stalks thinly and at an angle, just to get a longer slice. Tossed them with just a little extra virgin olive oil to coat, and a little salt and pepper. Spread them in one layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Slid them into the oven. Heated the soup on the stove.

Didn’t know how long they would take, so I kept an eye on them, checking on them every ten minutes or so. Turns out 37 minutes at 400° is too long! Got caught up in a conversation with my husband, and, when I remembered to check them, found black celery slices with hints of green, rather than the other way around, which is, after all, what I really wanted.

Fortunately, all the slices hadn’t fit on that pan, so I had some left, and I tried again. This time, 20 minutes did it.

They weren’t crispy like chips, but a mix of crispy parts and toothier parts, with a hint of light celery remaining in the deeper, more concentrated taste it had cooked into. I liked them.

Stirred them into my bowl of soup. Hadn’t had this Trader Joe’s soup before. It has some chipotle, which gave it a nice kick. And these little crisped-up celery bits gave a great flavor and texture complement.

Bloody Mary Salad

celery 4 3.2.13Celery can be stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter. It can be sliced into sticks for a go-to snack. It’s great for dipping. It adds lightness and crunch to salads. It shows up in celery soda. It’s a classic as a soup starter along with carrots and onions. It can be used every day of the week in a different way, and, still, I am amazed at how often I will use celery for whatever reason I bought it and then leave it to languish in the vegetable drawer for weeks until I either have to throw it out or trim off the bottom and put the limp stalks into a glass of water to revive them.

But this week I was faced once again with a full bag of celery just as I needed to choose a new ingredient to play with for the next three weeks. So, celery it is.

Once I decided on celery, a Bloody Mary came to mind, even though I can’t remember the last time I had one. And that led to combining tomatoes and celery, which are terrific together. I looked at a couple Bloody Mary recipes for some flavoring ideas for this salad. It’s not so much a deconstructed Bloody Mary, more that it echoes some of its notes.

Into a bowl:

  • 8 ounces of grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced thinly on an angle, and some chopped fronds
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 3 tablespoons olive tapenade (the jar I have is a mix of kalamata, black and green olives)
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • olive oil to coat
  • lemon zest and juice from one lemon
  • something for a little kick: a little hot sauce, crushed red pepper…I had cayenne pepper, so I added a couple shakes of that
  • and, just for fun, a tablespoon of vodka
  • salt and pepper

Combine and eat.celery 1 3.2.13

This salad was delicious. Crisp, bright, a good sharpness. We enjoyed it as a side with pasta and thin slices of sautéed tofu.

But you can see its possibilities. It can be added to salad greens for more of a full-course salad. It can be tossed in with pasta or another grain for a cold pasta/other grain salad. It can be warmed through, and become a delicious sauce for pasta or other grain. It can fill a good hoagie roll, along with cheese, for a great sandwich. A topping for crostini.

Bottoms up.