Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My favorite cold weather soup

No, it's not winter yet - not even officially autumn. But the winds blew in fall-like weather and we've had our first frost of the season. To me, this is enough to declare the start of emataje season.

I first got this recipe - really a verbal list of ingredients I quickly jotted down on a piece of scrap paper that lives in a pile in our house somewhere - for emataje from a dear friend and fellow food lover. She said it is a Tibetan recipe that her teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, brought from his homeland. She gave few specific amounts and scarce instructions on how to combine them - luckily this is about the easiest stew ever, so it's almost impossible to go wrong. Since then it has been a regular on my fall and winter menu and I never feel totally secure unless there is a decent stock of the stuff frozen in my freezer.

With the heartiness of potatoes and beef, the richness of bleu cheese and the spike of heat from the jalapenos, this stew will warm you on the coldest of nights and leave your tongue buzzing gently.

This week we had our first emataje night of the season - and now have our first quart frozen for the coming frigid months. In an attempt to convince Ava that this stew is worth a regular spot on our cold-weather menu I removed all the seeds from the jalapenos (the soup really does best with a nice kick) and served it with Ava's favorite bread, the Roadhouse Rye from Zingerman's. (I could write a whole post raving about this bread in particular and all bread from Zingerman's in general. Will stacked the car full of Zing's bread on his last trip to Minnesota from Michigan and we are using up our last loaf of Roadhouse Rye. Truly, it may be worth the hefty fee to mail order some more.)

She wasn't quite as convinced as I, but unable to bear the thought of an emataje-less winter I will continue to offer it (they say it can take as many as 10-20 times of introducing a new food, right?) - maybe with some yummy side dish I know she'll like.

I couldn't resist sharing my version of the recipe with you. Please tweak it to fit your own and your family's preferences. The following recipe will make about 4 large servings:

1-2 baking potatoes cut in cubes with skin on
1 large yellow onion sliced in half moons
3-4 tomatoes quartered (more if they're small)
2-4 jalapeno peppers sliced lengthwise (scoop out seeds if you prefer less heat)
1 lb cubed stew meat (grass-fed)
sea salt
fresh-ground pepper

Place the ingredients above in a large pot or dutch oven and add filtered water to just cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat and skim off the frothy layer just as the stew begins to boil. Let simmer for at least 45 minutes, but longer if you have the time (the stew will taste better the longer you let the meat tenderize and the flavors marry). Towards the end you will add the following ingredients:

a few handfuls shitake mushrooms sliced
lots of spinach (lots!)
1 moderately sized wedge of bleu cheese crumbled

About 10 minutes before you'd like to serve the soup, add the shitake mushrooms (if you are using dried mushrooms, you can add them near the beginning with the other ingredients) and the bleu cheese. Taste the stew and adjust the salt and pepper seasoning as needed. When you are happy with the seasoning and mushrooms are tender, stir in the spinach, give it a minute or two to wilt and turn off the heat.

Sit around the table with your family and friends and Enjoy! And do let me know what you think.

Monday, September 12, 2011


We had a weekend full of festivals, sunshine and good family time. The Fulton Fall Festival alongside our neighborhood farmer's market, Woofstock (just as it sounds, a celebration for four legged furry ones) in Linden Hills, an all day renaissance festival block party (which we vicariously enjoyed through the live music and sounds of revelry humming from the alley behind our house), a potluck with Will's new colleagues and their families; it seems our lives are busier here after only a month than they were when we left Michigan, though I suspect a vast slowing down is approaching. 

With temperatures still in the 80s it's hard for me to believe that we could be celebrating fall already. And yet by tomorrow it seems the winds will have changed. Ava and I heard the first crunch of leaves under our feet as we walked to the park today. I feel ready and welcome this changing of seasons. And I'm so glad we managed to fit in that final afternoon at the beach. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A SouleMama Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coming home

We have been here a little over a month now and are starting to feel just a bit more comfortable in our new city, our new home. Finding some nooks that we've been cherishing (ah, the beach just blocks from our house!), meeting many kind people, wondering which of those meetings will lead to deeper relationships. After weeks of Dada traveling back and forth from Michigan and grandparents flying in to help us unpack those many boxes (thank you, we couldn't have done it without your help), we are united and finally, thankfully, settling into our more normal routine. 

I am reminded just how much I cherish that routine; the everyday rhythms that carry us through our days. In a place where so much is new, I take such comfort in the simple, routine occurrences that bring a sense of familiarity. My favorite omelet in the morning, our daily adventure, the stories before naptime (some favorites we may read several times a day), the words and silliness we trade back and forth, the excitement over dada's return at the end of the work day, sitting down together as a family for dinner, then some quiet mama time after all have gone to bed. And I note how the routines get subtly tweaked over time as seasons change, as Ava grows, as our needs evolve. Stable yet ever changing, our rhythm carries us along and cradles us through the uncertainties in every day. 

Even as we start to find our way here, news from the east pulls at me - making me long deeply to be there to share in the excitements and give hugs when loved ones face challenge and uncertainty. As I meet new people that I am just beginning to learn about I am reminded of how much I value those I have known and loved for many years.  

Now with the breeze carrying hints of a cooler season ahead we are soaking in as much of the sunshine and warmth that the final days of summer have to offer. The fall festivals are nearly upon us, and I am grasping these days of utter sunshine and temperatures in the 80s knowing that soon our sun-kissed limbs will be bundled beneath many layers and our rhythms will slow their pace as we curl together during the darker months. I do think we may be able to squeeze in one final day at the beach before we declare summer over.