Paula’s Pea Soup With Crispy Fried Onions

Don't forget the crispy onions!

Everyone is talking turkey but I’m talking soup. I’ve been cooking a different soup each Sunday – escarole soup, vegetable soup, french onion soup, lentil soup – Italian style and an Indian curry version. This past week I made split pea soup for the first time. I’m not a big pea person but I wanted to give it a try anyway, to experiment.

Because storage of dried peas is easy and low-cost, many cultures have pea-based soup recipes. The traditional split pea variety originates in the 19th century. Sailors would boil the dried peas and add salted cured pork making for a hearty, warm meal on long voyages.  In the United States, pea soup was introduced by French-Canadian millworkers in New England. It was a staple cold-weather meal during the colonial period.

Traditionally, pea soup is made with ham, but mine is vegetarian. I’m almost shocked at how good it tasted! I recommend pureeing the soup for a professional presentation. Also topping with crisped onions then adds another dimension of texture and taste.

The secret ingredient

I want to make a special note about the Vegetarian Better Than Bouillon ingredient listed below. This is my secret (not so secret anymore) soup ingredient. It gives a richness that a regular vegetable stock can’t even come close to. It’s a perfect meat substitute, adding the fat that is needed for substance. You can find it in most supermarkets where the other soup stocks are located.

Paula’s Pea Soup

Ingredients for the soup:
12  cups water (give or take)
1 16 oz bag of dried peas
2 large white onions
5 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ bag Dole shredded carrots
1 tablespoon Vegetarian Better Than Bouillon jarred stock
Spice to taste: salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano

Soup Directions:

  1. Dice the garlic and onions.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil on medium. Cook the onions and garlic until translucent. Then add the carrots, cooking for 7 minutes on low.
  3. Add in the water, Vegetarian Better Than Bouillon stock, dried peas and spices. I use a heavy hand for the spices. Bring to a boil and then cover, cooking on low for about an hour. The peas should be mushy.
  4. Take it a step further and puree the soup.
  5. Top with crispy fried onions and serve.

Ingredients for crispy onions:
1 large white onion
1 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Crispy Onions, Directions:

  1. Slice the onions into rings
  2. In a small skillet, heat the oil on high, test the heat by flicking water into the oil. It should pop and sizzle. Add the onions and cook until crispy. This is essential deep frying.
  3. Remove the crispy onions with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil. Top the soup and serve. Store the onions in an airtight container.

For more  follow me on IG – @theglorifedtomatoPreviously published in The Wave Newspaper

The begin of split pea soup
tagged in recipe, recipes, winter

Learning through Animals – Jet the Cat

I had a plan for last Saturday – clean, then get a jump on some graphic design work, and later, I’d prune the serviceberry tree in my yard (which I was excited to do). 

I’m on the porch shaking out the fourier rug when my neighbor calls me over. There was an injured cat. My stomach dropped. I texted my friend for some advice and she gave me a few numbers for emergency care. I passed them along. I continue cleaning but I couldn’t stop thinking about the cat, on the cold cement, unable to move and in pain. 

Then I got really annoyed. My whole day was ruined. If I did nothing, I’d be filled with guilt and worrying all day. If I took action, I was claiming responsibility, which meant potential months of fostering, finding a home and vet bills.

A few years back I passed a very skinny, sickly black cat by Key Food on 87th. I could’ve scooped him up easily. I had a crazy busy day and thought “I’ll pass by later and check on him.”   I never saw the cat again and that unwillingness on my part still bothers me. 

And here I was facing that same choice again. I started calling the local vets, there were no available appointments. I called a bunch of other places on my friend’s recommendation and found Verg Animal Hospital (196 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217). My neighbors helped get the cat into a carrier and I was off driving to Park Slope before I knew what hit me. 

I named him Jet for his all-black coloring. Besides his limp back legs and a few small cuts, he looked well-groomed and well-fed.  He was very good and quiet in the car. I tried to comfort him with words he didn’t understand but I hoped it helped ease his discomfort nonetheless.

My mind thought of every possible scenario. I’ll get him scanned for a chip, maybe he’s someone’s cat that got out and was hit by a car. Maybe he was poisoned and has paralysis. It would be hard to adopt-out an adult black cat but I have a network of cat-rescue friends. It will be expensive, I can set up a GoFundMe. I was committed and I felt good about my decision to take action.

Verg is run like a hospital. They took Jet into triage and determined it was not a STAT. “Ok, that’s a good sign.” I thought.  But my mood started to change at hour three, I was still waiting. Other emergencies were taken ahead of me. I had anxiety and worry and I didn’t eat at all since running out the door. 

Finally, I was called. I was told it was most likely a broken leg and needed surgery. I signed the consent for the cost of painkillers and an X-ray. I waited for another hour or so. It was getting dark, I felt terrible. I was in the twilight zone. I called my cat-rescuer friend for advice. Having someone to talk to about this was comforting.

I was brought back into a room. The doctor showed me the X-rays. I started crying uncontrollably. “So surgery, definitely, right?.” She explained the injuries –  a complete femoral fracture, multiple pelvic fractures with a dislocated hip. I was further informed that if surgery (upwards of 10k) worked, Jet would have nerve damage and most likely would not have the function to go to the bathroom. The veterinarian gently told me that euthanasia was the most humane course of action.

I was hysterical at this point. 

This was one of the hardest things I faced alone for a long time. I was there when the injections were administered. I wanted to give Jet comfort. I petted him and looked into his eyes. 

I don’t know why I became so emotional over a stray cat. I do know that sitting in the waiting room for seven hours under these bizarre circumstances gave me a chance to think. It’s not about a clean house or a head start on my work-load, or other trivial things I think about. None of that matters, I was reminded.  And if I’m complacent, what’s the point of it all. I feel like meeting Jet was a blessing, he had a purpose – helping me connect emotionally to what is truly worth caring about.

verg animal

Jet’s broken femur

Previously published in The Wave.

Going Off The Deep End

Season two of Mindhunter* was released in August on Netflix and I binge-watched it. The show is centered around the new-at-the-time Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, formed in the late 1970s. The main characters interview imprisoned serial killers to understand what makes them tick, in the hopes of solving contemporary cases. The show is so good. After I disposed of that series, Netflix recommended Criminal Minds – 10 seasons of brutal serial murder cases. It’s similar to Mindhunter, as it’s about the same Behavioral Science FBI Unit, but based in the present day.  The show is formulaic like Law and Order, which I love. 

barbie halloween the glorified tomato

I will say though, all this murder is getting to me. I’ve been paranoid, checking the doors several times before bed and making sure the outdoor lights are on. One night I heard a “bang” coming from the basement. My heart started to race. I grabbed a can of tomato sauce that was on the counter. I thought I could throw it at the perpetrator’s head. It turned out (thank God) to just be my cat. He knocked over a vase. About a week ago I was leaving The Gateway Shopping Center. It was late. I got into the car and then had the thought, “Say if someone is hiding in the back seat?” I unbuckled my seatbelt and checked. Another paranoid thought popped in my head when I was attempting a calm, “self-care” evening. I was taking a bath. The candles were lit and I had the eucalyptus aromatherapy diffuser going. All of a sudden my mind drifted and I imagined the unsub charging into the bathroom and electrocuting me, by throwing a blow dryer into the bathwater.

I need to take a breather from these shows. 

My husband thinks I have an unhealthy obsession with death. It must run in my family. My Mother and I always “fantasize” about our funerals. Who will come?  How many floral displays will be given? What items will be put in our coffins? We talk about the music at the funeral. My mom wants When The Saints Go Marching In to be her “Carry-out” song, performed by a brass band. We both want a big party with lots of food, instead of the traditional sober luncheon. We even thought to freeze my mother’s delicious meatballs so they can be served to the family at her funeral party. It just requires some planning. You shouldn’t freeze food for more than six months, so we would need a heads up before she dies. My mother and I always joke, your funeral is “the FINALl party.” It’s gotta be one to remember.

All of this death talk is reminding me that I need to write a will.  And get life insurance. My friend Cecilla and I have actually talked about this at length. We both don’t have kids and we own property. Who would be the next of kin?  Who will take custody of my four cats if Matt and I die at the hands of a psychopathic serial killer? I wouldn’t want the house to go up for some city auction, after all the hard work we put into rebuilding it. I really need to get these matters in order.

All this may sound a little morbid but these are my true thoughts (eek). I hope I didn’t scare you off…

*The Netflix show is based on the true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. I’ve read the book, If you’re into murder mystery, this is a must-read.


halloween the glorified tomato

tagged in halloween

Learning, One Bite At A Time

As I mentioned last week, I want to elaborate on a few more edible plants I discovered at Fort Tilden while on a walking tour with naturalist, and Northern Eastern forager expert Wildman Steve Brill.*

Steve Brill helping us identify edibles with his illustrations on his iPad.JPG

Barbarea (Wintercress or Yellow Rocket).  We stumbled upon a low growing plant in a rosette formation. Brill directed us to tear a leaf and he asked what flavor it reminds us of. I thought it tasted spicy. Someone blurted out, mustard. “Correct!” Brill said with excitement, “This native edible is an Herbaceous plant (herb or spice). It tastes bitter, it’s part of the mustard family.” The leaves are dark green and shiny. In the spring/summer it has a tall yellow flower, the seeds are edible too. Wintercress can be used to make a garlic, mustard dressing, salsa or can be used in soups. It’s best cooked, otherwise too bitter. Wintercress is related to Watercress which you often see in the local supermarket.

Rumex crispus (Curly Dock). This is one of my favorites. It tastes like lemon and thus can be used in so many ways. It helps with liver function – boil it and drink in tea form. I couldn’t believe this flavorful herb was right under my feet and I didn’t know it. The perennial also grows in a rose-like formation and shoots up with a small yellow flower during the summer, turning auburn in the fall.  But it usually never gets to that stage, since it’s often mowed down. An easy way to identify this plant is by the curly leaf edges. With each plant discovered, Steve showed us illustrations he drew of the edible plant at different growth stages.

Edible Rockweed can be found right here on the peninsula!
Edible Rockweed can be found right here on the peninsula!

Fucus vesiculosus (Rockweed) – probably the most exciting edible of the day. We ate seaweed! The tour finished at the ocean where we tasted Rockweed and Sea Lettuce. Both you’ve seen while swimming around in the water this summer. Sea lettuce is “That seaweed you always see.” It’s the bright and dark green, semi-translucent stuff everywhere. Rockweed, which tastes better, is harder to come by but still found around the peninsula during low tide. It prefers to grow along rocky coastlines like the north shore of Long Island. It taste like salty fish “but in a good way”! It can be dark green or purple/brown (when less hydrated). It has “bladder pods” along its thin fronds. The Wildman noted, It’s excellent to use for a mock-fish dinner!” Other culinary uses include – soups, ramen, and  stir-fry. I also read this marine plant is used to smoke meat. Noteworthy, Rockweed is the original source of iodine, discovered in 1811. It was used to treat thyroid related deficiencies.

I was inspired after the tour, so I bought one of Steve’s books,  “The Wildman Vegan Cookbook” Don’t be thrown off by “vegan”, anyone can try these recipes– why not, right? The quote on the opening page has stuck with me, “This book is dedicated to all the nonviolent environmental activists worldwide who have risked physical injury, financial loss, and their liberty to keep our planet green, vibrant and alive.”

If this column has interested you, check out Wildman Steve’s calendar of events here. There’s still time to forage before winter is upon us!

*If  you need to backtrack, find my first column about The Wildman here.

tagged in forage