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.

A Three-Course Meal

Last year I battled a squirrel who decided to feast like a gavone on my amazing pumpkin and gourd display. I documented his “vandalism” on Instagram. One follower recommended coating the pumpkins and gourds with clear polyacrylic. It worked for about two weeks and then the gnawing continued. He showed no mercy! As the weeks went on, my anger subsided and I  grew a fondness for the little guy (or shall I say, chubby guy.) I looked forward to seeing him on the porch while sipping my morning coffee.

This year, he’s back! Squirrel’s first attack was on Halloween. I was working and wouldn’t be home to give out candy to the kids. Not wanting to disappoint, I left Snickers, Kit Kats, and Milky Ways on the porch in a big red bowl. The thought crossed my mind, “Maybe one kid would take it all!”,  but I wanted to put the treats out regardless. What I didn’t expect was for one squirrel to take it all!

squirrel

Oct. 31- Eats Halloween Chocolate. 

My husband came home later in the day to find Squirrel feasting, caught chocolate-handed!  More than half the bowl was gone as the culprit ran away carrying a Kit Kat in his teeth! Over that weekend I found Butterfingers hidden on the side of the house and in the front garden. I didn’t have the heart to throw them away. I left them for Squirrel to find and enjoy during the colder months.

His piggery didn’t end with Halloween. Next up on the menu was my decorative corn. I bought beautiful corn stalks from Lisena Garden Center (12-5 Cross Bay Blvd, Broad Channel), with bright yellow corn, 5-6 on each stem! The pop of color looked so nice on my porch with the rest of my seasonal display.

One day after securing the corn stalks to the front columns near my entry, Squirrel started chopping away! Bits of corn leftovers lay all along the front steps. Birds appeared and joined in the eating frenzy! I could almost hear David Attenborough narrating the natural ecological experience! While my corn was quickly disappearing, the cobs itself were red, and that still looked pretty cool. 

cornNov. 2 – Corn decimation, before and after.

Squirrel is fearless! He continued eating the corn hanging on with his feet while I approached him, only abandoning his bounty when I got two feet away. He finished both stalks in two weeks. 

But he didn’t stop at a mere two courses. He was ready for a third – the pumpkins. They’d been out as long as the corn, but it seems squirrel food preferences run in the following order: chocolate, corn, pumpkin. I have a thought to buy nuts and see if he’ll eat those over the pumpkins. After all, isn’t that Squirrel’s food of choice?

squirrel 1Nov. 12 – Claiming ownership of the pumpkin

My squirrel and the ones in your backyard are Eastern Gray Squirrels. That also includes the darker grey and the rarer black-colored squirrels. I hate that these cuties get a bad rap. They are true New Yorkers, mischievous and resilient. These animals have an excellent sense of smell which is why they can find their buried Butterfingers throughout the winter, even under the snow. In NYC, Eastern Grays can live up to 5 years. In rural areas, up to ten years and in captivity, squirrels can live for 20 years!

Let’s embrace our squirrels rather than disregard them as pests! They are beautiful to look at and entertaining to observe!

 

 

tagged in fall, squirrel

The Basics On Planting Garlic

Basil and tomatoes are a staple in home gardens, especially those kept by Italians. But garlic, a base for so many meals across so many cultures is grown significantly less. Why? I’m assuming it’s because garlic is a cool-weather crop and you can’t buy a starter plant at the garden center. Moreover, many people assume the garden season ends when September hits. NYC is garden Zone 7 which means we can grow food and plant for the spring until the first frost. These days, that feels like mid-December. Kale, collards, spinach, lettuce, and alike can be planted from early April and as late as August for a continued supply of greens through November/December.

garlicMake sure to label where you planted the garlic, so you’ll remember in the spring.

This will be my first year planting garlic! It’s a little late in the season, so if you’re interested in doing this, get to it over the weekend. Ideally, in New York, you should plant garlic in mid-October. My friend Diane Cardwell, expert garlic-planter said it should be fine if planted now. Diane graciously supplied me with two of her homegrown bulbs. 

Garlic grows from individual cloves broken off from the head. You can use garlic from the supermarket but if you have the opportunity to buy from a farmstand, at a garlic festival, or from a site like burpee.com, that would work best. There are so many varieties!  While Diane isn’t sure of the type of garlic she passed along to me, (the identification markers faded last year), we do know it’s the porcelain hardneck type, producing 4-7 large cloves. And the flavor is sharp and strong!

How to plant garlic:

Pick a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. (Garlic can also be planted in a container. It requires little space).

  1. Gently break apart the garlic bulb so you have the plantable cloves. Leave a thin layer of skin on. 
  2. Dig a small trench 4 inches deep. Place the root side down in the ground, pointy side faces up. Space 4 inches apart, each row – 2 inches apart. Cover with soil.
  3. Add a top layer of straw or mulch for protection from the elements.
  4. Clearly mark the garlic rows so you don’t accidentally dig them up or plant over them in April.

Note: Garlic, year-to-year should be rotated in the garden bed. 

In the early spring, you’ll see sprouts! And in July, the garlic will be ready to harvest. When the scape and leaves start to die off, it’s time to carefully dig them out. Next summer I’ll update on this and write about my experience harvesting garlic for the first time. I like the idea of forgetting about something and then being happily reminded in the spring that you’re planting has awoken from the winter!

For more plant talk follow Paula on Instagram @theglorifiedtomato
Previously published in The Wave

tagged in fall, gardening