Posole or pozole is a traditional Mexican soup or stew. Posole comes in all the colors of the Mexican flag (i.e., green, white, and red). No matter which version you make, hominy is a key ingredient. You can read about the process of making hominy here, which involves a process called nixtamalization. (I know, I know . . . z-z-z-z-z-z.)
While we’re still enjoying cool weather, I busted out the stockpot and made Posole Verde — for all you non-Spanish speakers, that would be the green version. Despite all the naysayers on the internet, I used canned hominy, as opposed to searching for Latino markets with dried hominy and then soaking it overnight. So much easier to just pop the top on this can of hominy and get on with things:
While I was making the soup, I could not get the phrase “homina, homina, homina” out of my head — a phrase made popular by Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, used to express “shock, befuddlement, or general speechlessness.” As I puttered around the kitchen, I found myself alternately muttering “homina, homina, homina” and “hominy, hominy, hominy” to myself. I definitely talk more to myself now that I’m an empty nester.
This soup is great — hearty, tangy from the tomatillos, satisfying. Set out a plate of garnishes and let everyone prepare their own bowl.
Preheat the broiler. Place the tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeño on a baking sheet (cover sheet with foil to make clean up easy). Broil vegetables, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skins of the peppers are blackened and the peppers have softened, approximately 15 minutes.
Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove and discard the seeds, stems, and blackened skins from the peppers. (Avoid touching eyes after handling jalapeños!)
Transfer the tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeño to a blender, and blend until almost smooth.
In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and cumin, and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, approximately 6-7 minutes. Add the tomatillo mixture and chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the hominy, shredded chicken, oregano, pepitas, and cilantro, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. If soup is too thick, add a little more chicken stock to thin soup to desired consistency.
Ladle the posole into bowls and garnish as desired with avocado, queso fresco, pepitas, radishes, and cilantro.
Roast the tomatillos, poblanos, and jalapeno
Pureed roasted vegetables
Grind the pepitas
Soup’s on Avocado, queso fresco, pepitas, radishes, and cilantro for garnish
Murano glass has been made on the Italian island of Murano for centuries. I don’t know if this paperweight was made in Italy, but it was part of a collection of fancy paperweights, so I believe it was. I bought it thinking my kids might like it. And they did like it — but neither of them wanted it. So I kept it, and from time to time I pick it up and look at all the colorful ribbons of glass running through it.
I’ve always had a thing for ribbons. When I was a nurse working at Texas Children’s Hospital, I wore colorful ribbons in my hair, which my little patients liked. I quit wearing them when I got to law school, because being a “bowhead” was not cool — the term generally referred to the giggly undergrads who used to hang out at the law library in the hopes of . . . well, you know.
When my daughter was little, I collected all kinds of ribbons and made tons of hairbows for her and my friends’ kids. There’s something special about wearing a brightly-colored bow. I still have a lot of ribbon, and one day soon I am going to have a bow-making bonanza and make loads of hairbows to send to my friends for their adorable little granddaughters.
The ribbons in the colorful paperweight inspired this recipe for Fragrant Spiced Lentil Soup with Kale Ribbons. I love this soup, and make it several times each winter. This soup is different than other lentil soups I’ve had — the fennel and star anise make it fragrant and a little out of the ordinary. It’s worth the trouble to grind the spices for this soup. Just before serving, add in a handful or two of thinly-sliced kale ribbons for color and extra nutrition.
I like lentils because they require no soaking, and cook in about 30 minutes. Did you know that lentils are one of the oldest domesticated crops in the Old World? (Yep, one step closer to being Cliff Clavin.) I usually use the large brown lentils found in bags among the dried beans at the grocery store. On this occasion, however, I used fancy schmancy Le Puy green lentils:
Look — they’re from France!
These are smaller than the lentils I usually buy, and are dark gray-green in color:
They held their shape well, and were earthier than regular lentils — more lentil-y — and made a delicious soup.
1 small bunch fresh kale, ribs removed, thinly sliced into ribbons
Grind fennel seeds and star anise in a spice or coffee grinder until finely ground.
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but not browned. Add lentils, broth, water, ground spices, and bay leaf. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender but not mushy, approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Just before serving, add kale and simmer until kale is tender, but still bright green, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot..
Carrots, celery, and onions getting tender
M-m-m-m-m — soup
(Note the pretty tea towel — a gift from a special friend)
This batch was made with regular lentils — just as good
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans twice for oral arguments in appeals in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. As someone who spends most of her work days sitting at a computer researching and writing, it was exciting and a great privilege to be able to attend oral argument in appeals that I spent months working on.
The first trip was with my two bosses and our client, in a case involving constitutional issues (or at least that’s what the other side claimed). The other side was unhappy with certain events in the trial court and appealed.
We stayed at the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel, built in 1893. This was significantly more elegant than the Hampton Inns we usually stay at when traveling to small towns in Texas (which we nevertheless appreciate).
It’s no secret that New Orleans has a rich culinary history, and dining is a key part of any New Orleans experience. We had dinner that night at Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter, which specializes in Creole and Cajun cuisine.
We were a little late for our reservation, and the host made us sit in time out, even though our table was empty and waiting for us, but once seated we had a pleasant meal, including Soups 1-1-1 (a sampling of Gumbo Ya Ya, Seafood Gumbo, and the soup of the day), and nicely wood-grilled redfish with lemon butter sauce accompanied by popcorn pecan rice:
(Mr. B’s has some recipes on its website, and one of these days, when I can cook with butter with abandon — i.e., never — I’ll try the New Orleans Barbequed Shrimp.)
Bright and early the next morning we headed to the courthouse for the big event:
The courthouse, built between 1909 and 1915, is named in honor of John Minor Wisdom, who served on the Fifth Circuit from 1957 until his death in 1999. The building, designed in the Italian renaissance revival style, is silent and imposing. No warm fuzzies to be found here (except maybe for the nice ladies that check you in and give you a coveted Fifth Circuit pen as a souvenir).
The courtroom was not as spectacular as I had imagined, and had the usual dark wood (albeit fancier) and uncomfortable wooden benches:
Oral argument was interesting. I found the federal judges to be more intimidating than the state court appellate panels we’ve been in front of. The panel was lively, and the questions came fast and furious. (Pro tip: do not point at the judges or refer to them as “you guys.”) Issues that we didn’t place much importance on seemed to have caught the judges’ attention. I personally think that oral argument would be more fun if it was conducted like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” — when the judges throw you a curveball, you could choose to “Phone a Friend” or “Ask the Audience.” We left feeling pretty good about the case, which incidentally, we won. 🙂
Afterwards we had lunch at Cafe Adelaide, located inside the Loews New Orleans Hotel, and named after the Brennan family’s “beloved Aunt Adelaide.”
We were with a bunch of other people who I didn’t know, so I couldn’t really whip out my camera and take pictures of everyone’s food, but I did enjoy my shrimp and grits:My bosses and our client stayed on for a night of “client entertainment” on Bourbon Street, but I had to return to Houston (because I wasn’t invited to join them). My bosses brought me back a souvenir though, in appreciation of all my hard work on the appeal and as a token of their deep respect for me:
Not gonna show you what it says on the back
In fairness, they also brought me an awesome bottle of wine. 🙂
A month later I returned to New Orleans for argument in a case involving international family law issues, this time with co-counsel who hired me to assist with the appeal. This was an accelerated appeal, which moved so fast it made my head spin. As with the earlier appeal, it was our opponent who appealed. The client, who was very grateful to my co-counsel for the fantastic job she did at trial, allowed her to bring me, her paralegal, and the name partner of her firm (a very distinguished and well-respected attorney) along for support.
As we were waiting for our luggage in New Orleans, the partner told us he had arranged for a car, and would meet us outside. We got kind of giggly when we found a limo waiting for us (this is only the second time I’ve been in a limo, the first being my wedding day). It was a fun start to the trip.
We settled in at The Roosevelt (getting a little spoiled at this point), and then met downstairs in the hotel’s Sazerac Bar before heading out to dinner.
The partner had sazeracs waiting for each of us to try:
A sazerac, “the official cocktail of New Orleans,” (I would have sworn it was the Hurricane), is made with a sugar cube, 1-1/2 ounces whiskey or bourbon, 1/4 ounce Herbsaint, a few dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters, and a lemon peel. It tastes like lighter fluid, and goes down just about as easily (cocktail fail for me).
We had dinner that night at Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro, which has been a fixture in the French Quarter since 1918:
We loved the jazz trio that played throughout our meal:
Among the dishes we enjoyed were the Arnaud’s Salad with House Dressing, Arnaud’s Crab Cakes with White Remoulade Sauce (best crab cakes I’ve ever had), and Breast of Chicken Pontalba:
My co-counsel headed back to the hotel after dinner to prepare for oral argument the next morning. But the partner talked me and the paralegal into going with him to Preservation Hall to hear some jazz. Preservation Hall was established in 1961 to preserve and perpetuate traditional New Orleans jazz. Despite the fact that it was packed and lacked air-conditioning, we had a great time. The jazz was really wonderful.
The next morning we headed to the courthouse for argument. As before, the panel was spirited and engaged, firing questions at the attorneys. My co-counsel did a bang-up job arguing, especially considering this was her first oral argument in the Fifth Circuit. As before, we left feeling good about the case, which incidentally, we won. 🙂
With argument behind us, we headed to Galatoire’s for a celebratory lunch:
The restaurant, founded in 1905, is known for its French-Creole cuisine. (This was definitely a stretchy-pants kind of trip.) Among the dishes we sampled were Turtle Soup au Sherry, Redfish Meuniere Amandine, and Chicken Creole:
(Galatoire’s has a few recipes on its website, including one for Shrimp Remoulade, which I plan to try one day soon.)
After lunch, the partner headed back to Houston. This time, I was invited to stay an extra night. 🙂 My co-counsel’s husband, who happens to work with me, flew in to celebrate and treated us to dinner at Commander’s Palace, in the Garden District. Founded in 1893, Commander’s Palace has earned its place in New Orleans culinary history.
Among the highlights of our meal were an heirloom tomato salad, the gigantic Crispy Soft Shell Crab, a crazy rich dark chocolate tart, and a delectable strawberry shortcake:
After dinner we headed to Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street to hear some jazz and do whatever it is you’re supposed to do there. Let’s just say it was not my scene.
Before heading back to Houston the next day, we made the obligatory stop at Cafe Du Monde — a sweet and sticky New Orleans institution since 1862 — for beignets and chicory coffee (hoping our pants wouldn’t split at this point).
With a little time to kill before our flight, we strolled around New Orleans, taking in the sights and sounds of this colorful city:
I bought a souvenir for myself to remind me of the wonderful opportunities I was afforded on these two trips — a wooden roux spoon. How I lived without one of these, I don’t know. 😉
So before I go, I’m sharing a recipe for Duck and Sausage Gumbo that I made with my roux spoon (it actually works very well to stir the roux and get around the edges of the pot). The recipe is based on every gumbo recipe out there. Patience in making the roux is the key, for which you’ll be rewarded with a dark, earthy, satisfying soup.
Tabasco or other Louisiana hot sauce, for optional use at table
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Continue to cook until roux is dark copper colored, stirring frequently (be patient -- this can take 20-40 minutes). Add bell pepper, onion, and celery, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients to pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Discard bay leaves.
To serve, mound ⅓ cup cooked rice in center of shallow soup bowl. Ladle gumbo around rice. Garnish with green onions, if desired. Serve with hot sauce for use as desired.
The flour tastes raw at this stage
Getting there — starting to smell nutty
Voila — dark copper colored roux
Maybe not Gumbo Ya Ya, but definitely Gumbo Yeah Yeah
Like the folks in these vintage photos that I found on ebay, I spent the better part of the last couple of weeks laying around. We had plans to go out for my husband’s birthday in the middle of April, but earlier in the day I experienced sudden, severe abdominal pain, that lasted for the next few days, and had me confined to my bed. It let up for a few days, but after a week, it seemed to only be getting worse, and so on mybirthday (which is a week after my husband’s), I spent the day in urgent care, where I discovered I had diverticulitis with complications. I was sent to the hospital via ambulance, where I spent 6 miserable days. Worst birthday ever.
I am surprised at how long it has taken me to get back to my old self. The first week back at home I barely moved off the sofa. Apart from the fact that I was still recovering, I had no energy. The antibiotics — for which I am grateful — wreaked their own special kind of havoc.
For about 3 weeks, I either had no appetite, or was so overwhelmed by nausea that I couldn’t eat. Even the smell of food made me sick. When I did start feeling well enough to eat, I craved bland, comfort foods — things like macaroni and cheese, baked potatoes with butter, pasta with butter, anything with butter. I’m back to eating normally, but I might have to have just one more bowl of pasta with butter (don’t judge).
On one of my son’s visits to me in the hospital, he hugged me as he was leaving and whispered in my ear, “I need you to come home, Mom.” So touching. “Why?” I asked. He whispered, “I need you to go to the grocery store and to cook.” Oh well, at least he missed me — have to count your blessings where you find them.
Inspired by the photos of the couch potatoes, when I finally felt sort of well enough to venture back into the kitchen, I made a big pot of potato soup, which my son requested and which sounded pretty good to me. Making the soup in my debilitated state, however, about killed me. My mise en placewas more like mise en plotz. I fried up the chopped bacon, then had to go sit down for 10 minutes. Chopped the carrots and celery, and had to lay down for 15 minutes. Peeling and dicing the potatoes was almost a deal-breaker, but a cold soda and a half-hour of laying on the couch and watching TV recharged me. Eventually I was able to finish the soup. It was comforting and delicious, and marked the beginning of a return to normalcy, for which I am very thankful.
You should find the soup considerably easier to make. Have everything chopped in advance, and it will come together in no time. It’s slightly adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Perfect Potato Soup. My whole family loves it, and I have no doubt yours will too.
Place bacon in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel, and reserve for sprinkling on top of soup. Pour off all but approximately 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Add the carrots and the celery to the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, then add the potatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender, approximately 15 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and flour, and add to soup. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then add onion powder and garlic powder, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Puree the soup using an immersion (stick) blender (preferred) or blender. (If using a blender, puree soup in batches, filling blender no more than half full, to avoid having hot soup explode out of the blender.)
Return pureed soup to pot. Stir in half and half. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with bacon pieces, grated cheddar, and chives or green onions, as desired.
I found this boomerang at an estate sale. This is not just any boomerang, it is a piece of hand-painted aboriginal art:
One definition of boomerang offered by Urban Dictionary is a “frisbee for a kid with no friends.” I had a boomerang once, but forgot how to throw it — then it came back to me (groan). Fortunately, this boomerang came with directions:
Too much math for me
The boomerang is loosely based on the concept that what goes around comes around (no kidding, right?). This is also the concept on which leftovers are based, and which has inspired this recipe for Beef and Barley Soup.
The roast was just fine, and could not have been easier, but the packets are a deal-breaker for a lot of folks — you know, chemicals, sodium, etc. — the whole “factory-to-table” thing. I’d have to admit that I prefer my own recipe for pot roast, with seared meat, tomato paste, red wine, herbs, and veggies. Anyway, we had a lot of leftovers, and there’s only so many nights in a row you can eat the same meal (our limit being two), so I had to repurpose the leftover roast. Beef and Barley Soup has become one of our favorite hearty soups. Whenever we have a roast or steak, we always make sure to save a piece in order to make the soup, so having leftover Mississippi Roast was actually something we were quite happy about.
1 cup chopped leftover beef (roast beef, pot roast, etc.)
½ cup pearled barley
4 cups beef broth
1 cup water
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or quartered
Pinch of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and celery, and saute until vegetables are tender and onion is translucent. Add beef, barley, broth, water, mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for approximately 1 hour, until barley is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If necessary, thin soup with additional beef broth.
I found this lace collar made by Teena Brown at an estate sale, in a pile of vintage linens:
My research didn’t turn up anything about Teena Brown, but I did find several other styles of lace collars made by the company on ebay and etsy.
There doesn’t appear to be much demand for this frillery today. Nevertheless, I did find one willing wearer. When our puppy Maisy was spayed a few months ago, her incision took forever to heal, and she had to wear the dreaded Elizabethan collar of shame to keep her from licking the wound. It turned out she didn’t mind wearing it — we think she enjoyed the attention:
What’s your story, morning glory?
So naturally, I asked her to model the fancy lace collar.
What’s up, buttercup?
I think I’ve discovered a new market for these vintage collars!
Happily, lace still rules at weddings, and last weekend we saw a display of beautiful lace. It was my husband’s niece’s wedding — very exciting, especially seeing as she is the first grandchild (or cousin, as my kids see it) on either side to get married. Her lace gown was stunning:
And her lacy wedding cake was beautiful:
Inspired by the lace collar and the beautiful lace gown, I made Italian Wedding Soup, which is really great on the cold nights we’ve been having lately. If you’re not going to serve the whole pot in one sitting, I suggest not adding the pasta to the pot. Instead, add pasta to individual soup bowls just before serving to help keep it from getting mushy.
For the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the veal, beef, egg, bread crumbs, parsley, grated cheese, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Form into 1-inch meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove meatballs to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions , drain, and set aside.
For the soup: Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot and saute until onion is golden. Add the garlic and saute one minute more. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the escarole, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer for a few minutes more, until meatballs are heated through. Just before serving, stir in the pasta. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese, if desired.
These pasta circles are a fun shape
The meatballs brown nicely in the oven, no frying necessary
I found this giant hammered copper ladle at an estate sale. It’s 17 inches long, and the bowl holds a whopping 24 ounces. I can’t wait to buy a cauldron so I can use it.
Have you heard the joke about the missing ladle? A college student invites his mother over to eat dinner with him and his new roommate. When his mother arrives, she can’t help but notice how beautiful his new female roommate is. The son assures her that they’re just roommates and their relationship is strictly platonic. The mother enjoys a nice dinner, and later goes home. Two weeks later, the girl tells her roommate that ever since his mother visited, she can’t find her silver gravy ladle. So the son writes his mother a letter saying, “Mom, I’m not saying that you ‘did’ take the silver gravy ladle, and I’m not saying that you ‘did not’ take the silver gravy ladle, but the fact remains that it has been missing since you came over for dinner.” The mother wrote back saying, “Son, I’m not saying that you ‘do’ sleep with your roommate, and I’m not saying that you ‘do not’ sleep with your roommate, but the fact remains that if she was sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the ladle by now.”
According to information on Snopes, versions of this joke have been around since 1840. Variations on who is sleeping together include a housekeeper and an employer/pastor/Bill Clinton. You, of course, can substitute whoever you want when you tell the joke. 🙂
The ladle, of course, inspires me to make soup. Even though the temperatures are rising here, we still enjoy soup for an occasional meal. If, by chance, you have a leftover ham bone, you have the beginnings of a great, hearty soup. The soup is not particularly pretty, although you could put some lipstick on it with chopped herbs. Rather, its beauty lies beneath the surface in its smoky flavor and chewy bits of ham, and the fact that a hearty pot of bean soup is one of the highest and best uses of a ham bone. The soup reminds me of the little camellia bush in my backyard. It was diseased, and its curled yellowing leaves made it anything but pretty. We were going to rip it out, but instead treated the infestation and left it to see what would happen. Just when I was ready to give up on it, I noticed something peeking out from the leaves, and discovered one perfect white camellia flower. Despite the fact that it was not, at this time, a beautiful glossy green bush, it nevertheless delighted me with what was hiding beneath the surface.
For this batch, I used Jacob’s Cattle Beans, also known as Trout or Dalmatian beans, which is an heirloom bean originally from Germany. According to Slow Food, “legend has it that it was a gift from Maine’s Passamaquoddy Indians to Joseph Clark, the first white child born in Lubec, Maine.” These are fat, kidney-shaped, white and maroon splashed beans that are great in soup and slow-cooker dishes because they hold their shape, even when cooked for hours, resulting in a meaty, not mushy, bean.
Rinse beans in a colander. Place beans in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. (Or, skip boiling water and soak beans overnight in a covered pan.) Drain and rinse beans.
In the same pan combine beans, celery, onion, ham bone, garlic, bay leaves, chicken broth, water, thyme, and chiles. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1-3/4 hours. Remove ham bone and set aside to cool. Stir in carrots. Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.
Meanwhile, cut meat off bone and coarsely chop. Discard bone. Stir meat into soup, along with parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.