It’s been a couple months since my last soup post, so this one is long overdue. Soups are a vital part of my diet; they are versatile, easy to prepare, and a seamless way to integrate more homemade broth into my eating routine. Today’s lettuce soup is a nice change of pace, and a unique way to avoid the incessant crunching and chewing that comes from eating a plateful of lettuce.

There are two main cuisines with a history of enjoying lettuce in their soup. In Chinese cuisine, it is added as a finishing vegetable, much in the same way you’d add herbs like cilantro or scallions; for example, our local Vietnamese restaurant serves its Chinese-inspired Hu Tieu soup with lettuce on top. Today’s recipe favors the French preparation of lettuce soup, which is often blended (or run through a sieve) and flavored with cream.

Any lettuce will do for this recipe, with the exception of iceberg, because it probably won’t add much flavor. This dish is served both cold and hot, and we prefered the hot version. Lettuce soup has a flavor that’s hard to describe – earthy but not dirty, sharp but not biting. I’ve found that cooking down a leek in the chicken broth enriches and balances the soup; adding a few sprigs of parsley and some lemon zest help brighten its top notes as well.

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Summer’s heat is finally, lazily, starting to wane here in NW Florida; but it’s nowhere near stew season yet. And judging from recent reports, the rest of the US is experiencing some pretty hot weather, so you’re likely not ready to crank on the oven right now, either. So I think it’s the perfect time to share my Gỏi Gà (Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad) recipe.

Gỏi is the common salad dish in Southern Vietnam (called Nộm in Northern Vietnam), with Gỏi Gà, its chicken variety, being the most popular. While many shredded chicken salad recipes call for boiled chicken, I just can’t stomach the idea of boiling chicken – it seems like such an impersonal way to prepare meat, and it runs the risk of creating a dry, mealy texture.

I respect the reason why boiled chicken is used for shredding, as the water-saturated chicken is easy to break apart. But today, we’ll employ a technique I first learned in a restaurant job, nearly 20 years ago, to get the best of both worlds: we’ll grill the chicken to give it a nice crust and flavor, then dunk it in an ice water bath to cool. This has a secondary effect of preventing the grilled chicken from shrinking, making it a breeze to shred.

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that nothing goes to waste. For example, we’ll fry up some shallots and garlic as a salad topping, then cool and use the oil to create the salad dressing – infused with toasted shallot and garlic flavor.

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Bubble and Squeak is a traditional English dish, served as a hash of leftover roasted vegetables. It can be made from a variety of vegetables, but potatoes and cabbage are almost always included; it can be served at any meal, and is a common accompaniment to a full English breakfast. This dish was first mentioned in the 1800s, but really fell into its own as a way of elongating meals during World War II, when food rationing was common.

The name “bubble and squeak” refers to the name that the vegetables make as they fry in the pan. There are some similarly fun names for other dishes that share the same technique, like Panackelty (NE England) and Rumbledethumps (Scotland).

Prepared traditionally, Bubble and Squeak is kind of tragic, because that means you could only enjoy it on those rare occasions when you have leftover roasted vegetables in the fridge. As a solution, the recipe below is written using fresh vegetables – you roast the vegetables while you boil the potatoes, then toss them all together for the final, beautiful creation. Of course, if you have leftover vegetables, this recipe will work, too; just skip directly to step #3.

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When one blogs about their food experiences, some patterns start to show. For example, over the past 5+ years writing for this blog, I’ve only posted four salad recipes. That’s not because I think salads aren’t worth making, but rather, it’s an indication of how I view salads: as something you throw together using the vegetables available in your crisper, or on your counter.

In truth, there is still some merit to writing salad recipes. Sometimes, it’s good to have a solid blueprint for future cooking endeavors. Case in point is this Winter Slaw, modeled after European-style cabbage salads.

Out of the countries who count their cabbage intake, Russians consume the most – about 40 pounds per person, compared to 9 pounds per person in the United States. Cabbage often carries a bad reputation, since some folks experience a negative response after eating it; this is due to the trisaccharide raffinose, which is found in cabbage, beans, broccoli, and asparagus. That gassiness is caused by the trisaccharide fermenting in your lower intestine.

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Today is a big voting day here in the United States. If you’re one of the 12 states (or American Samoa) participating, be sure to let your voice be heard! While I’m not in a voting state today, I’m holding a mini celebration by peppering this post with election-related vocabulary. How many words can you spot?

You may have noticed a vegetable side dish peeking out from last week’s Furikake Ahi recipe. It happens to be one of my favorite ways to prepare leafy greens, and until today, the recipe could only be found in my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table. That’s all going to change today, as we’re going to have a bit of a…well, super Tuesday today with this recipe.

There’s a lot of flexibility in this dish, but the technique remains the same: prepare a sauce, simmer the greens in the sauce, then remove the greens and thicken the sauce before reuniting them in a savory, delicately-flavored superdelegate. I can’t be upset if you elect to add a few other ingredients, as the absolute majority of the flavor comes from the primary components of broth, ginger, and garlic. Other write-in options would be tamari, chopped cashews, dried shrimp, or fried shallots.

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Earlier this year I wrote a guest article for Paleo Magazine, emphasizing the importance of eating vegetables. Americans tend to give vegetables a lower priority than the rest of the world; when comparing the most economically developed areas of the United States (those with the most money to spend on food) to similarly developed regions in Europe and the Western Pacific, we only eat about 75% as many vegetables as the other regions. Comparing the lesser economically developed areas of the United States to their global counterparts is much worse: there, we eat only around 35% as many vegetables.

Vegetables are an important factor in overall health. While not as nutrient-heavy as organ meats, fish, seafood, and naturally raised ruminants, they are often superior to pork, poultry, and fruit in terms of nutrient density. Fermented vegetables, a food that has been consumed for thousands of winters, also provide unique and essential forms of probiotic bacteria and increase the bioavailability (ability for us to absorb their nutrients) of vegetables.

Aloo Gobi Matar is Punjabi dish, and an excellent example of the potential tastiness and diversity to be found in a vegetable dish. Using a small amount of many vegetables will give your dishes deeper flavors and will make you less likely to tire of certain foods. If I ate just tomatoes every day, I’d get sick of them; adding a tomato or two to several dishes in a row wouldn’t have the same effect.

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Ital stew is a Jamaican dish aligned with the Rastafarian movement. The word “ital” is derived from the word vital, and is similar to the concept of kosher. Specifically, ital food should be vegetarian, unprocessed, and from the earth. Some believe that even iodized salt should be avoided, and only pure sea salt is acceptable. Since meat is considered dead, it is not ital, although some Rastafari are known to eat small fish.

Like in my Callaloo recipe from earlier this year, there is a lot of variation to this dish. Typically, it’s made with several different kinds of starchy foods (I used squash, taro, potatoes, and plantain) in a coconut milk broth. You don’t never every single starch to make a flavorful stew – just use what you have available to you. It’s lightly spiced, with just thyme and pimento (allspice).

Funny enough, when doing my research I discovered this dish isn’t considered an exceptionally tasty stew, to the point that I was almost turned away from trying it. I have a suspicion that the reason it’s not well-received is because every recipe I found had you adding all of the vegetables at once, which likely resulted in a mushy, jumbled, and slightly confusing stew. I tried a different tactic, and added the dishes in increments so that they all were perfectly cooked at the end of the recipe. This extra care made a huge difference in the final product; in fact, we’re adding this dish to our regular rotation because it’s easy, quick, and hearty – a perfect summer soup when you’re not in the mood for a meat dish.

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Over this past weekend, I was scheduled to appear at the latest Perfect Health Retreat in Wilmington, North Carolina as a guest chef. I had a whole day’s worth of recipes planned for the 20+ attendees and staff members, most of them based on traditional Indonesian or Malaysian dishes. I was very excited, and had even devoted the previous weekend to practicing and tweaking the recipes to get everything perfect. And then life struck. My son Oliver started feeling very sick last weekend, likely a gift from one of his pre-school classmates, and by Tuesday I was feeling the full brunt of some relentless flu symptoms.

So I spent last week and this past weekend drifting in and out of a feverish state, catching up on several seasons’ worth of Archer and Portlandia episodes, and trying to find new ways of incorporating bone broth into my diet (hint: developing recipes while under the influence of flu medicine is never a good idea). I’m happy to report that Oliver and I are both on the mend, but unfortunately I missed out on my opportunity to cook at the retreat. So that these recipes don’t disappear from memory, I wanted to share two of them with you this week.

The first recipe is Sayur Bening Bayam, a clear Indonesian soup made with a variety of vegetables, but always includes spinach (and often corn – see my note below the recipe). I chose this soup as one of my dishes because it’s dead simple to make and serves as an appetizer in the most literal sense – its simple tastes both satisfy and whet the appetite for a main course.

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Jerusalem artichokes have an interesting history. There is no connection between this tuber and the city that bears the same name; they were originally cultivated by Native Americans. The most common theory behind their current name stems from the fact that Italian immigrants named them girasole, which later became “girasole artichoke”, which then eventually developed into “Jerusalem artichoke”. Its other name, sunchoke, is a relatively new name for the tuber that stems from the fact that its flowers look a lot like sunflowers.

While only distantly related to artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes still carry a distinct (okey dokey) artichokey flavor when cooked. They have a similar texture to potatoes. They’re one of my favorite starches because of their versatility; they can be eaten raw or cooked, they don’t need to be peeled, and they taste good both gently cooked and fully roasted.

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Over the weekend I was invited to a one-on-one tour of my local Whole Foods Market in Annapolis, Maryland. Although we shop at this store often, it was enlightening to walk around the store with their resident Healthy Eating Specialist and discuss some of their programs and policies. While we had a few opposing food philosophies, the amount of overlap between their goals and my health principles was impressive and encouraging. So, let’s talk about what I discovered.

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