The weather is cooling, becoming the season of Pumpkin Lattes and no wearing white. For you kids out there, you read that right. There was a time when your elders or know-it-all peers told you, that you were no good, a bad person really, if you wore white pants, skirts, or even shoes after Labor Day. Shocking. But it’s one of many things that twist us up and complicate our lives. Strong women do get twisted up. But we must learn how to relax and unravel, disconnecting from ravenous stress, rituals and rules.
For this edition of Perfect Pairings, I journeyed the path of strong women and a food for the season, soups. Soup brings comfort. A few filling spoons of the goodness returns us to a simpler time and warms us up, restoring joy.
For each soup recipe, we will use my Soup Base which I will detail at the end. Think of it as the platform upon which we build flavor. It’s easy to do and will enhance your soup experiences.
My first perfect pairing is complicated. Reading My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is a gut-wrenching. It’s a tale of a woman who had to define her existence in the shadows of her father, her husband, and the scrutiny of living after their deaths. Her father was loving but a man of war. Her husband was brilliant, but also self-absorbed and brash and striving for an acceptance that her love alone could never bring. Then everything was over. She was Alexander Hamilton’s widow.
Eliza’s overarching goal is survival, but who is she allowed to become? And how can she conform when her heart is conflicted, torn by bitterness as much as resistance? Eliza doesn’t get a chance to breathe, constantly steeped in the next battle to survive. Stephanie and Laura, take us into this soldier’s battle, one as a woman I find too common, warring with the heart versus the logical mind. So many times in Eliza’s journey, I wanted to give her a hug, share some tea or make her a hearty bowl of soup. Eliza, you are okay, and it’s okay to own your feelings, your gripes, and you get to decide to whom you extend your gracious manners. Ladies, we are okay even when things are difficult, when we choose to be difficult. Grounded in our humanity and faith, we will survive even when circumstances are bigger than ourselves.
Here is Eliza’s Hearty & Soul Ham and Thin Vegetable Soup:
In a pan, heat the oil until it starts to pop, then pan stir fry the ingredients. Add the carrots and sauté for 6 minutes. Add the peppers and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the peas and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the ginger and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the turkey ham and sauté for 1-2 minutes. You want to lightly brown the sides of the ham.
When this is done, scrape this into the boiling soup base, reduce the heat and cook for another twenty minutes. You are done. This is an easy soup to slurp around the kitchen table and plot revolution.
My second pairing is for What a Difference a Duke Makes by Lenora Bell. Lenora blends wonderful romance with a sublime need for misbehaving. That’s a recipe for comfort food. Who needs soup more than Edgar Rochester, the Duke of Banksford, who’s up to his eyeballs in trouble from his mischievous twins and the enchanting new governess, Mari Perkins. If anyone can get you to eat your vegetables, it’s Mari with her special Mary Poppins magic.
So here is Mari’s Magnificent Asparagus Soup:
In a sauce pan add butter and sauté the asparagus for 10-12 minutes. Scoop up 2/3 of the asparagus and puree this and set it aside. To our warmed soup base add the milk and sour cream. Heat until warmed again but not boiling. Then add the pureed asparagus, the diced asparagus, and the lemon juice. You can service with an extra dollop of source cream.
My last pairing is the perfect dinner to make when you are running for your life or just having a hectic day. At the start of The Rancher and the City Girl by Kathy Douglass, Camille Parker is in trouble. Kathy put you in Camille’s scared skin and your understand her dilemna. Everything that the heroine thinks she wanted, the place she knew she belonged—all is now unsafe and scary. Someone wants Camille dead, and she needs to disappear. But who can disappear hungry? Not me.
Camille’s Running-for-My-Life Chicken and Rice Soup:
Add rice to boiling soup base. Cook the rice for as long as needed to make tender or pressure cook that rice beforehand or use cooked rice. Once the rice is cook add to the boiling soup base, cook for five minutes, then lower the heat to medium. Add the chicken and heat for an additional eight minutes. Done.
Vanessa’s Soup Base
This soup base is used for all three soups. It is layered and adds wonderful supporting flavor to the stars in your soup bowl.
Pour olive oil in the bottom of a stock pot, enough to coat the bottom. When the oil starts to pop, add the salt and then onions. Cook the onions, stirring until they become translucent. Add the celery and keep stirring. Cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the salted garlic in the celery and onions. Cook another 3 minutes. At this point, the kitchen should smell divine. Add the wine and scrub the bottom of the pan. This will get all the brown bits (deglazing) off the pan and keep it for soup goodness. Stir around for another minute, then add the water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for twenty minutes. Let it cool and freeze or use right away in a perfectly paired soup.
I firmly believe soup has healing properties and when perfectly paired with a good read, it is soul-satisfying. My hope is that you be good to you—be less critical, be more loving of your flaws and more joyful of your successes. Enjoy these perfect pairings of comforting soups and cool reads. As always, let me know your perfect pairings.