Autumn Chunky Cheddar Cheese Potato Soup

October 24, 2007 in cheese, cooking, Food Porn, recipe

Autumn Chunky Cheddar Cheese Potato Soup

At the risk of being somewhat repetitive, I am going to talk about another potato recipe today.

As you may know, we have been growing all our own vegetables this year. I have been writing about it over at my garden blog Humble Garden. I have learned a whole lot about organic gardening (mostly its about getting out of the way of nature, the zen approach – A healthy and diverse ecosystem with strategic and complimentary or companion intercropping and intensive permacultivation allows for a balance that gives you healthy plants with very little fuss at all).

We grew straw bale potatoes (potatoes are put on the ground – not in it – and straw is layered over it. See these links: “Its all about the green” and “A small harvest of straw potatoes” ) but have not reaped a large harvest. Potatoes are fascinating for their ethnobotanical journeys across the world and also its plant physiology but most importantly, homegrown potatoes have a distinct flavor different from the ones in the store, making any trouble you put into growing them worthwhile. I urge you to give some a try next year. You could grow them in containers so even intrepid sky high apartment dwellers should be able to hack homegrown taters.

As Alton Brown said in his second Good Eats episode, potatoes will grow in any hole you drop them in.

Even though the harvest was meager, what we have gotten, as I have mentioned before, are definitely tasty. I just wrote previous to this post in “Homegrown Potato Satori” about using them in a simple saute.

The potatoes have been lurking for me a bit because I do not have a large potato eating habit and so I do not know THAT many recipes for using them. I was raised to eschew pasta and potatoes, rice was King.

I was looking for SOME sort of inspiration for our taters before they were no longer brand spanking new.

The other day, I was reading a book called “The Lost Towns of Quabbin Valley” about the towns from the region that is now called the Quabbin Reservoir here in Massachusetts. These five towns were essentially summarily dismissed, condemned to obsolescence, taken by imminent domain and razed to the ground (This man-made lake is the water source for Eastern MA – Boston).

One of the photos in the book shows the North Dana schoolhouse (1910, I think) with a caption that talked about how the children would have hot lunch at school, one day a week.

A quote by Katherine Reed, a 90 year old former pupil, says:

“It was usually soup and often potato soup. Us older girl were allowed to leave class a little early to peel the vegetables. It happened on Fridays, and all the students brought their own cup and spoon.”

School lunch, one day a week, no plates or utensils! They probably had more nutrition in that one meal than is served all week in today’s public school’s meals. Don’t get me started.

In 1910, they were likely using potatoes from home gardens, very much like mine so I was inspired to make a potato soup that they may have eaten. My recipe has some things they likely didn’t have the money to add – cheese and sour cream perhaps, maybe even the pepper.

Autumn Chunky Cheddar Cheese Potato Soup

I searched online and through my old Joy of Cooking and didn’t find any recipes that sang to me. What follows is an admixture of all the recipes that I found with various sections from here and there to make this soup.

You may need to add more or less salt and pepper to bring it to a flavor right for you and your family. We had only this for supper and we were mighty satisfied. We liked it chunky. The thought of blending this soup makes me weep, it would make it into a glue-like mass.

For us, the flavor was the purity of freshly harvested potatoes. The salt and pepper were nice sub-notes. The sour cream, while decadent and optional (isn’t everything?), is a nice pure accent of creamy goodness. I can see using yogurt instead for a lower fat and different flavor. Adding the chives was also a nice additional layer of flavor. I added some cilantro and a bit of fresh sage to my soup more as a nibble of green versus a dominant over all soup flavor. You could incorporate sage into the recipe (I love sage) but I preferred to keep the main flavor to potato.

Cheesy Potato Soup

  • 8 medium potatoes (try to get fresh ones from a farmers market or grow your own) (I used the yellow skinned potatoes we grew)
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 C organic chicken broth
  • 1 C finely shredded cheese (I used cheddar, you might want to get more creative with this if you wish)
  • 1/2 C half and half (or more, up to you)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat
  • sour cream – enough for a small spoon for each serving
  • chives – small cut – for garnish

Dig up potatoes, pitch any that have been nibbled on by resident rodents, hose off dirt while standing in front yard and enjoying the sunny fall day. Once inside, clean away all remaining dirt and peel potatoes. Boil in salted water until a knife slips in easily but the potato does not crumble apart. Remove to a strainer to drip dry. Do not let the potatoes sit in the water.

Bring the milk and minced shallot up to a scalding simmer (do not boil) and add the flour. Whisk very briskly to avoid any chance of flour lumps. Add the chicken stock and bacon fat and bring back up to a simmer. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper. Add shredded cheese and stir to incorporate.

Add potatoes and begin to break them down into smaller pieces. I suggest not using any sort of mechanical device, just the back of a large spoon. Do not make it a mashed potato soup. Leave a lot of texture.

Simmer until the remaining potato chunks are of a mouth feel that you like. Add half and half to the soup and bring back up to serving temperature. Do not boil. Add remaining or even more salt and pepper to your taste.


Autumn Chunky Cheddar Cheese Potato Soup

A Day at the Quabbin: boat

Learn more about the Quabbin Lost Towns:

A Surfeit of Indian Food – spice it up baby

September 27, 2007 in cookbook, cooking, Food Porn, ingredient, recipe, review

masala dosa

(Dosa stuffed with two onion potatoes. I know its too much but I love that stuffing!)

Roll the drums, what you see above is my first ever [tag]masala dosa[/tag]. Sure, its not the size of a small ox but its mine, all mine!

I feel so empowered now.

I can make my OWN [tag]dosa[/tag] and my OWN dosa filling, I do not have to travel the dosa-challenged countryside of central [tag]Massachusetts[/tag] looking for that one hidden [tag]Indian restaurant[/tag] that serves dosa.

“How, Why?” you may ask.

For one, when I reviewed the “Modern Indian Cooking” [tag]cookbook[/tag] by [tag]Hari Nayak[/tag] and [tag]Vikas Khanna[/tag], I felt sorta goofy not cooking with even the most fundamental of [tag]spices[/tag].

My [tag]kitchen[/tag] was just not prepared.

When I received another [tag]India[/tag]n cookbook called the “[tag]Complete Book of Indian Cooking: 350 Recipes from the Regions of India[/tag]” by Suneeta Vaswani, I decided that the only way to honor the traditional recipes in this cookbook was to adhere closely to them. I suggest that you visit [tag]Suneeta[/tag] [tag]Vaswani[/tag]’s site to learn more about this extraordinary woman. She has dedicated a good part of her life to sharing the [tag]ancient[/tag] and [tag]authentic[/tag] [tag]cuisine[/tag]s of India with the world. She is based in [tag]Houston[/tag], [tag]Texas[/tag] so I will have to read on from afar. I would love to be able to attend some of her cooking classes.

Vaswani cookbook

As I am not Indian, I have a very narrow experience-base with the vast cuisine that is Indian cooking. This cookbook is expansive in it’s coverage of the four corners of India (and its seemingly infinite varieties of ancient cuisines). One can easily jump into cooking creamy northern [tag]korma[/tag]s to thinner southern [tag]dal soup[/tag]s to [tag]coconut[/tag]-enriched dishes from the coastal regions. What I needed to do was to stick with what my [tag]palate[/tag] knows now from experience with foods prepared by trained cooks.

I wanted to make something that I had experience eating so that I could tell if I even came close to achieving a modicum of success. Its for this reason that I chose dosa with [tag]spicy[/tag] potato filling.

Preparing these recipes (or any in this cookbook for that matter) meant that I had to find a store that sells quality spices and other Indian ingredients in my relative vicinity and make a spice buy.

Ed Hyders Worcester, MA

I found, almost by luck, a shop in [tag]Worcester[/tag], MA called [tag]Ed Hyders Mediterranean Marketplace[/tag] (see a nifty video interview at the store) that as been around for 31 years and which has a fantastic selection of spices. It was my lucky day too because they were having a spice sale this month, I could be a bit more experimental.

I will be writing more about Ed Hyders in another post, stay tuned!

I bought nearly $100 worth of spices, half off. I didn’t buy much of each though so that I didn’t end up with much unused stale spices.

With the guidance of Vaswani’s book, I had the most fantastic success. I can not recommend this book highly enough, even for the neophyte. There is plenty of background on the various regional Indian food, the spices needed, and very clear instructions on how to prepare these delights.

Now, for my dosas!


(South Indian Rice and [tag]Lentil[/tag] [tag]Crepe[/tag]s, pg. 155 “Complete Book of Indian Cooking“, the copyright for this recipe is all theirs.)

This takes 3 days. Be sure to read entire recipe and budget the correct time needed.

I am going to paraphrase here. You can download a printable copy at this link.


  • 2 C (500 mLs) long grain rice (not basmati)
  • 1 C (250 mLs) split white lentils ([tag]urad dal[/tag])
  • 1 1/2 T (22 mLs) [tag]fenugreek[/tag] seeds (methi)
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7 mLs) salt to taste
  • 3 to 4 T (45 to 60 mLs) oil


Soak rice overnight in 6 cups (1.5 L) water. Pick through the urad dal for small rocks, etc, and rinse. Place in a separate bowl and add fenugreek seeds and 4 cups (1 L) water. Soak overnight.

Drain the dal and rice mixtures (separately). In two batches, blend 1/2 the dal with 1/4 C (50 mL) warm water in each batch. Blend until smooth (about 2-3 mins). Put into a large bowl.

In two batches, blend the soaked and drained rice with 1/4 C (50 mL) warm water until VERY smooth. Pour both batches of blended rice into the bowl with the blended dal.

Stir in the salt and about 1/4 C (50 mL) warm water to get a cake like batter. Cover and set aside someplace warm to ferment for 10-12 hours (overnight in my case). After this fermentation it is ready to use or can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours. Bring back to room temperature before making dosas.

Whip [tag]fermented[/tag] batter vigorously for some 2 mins (it should be fluffy, sort of like baking soda based pancake batter that you let sit a bit before using). Beat and thin with warm water until it is the consistency of heavy cream.

You can find no end to videos on the web that show how to make dosa. Here is one.

Basically, you need a well seasoned surface, little to no oil, a long very flat [tag]spatula[/tag] (I used an cake icing spatula, its perfect), a 1/2 C scoop and something with a flat bottom like another measuring cup or a heat resistant glass, with which to spread the batter out, in a continuous spiral from the center. Just watch the [tag]video[/tag]!

Once made, eat quickly! I suggest adding the potato filling and [tag]coconut chutney[/tag] you see below.

The following is an excerpt from the “Complete Book of Indian Cooking“, the copyright for this recipe is all theirs.

Potatoes with Two Onions (printable copy)
(Serves 6 to 8 )

“These make a wonderful picnic dish, as they are equally good at room temperature. They’re also excellent topped with grilled fish or poached eggs.”


  • 2 tsp (10 mLs) salt or to taste
  • 3⁄4 tsp (4 mLs) [tag]turmeric[/tag]
  • 2 lbs (1 kg) all-purpose [tag]potato[/tag]es, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
  • 2 tbsp (25 mLs) oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mLs) dark [tag]mustard seed[/tag]s
  • 1 tsp (5 mLs) [tag]cumin seed[/tag]s
  • 1 tsp (5 mLs) split white lentils (urad dal)
  • 21⁄2 cups (625 mLs) chopped [tag]onion[/tag]s
  • 11⁄2 tbsp (22 mLs) slivered peeled [tag]gingerroot[/tag]
  • 2 sprigs fresh [tag]curry leaves[/tag], stripped (20 to 2
  • 25 leaves)
  • 4 2-inch (5 cm) long [tag]green chile[/tag]s, preferably 4 [tag]serrano[/tag]s, slivered
  • 3⁄4 tsp (4 mLs) cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (259 mLs) chopped [tag]tomato[/tag]es
  • 1⁄4 cup (50 mLs) finely sliced [tag]green onion[/tag]s, with some green


Fill a saucepan three-quarters full of water. Add salt and turmeric and bring to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over high heat until a couple of mustard seeds thrown in start to sputter. Add all the mustard seeds and cover quickly. When the seeds stop popping, in a few seconds, uncover, reduce heat to medium and add cumin and urad dal. Sauté for 30 seconds. Add onions, ginger, curry leaves and chiles. Sauté until onions are golden, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add potatoes, cayenne and tomatoes. Add 1⁄4 cup (50 mL) water. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until tomatoes soften slightly and flavors blend, for 5 minutes. Potatoes should be soft and semi-dry. Garnish with green onions before serving.

masala dosa
Note on presentation:Usually dosas are rolled into more of a tube and have a bit of potato. Mine are overloaded with the potato and look more like breakfast tacos! I know this but they were delicious. I would recommend a sauce that is not shown – Coconut Chutney.

I adore this stuff but was not able to make it in time for the shoot because it requires a blender and the baby was napping so I didn’t make it because I didnt want to wake him up!

The recipe for this can be found in the book on page 405 and is listed below.

Coconut Chutney (printable version coming soon)


  • 1 T + 1/2 tsp (15 mL + 2 mL) oil, divided
  • 1 T (15 mL) split yellow peas (channa dal), picked over and rinsed
  • 1 C (250 mL) dry unsweetened [tag]coconut powder[/tag]
  • 2 dried [tag]Indian red chilies[/tag], 1 broken into pieces
  • 1/4 C (50 mL) freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt, to taste
  • 3/4 tsp (4 mL) dark mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp (4 mL) cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) minced peeled gingerroot
  • 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves (about 20 – 25 leaves) stripped from stems.


In a skillet, heat 1/2 tsp (2 mL) oil over medium heat. Add the channal dal and sauté 2-3 mins. Set aside.

In the same skillet, toast the coconut and broken chile (save out that whole 2nd chile). Stir to prevent burning. When the coconut is 2 to 3 shades darker, remove from the heat. Cool then put in a [tag]blender[/tag].

Add the reserved sautéd [tag]channa dal[/tag], [tag]lime[/tag] [tag]juice[/tag], salt, and 1 C (250 mL) water, blend to a smooth [tag]paste[/tag]. Put into a bowl.

Heat remaining 1 T (15 mL) oil over high heat until a couple of mustard seeds thrown in start to sputter. Add the remainder of mustard seeds, cover and cook on high heat until the popping stops. Quickly remove cover, put heat to medium, add cumin seeds, remaining chile, and [tag]ginger[/tag]. TRY not to let any of the mustard cooking fumes waft into your face when you open the cover, potent! Stir 30 seconds and then pour over the blended coconut mixture in the bowl. Stir in well.

Put a bit of this on the potatoes in your dosa, take a bite, close your eyes, and you are in heaven!

Product Details:

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Robert Rose (October 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0778801756
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 8 x 1.1 inches
  • Cost (hardcover): $23.07 (Amazon US), £12.15 (Amazon UK)

Related Posts:

Whats in Your Ramen?

September 24, 2007 in cooking, Food Porn, ingredient, product, recipe

First, I would LOVE to hear from you all how you personalize your ramen!

What IS in your ramen?

Are you Ramen-Orthodox who likes it plain?

Are you a Ramen-Liberal who likes to make it different every time?

I am not ashamed to say that there are times when the family just wants a certain sort of food and no “healthy” alternative will do. For some families this might be mac n cheese or frozen pizza or twinkies, for us its ramen noodles.

Ramen noodles are ok, if its an occasional treat. (ok, I have a hard time eating them because I had WAY too much of them in college and grad school)

My problem with ramen noodles is that I get bored with it, easily. Until this iteration, I had only experimented with ramens insofar as adding a beaten egg to the noodles after boiling and seasoning to add some protein. This has never appealed to my family so its not been made much.

With the family members crying out for ramen and my being crazy-bored with the unfortunate limp things, I decided to branch out a bit and have the ramen travel to a new and, hopefully, exciting land.

What I came up with was an odd combination of artisanal sustainably-grown ground beef raised on the Golden Acres ranch in Waterloo, New York, homegrown organic tomatoes, organic green onions, and organic oregano, MSG-loaded Del Taco taco seasoning, MSG-loaded ramen noodle flavoring and MSG-loaded ramen noodles. If I make this again, I might need to either simply use carbon monoxide treated ground beef and pesticide and MSG treated veggies from the grocery store or organic MSG-free ramen and my own mix of organic taco seasonings so that there is not such a karmic clash!

This recipe is not earth shattering, its obvious! I just thought I would put it together like this to make it easy.

Mexi-Cali Ramen served in mini-pumpkin bowls


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 packet Taco Seasoning
  • 1 tomato, cubed
  • 3 green onions, confetti dice
  • sprig of fresh oregano
  • 5 packets ramen noodles, chicken flavor (more or less, up to you)
  • 1 pat butter per noodle batch
  • 5 mini pumpkins


Brown the beef and then prepare as per the taco seasonings packet, adding in the fresh tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano, and the white part of the diced green onions (save the green part for garnish).

Prepare the ramen noodles such that you remove the noodles from the boil-water, drain, add a bit of butter and a sprinkle of the MSG flavoring packet. Toss in a bit of the green onion dice and more chopped fresh oregano too.

Hollow out the mini pumpkins.

Put ramen noodles in the pumpkin bowl. Spoon some of the taco meat on top. Garnish with diced green onion and a bit of fresh oregano.

Related Posts:

Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna

September 10, 2007 in cookbook, cooking, Food Porn, review

(Spicy eggplant, micro purple dragon carrots, young yellow beets, microgreens, served over basmati rice.)
(Naan and pappadum lay in the background)
(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce Studios)

If you read here often you will remember my recent post “Cant stop raving about Tiger Tiger Indian Sauces” where I gushed on about Tiger Tiger’s delightful sauces that transform mundane meats like boneless chicken breasts into a delicious meal that explodes with Indian flavors. Please note that I have done some extensive linking through out this post to help you understand the various mentioned Indian dishes. Be sure to click through to those pages (mostly the wiki) and learn about those traditional Indian foods which are new to you.

Quite unexpectedly this last Friday, I received the cookbook Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak and Vikas Khanna for review. These two Indian chefs have become known here in the US and abroad for their individualistic takes on Indian cuisine. These two fellows are not only chefs who have made the big time in New York, they are philanthropists who started “Cooking For Life” after 9/11 (their restaurants were near Ground Zero). You can learn more about “Cooking For Life” and it’s important mission by going to the Cooking For Life site.

The premise of this cookbook, Modern Indian Cooking, is not to provide traditional Indian recipes but rather to guide the non-Indian into a bright and delicious world of Indian spices and dishes that hearken back to traditional ideas without copying them wholesale. If you are looking for The Authoritative Guide to Indian mother cuisine and technique, this is not the place to find it.

What this book gives the reader is a multi-layered high quality experience. The photography is an effortless thing of beauty. You will be drawn into each page with such force that you may simply sit with the book for a hour or two simply reveling in the photography.

The forward by Daniel Boulud serves to frame the reader’s mindset, guiding the reader toward the intent of this Modern Indian approach. Specifically, this is to view Indian food as approachable and open to interpretation and experimentation.

Whereas we Americans have been introduced to the first generation of commercial Indian food (northern and southern), it is time for the next derivation, the offspring of the joining of the Indian mother cuisine with the modern sensibility of fresh and mutable ingredients.

I love sambar, masala dosa, idli, and paratha as much as the next person but I do not always get a chance to eat South Indian food (I seem to live in a South Indian Food-free region, wholly devoid of all dosa).

I have generally felt intimidated by the large and complex universe of Indian spices and their modes of use. Nonetheless, I adore the entire experience whether it involves a palak paneer, a dosa, a sambar, or a simple pakora.

(I see a road trip to Boston in my near future, Central Square here I come).

Instead of these classics, you will find delightful variations in this book, such as:

  • Wasabi Chili Lamb Kebab
  • Crispy Wonton Chaat
  • Crispy Pan Fried Shrimp with Tamarind Glaze
  • Oven Roasted Spiced Eggplant
  • Kadhai Fried Paneer with Rainbow Vegetables
  • Zucchini with Yellow Mung Lentils and Roasted Garlic
  • Street Style Spicy Black Chickpea Masala
  • Masala Petit Pois with Baby Carrots and Coconut
  • Spicy Eggplant Rice with Mint
  • Lemon Sage Chicken Tikka
  • Duck Vindaloo
  • Chipotle Pork Tikka
  • Goan Meat Tarts
  • Grilled Sea Bass with Fenugreek Chipotle Ketchup
  • Coriander Crusted Salmon with Cilantro Cucumber Chutney
  • Chai Crème Brûlée
  • Pink Peppercorn Chocolate Truffles
  • Valrhona Chocolate Burfi with Toasted Coconut

I suggest trying a recipe at a time and not for a dinner party but for you and close loved ones to try and critique. I suggest buying only a small amount of a few key spices and not the whole kit and caboodle all at once.

I went to my local big box grocery store (would have gone to Whole Foods if it were not 70 miles away) looking to see what paltry selection of spices they had. I found a SMALL bottle of McCormick’s cardamom seeds for $12.00. I laughed and laughed and then walked away morosely. The only tamarind I could find was tamarind nectar in the Goya section. I need the paste!

I came home with nothing and then put together the dish you see in this post. What I did do was peruse Modern Indian Cooking, drank in it’s free spirit, and gave a go at doing what I could with what I had on hand. What follows is what we got. It was delicious! I will be going to Central Square to buy a small selection of spices so that my next time with this cookbook will be more adventuresome.

Nika’s ad hock and none too spicy Spicy Eggplant with root vegetables


  • 1/2 large purple eggplant, cubed
  • 1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 super tiny purple Dragon Carrots from my garden, thinly sliced (they have remained tiny for reasons that are not clear to me)
  • 3 small yellow beets from my garden, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • sprinkle of sea salt
  • Organic Coconut Oil, enough to sautee the vegetables
  • Real Basmati, prepared as per package
  • microgreens for garnish


Prepare basmati rice and hold warm.

In a dry pan, dry toast the peppercorns and sesame seeds, set aside.

Add a tablespoon or so of organic coconut oil to a medium heat heavy cast iron pan (you may need to add more later because eggplant is like a sponge). Add thinly sliced onion, turmeric, cumin, coriander, sea salt, carrots, beets, peppercorns, and black sesame seeds. Sauté until onion is translucent but not brown or charred!

Add cubed eggplant and cook until the eggplant is as soft as you like it and it is well coated with all the spices and coconut oil.

Serve over the basmati rice and then sprinkle with a few more peppercorns and sesame seeds and a few well placed microgreens.

(Spicy eggplant, micro purple dragon carrots, young yellow beets, microgreens, served over basmati.)
(Copyright 2007 Nika Boyce Studios)

Related Posts:

Related Sites:

Where to Buy: Modern Indian Cooking by Hari Nayak (Author), Vikas Khanna (Author), Daniel Boulud (Foreword)

  • Cost: $19.77
  • Hardcover: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Silverback Books (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596372397
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.6 x 0.8 inches