Fall and winter remind me of my Grandmother’s cooking; the food I grew up on. Soul food.
I grew up in a Portuguese-Canadian household and the kitchen — like many homes — was the axis on which our household turned.
These seasons brought all sorts of fare to our table: wild game like turkey, rabbit, pheasant and moose; off cuts like pig tails and ears, cows tripe; salt cod in many forms; collard green and potato soup (called Caldo Verde, in Portuguese); fried pumpkin cake (pictured above).
Making something delicious when you have nothing is a common theme across all of the worlds great cuisines. Indeed, many great dishes come from peasant roots.
I believe human beings are hard-wired to have an emotional connection to food. The world over, food is a celebration of mankind overcoming adversity. Even in the first world, where many of us are fortunate enough to be far removed from the struggle to find enough to eat, we have in us the DNA of our ancestors who scratched and clawed their way to their next meal.
What I remember most about the earliest meals of my life is that they were made by people who loved me, there was hard work and long hours in the kitchen to make them and, of course, that they were delicious. During my apprenticeship at Eigensinn Farm, I rediscovered the correlation between effort and taste of a dish. Food just tastes better when it’s grown and prepared made by the hands of someone who cares.
If you’re like me, you’ll be spending much of your free time over the holiday season at the grocery store, market, in the field hunting and foraging and, of course, in the kitchen. Remember, all those hours of effort mean something to the quality of your dishes. More importantly, they mean something to the people who eat them.
Most people think of soup as a winter staple, but tomatoes and leeks are at their prime in the late summer, and they are the star of this dish. This soup is bright and acidic, and pairs wonderfully with complimentary sour and/or fruit-based beers.
What you’ll need:
- Tomatoes (any variety, as fresh off the vine as possible)
- Oregano (preferably fresh)
- Thyme (preferably fresh)
- Olive oil
- A sour or fruit based beer (low IBU)
- Quarter the tomatoes; cut the leeks in half; remove garlic cloves from skin and cut in half
- Mix all vegetables in a large bowl with olive oil, and go light on the salt and pepper
- Mix in a small handfull of fresh thyme and oregano. Leave the stems on, we’re going to be blending the soup later.
- Pour just a few ounces of the beer and thoroughly mix all ingredients
- In a covered pot, bake at 350 degrees F for one hour (Note: The visual brightness of this soup is as important as the taste. It’s imperative you don’t color the vegetables)
- Remove from the oven and gently pour the content into a blenderBlend on high, ensuring the solids break down
- Pour the contents through a fine sieve, agitating to remove the liquid into a pot below
- Discard the remaining solids, and what you’re left with is a beautiful bright colored liquid
- Whisk a generous tablespoon of butter into the liquid, and bring to a boil if you find the consistency is too thin
- Lastly, season with salt and pepper for taste
I like to serve this soup with sourdough croutons (simply, day-old sourdough, salt, pepper, butter) because I find the sourdough plays well with the soup and the tart beer pairing. Other good options are Mexican crema (firm sour cream) or pickled radish.
Beer Pairing: Bellwoods Jelly King or Burdock’s ORIA Black Currant
I got the inspiration for this recipe while on a recent trip to Michigan (Traverse City, MI is the cherry capital of the US), where I saw cherries being used in all kinds of sweet and savoury sauces, salsas and chutneys.
You can use this dish as a salsa or, like I did, as a stuffing for chicken, quail, pheasant or any game bird. Cherry’s pair fantastic with strong, dark beer; even in the middle of summer, don’t be afraid to pull a barrel aged stout or Belgian quad out of the cellar to compliment this dish.
- Fresh red cherries
- Fresh thyme
- Olive oil
- White wine vinegar
- Pit the cherries and slice them roughly. Remember, there’s beauty in asymmetry!
- Slice shallots and garlic
- Apply generous amount of fresh thyme leaves and olive oil
- Combine ingredients and finish with a pinch of salt and just a few drops of white wine vinegar
- Allow to marinate room temperature for 15 minutes before use
Beer Pairing: Trappistes Rochefort 8