soups for that dreary oregon night

when the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, sinatra like, yes, my small maple tree has changed colors, a delight, no question. but as it is, it's dreary time. i was spoiled by the seemingly everlasting portland indian summer. cold rains are here and likely hang around to stay.

ach, what to do? my kitchen this morning was a cold thirty-eight , almost too icily blatant for the toaster to work. my freezer of course smiled. so, here are a couple of polar notions, soups really, thawed to be steamy, sensually lecherous:

the split pea standby. thick, smoky, defiantly heat seeking. alas, no ham-hock, instead a dagger of radiant salmon belly, sweetly apple-wood smoked, dense and yes, fat. if you don't happen to have a bracer of frozen split pea, you'll have to start from scratch. it might take a while, but your kitchen will warm as the peas soften. i heat one part dried split-peas to two parts broth, bring it a boil, adding crushed juniper berries, finely chopped fuyu persimmon and a couple of star anise. then, all in a simmer for some forty minutes. the mush will be soft by then. i push the mess through a sieve, once, then twice, to ensure a very fine puree. this is the very base of a split pea soup. well, alright, at any rate, in my house. just so, i do a heap of split peas at a time, but as we are mostly two, i freeze the stuff in two-fer-zip-locks to be thawed in need.
i melt a frozen brick in a bit of buttery broth, chicken or otherwise. to finish the soup, as the mood strikes, i add the smoked salmon, as in bite size, a little celery salt, some grated ginger, a little soy, and a roll of shiso, finely scissor cut. oh yes, and a tiny amount, that much which would cover a knife point, of the hot-hot japanese concoction called yuzu kosho. i allow all a few minutes of dawdling simmer to accumulate the desired heat, fragrance and texture i want. in the end i like to add a jigger of laphroaig for that additional smoky pitch, either in or out of the soup, though out likely.

the condiment quantities might vary, and depend on how cold it is outside. more yuzu kosho and laphroaig likely in january.

pureed winter squash. the icy expedient savvy. first of all, i love to hate pumpkin, squash, the whole cucurbita outfit, whatever you might name them, be it baby bear or big tom, whole, round, with a hard skin and tons of that stringy stuff inside; you may keep it. the time and work involved to get to the meat is ridiculous, even with those many kitchen gremlins you illegally employ. hence i buy the good stuff as an ice pack. a square box of it comes pureed to a very fine consistency, the cost is reasonably adequate. i melt it, add broth, butter or cream, spices according to whim and whimsey (lest it be lord peter). so, in this case i made use of chanterelles, abundant as they are this time of year. chopped and cooked down to a gently soft texture in small bits of onion, a good splash of sake and of course butter. a little spice in the form of nutmeg, celery salt, curry paste and sea salt might be added, in infinitesimally small amounts. the soup is served warm and should be fragrant mostly of squash and chanterelles. you might drink hot sake as needed.

as go ingredients minaele says: use, if you have, steal, if you can (two eggs, one chicken, a bunch of grapes, a pound of butter...)

a friend of mine says that we are eating well. it is true, but according to the old gumbo: living well is the best revenge.