Friday, August 15, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Happiness Soup

Happiness Soup is another warm-weather recipe from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer cookbook.  The color alone makes this soup worth trying, but the flavor will not disappoint.  It is also extremely easy to prepare with ingredients that are readily available (here in the South yellow squash is a summer staple).  Brighten your day with a bowl of this cheerful soup soon!

Happiness Soup

3 T. olive oil
1 lb. yellow squash, finely diced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. turmeric
4 C. chicken stock
1/2 C. basmati rice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the squash and the lemon zest and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash has softened.  Add the turmeric, stock, and lemon juice.  Stir in the rice and simmer, uncovered, for 10-20 minutes until the squash and rice are tender.  Season to taste.  Serve warm (not hot).  Serves 4.

Note:  Substitute zucchini for the yellow squash and/or vegetable stock for the chicken if you like, although you will obviously not get a bright yellow soup with those ingredients!  You could also add a finely diced small onion at the beginning if you feel ambitious.

You can top this soup with shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend, but cheddar would be nice), or with dill and a dollop of sour cream (we had some dill paste in the fridge, so I used a few dabs of that) as in the photo below:

My photo is not quite as eye-catching as the bright yellow
image at the top of the post!

If you are a novice when it comes to knife skills, then you may have trouble finely dicing the squash. The best instructions I have ever seen for dicing vegetables was demonstrated on "Chasing the Yum", a show on the Veria Living channel hosted by Jet Tila.  Watch the video below as this chef explains how to mince ginger --  the technique is exactly the same for a vegetable like summer squash:

Just remember to cut the squash into a manageable size first (I usually cut mine into thirds crosswise).  Also resist the urge to cut each third in half first, which is what I always want to do for some reason.  Stand the squash upright on a cut side.  Start at one end and begin slicing your tiles (long thin slices) toward the other end, cutting straight down.  Then take half of the tiles, lay them long flat end down, and cut the matchstick slices the same way.  I am right-handed, so I find it helps to hold the tiles in place with my left hand between the thumb and last three fingers, using my index finger to hold the matchsticks in place when pulling the knife back up so that they stay in place.  Finally, dice the matchstick pieces, only this time instead of cutting straight down, bring the knife down tip first and cut in a sort of rocking motion (this keeps the  pieces from scattering all over the place).  After that, you're done (really, it is much easier doing the cutting than trying to explain it)!

I highly recommend watching more "Chasing the Yum" episodes on both the Veria Living site and YouTube.  Jet Tila is a fantastic teacher, and provides numerous useful tips that can often be used for all sorts of cooking, not just the four Asian cuisines he highlights on the show.

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