|Cooking with Nurjan, 2008|
While I spend a lot of time talking about writing and my process here at Once in a Blue Muse, I probably talk about food just as much. I blame my spouse. He comes from a very foodie oriented family. In fact, if he had a family crest, it would be a plate with a crossed fork and a knife with the motto "Food is Love."
Not only is he an amazing cook, but so are his folks and his sister is a professional chef.
That's a lot of pressure to live up to coming from a non-foodie family of origin.
But I'm nothing if not an eager student, so I've learned from everyone in my life how to cook the dish they love best. Over the years, I've amassed a lovely trove of our favorite recipes. So what's my favorite thing to make?
Gah. That's a hard question. Might as well ask me what my favorite book or song is. The answers change, depending on what's going on in my life. But the recipe I'll share today is one I learned from Nurjan, my Kyrgyz 'daughter' (she lived with us as an international student and became family.)
One of the things I loved most about having Nurjan living with us is having another adult woman in the house. While my family is fairly non-traditional in that we don't split the household tasks into 'men's work' and 'women's work', the reality is I have more time and more flexibility due to the fact that I work for myself from home and my husband's job hours are rigid and close to 60+ hours/week. It falls on me to do the lion's share of cooking Monday through Friday.
For the most part, I enjoy cooking, but it does get lonely and boring at times. Nurjan comes from a culture of shared cooking in the family and was happy to be with me in the kitchen. I was overjoyed to have company, which turned a mundane task into time I always looked forward to.
This is the soup base she taught me how to make. The smell of this soup cooking is wondrous--it's the fresh herbs that make the difference.
Nurjan's Kyrgyz Soup
~ 1 lb of meat, chopped small or ground (beef/lamb)
Small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, chopped small
2 peppers, jullianed
Scallions, chopped coarsely
1 quart tomatoes, chopped (6-8 fresh)
fresh herbs (parsley, basil, chives, dill, etc, torn coarsely)
oil for sauteing
3 cups warm water or stock
In a large wok or soup pot, fry onions until soft
Add meat and fry until cooked through
Add vegetables, firmest/hardest first and cook until soft.
Add tomatoes and cook until falling apart.
Add herbs, salt, pepper to taste.
Add water and simmer
This is only a suggested ingredients list. Feel free to adapt and use what's fresh: in winter, potatoes/sweet potatoes/butternut squash would be nice additions. Now, when we're drowning in zucchini, I add that.
serve with dumplings or serve over rice or noodles, or with a crusty loaf of bread
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