Food, Fresh made soups

Cooking with Mary #4: Cilantro-Celery-Lime Soup (Fresh and Delicious!)

This creamy, cool, refreshing, cold soup is perfect on a hot summer day! It took a while to eat all the leftovers from Gazpacho and Borscht (see prior recipe posts). The gazpacho made for a nice second day lunch for Mary and me (about 1 quart of soup leftovers). The borscht made enough to both share with Mary’s friends and for Mary and me to have lunch a second day (a little over 3 quarts of leftovers). The last soup in our food preparation from scratch vacation was another cold soup. It’s fast and easy to prepare. The recipe for Cilantro-Celery-Lime Spring Soup we made was only enough for one lunch, so I doubled it here. You’ll thank me for this; I promise. J  The inspiration for this recipe was “In the Raw’s” Clear Celery Soup recipe found here: There are many more delicious raw recipes on this site!

Our version of this soup is not clear, but creamy, and again, we modified ingredients to suit our taste. We added more celery, more lime juice, onion, garlic, and dill. We called it Cilantro-Celery-Lime Spring Soup because that name reflects the freshness and flavor in the soup.


2 avocados (peeled and pitted) I like avocados ripe, but not browning. It’s a delicate moment.

1 cucumber (unpeeled) My preference is English cucumber.

1/2 white onion

6 stalks celery (use from the center with leaves) The more celery leaves the better in my opinion. The leaves really enhance the flavor.

2 handfuls chopped dill (Be generous here!) ((Dill should really be in the soup name as it is the 4th dominant flavor.J ))

2 handfuls chopped cilantro (Be generous here!)

Juice of 3 limes

4 cloves garlic (smashed and finely diced)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

1 cup water

Put everything in a blender and puree. If you have a Magic Bullet ® or a Ninja ®, blending will be quick and easy. With a traditional blender, you will need to be patient and blend ingredients in batches. It still didn’t take that long.

Garnish with your choice of: chopped dill, radishes, pine nuts, lemon juice, sour cream, etc. Serve at room temperature just out of the blender, or chilled.

Unlike some green soups that taste like, well, grass, this one is refreshing and delicious! Enjoy! And, as always, if you try it and like it, let us know. If you have recommendations for improving in, we want to hear those as well!

Buon Appetito!

green soup lunch

Food, Fresh made soups

Cooking with Mary #3: Borscht!!!!!

Few Russian dishes are more iconic than borscht, Russian beet soup. Typically made with beef and beef broth, borscht is a gift to the palate. I fell in love with it the first time our Tatar Babushka made it for us. We were fortunate when our family arrived in Kazan to have a built in family. Two years prior, a young student from Kazan State University came to study at the University of Nevada, Reno where I taught. Kazan State University is famous or infamous, depending on your point of view because it is the university that expelled revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin when he was a student. It was also the third largest university in Russia and home to the renowned Russian mathematician, Nikolai Lobachevsky.

To make a long story short, we adopted Albert through a university program designed to give international students a local family to help their transition and expose them to U.S. culture. Our family never does anything halfway, so before you knew it, Albert was having dinner with us regularly, going on picnics, inviting us to his dorm for dinner (not the most tasty option, but it meant a lot to him to share with us). My children Stefan, age 6 and Alyssa, age 1, fell in love with Albert as he did with them. They were delighted to have a big brother. He often spent weekends and breaks traveling around the area with us or simply staying at our home. He became family.

Originally I was supposed to be posted in Kaluga, a small industrial city 90 miles south of Moscow for my Fulbright. Albert was going to live in our Reno house and find roommates to cover the mortgage payment. Shortly before we were to leave, my posting changed. We would be heading to Kazan and a built in family, Albert’s mother Zainob, Zainob’s father who we called Großvater (grandfather in German – to this day I don’t know why we referred to him in German), and Zainob’s mother who we called Babushka, a delightfully sweet and strong woman who was also a marvelous cook and a loving person. It was wonderful to travel half way around the world and find family.

As I said, Babushka loved to cook and her food was delicious. Her borscht had shredded beef, cabbage, beets, garlic, and was never complete without a dollop of Smetana (village sour cream) and some chopped green onions on top. It was one of my favorites.

For our purposes, Mary and I decided to make a vegetarian, gluten-free borscht. As I noted in my prior post, we used Olga’s recipe from her site as our starting point.  Again, you can find her original recipe here:борщ-authentic-russian-beet-soup-recipe/

Here’s our version:

borscht fixings


2 medium beets (peeled and shredded)

1 large carrot (peeled and shredded)

1 tomato (diced – Olga recommends peeling it. We didn’t.)

3 cloves garlic (smashed and chopped)

Saute above in 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil plus 2 tbsp of water and the juice of 1/2 of a lemon in the stock pot in which you will make the soup. (5 minutes on medium/high heat)

Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes

Boil 1/2 gallon veggie stock in a separate pan; add 1 tbsp salt (Note: we did not season the stock at all as we prepared it.) ((See recipe in prior post)), or you can just use 1/2 gallon of water or store bought veggie stock.)) (((Note: the veggie stock really adds dimension, though. We think it’s well worth it.))). Add to veggies and stir in after they simmer for 20 minutes.

fresh stock with sauteed onions and garlic

Add 5 potatoes (peeled and diced) ((For a heartier soup, you could forego peeling the potatoes.))

Add 1/2 head of green cabbage, finely sliced.

Stir to mix ingredients thoroughly. Cook for 10 minutes.

Sauté 1 large finely chopped red onion and 3 smashed, then chopped, cloves of garlic in 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Cook until onions are translucent and turning golden. Stir into soup.

Add 2 handfuls of chopped fresh parsley

4 bay leaves

Juice from the other 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp black pepper


Cook for 5-10 more minutes until diced potatoes are cooked, yet firm.

Garnish with sour cream, dill, parsley, chopped radishes, and/or chopped green onions. We stirred some of the dill and green onions into the sour cream, then added more as garnish.

borscht lunch

This version of veggie borscht is flavorful, yet delicate. Mary and I think the dill and sour cream really set it off. We served it with European rye bread we’d picked up at the Saturday Central Phoenix Farmer’s Market (It wasn’t gluten free. It was delicious!!!) and a lovely bottle of Conundrum Red Wine.

If you try this, let us know what you think. As I noted in the last post, we ate it hot first and it was delicious. The next night we took it to a gathering of Mary’s friends and enjoyed it cold. Cold, it makes a perfect, refreshing summer soup. This soup made me smile with memories as we made new ones. I think Babushka would have been pleased.


Food, Fresh made soups

Cooking with Mary: Part #2 – The Making of Veggie Stock for Borscht (Not as hard as you’d think!)

Borscht!!! A blog post in which I reminisce about delicious Russian and Tatar food and then cover the first of two detailed, but not difficult, stages in making this classic Russian standard. Borscht can easily be served hot (the way we ate it in Kazan) or cold (the way we ate it with Mary’s friends in Phoenix), and it is delicious both ways. In 1996-1997, I had a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and do research at Kazan State University in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. I returned in the summer of 2001 on a Fulbright Alumni Initiatives grant to carry out a women’s health study during which our team interviewed more than 1000 women. It’s been 14 years since I’ve been to Russia and the flavors I fell in love with still linger in my mind. The thought of my favorites dishes makes my mouth water. Triugulnik (meat, carrot and onion, or pumpkin and onion stuffed dough triangles – these were Tatar versions of pirozhki), manti (beef and onion stuffed dough steamed in a multi-level rice steamer), pelmeni, (dough stuffed with beef, then boiled in broth and served as a soup or strained, either version topped with smetana (Russian sour cream, perhaps the most heavenly substance on earth) and chopped green onions, polv (beef, carrots, onions and rice cooked in beef broth). Our favorite pirozhki which my Tatar son Albert, Stefan, Alyssa and I made for school events at Mountain View Montessori School in Reno, Nevada, was rice, egg, and green onions wrapped in dough and baked. The kids loved them! But today, our topic is the second soup my dear friend Mary and I made during our “soup from scratch” adventure in Phoenix, borscht!!! As Mary is a vegetarian and as our goal was healthy eating, we chose a vegetarian version that is also gluten free (although, to be honest, I’m not sure what gluten would have been added anyway). Since we were looking for such a precise recipe, we stopped with the delightful version outlined by Olga, self-proclaimed foodaholic, and author of the food blog Fablunch. Here’s the link to Olga’s recipe:борщ-authentic-russian-beet-soup-recipe/ We decided to take the recipe up a notch as Emeril would say and make our stock from scratch as well. Neither of us had ever done this before. As a base, we settled on a recipe for vegetable stock found on Bon Appetit. Here’s the link: As you would expect, we modified it “our way”. From the Bon Appetit recipe, we subtracted mushrooms (which Mary loves and I despise), fennel (which neither of us had ever cooked with, and as we had other preferred herbs and weren’t sure how fennel would go with beets, we left it out), and whole black peppercorns, although we did add pepper later. We added 1 bunch of green onions, a beet, and beet stalks. We put in more parsley and more bay leaves. If you’d like to compare the recipes more explicitly, the link to theirs is above. Below we outline what we did. Remember, we were making a broth for borscht, so beets were a logical addition. Veggie Stock In a large stock pot, we warmed 2 tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil. To the oil we added: Beet greens (stalks, not the big floppy leaves – we didn’t want it to get bitter) ((Our beets were large. If we’d had smaller, younger ones we would have included the leaves as well.)) 3 large Carrots (unpeeled – cut in 1 inch pieces) 10 stalks Celery (cut in 1 inch pieces) 2 White Onions (unpeeled and quartered) ((Feel free to use your favorite onions.)) 1 Garlic bulb (unpeeled, cut in half) 1 bunch Green Onions (cut in 1 inch pieces) 1 Beet (unpeeled and quartered) 1 Green Pepper (seeded and quartered) 2 large handfuls Parsley Cover and cook 5-7 minutes until vegetables start to soften a bit. Add 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until liquid reduces by half, about 1 ½ – 2 hours. If you need broth to reduce more quickly, take the lid off at 1 hour. Let broth cool, then skim out all vegetables and discard. They have given their all for your broth, color, texture, taste, nutrients. We then poured our broth through a fine strainer to get out any remaining “sediment” and let it cool on the stove covered overnight. We could easily have made the borscht right then, but we wanted it for the next day. The yield was just about 2 quarts. The stock had a very light flavor and we thought could be used as the base for just about any vegetable soup. veggie broth Next up: The making of borscht!

Food, Fresh made soups

Cooking with Mary: Part #1 – Icy, Spicy, Smooth & Crunchy Gazpacho Soup (YUMMY!!!)

Dear Reader,

From May 26-June 2, I spent an amazing week in Phoenix with my dear friend, Mary Elton. We wanted to make this vacation special.The last time we were together was for 10 days in Florence, Italy last October / November. Mary had plans for what she wanted us to do, places she wanted us see, to hike, to explore. These are our favorite things to do together. As we talked on my first night in Phoenix, a new plan emerged. We would cook together, soups, from scratch, that we had never made before. Our plan was gluten free (mostly), dairy free (mostly), delicious and healthy. Mary chose gazpacho; I chose borscht.

We wanted a basic recipe that we could embellish. I went to bed excited to start the recipe hunt in the morning. I woke up early, hopped on a Bing search on my iPhone 6s and started reviewing gazpacho recipes.

Mmmmm… GAZPACHO! … Just the word made me salivate. Images of icy coldness and spicy hotness, the crunch of fresh vegetables offset by a creamy tomato based broth propelled my search. Excited, I reviewed recipes on the first 6 cites that came up in my search, not counting Wikipedia. They were: Alton Brown’s recipe, Ina Garten’s, Food & Wine’s tempting array of gazpacho modifications, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman’s, All Recipes, and Epicurious

We decided we wanted to be gazpacho purists for this first effort, so the wonderful modifications on the Food & Wine site would have to wait. We were looking for a crisp, crunchy, cold vegetable soup with just the right amount of spiciness. The rest of the sites had similar recipes with more or less blending and slightly different ingredients. Mary and I found Alton Brown’s assembly video hilarious! Anyone who could make the intimidating task of soup crafting from scratch look easy worked for us. We used his recipe and techniques as a base and modify based on whatever inspired us at the moment.

Excited, we headed out to the Central Phoenix Farmer’s Market in search of fresh veggies and herbs. Unfortunately, the Wednesday market had discontinued due to the increasing heat and only the Saturday morning market remained. Undaunted we headed to Trader Joe’s and to the Phoenix equivalent of Kroger’s. As we walked the aisles, we strategized variations and enhancements we wanted to make. To Alton’s list of ingredients: 1 1/2  pounds of vine-ripened tomatoes, tomato juice, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce,  toasted, ground cumin, salt, black pepper, and basil for garnish, we added carrots, celery, green pepper (instead of red), parsley, cilantro, more basil, more lime juice, red pepper flakes, more garlic, and a can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes (because good tomatoes are hard to find outside farmer’s markets in Phoenix in May).

Here’s what we created and how we did it!

Chef MaryChef Deborah 2

Chef Mary                                                         Chef Deborah

Gazpacho Soup

First, the tomatoes:

Blanch, peel, core, and seed 1 & 1/2 pounds of tomatoes (Heirlooms would have been delicious, but we couldn’t find any.) Blanching makes peeling tomatoes easy! Bring water in a 4 quart pan to a boil. Cut off the stem and bottom tip of each tomato (keep these pieces as well as the skins and seeds in a fine strainer. You will extract juice from these pieces to use as broth for your soup), drop them in the water, boil for about 30 seconds, remove from boiling water and immerse in a bowl filled with ice and water. Once they cool, the skins peel easily. (If they dosn’t, you haven’t boiled them quite long enough. Pop them back in quickly. For riper tomatoes, this takes less time, for less ripe ones, more time. Be patient.) Next, cut each in half, pull out the core and any remaining seeds. Add to the sieve. Squeeze juice out of peel, seeds, and cores. I just used my hands for this. Alton says “add tomato juice as necessary to make 1 cup”. We didn’t need to. While our tomatoes were woefully lacking in flesh, they yielded a bit over a cup of juice.

Put everything, including juice, together in one large bowl

Tomato juice from peel seeds and cores

Tomatoes (chopped)

1 cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber (Next time we probably wouldn’t peel it.)

1 large carrot (peeled and diced) – (1 cup)

1 stalk celery (chopped) – (1/2 cup)

½  green pepper (chopped) – (1/2 cup)

½  red onion (chopped) – (1/2 cup)

1 large, bright green jalapeno pepper – (seeded and finely diced)

2 handfuls chopped parsley

1 handful chopped cilantro

½ handful chopped basil leaves

2 cloves garlic

4 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 cup Olive oil

Juice from 3 limes

½  tsp ground cumin (We didn’t use smoked cumin as Alton recommended.)

2 tsp balsamic vinegar (Invest in an 8-10 year old one. It will be the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. Trust us on this one!)

1 tsp sea salt (Pink Himalayan is my favorite!)

½ tsp fresh ground black pepper (or mixed pepper)

½  tsp red pepper flakes

½  cup “Hot V-8 juice” (In addition to the 1 cup tomato juice)

Once everything is mixed together, take 1 & ½ cups of the veggie mixture and puree in a blender. Stir back into everything else.

gazpacho fixings

Because our pureed broth was such a lovely brownish – orangey color and because it had less tomato flavor than we desired, after we mixed all the ingredients together, we added 1 large can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes which we drained. We lightly blended them in the blender to add texture (We probably wouldn’t have had to drain these. And, if we had found meatier tomatoes, this might not have been necessary.)

Chill in the frig for 2 hours. Be patient. You want it cold!

Garnish with chopped cilantro, parsley, basil, and radishes (or anything else that sounds good to you!) Trust us on the radishes. They add a nice additional take on spice and another delightful crunch. We completed our lunch with a sprouted Ezekiel trdat (gluten free) and a glass of Apothic Red wine.

gazpacho table

This soup was exactly what we hoped it would be, the perfect mixture of icy, spicy, smooth and crunchy. Next up, borscht from scratch including homemade veggie stock!


Hey, if you try this, let us know what you think in the comments section. If you have amazing modifications, post those as well!