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Hot Summer Soup

On a hot summer night…, would you offer your soup to the guest with the red roses?  Yes.

And no,… I don’t say that to say that to all the soups.

This time of year it’s easy to fall into clichés, grilling meats, making big salads, spending lots of leisure time cutting up fresh fruit and raw vegetables, hot soup doesn’t really seem to fit in there.  But lemme tell ya, if it’s the right soup Baby, it makes summer even more tropical.  And I’ve got the perfect one just for you.  And it is so easy. 

Before I proceed, I must admit that this dish is something I would have never eaten before.  Believe me when I tell you, I had no choice I couldn’t get out of going to dinner that night.  I love my friends but I hate Thai food.  I know it sounds harsh – but, every spice I don’t like and herb I won’t eat is prominent in Thai cooking.  I mean no disrespect.  I know there are many of you out there who think chopped liver made with real chicken fat is yucky, so let’s just agree that everyone has their own wacky taste.  

There were only 2, count ‘em - 2, dishes on the entire menu that I could eat, so I ordered the Pad Thai and the Chicken Coconut Soup.  Even with that, they still had to ask the chef to make it special without cilantro.  What a pain in the ass I was that night. 

And for the record, I loved the Pad Thai, so I not only ate my words along side my dinner but I picked up the check.  It was worth the trade off, now I actually have something to order if I ever have to go again. 

The soup was inspirational, I’m sorry to sound corny, but I mean it in the most literal way – it was so good that it made me go straight into the kitchen as soon as I got home.  I loved the creamy white soup dotted with scallions, it was flavorful and smooth with a slight kick on the back end.  It made me think of vacation.  I went home to monkey around with it a little bit and see what I could come up with.  I had always associated coconut with sweet, now I was thinking spicy…a little of this, a little of that…Ohhhhhhh, this was gonna be fun!!!

Let me introduce you to some of our ingredients…

Chicken broth                          3 cans
Water                                       2 cans
Coconut milk                           2 cans
Lime                                         1 cut in ½
Lime juice                                ¼ cp.
Ginger                                      1 piece approx 3 inch
Scallions                                  1 whole bunch – chopped
Garlic                                       1 smashed with skin on
Siracha hot chili sauce            1 Tbs. to start
Salt                                          ¼ Tsp. 
Tofu                                         Chopped into little cubes
Bean Sprouts          
I say “some” of the ingredients, because not everything is mandatory.  If the thought of tofu makes your skin crawl, don’t use it.  You might want to try it though - shit, even just cutting it up is kinda fun, it’s got a cool texture - but to each his own. 

Have everything laid out first before you begin cooking.  It goes very fast and over boiling can make the texture a little funky.  It won’t taste bad, just chop up extra scallions – green part only and sprinkle a lot of them on top.

Let’s talk about coconut milk.  There are many different types in the store and it was a little confusing, so let’s see if I can walk you through this.  First, go to the international section and find cans with coconuts on ‘em.  You’re selecting your coconut kinda like you select produce, no dents and heavy for their size.  There are solids in coconut milk, and that’s what you want, the more solids, the better.  Some are just the consistency of water – you don’t want those. 

You want a can that has the fewest ingredients on the label and make sure it’s not sweetened.  The solids will melt in the warm chicken broth so use a whisk when you add it.  Stay away from cans that say things like ‘low’ ‘no’ ‘reduced’ or ‘light’

Siracha hot chili sauce.  Yeah, I didn’t really know what it was either.  It’s usually found in Oriental markets and the International section of your local supermarket.  It comes in a red plastic bottle with a green squeeze cap.  It also has a lot of Asian writing and a picture of a cock on it.  You’ll find it.  If you don’t happen to see it, ask.  It is practically the hottest thing I have ever put in my mouth.  So proceed with caution when you’re playing around with it.  Go up in intensity slowly; you don’t want to make it too spicy.

Fresh ginger.  I love ginger, it’s a wonderful ingredient and it’s readily available.  You’ll need a piece that is about 3 inches long.  Look for ginger that’s firm and has smooth skin.  If it’s wrinkled, forget it – order in Italian and make the soup another day.

Rinse the piece of ginger, don’t bother peeling it.  If you see a few spots that look a little harsh, cut ‘em off.  But otherwise grate it if you have a ginger grater, or slice it into long strips using a veggie peeler.  Side note, if you like using ginger, invest in a ceramic ginger grater, they’re great.  No pun intended. 

Tofu.  Yeah, I know…real men don’t eat tofu.  But it is also said that real men take chances, so choose your cliché and come with me to the produce section, that’s traditionally where you will find the tofu.  It requires refrigeration and is packaged in water like a little brick.  It comes in different textures starting off soft and advancing to hard.  Tofu is so much fun to play around with, I like it extra firm.

Dump out the water and cut the tofu into small chunks.  Squeeze a little extra lime juice onto the tofu while you get everything else ready.  What I like about tofu, is that it takes on the flavor of whatever you put on it, so it’s great to marinate.

Take a large saucepan and fill it with the chicken stock.  Add the garlic clove and the ginger and set your flame on hi.  You want the broth to just about come to a boil and then lower the flame to medium.  Remove the garlic clove and throw it away.  Yes, leave the ginger.

Add the coconut milk and whisk until all the solids have melted.  Add the rest of the ingredients – except the water and salt.

Simmer for 5 minutes.   Taste.

If it’s perfect, just eat.  If it’s to ‘chickeny’ or to ‘coconutty’ or needs more lime; here’s your chance to adjust.  I usually end up adding one can of water and 2 Tbs. Saratcha – but I like it hot.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can really make it up to your taste.  My guests loved it.  I served the soup with a few bowls of add-ins on the side.  Small pieces of cooked zucchini, bamboo shoots and chopped water chestnuts (hey, I was in the international section) and fresh peas.  I however, ate it as was.

The soup will separate as it cools, this is normal, just give it a stir and all will be melded.  It will last up to one week in your fridge and reheats terrific in the microwave.  Because of that, I make large batches at one time and put them in small containers in the fridge.  That way, when I want something fast, all I do is grab it and nuke it.  And by the way, like most good food, it’s even better the next day!


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