I’m not sure what I should call this dish. It’s more than a soup, but not quite a stew. Maybe it’s a stoup (you’re laughing now, but just wait till “stoup” makes its way into the Oxford English Dictionary—take that, mochaccino). Well, no matter what you call it, I think you’ll find yourself singing its praises often, as this is really a hearty, yummy recipe. This is an instance where putting everything into a simmering broth rather than onto a plate lets some culinary alchemy take place. The result is a feast for the mouth and a source of soothing warmth for the body. This is one of my favorite soups to make when I have leftover chicken in the fridge.
I asked my editor if I could get away with a two-word headnote for this: “Eat these!!” But she said, “No, Rebecca. You need to say more.” Sigh. How about “Eat these now!” That’s what my dog Lola did. We left them on the kitchen table, wrapped in layers of parchment and foil. Lola didn’t care. Her doggy delight senses shorted out her inhibition system (such as it is), and when we returned to the kitchen, she had jumped up on the table like a mountain goat and absconded with eight cookies. Fortunately, the chocolate content was low enough, and Lola big enough, that the vet said she’d be fine; she was, but there was no dinner for her that night. These are flourless, a blend of almond butter, egg, vanilla, cocoa nibs, and chocolate chips. The chocolate is guaranteed to elevate your mood. It sure elevated Lola’s!
Talk about fun rendezvous. This little devil took a while to figure out, so my recipe tester, Catherine, and I kept meeting halfway between our homes. We’d sit in Catherine’s VW bug and she’d pull out a small container of the pudding; we’d taste, figure out what needed to be tinkered with, and off we’d go on our separate ways. I wanted something that would take me back to that comforting feeling pudding gave me as a kid, yet be a little more sophisticated for an adult palate. What we ended up with was a cross between pudding, custard, and pot de crème. If that sounds a bit decadent, well, guilty as charged. Coconut milk, dark chocolate (mood enhancer!!), cinnamon, cardamom . . . yup, this one will get your motor purring.
The lesson here is that a little beef goes a long way. What people crave is the taste and texture of beef, not to be overwhelmed by it, and this dish satisfies that need by turning beef into a supporting player. The headliners here are the veggies and the dressing: think a big band combo filled with horns (that’s the lime and chili paste dressing), a rollicking rhythm section (shredded cabbage, peppery watercress, crunchy cucumber), and silkily dressed pitch-perfect backup singers (the cellophane noodles). Add meat and bring down the house!
There’s a fine line I walk as a cook. I don’t want to take people too far out of their comfort zones, yet I want to energize their taste buds with delightful takes on old favorites. So it goes here. There are about 1,000 ways to prepare sweet potatoes, and mashing them is top of the list, but a simple twist takes these taters over the top, and that’s the ginger (a notable anti-inflammatory) and the lime. Like a pair of piccolos, these two provide unexpected high notes of tartness and spice that play off the sweet potatoes’ bass heartiness. If you’re craving something sweet, this mash hits the mark; the fiber in the potatoes acts as a great insulin regulator, letting their sugars metabolize and feed the brain slowly and consistently.