I live in a relatively small town. That means that most of my treasures come in one of two ways: second hand or in parcels by way of mail. The unopened box is a chief pleasure (as is my impatient & inefficient tearing into them) topped only by the joy of discovering something as precious as this book inside. Containing well over 125 vegetarian recipes, Feast by Sarah Copeland of the blog Edible Living instantly earned a place on the kitchen shelf. The kitchen shelf is the spot, the coveted spot. I’m a voracious cookbook collector, always searching for inspiration, and that means that much of my impressively (embarrassingly?) large collection lives on the bookshelf in my office (/guest room/room where my personal organizational failures live). I keep a small, curated collection in my kitchen. They’re the ones I actually cook from (which is saying something as my even loosely using a recipe is a rare occurrence), the ones that I thumb through in the evening, reading like novels.
Still stove-less, I took Feast over to my brother & sister-in-law’s house to play (they live down the street—it’s a good life). They’re both getting healthy (healthier than me, for sure)—exercising, eating right. You know the drill. That and (this is huge!) she’s now “eating for two” as they say. Which means for the first time in my life I’m going to be an aunt. To my little brother’s kid. There are no children to speak of in our family. The last one born was my brother. It’s surreal and makes me feel the spectre of my mortality. My mind doesn’t wrap around the idea easily. But I’m excited in my clannish way (my family is clannish) and already eyeing vintage, rattan rockers at the flea market and reading up on the French way of training children to eat just about anything. This child will be one of our own. And I don’t even know what that means. Which is all to say this book, technicolor with seasonal recipes, was the perfect book to bring to their house, to two new parents-to-be making an active effort to take care of themselves. The recipes in Feast are what you feed the people you care about deeply.
I’ve never been around children before. I think I’ve held a baby once, ever. And I was probably drunk at the time (it was at my ill-starred wedding…all good reasons that I no longer drink). I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good with children. They don’t, thank god, seem to revile me, and from time to time a particularly intrepid child will even take an inexplicable liking to me. I’m not a hater of children, but I’m not a lover of them either. They confuse me. Sometimes, and maybe I’m horrible for admitting this, they even bore me. All virtues, no doubt, of simply never being exposed to them save when I was one myself. But now there’s going to be a child in this world that I care about in that way you care about blood. It’s as close to having my own as I can imagine—his wife is a sister to me. Which is something I can’t really imagine at this juncture. I’m excited for this experience, for something new under my sun. And so happy for two of the most important people in the world to me.
So Feast in hand, I showed up on their doorstep to cook them lunch on my brother’s day off. We both grew up on fast food, children of the 80’s and all that. It took for him. The only reason it didn’t take for me (save a long standing obsession in high school with Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich…) is because I’m passionate about cooking and moved on to bigger & better obsessions like pungent cheese and anything that takes three days to prepare. Had I not been wired that way, I probably would’ve gotten stuck in the same rut he did. The drive through rut. But over the years he’s evolved, largely in part thanks to the cooking talent & efforts of his wife Ruthie (who happens to be my sometimes photographer—if you see a photo of me on here, chances are she took it for me). That’s where books like Sarah’s Feast come in. Books full of whole foods both flavorful and dynamic enough to convert those of a generation who’s tastebuds had been flat fried out on processed food. My brother has long since given up the drive through, but now he’s not only mindful of what he eats but open. He even eats avocado now! And he loved the soup. I’m pretty sure southern men are the litmus test for great vegetarian cooking; if they like it, it’s damn fine.
Being in Tennessee and it being winter, Sarah’s recipe for Sweet Potato & Kale Tortilla Soup leapt out at me immediately. The fact that she also has recipes for homemade tortillas, both corn and flour, in the book sealed the deal. We would have made the corn tortillas in the spirit of authenticity but had no cornflour on hand. No regrets. These flour tortillas are flavorful, quick, and painless. Ruthie tended to making them while I whipped up the soup (and climbed up on her furniture photographing it, naturally). And I found that it’s true, the tortillas are sublime, as Sarah says in her book, with nothing more than a squeeze of lime and a bit of salt.
So, soup heaped high with toppings (avocado, radish, queso fresco, greek yogurt, lime, and crispy strips of tortilla galore!) and bowls in hand we enjoyed it as I’ve enjoyed so many meals at their house, all of us sitting on their bed. That’s a family style meal.
You can get your copy of Feast here, and you can find more of Sarah’s wonderful work here on her site Edible Living. I hope you all enjoy the book as much as I do…it’s one of the best I’ve found all year!
And now for one last thing before I give you the goods. I’m so flattered to have been nominated for a Better Homes & Gardens blogger award. I grew up with my mother reading that magazine…so it’s a little surreal. Little kid me definitely wouldn’t have ever thought one day I’d be on their radar! So, ifns you like, you can vote for me here. Like once an hour (seriously, you can…soooo…you know.)
Okay, now the goodies, Sarah’s beautiful recipes…
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus more for frying
- 1 yellow onion thinly slices
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles seeded and minced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 3/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1 large sweet potato or garnet yam cut into bite sized cubes
- 5 to 6 cups/1.2 to 1.4 L vegetable stock or water
- one 14 1/2 oz/415 g can diced tomatoes
- sea salt
- 1 bunch kale stemmed and chopped
- 4 fresh small corn tortillas I subbed the flour but she also has a recipe for the corn!, thinly sliced
- full-fat plain or greek yogurt for dolloping
- queso fresco for sprinkling
- fresh cilantro leaves for sprinkling
- 1 avocado peeled, pitted, and chipped (optional)
- 4 radishes thinly sliced (optional)
- 4-6 limes cut into wedges
- 1/2 cup/115 g vegetable shortening
- 3 1/4 cup/410 g all-purpose flour
- sel gris or fleur de sel
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup/240 mL warm water
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just golden brown, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeños, chili powder, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sweet potato, stock, and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Add 1/4 tsp salt, cover loosely, and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer until the sweet potatoes are completely tender, 30-35 minutes. Uncover the pot, add the kale, and cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a plate with paper towels and set near the stove. In a small, shallow skillet, heat 1 in/2.5 cm olive oil over medium heat. To test the temperature of the oil, drop a tortilla strip into the skillet; the oil should sizzle and the tortilla cook to a pale golden brown. If it turns dark brown quickly or the oil is smoking, reduce the heat. Working in batches, fry the tortilla strips until golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Transfer the tortilla strips with a slotted spoon to the paper towel-lined plate and immediately season with salt.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fried tortilla strips, yogurt, queso fresco, and cilantro, plus additional toppings such as avocado and radishes at your whim. Serve warm with the lime wedges.
- Pulse the shortening, flour, 1 tsp sel gris, and baking powder in a food processor for about 20 seconds. Add the warm water and pulse together until just combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and smooth.
- Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper or a knife, and cut each half into eight pieces, about 1 1/2 oz/40 g each. Form each piece into a small ball with your hands and cover with plastic warp. Flatten the balls, one by one, on a lightly floured work surface and roll with a rolling pin to about 8″/20 cm wide, turning constantly to keep their round shape.
- Preheat a large cast-iron griddle pan or a two burner griddle pan on the stove top over high heat. Place a plate and a kitchen towel near the griddle pan.
- Let one edge of the tortilla touch the griddle, then lower your hand slightly and move it away from you, allowing the tortilla to roll onto the griddle.
- Cook until lightly browned with a few bubbles, 3-4 minutes. Flip the tortilla with tongs, a spatula, or your fingers. It should be pale golden brown. Continue cooking on the other side until the tortilla puffs and separates and then deflates, 2 to 3 minutes more. Stack on a plate as you remove them from the griddle and cover loosely with a kitchen towel to keep warm. Serve warm, or cool completely, wrap tightly, and keep on the countertop for the next day.