During a raging rain storm, when you can't work in the garden, you have time to do many things. Read a book. Take a nap. Build a fire in the fireplace. Talk to the cats. Root around in the pantry. This tomato vegetable soup with cheese ravioli is a forgiving soup. If you want to use up a bit of potato, toss it in. Fresh chives from your garden? Add a handful. Some shreds of rotisserie chicken? Sure, why not? Let Mother Nature have her temper tantrum. After all, you have a perfect pantry, and you can always make soup.
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It's not easy to learn to love something you have spent a lifetime detesting. For me, that something is cauliflower, so I've decreed that 2013 will be The Year I Learn to Love Cauliflower. Or, if not love, like. When you're incorporating something new into your diet, start with a dish you already know you will eat. In this case, I swapped cauliflower for half of the potatoes in a creamy rich potato soup, and topped it with sharp Cheddar cheese. What's not to love? Stay tuned as I continue my adventures in cauliflower. I'm pinning recipes ideas to a Cauliflower board on Pinterest, so please leave any links to your own favorite recipes in the comments. Then, make this soup. I loved it, and I know you will, too. By the end of the year, I'll be making it without the potatoes. I promise.
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If you've been hanging around The Perfect Pantry for a while, you've heard me rail against recipes that require you to make twelve other things -- sauces, spice blends, stock -- in order to have the components for one recipe. So it wouldn't be fair to ask you to make an entire beef stew so you'll have leftover already-diced rutabaga, parsnips and carrots that won't quite fit into the stew pot, but which will fit quite nicely into your soup pot. (And it would be especially unfair if you don't eat meat!) This root vegetable soup, vegan and and gluten-free, carries its own sweetness; add some fruit and warm spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala, and whip everything together with your immersion blender. If you love cilantro, garnish individual servings with a few chopped leaves.
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What makes a chowder a chowder, and not just a fish soup? The name comes from the French word chaudiere, a three-legged cauldron. When ships returned from the sea, every village had a large chaudiere waiting at the dock; each fisherman added a portion of his catch, big pieces of fish cleaned and cut right on the boat, to be served later as a communal meal. It's a shame that most of us no longer get our fish directly from the docks, and that we make chowder in our own kitchens instead of a communal pot. While our way of life has changed, the basic chowder remains the same: a fish-based soup, thick with big chunks of fish or shellfish. This shrimp, corn and bacon chowder gets a double whammy of smoky flavor from pimentón (smoked paprika) and the bacon. I call it a pantry chowder, because I always have shrimp and corn in the freezer, and a combination of clam and chicken broths from the pantry makes a fine substitute for fresh fish stock.
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