So Good, I Made It Twice

December 13, 2012

Common sense would say that the second time you make something, it is better than the first.  Right?  The second time you know your way around the recipe, or the ingredients if you are creating it yourself, and the tinkering makes it better.  You are committed to that dish, having enjoyed it enough once to make it again, and it tastes even better.

Not always so.  At least in my kitchen.  I rarely make things twice because I have a deep need for variety in my diet.  Occasionally I make something I really like and find myself craving it soon after the leftovers are gone.  So I make it again and 89% of the time (scientific figure) I like it better the first time.  Is it because I tinker too much?  The old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” idea?  Who knows.  When that happens, I either don’t write about the dish, or I do with the first run haunting me as I type.

Recently I had one of those weeks where I didn’t want to cook from recipes.  I wanted to just have fresh or freshly cooked ingredients at my disposal and figure it out as I went along.  I am not really that kind of cook.  I am a recipe cook but the years of cooking experience and finding treasures at farmers’ markets have mellowed me, and cut my reliance on hard and fast recipes.  So I spent an afternoon stocking my refrigerator with things I like and decided to just figure it all out as the week progressed.  Dinner one night was bowls filled with sautéed kale, quinoa, topped with bits of roasted squash and a fried egg.  There were more bowls filled with rice noodles, baked tofu, and bok choy.  There was a Niçoise salad or two.  At the end of the week, I made a soup whose base was a bunch of leeks I had not used and a lonely potato that was sitting on my counter.  I added what I had leftover and like most soups that are born from ingredients that you like, it was terrific.  I even ate the leftovers for lunch a couple of days later.  Me.  The leftover hater.  The next week, I still had some quinoa, so I roasted more squash, sautéed more kale, and made the soup again, assuming that it wouldn’t be as good the second time.  But it was.  So I had to post about it.

Now, I’m not going to suppose that you have cooked quinoa, roasted squash, and already sautéed kale in your refrigerator.  I would imagine that you could probably make this soup without doing any up front work.  You could add the squash along with the leeks and potatoes, allowing it to get nice and soft.  You could pour in the quinoa after the broth is boiling and I assume it would cook all right.  You could add the kale near the end, cooking it enough that it gets tender but still stays nice and green.  You could do all that and it would be good soup.  But I don’t think it would be that good.

Here is why.  Quinoa cooked properly, not in too much liquid, retains a nice texture and crunch.  Roasted squash gets nice and caramelized making it much sweeter than just cooking it in liquid.  And kale.  Well.  I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this before here but I’m not a huge fan of kale.  I cook it and I eat it because sometimes there is a need for big dark leafy greens and I like it better than chard.  But you will not find a love letter to kale here.  And yes, I have made kale chips and no, not a single member of my family thought they were anywhere near as good as potato chips, and I may have actually just dumped them in the compost bin.  Ahem.  What I have learned about kale is that I need a bit of garlic cooked along with it and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes.  It needs to be cut in small pieces and it needs to cook long and slow until it is really tender.  It also needs to be Tuscan or lacinato kale, which is much more tender than its cousins.  So precooked kale, made just the way I like it, worked really well for me in this soup.

Can I call this a chowder?  Does chowder mean that there is cream involved?  Chowder means chunky to me so I’m going to call it that.  And as for the extra squash and kale that will be left after the soup is gone?  Use them in risotto, pasta, on top of pizza, stuffed in a sweet potato, or shoved into an omelet.

One Year Ago:  Posole Verde, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two years Ago:  Brown Rice Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, Healthier Mac and Cheese
Three Years Ago:  Holly B’s Stollen, Spicy Tomato Jam, Sweet and Salty Cake (I’m making this next weekend)
Four Years Ago:  Breton Apple Pie, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Lemon Rice Rolls with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Potato and Quinoa Chowder with Winter Squash and Kale
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I used red quinoa here because I had some I like the color better than the regular stuff.  The regular stuff will work just fine here, your soup will just be a bit more monochromatic.  Delicata squash is my squash of choice because you don’t have to peel it and they tend to be smaller than butternuts.

Olive oil
3 leeks, white and pale green part only, cut in half, washed, then thinly sliced
1 large baking (russet) potato, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
Leaves from 4 lemon thyme branches (or regular thyme)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cooked quinoa (recipe follows)
½ delicata squash, cut into 1-inch pieces (recipes follows)
½ bunch sautéed kale (recipe follows)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large-ish soup pot over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the leeks along with a large pinch of salt.  Stir frequently until they start to soften, about 4 minutes.  Be careful with them as they can burn easily.  Add the potato and carrots and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon thyme, cook for another minute, then pour in the broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook until the potato and carrot are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the quinoa, squash, and kale to the soup pot and bring the heat up so the soup really simmers.  Allow to cook for 10 minutes so that the added ingredients warm up and the flavors of the soup really meld together.  (Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead.  It will thicken considerably, so add broth or water to it as you reheat it.)

To make quinoa:
Bring 1½ cups water to a boil.  Add quinoa, then lower heat to simmer and cover the pot.  Cook for 15 minutes, then remove lid.  (This will make a bit more than you need for the soup.  You might even want to increase the amount so you have some extra hanging around.  Just use 1½ the amount of water to the amount of quinoa.)

To make roasted squash:
Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Split squash down the middle and scrape out the seeds.  Slice each half into half moons about ½-inch thick and lay them out on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and turn all the slices over.  Roast for another 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To make the sautéed kale:
Wash a large bunch of kale.  Strip the leaves off the stem, you can do this just using your hands or you can slice them off with a knife.  Chop the leaves into 2-inch pieces.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add two minced garlic cloves.  Immediately add a large pinch of red pepper flakes.  Just as the garlic is starting to turn light brown, add all the kale leaves.  It will look like a lot but, like all greens, it will cook down.  Stir frequently and add a bit of water if the kale is sticking.  Taste to make sure the kale is really soft, it can take up to half an hour for me to get it where I want it, then remove from the heat.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


  1. Oh good, I was waiting for this recipe. And btw, I love this kind of cooking. Rarely are the results horrible – and this one looks fantastic. I’ve got nearly everything in my empty fridge for this soup. Perfect!

    Comment by kickpleat — December 13, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

  2. Ha!
    For me, the second time I make something it’s because I want it spicier or cheesier the next time.

    Comment by vanillasugarblog — December 14, 2012 @ 2:04 am

  3. I am totally a recipe person and not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person also…but occasionally it happens. I love that you took a whole week to just COOK as you wanted. I feel like you really grow as a chef that way and I need to do it more.

    This soup sounds like it turned out wonderfully with so many complimenting flavors and textures! And if you made it twice – then I KNOW it’s a winner.

    Comment by Joanne — December 14, 2012 @ 4:11 am

  4. 89% of the time. I like your approach to self-accountability

    if you want to work in our lab, come on over, we need more like you! ;-)

    Comment by SallyBR — December 17, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

  5. It seems like breaking your reliance on recipes has allowed yourself to really be creative. Thanks for the ideas.

    Comment by OrGreenic — December 21, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

  6. Can’t wait to make this. I just found your blog in a “best veggie blogs list” and have been perusing your posts and recipes. Thanks for posting and sharing these discoveries.

    Comment by Ingrid — February 18, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

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