March 15, 2017

Dear friends,

Coconut, ginger and lime may not sound like blizzard foods, but they are when combined in the creamy, rich Brazilian soup I stumbled upon recently while cleaning out a closet. The recipe for the soup was in a 20-year-old issue of Food and Wine in a box of stuff I was sorting. I almost pitched it along with a half-dozen Paris Metro maps and the floor plan of the Louvre. Thank goodness I paged through it, hoping to have a laugh at the foods we ate back then.

This soup — actually more of a bisque — is timeless. It’s unlike any I’ve tasted. In addition to the three ingredients I mentioned, it includes peanut butter, tomatoes, hot peppers and lots of onion and garlic, yet everything gets along. The peanut butter doesn’t bully the delicate coconut and ginger; there’s just enough of it to provide a warm undertone. I couldn’t separate out the flavor in the finished soup.

I could definitely taste the coconut and ginger, though, along with the lime that was added at the end. I would expect those flavors in a brothy soup, but they were surprisingly good in this richer cream soup, too. As it bubbled on the stove, it smelled too good for a family supper. I wished I had invited friends to share.

The recipe is supposed to serve six as an entree, although after Tony tasted it he said he intended to eat the entire batch. And he almost did.

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BRAZILIAN SHRIMP AND COCONUT SOUP

2 tbsp. butter
2 lbs. medium shrimp, shells removed and reserved
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small fresh hot chilies such as Thai or serrano, minced
2 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger (about a 2-inch piece)
1 quart chicken stock or broth
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt, pepper
Lime wedges for garnish

Melt butter in a medium-sized soup pot. Add the shrimp shells, onion, garlic, chilies and ginger and cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes.

Strain the shrimp broth and return it to the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender combine the coconut milk and peanut butter and pulse until smooth. Stir the mixture into the simmering broth. Add the shrimp, lime juice and coriander and simmer just until shrimp turn pink and begin to curl, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with lime wedges. Makes 6 entree servings.

TIDBIT

Here’s your laugh for the day, a collection of epic food-related fails (www.pulptastic.com/im-only-bread-but-kill-me), sent to me simultaneously by two food-writer friends.

Note that two of them involve pan lids wedged in the ceiling, confirming my fear of pressure cookers.

THE MAILBAG

From Debbie:
I heard you have to rinse quinoa before you cook it to remove a chemical that could make you sick. Some of your recipes skip this step. Why?

Dear Debbie: Some quinoa on the market is pre-rinsed. If so, it will say that on the package.
Quinoa that is not pre-rinsed should be rinsed in a fine sieve with cool running water before using. Rinsing removes a naturally occurring substance called “saponin” that coats the seeds.

Saponin imparts a bitter taste to quinoa, but it also has many positive qualities. Among others, it protects the plant from insects and is an anti-oxidant and immune system protectant, according to researchers. It also can be toxic, however.

Researchers have found the saponins in quinoa can damage intestinal mucosal cells, according to a study in Britain’s Journal of Science and Food Agriculture. A lot of foods contains saponins, but the amount on quinoa is especially high. Even so, it’s just mildly toxic unless consumed to excess.

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