Thursday, March 7, 2013

Savor The Flavor

"Savoring the flavor" of homemade chicken soup

As I emerge from the heaviness of last month, I’ve been recollecting favorite experiences and fond memories to lighten my thoughts at bedtime.  This quiet exercise of positive associations relaxes my mind, and I am then more easily able to drift off to “dream land.”  These recent mental lists (similar to gratitude lists) have been focused on the different senses of taste, touch, scent, sound and sight.  Since the intent of this practice is to ease oneself into sleep, I don’t typically write these random lists down as I am compiling them in my head with lights off and eyes closed.  Feeling inspired to share the calming, peacefully uplifting benefits of this bedtime routine, I realized the opportunity to document some of my recent lists presents itself right here on Paper And Ponder!   
A couple of months ago after concocting a batch of chicken soup, I commented to my husband that nothing compares to cooking with homemade chicken broth.  Mmm…a favorite flavor to savor!  My husband and I often encourage our daughter to slow down and “savor the flavor” when she’s enthusiastically devouring a favorite food too quickly!  Savoring delicious flavors leaves such a pleasurable imprint on our taste buds and in our mind. 

Although some of my favorite memories center around dining out and splurging (infrequently!) on culinary delights (most recently, last October’s belated 20th wedding anniversary dinner at Dixie on the edge of San Francisco’s Presidio comes to mind), many of my fondest “savor the flavor” moments revolve around simpler, humbler experiences.
What are some of your tastiest recollections? 

Here are some of mine from a recently compiled list:

Sweet mandarin oranges in winter and plump, juicy cherries in summer

A guava smoothie, guava shave ice, simply guava, anything guava while in a state of bliss on the island of Kauai (dreaming about and intent on returning there…my ultimate healing place)

Warm, crispy kale chips, harvested from our garden, tossed in olive oil and kosher salt and baked in a 400° oven (turning over once) until crispy (about 10 minutes)

A perfectly cooked dish of Gai Lan, a Chinese green often referred to as Chinese “broccoli,” drizzled with oyster sauce

Freshly whipped cream dolloped on pumpkin pie or hot cocoa (and licked off of the mixer’s beaters!)

Crispy, tasty carnitas from a no-frills taco stand situated in an unlikely setting, a gas station convenience store in the little coastal town of Pescadero, California

And of course, a hot bowl of fresh chicken soup in all its glorious forms, made at home, made into “jook,” a Chinese porridge consisting of chicken and rice or enjoyed as comfort food in another unlikely setting of 90° weather (delicious memories of sopa de pollo in Mexico and Costa Rica!)  As I confessed in last summer’s Soup Of The Day post, I am a soup fiend…at home, abroad, in the chill of winter or heat of summer, anytime, anywhere!    

In case you feel inspired to create your own homemade chicken soup, but perhaps would like a starting point for reference, here's this soup fiend's very "loose" recipe…

Place whole chicken or pieces (I prefer organic, free range) in large pot, salt lightly, cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat for about an hour

Transfer chicken to bowl or plate, cool slightly, remove meat to be reserved for soup, then return bones with residual meat to pot and continue simmering for another hour

Strain the broth into a large bowl, discard the bones with residual meat (or when I’m feeling lazy, I just keep the broth in the pot, remove the bones and start adding soup ingredients directly to the pot to simmer without the initial saute)

Saute chopped garlic and onion in extra virgin olive oil

Add your choice of veggies and continue to saute (my last batch included celery, carrots and cremini mushrooms)

Add your choice of potatoes (my last batch included red & Yukon gold)

Add fresh broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer until potatoes & veggies are tender

Add chopped Italian parsley

Add salt and pepper to taste

Serve and “savor the flavor!”