What I should be doing is telling you how I'd planned to casually leaf through her new cookbook Near & Far and pluck out some genius ideas, but instead I read every story, every surprising technique (spill spice oil over a frittata! wash arugula in wine!), and every unusual ingredient pairing (sweet potatoes with dill, strawberries with caraway, what's next?) for hours until I fell asleep next to it, curious and happy.
I could tell you how the photo spreads of tile patterns in Morocco and dreamy Roman vistas will inevitably create travel FOMO, but nestled into each page I found even more inspiration to simply make food.
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But, on top of all that, there was this recipe for a spicy green soupthat doesn't require making stock or slowly building flavors or even, in a literal sense, cooking. You just add water, rather like a Cup O' Noodles.
Except instead of a salty space-age seasoning packet, you'll blend an herby spice paste, stir it into just-simmered water, taste, correct, and serve. By choosing ingredients whose aromas are dense and volatile and slashing them into tiny particles, the soup doesn't need (and would likely suffer from) sauté or simmer time.
"Part of the charm of this whole thing is the vibrancy of the green flavor and color," Swanson wrote to me. "You want to avoid any color shift in the herbs." (Though if you want to make future bowls of green soup even more instantaneous, you can blend extra spice paste and freeze it in little cubes.)
On its own, the soup is a punch of health, a soothing bowl of bright, fiery broth—it's basically a hot green juice, with extra chile. But, as Swanson told me, "The other thing that makes it great is the way it's wonderful on its own, but also great over just about whatever you've got on hand, making a one-bowl meal a breeze. I like it over farro or brown rice, or big corona beans with lots of toppings. Almonds for crunch, black olives, more herbs, green onions…."
From the list of possible bases and toppings she mentions in the recipe, on shoot day I chose soba noodles, roasted mushrooms, and wrinkly, oil-cured black olives, plus loads of lemon juice. Fine bits of nuts and greens landed on the noodles, while others swirled, suspended in the broth.
Adapted slightly from Near & Far (Ten Speed Press, September 2015)
Serves 4 to 6
4 cups (1 liter) water 3 medium cloves garlic 3/4 cup (20 grams) firmly packed basil leaves 1 1/4 cups (35 grams) firmly packed cilantro leaves and stems 1/4 cup (7 grams) lightly packed mint leaves 1 thick 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 small serrano chilies, stemmed 1/2 cup (45 grams) sliced almonds Zest of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon runny honey Poached eggs, hot white beans, soba noodles, or brown rice (optional) Chopped black olives, lemon wedges, toasted almonds, shaved green onions, or roasted sliced mushrooms (or other oven-roasted vegetable), to top
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by Alpha Smoot
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."