And so my favorite season started on September 23. Well, my favorite season after the Christmas season. But fall makes me happy. I love the beauty of the changing colors, clouds in the sky, fires in the fireplace and sweaters. Here in the Sierras, we also look forward to the rain.
I’m sure many people have heard about the huge wildfire burning out of control in the Sierras, very near my home. In fact, as I was driving home from Tahoe last Sunday I saw two very small wisps of smoke rising into the sky. My first thought was, “Uh, oh”, because when you live in the forest you always worry about fire, especially because it’s been so dry the last couple of years.
By Monday, when I started heading back up to Tahoe, it looked like this:
It was scary, and dramatic and compelling. One week later it has burned over 80,000 acres and is just 10% contained.
Helicopters are constantly flying overhead and there are close to 8,000 fire fighting personnel in the little town of Pollock Pines, population four thousand something.
Luckily, the fire went the opposite way of my house, but it has certainly disrupted everyone’s lives with smoke and evacuations and worry. Not the best way to start out my favorite season.
As I write this, the fire is still raging and many fire fighters are putting their lives on the line to save others’ lives and property. I do not know what compels a young person to want to fight fires, especially in the terrain where this fire is located. But, we in the Sierras are very, very grateful. Keep them in your prayers.
In 2007, Lake Tahoe had a devastating fire that burned many, many homes. So, having another fire so close to the same area causes great concern. Obie T. Dogg and I took a walk in the recovering Angora forest a few days ago, only to see the smoke pouring over the mountaintops behind Angora.
A few days later we drove down to the beach and the smoke had filled the Tahoe basin.
There were still plenty of people wandering around Tahoe and many at the beach. There was even a wedding party getting their pictures taken in front of the lake. I couldn’t help but take a few pictures (the wedding photographer in me is hard to suppress.)
If you watch the news at all, you’ve probably seen something about this fire. We are hoping that it will rain or that the firemen will be able to get a handle on it very soon.
But on to more pleasant fall things…this soup. Mulligatawny Soup, whose origins are from India and Britain. I remember first trying it when I was living in San Francisco. I had never heard of it before, but a friend of mine highly recommended it to me. I fell in love with it. However, it has been a long time since I have had any and it seemed like a good time to make some while Yes!Chef! was in Phoenix. Let me describe it a little: it’s base is chicken broth and coconut milk, which adds a richness and creaminess that makes the soup oh, so homey and delicious. It’s filled with fresh spices and herbs and mine is made with chicken that has been roasted and shredded. Then, condiments are piled on the top. It’s sweet, creamy, zippy, crunchy, salty…well, all the things required for a great soup.
The recipe called for mixing fresh spinach into the soup before serving, however I knew that I would have leftovers and I didn’t like the idea of having old spinach in the soup (I’m sure it would be fine, I just didn’t like the idea of it.) So, I placed the fresh spinach in the bottom of the soup bowl and ladled the soup over the top and then stirring it in.
You can see the bits of spinach, still looking quite fresh. Notice the color of this beautiful soup with chicken, tomatoes, spices, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, etc…(see the recipe below).
Then start piling on the condiments. (At this point, you can add in some rice, if you like. But the soup is rich enough and filling enough without it.)
First the shredded, unsweetened coconut. You can toast it first, if you like.
Then, top the soup with cool, refreshing apple and mango salsa with lime.
Now toss on some salted peanuts.
And last, some chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
Now that I have your attention, here’s the recipe that has been slightly adapted from Cuisine Magazine, September 2014 edition. It is gluten free.
(*By the way, Cuisine Magazine is one of the “tools” Yes!Chef! recommends for learning how to cook tasty meals. There are no advertisements, there are pictures for each recipe and the recipes are easy to follow. The magazine is designed to teach technique while making tasty food…and Yes!Chef! says, “Life is too short to eat crappy food.”)
Chicken Mulligatawny Soup with and Mango and Apple Salsa
- 4 chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 cup diced onions
- 3 Tbsp. curry powder
- 3 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup seeded and diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 14 oz. can coconut milk
- Shredded coconut
- Salted peanuts
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Heat oven proof skillet and oil over medium high heat and brown chicken on all sides. Place in preheated oven and cook until done (about 30 minutes.) Temperature should read 165 degrees. Remove chicken from skillet and let cool until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, remove all but about 3 Tbsp. of chicken drippings from skillet. Place skillet back on stove top on medium-high heat (do not clean skillet) and add onions, curry powder, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, and pepper flakes to skillet. Saute for about 3 minutes being sure to scrape up all the brown chicken bits.
- Remove skin and bones from chicken and shred or chop chicken into bite-size pieces. Place chopped chicken in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sautéed mixture from skillet.
- Stir in broth, tomatoes and cilantro; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in spinach and coconut milk. (At this point, I placed the spinach leaves in each individual soup bowl instead of stirring it into the soup because I knew I would not eat all of the soup that day. I then poured the finished soup on top of the spinach and stirred it around until it wilted. You can do either method.)
- Garnish soup with shredded coconut (you might want to toast it first) and salted peanuts. Add the mango/apple salsa on top and finish with more chopped cilantro, if you want. For heartier meal, add cooked rice before adding the coconut and peanuts.
Mango and Apple Salsa
- Mix together 1 mango which has been peeled, pitted and diced together with 1 Granny Smith Apple, which has been peeled and diced. Add the juice of 1 lime and mix it all together. Serve over soup.
UPDATE: I wrote most of this post about 1 week ago. At present time, we have had some much welcome rain and cooler weather. The fire is now about 80% contained and many fire fighters are returning home to their families. The below pictures were taken at or near the base camp in Placerville, CA. We thank the firemen very much for protecting our small community.