About a month ago, I caught sight of something interesting on Twitter. Apparently there was a recently created “National Soup Swap” day. I tucked the idea away (and followed @soupswap on Twitter) but knew immediately that this is the type of event I would LOVE to attend. In fact, I considered hosting but knew I should ask my husband before I jumped right in as I’ve been wont to do. When the husband agreed, I excitedly began planning the event. I started with the invite list. My house isn’t huge and I wanted people to be able to comfortably mill about as well as gather together when the time came for the swapping. In the end, I invited about 25 people or so and got about 15-17 confirmed attendees. I was pleased with that amount–not too big, not too small. We also had a mixed bag of regular friends, work friends, Twitter friends and even my sister!
My original intention was to have each person bring six quarts of soup for swapping (it took me a while to figure out how much a quart is. I’ve never been good at conversions.) I liked the idea of allowing us to taste one another’s soup but could not come up with a real user-friendly way to make that work, especially with the need to keep soups warm. Instead, I thought it might be fun for us to swap based on description alone. When we got closer to the event, I realized six may be a bit much for those who don’t own this. I sent out an update saying that four would suffice.
As the day neared, I envisioned myself doing things little by little throughout the week. Of course I didn’t and I waited until Thursday night to cook my two soups. I cooked the coveted red lentil and chicken sausage soup that you can see in my previous entry here as well as a vegetarian minestrone to give options for my vegetarian friends. It was a long week and I started cleaning up a bit on Friday night but my husband and I mostly wanted to veg out and relax. The poor guy had to work at 7am on Saturday morning so I wanted him to have a low-key night. That was nice of me and all but it led to a crazy Saturday. I woke up at 8am to shop at the Reading Terminal with my parents and sister. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this tradition but I drag myself out of bed too early each Saturday to spend a relaxing morning at the Market, shopping, coffee drinking and chatting with the other regulars.
Anyway, we got to the Market and I knew I had work to do (well, I grabbed a Wawa coffee first, of course.) I left my coffee behind the counter at DiNic’s (my usual routine) and hit Iovine’s first. I had my party notebook with me–the one I use to plan menus for larger dinner parties and gathering–to ensure that I got everything I needed. In the end, I spent $50 at Iovine’s. I have never spent that much there–I’m usually closer to the $20-30 range.
Next, I hit up the meat department. I needed a couple of things for the party and then I wanted to supplement my shopping for the week. For the Swap, I needed chicken breast for these and marinated flank steak for skewers. My husband and I loooove Harry Och’s marinated flank steak and eat it on a pretty regular basis. Recently, I discovered that I could cut it into strips and grill it on skewers for a slightly different option. I’ll usually whip up a quick peanut dipping sauce on the side. I got my meat items and the marinade hadn’t been made yet, so my butcher graciously offered to cut the meat in strips for me and toss it in the marinade so my husband could pick it up later–lucky guy works a block from the Reading Terminal.
I got home, put the bags down and took a look at my menu:
-Cheese and charcuterie plate (Danish blue, goat cheese, triple creme brie, gouda)
-Stuffed zucchini bites
-Stuffed cherry tomatoes
-Chipotle chicken skewers
-Deviled eggs w/capers
-Flank steak skewers
-Crudite and blue corn chips with French onion dip
-Mushroom & lemon bruschetta (we learned how to make this in Italy)
I assessed the situation. I had to clean, cook and then clean again (the kitchen, that is.) Usually, when people are coming over, my husband and I split these tasks, but this time it was up to me. I decided to start cooking, of course. I figured I’d make the biggest mess and then clean it all up together. I decided to get the gross stuff out of the way and cut the chicken into tiny little bites to be skewered later, and whirred up the chipotle marinade. Next, I began cutting and hollowing out the zucchini bites (all recipes to be included later) and making the roasted red pepper, feta and pine nut stuffing. After that, I picked an annoying task and finished peeling the hard boiled eggs and made the filling for the deviled eggs. Little by little, things started coming together, even though I forgot how much I hate hollowing out tiny little tomatoes–but they are SO good with basil, lemon & walnut pesto. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I ate half of a roast beef, provolone and broccoli rabe sandwich from DiNic’s.
My friend, Michael, was coming over a bit early to help me with last minute set up, so I kicked into high gear about an hour before his arrival. When he got there, I was mopping the floor in my sweats. How cute. Michael was awesome. He helped me enjoy the last minute touches and he even paid attention to plating. I am so anal about plating and I was able to let Michael help a bit–this is a big deal! Eventually, we got the food on the table just as the clock hit 6 o’clock.
I conveniently forgot the mention the fire I started in my oven due to the chicken. When I was broiling them, the bamboo skewers went up in flames regardless of the fact that I had been soaking them for hours. Oh right, that happened last time. Note to self: do not make this dish on skewers any more! I quickly pulled them off the blackened skewers (or what was left of them) while Michael fanned my REALLY good smoke detector with a dish towel. “My husband calls me accident prone,” I told Michael, as I pulled the chicken out of the oven and dumped half of the juices on the floor. About that time, my husband came home with the marinated flank steak and asked if something was burning. I looked at the table full of food, looked at my clean kitchen, looked at my husband and tossed that meat right into the fridge for dinners later in the week.
All in all, the chicken bites turned out great! A close up of the cheese, meat and eggs. I like to think of this as the “protein shot.”
The stuffed zucchini and tomato. If the other one was the protein shot then this is the veggie shot.
And a final shot of the whole table.
As soon as everyone arrived, we started prepping for the swap. As folks got there with their soup, they brought it to the kitchen and displayed it with a name card. Here are my two soups and Michael’s tomato bisque. Doesn’t he have great handwriting?
More folks arrived, as did more soups.
And the entire bounty.
We ended up with a very diverse 10 soups:
-Creme of mushroom (Roz)
-Beef stew (Chris & Kat)
-Minestrone (me & Zach)
-Red lentil w/chicken sausage (me & Zach)
-Spicy beef & bean chili (LeeAnne & Ryan)
-Corn Chowder (my sister, Sophie)
-Thai chili corn chowder (my sister, Sophie)
-Carrot soup (Tim)
-Clam chowder (Marcie & Stephen)
-Tomato basil bisque (Michael)
We picked numbers (out of a soup crock, of course) and each person, from 1-9, had to describe their soup. Here’s Tim describing his Aunt’s famous carrot soup.
Once everyone had adequately described, we began our snake draft, with the first round going from 1-9 and the next round going from 9-1. My husband and I had good placement with a 4 and 8. While folks were drafting, they also had to vote on these categories: most unique/creative, fewest ingredients and most seasonal. We all decided together that Tim won most seasonal, but Farish and Tre computed the votes for everything else.
Here’s LeeAnne advocating for the clam chowder before she realized that she picked number 1.
The draft was fun and suspenseful, as any good draft should be. In the end, everyone was pleased with their soups. My husband and I came away with the following: chili, beef stew, corn chowder, clam chowder, tomato bisque x 2 and carrot soup x 2. For most creative soup, my sister NARROWLY defeated my red lentil and sausage soup with her thai chili corn chowder. Tim won the least ingredients prize and Chris & Kat’s beef stew eked out a win over chili for most seasonal. The winners got prizes of a cutting board, wooden spoon set or a soup ladle. In the end, all we were left with was these:
So far we’ve had the clam chowder, corn chowder and tomato bisque. Zach liked the clam chowder so much that he had it for lunch AND dinner on Sunday. It’s ok, Marcie made it due to a special request from him so I figured he could have it. I snuck a taste of the carrot soup and was shocked at how absolutely carrot-y it tastes–I literally felt like I was biting into a farm fresh carrot. The other soups are in the freezer for one of those nights when I don’t feel like cooking but am in the mood for something hearty and delicious. I can’t wait!
And my husband had the nerve to ask me what was for dinner on Sunday. My response” “ummm, soup?!”