The Great Soup Battle of 2010 (Pasta Fagioli, Cabbage Soup & Szechwan Carrot Soup)

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Hear those distant drums? A great battle is about to begin: the Great Soup Battle of 2010.

As readers may remember, last week I announced a big contest on my blog. Submit your favorite soup recipe–it didn’t have to be original, just a soup recipe that you love–and the best one would win a $450 VitaMix blender. Then 325 of you, that’s right 325 of you, submitted recipes. And little old me had to wade through them to pick the best. It was hard work, not for the faint of heart, but I wound up choosing the three most intriguing; recipes that, for whatever reason, grabbed my attention and made me hungry to try them. Then I invited my friends Diana Fithian (an enthusiastic home cook) and Leland Scruby (who works at the French Culinary Institute) over to help me make them. The three of us, plus Craig, would sample these soups and carefully choose the winner.

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Do-It-Yourself Dumplings

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Brothers and sisters, I have seen the light! All these years, these years of reading Calvin Trillin (the poet laureate of dumplings) and fake nodding as my Manhattanite friends (ones who grew up here) debated dumpling dives, I faked an interest that didn’t really exist. You see, I didn’t really get the big deal. What’s so great about dumplings? Aren’t they just glorified ravioli, greasy gut-bombs that you dip in soy sauce and that make you feel gross and un-full and desperate for a salad? This, of course, is sacrilege in the food world but my confession here is a precursor for an absolute conversion that came about because of a little web show called Working Class Foodies.

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Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta

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White food is supposedly unappetizing. Tom Colicchio, on “Top Chef,” will mark down a plate of food if everything on it is white or beige. I see his point: there’s something almost clinical about a plate of white food. That’s why parsley’s such a useful ingredient to have around; it’s an easy color-solution, the flecks of green create a vibrancy and sparkle a plain plate of white food just doesn’t have.

That said, there’s always one plate of white food that makes me smile. It makes me smile because it’s white food with a secret; a plate of white food that explodes with flavor. And that, faithful readers, is my Heaven & Hell Cauliflower Pasta.

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How To Host A Vegetarian Dinner Party (Answer: Mushroom Bourguignon)

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My friend Lisa was there at the very beginning of this blog. Six years ago, she and I would have debates about the worthiness of olives, we’d sing songs about pumpkin cake, and often we’d cook together. Then I moved far away to a country called Brooklyn and even though Lisa and I still saw each other socially, we’d rarely cook together. Three years passed. In that time, my cooking improved immeasurably and Lisa got engaged. Life is funny that way. And now that I’m back in Manhattan and Lisa still has an appetite I decided to invite Lisa, her fiance Eric, our friend Ricky and his new boyfriend David over for a sumptuous feast. Only problem: Lisa still is (and always has been) a vegetarian. What would I make for dinner?

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Spectacular Sweet Potato Soup (PLUS: Win a $450 VitaMix Blender)

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A splash of this, a pinch of that: that’s the kind of cooking I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve never been very good at it. Sure, I’ll sprinkle some cinnamon into my oatmeal and, yes, I’ll sex up a plate of pasta with some red chile flakes, but the ability to cook impulsively, to grab ingredients out of the fridge and make something scrumptious, has always eluded me. That is until I discovered soup.

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6 Years

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No need to make a fuss, but today’s the 6th anniversary of my blog. Six years ago, on January 14th, 2004 to be exact, I wrote the following words: “Are you sick of competency? Of food blogs run by competent people with flawless track records and no history of salmonella? Are you tired of not having salmonella? You’ve come to the right place.”

Six years later, I can’t believe how that small gesture changed my life so dramatically. Thanks to everyone who’s supported me along the way (mentors, friends, colleagues, designers, illustrators, you know who you are) and, most importantly, thanks to you–yes YOU–for reading me. What do the next six years hold? I’m not sure, but if they’re anything like the last six, I’ve got a lot to look forward to.

[P.S. Check out this Serious Eats interview where I reveal my top 3 favorite posts from the past six years.]

The Best Tuna Sandwich in New York is at The New French

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Recently, I had my friends Rob and Kath over for dinner. They live in our building and we were chatting about the neighborhood, our favorite places to eat and, inevitably, The New French came up. “You know it’s funny,” I said. “At first I didn’t love The New French, but recently I discovered their tuna sandwich and it’s seriously the best tuna sandwich of my life.”

“You didn’t just discover it,” said Rob.

“What?”

“You blogged about it,” he insisted. “Last year.”

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