Firefly – The Big Damn Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel (Review Part III)

Welcome to Part 3 of our 4-part series! You can check out part 1 here and part 2 here.

So this week we’re going to take a look at Wash’s Wife Soup, a delightfully hearty vegetable soup that Zoe makes for him as a special treat. The picture in the cookbook had me absolutely salivating, as does most of Chelsea Monroe-Cassel’s food photography: to add to her talents as a cookbook author, she’s also a terrific food photographer. I’ve stated before that this is an absolutely gorgeous volume, in large part due to her photos, which are both creative and evocative. This is the kind of volume you could just flip through for the prettiness, though the substantiveness of content makes it more likely you’ll actually want to cook from it rather that just admire it (not that both activities don’t have their own utility.)

Unfortunately, this leads to the only thing I didn’t care for with this book, something that no one in the publishing business can help in this present age. Since Firefly and Serenity were filmed long before our present era of photography standards, the contrast between the film/series stills and Ms Monroe-Cassel’s food and atmosphere photography is marked. While you could almost reach in and touch some of the food (the roast duck, in particular, glistens with deliciousness,) a lot of the show photos look like you’re viewing them from a turn-of-the-century TV. Gosh, I remember re-watching Serenity several months back and being struck by the lack of HD — ironic because it was one of the first movies, if not THE first, to embrace digital standards. But that’s a very tiny criticism of aesthetics far beyond the control of the people who came up with this otherwise delightful and wholly rewarding cookbook.

Now let’s look at one of the Recipes For Shipboard Living (lightly edited for format):

Wash’s Wife Soup

1 leek, sliced in half lengthwise
1 potato, cubed
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp white miso
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 cup peas
3 Tbsp heavy cream
Zaatar, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss all the vegetables (except the peas) and garlic cloves with olive oil and spread out on the baking sheet. Roast for around 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft but not too browned.

Add the broth, miso, and rice vinegar to a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until the miso is dissolved. Add in the roasted vegetables and cook for another minute or so. Add the peas, cook for a further minute, then puree everything in an upright blender or with an immersion blender. Immediately pour into serving bowls, garnish with cream and zaatar, and serve.

It’s great with some crusty garlic bread.

I used frozen peas with this recipe tho I image you could use canned at a pinch, since the general mushiness of the latter won’t work against them here. I also used all of the leek, feeling it rather silly to toss the perfectly edible tops. The biggest surprise for me with this dish is that I didn’t need to add salt or pepper to it: it’s perfectly seasoned as is. The zaatar is definitely a nice touch, tho, and if you need a little more kick, adding more of that to your soup will definitely satisfy. Vegans can skip the heavy cream part, but even a confirmed omnivore like myself finds this vegetarian soup to be extremely craveable. Gosh, even my kids liked it and they never like anything I cook (insert crying emoji here.)

Next week, we close up the series with a recipe and food philosophy near and dear to my heart. Do join me!

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