The Revealing, Secret Diaries of a Not-So-Secret Foodie

Baby Bella

In Family, Food, Photography, Writing on October 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm
Hungarian Mushroom Soup Garnished with Sour Cream and Sprig of Dill.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup Garnished with Sour Cream and Sprig of Dill.

My family begins to gather around the table for dinner. The way we do most nights. One by one, each boy wanders into the kitchen. Waiting on his brothers, both younger and older, my middle son softly taps out a tune against the worn farmhouse table. The tines of his fork leave behind an interesting pattern of divots in the soft wood.

Early in my mothering, the patina of raising young boys was under appreciated. Not always welcomed on furniture or otherwise. Somehow back then, the shiny and unblemished gleam of the new and unchanged appealed to me. But children bring perspective. They also bring laughter and so many Legos. And then there are the lines. The worry ones worn on my brow and on some days, the dry-erase but permanent ones discovered on freshly hung Thibaut wallpaper. Sweat and tears; they bring it all.

Today the new marks blend just right; random and comfortable, settling nicely beside leftover lines of magic marker and a significant scratch. Hours of homework, art projects and even the claw marks of an overgrown puppy, remain. Left behind for me to see and recall. A decade of living and raising children embedded in that table. Is it possible, that weathered and lived-in were more my style all along?

Putting down his fork, he abandons the beat. His face skeptical and focused on the bowl before him, he asks, “Mom is a mushroom a fruit or a vegetable?” I continue on, making my rounds. Reaching and pouring, filling cups. Milk tumbles into his glass. Now finished, I slip into my seat and smile his way. Eyes wide and so blue, boy two waits for his answer.

Hands fold. Heads bow. Thanks is given. For a moment our house is quiet.

“It’s not a vegetable”, I reveal interrupting the silence. “It’s a fruit.” The fruit of what, I do not say.

“I thought for sure it was a vegetable”, he mumbles not quite under his breath. My son returns to squirting ketchup on his baked potato. The unknown placed before him, now categorized, is less offensive; clearly less interesting.

“Baby Bellas,” I continue. “That’s what they’re called. And when I was young, I did not like them either.”

Realizing that some things just take a lifetime of living to be fully appreciated, I switch gears and tell my son the story of his mother’s middle name. The one she didn’t always like. And about the man whose name she carries yet never met. Who five generations ago walked the oak forest foraging the hidden places for sheep’s head mushrooms. Those he used in a traditional soup made for his daughter on a Christmas Eve or an Easter afternoon. A childhood favorite lost for a while but reclaimed when stirred by a granddaughter’s new recipe find.

I go back to sipping my soup breathing deep the smells of dill and paprika confident knowing that if my son never eats a mushroom in his life, someday he too will be warmed by the distant memory of a once untold tale shared with someone loved.


This soup is a real treat. It comes together quickly but you would never know that by the way it tastes. It oozes luxury, yet still manages to be a bowl full of comfort. The tamari intensifies the earthiness of the mushrooms in a way I had not encountered before. The dill and paprika are brilliant together. And the touch of lemon perfectly balances the richness of the sour cream. I serve it simply with a loaf of hard-crusted bread. But maybe you’d prefer to ladle it over a pile of egg noodles, goulash-style. I bet a little wild rice stirred in (my Dad’s suggestion) would be terrific too. The possibilities are endless but one thing’s for sure, Mollie Katzen’s Hungarian Mushroom Soup does not disappoint. Keeper status for sure! I can’t wait to make this for my grandmother.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup


2 cups onion, chopped

4 tablespoons butter, divided

12-16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced (I like Crimini/Baby Bellas from Costco)

1 tablespoon tamari (can substitute soy sauce)

1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika

2 teaspoons dried dill weed

2 cups chicken stock or water, divided (I like Kitchen Basics in yellow box)

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup skim milk

2 teaspoons lemon juice (I like fresh lemon)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven or small soup pot sauté onion in 2 tablespoons of the butter until onions are clear. Next add mushrooms, tamari, paprika, dill weed and 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a Bechamel. In small sauce pan melt 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk in 3 tablespoons flour and cook for several minutes. Next add milk. Cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until mixture thickens. Stir into mushroom mixture and add remaining 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 15 more minutes.

Just before serving add lemon juice, sour cream, salt and pepper. (Note: Soup should only be gently heated once sour cream has been added, do not boil after this point).

Makes four Hearty servings

Cookbooks on my Shelf

Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook is a real joy. I spent most of the spring happily cooking my way through her first chapter dedicated to soups. Chapter one is so complete that she subdivides it into two parts: Hot & Cold. Yum! Who knew that an over-sized package of Baby Bella mushrooms from Costco would lead me to such a treasure? The hand drawn illustrations are personal and the recipes… Well, let’s just say vegetables have never tasted so good. Mollie Katzen makes vegetables take center stage. Each dish shines with her knowledgeable use of herbs and knack for using vegetables in ways that you did not know were possible.

Although Hungarian Mushroom Soup might be my favorite, my 5-year-old would disagree. He loves her Cream of Asparagus. And then there is her Potato-Fennel, and Cauliflower Cheese or Mushroom Bisque. I could go on and on. And I will by placing a subtle hint for my husband hidden in this post. I would love a vintage copy of her original Moosewood Cookbook first published in 1977. The new one is great but the original version would be so lovely on my cookbook shelf.

©, 2011-2013.

  1. Ah Sue this is SO GOOD.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Thank you Lynne. The story’s been simmering for awhile and many bowls of soup have been enjoyed.

  2. Oh, I love this post! Beautifully written! I can relate to: “… children bring perspective. They also bring laughter and so many Legos.” Many Legos, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. :0) This recipe looks delicious. I can’t wait to try it.

    • Thank you for dropping me a line to let me know that you enjoyed it. Such a nice suprise to find your comment. I agree. I would not have it any other way. They teach me so much. The soup is delish. I hope you enjoy as much as we do. Let me know how it works for you. -Cheers

  3. After reading one of your stories, I so look forward to the next…love! 😉

    • Thank you Aunt Jo. Always look forward to seeing your comment in the little orange box. Already have an idea for my next post. Better get cooking! And photographing. And writing. ;). Enjoy the day. -Cheers

  4. Sue, I love your blog! I am impressed with your specialized recipes and beautiful narration about your cooking inspiration! I have already shared some of your recipes on my facebook. 🙂 I am already looking forward to your next scrumptious food tales and secrets!

    • Grace, So nice to see your comment waiting for me in my inbox today. Thank you for sharing my site with your friends. Hope you enjoy the soup. Perfect for this cool autumn weather that has breezed in our way. -Cheers

  5. Sue, what a fantastic, beautifully written story, and that soup looks heavenly. Must give it a try one of these days 🙂

    • Thank you Svetlana. I so enjoyed looking at your quilting projects today. So wonderful to have met a fellow blogger on the playground. Maybe I’ll get that sewing machine out of the box yet. :). -cheers

  6. Reading this inspires even ME to get creative in the kitchen!
    And now I want soup!

    • So nice to find your comment waiting for me today. Good to hear you enjoyed. Creativity–such a wonderful endeavor! I love soup! Maybe you could draw me a cup. ;). SueB

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