While other states are sweltering under heat waves, Anchorage is having the fourth coldest summer on record. It’s been cold and rainy or overcast, punctuated by rare bursts of sunshine. Everyone here is complaining and too many are uncharacteristically cranky. It’s not just people; vegetable crops are suffering, production is way down, and farmers are worrying about making ends meet over the winter.
Soup is a surefire cure for weather-related blues. If it’s cold, hot soup takes the chill out of your bones. If it’s hot, spicy soup with cooling garnishes brings your temperature down. Since Anchorage weather is so unpredictable, I developed a soup that fills both roles.
Due to its large assortment of vegetables, Black Bean and Barley Chili Soup is full of umami, the fulfilling taste of savoriness. For added flavor, I garnish the soup with freshly chopped onions, jalapeños, and cilantro, and finish it off with a squeeze of lime.
A complex assortment of vegetables means lots of hand chopping. Vegetables make better soup, and cook more evenly, when they’re all cut roughly the same size. Food processors don’t work for this purpose. Vegetables chopped in a food processor end up in irregularly shaped pieces, some small and others large. Small pieces are overdone by the time large pieces of the same vegetable finish cooking. This negatively affects the soup’s flavor.
For years, the only knife I truly enjoyed using for chopping vegetables was a Bill Buchner handmade knife a friend gave me so long ago I can’t remember life without it. The blade is high carbon steel with a little nickel added and is made from recycled Oregon sawmill saws. The blade holds a sharp edge and its unusual shape is especially suited for cutting vegetables. Equally important, the short blade and nicely curved handle make it easy for short, small-handed people to use.
Recently, Wüsthof gave me a 6” Classic Chef’s knife to try. Like Buchner’s, this knife is perfectly designed for short, small-handed people (although my taller husband also likes it). It’s sharp, holds an edge, and is nicely balanced. It’s clearly well-made and feels good in the hand.
I’m still in love with my handmade Buchner (and am about to buy another), but the relationship is now a threesome. I’ll never stop using the Buchner, but these days I frequently find myself with the Wüsthof in hand.
UPDATE: Please keep in mind the only Wüsthof knife I’ve tried is the 6” Classic Chef’s. Within an hour of posting this, I received three questions about other Wüsthof knives. Sorry, but I can only answer questions about the knife I wrote about.