Posted by: zhak39 | December 20, 2008

Soup for Monica

This is so easy that you just won’t believe it!

Vegetable broth can be made with anything that you have–mushroom peels, carrot peels, broccoli stems, ends of onions. Let me give you something to start.

1-something ‘oniony’ rough cut (chopped up so the juice gets out but not diced)
….1 onion or
….a bunch of scallions or
….2 or 3 leeks

2- something stalky rough cut
….a couple pieces of celery or
….1/2 head of fennel or
….1/2 head of bok choy

3- something green and leafy, torn
…. celery leaves or
…. kale or
…. collards or
…. swiss chard or
…. spinach

4- garlic, peeled and whole or smashed
…. a little or
…. a lot

5- herbs, fresh is best
…. parsley and tarragon
…. rosemary and lemongrass
…. dill

6- a bay leaf and some peppercorns

7- water to cover (about 8 cups)

Put all except herbs and peppercorns in a pot and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Add herbs. Turn down to simmer,cover and cook for 20 mins to 45 mins. The longer you cook, the stronger the broth. Greens will make an especially strong broth with lots of water soluble B vitamins (yeah!). Strain. If you have a colander with big holes you may want to line it with cheesecloth. If there are bits they will settle to the bottom when you store it. No big.

In mason jars with rubber lined lids? this will store for a week easily.

So what do you do with it next? This is just a stock. You can drink it as is. It’s more fun to make it into a hearty soup.

How about a nice bean soup.

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. Add thinly sliced onion, crushed garlic and chopped celery. Stir fry for a minute or two. Add one can chopped tomato, 3 cups stock, 1 can of navy beans. Simmer 5 minutes. Add some chopped greens (spinach is good). Bring to a boil and cover 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoons of tomato paste, a little parmesan cheese and cracked pepper.

This is a great time of year for mature potatoes and winter squashes. Use the same base (onion, garlic). Add stock and chopped butternut or acorn squash. Cook until the squash is soft. Remove the squash with a slotted spoon and run through a food mill or press through a colander or even smash with the back of a spoon. Stir this paste back into the broth.

For potato soups you do the same with sweet potatoes or mature white potatoes (russets, baking potatoes). Use a broth made with dill and garnish with fresh dill and grated cheddar cheese. Potato soup is good with mustard (not prepared, ground mustard).

Helen likes winter soups with lots of different beans (navy, light kidneys, pinto, black eyed peas) in combination. She also like pasta, noodles, tiny bowties, even macaroni. It’s a bit starchy for me; I take my soup out before putting the pasta in for her.

The really nice thing about soups is that they only take a few minutes, are great with whatever you have fresh and you can put in whatever you have a taste for at the moment. Feel like something on the sweet side? Add a handful of frozen peas or grated carrot. Feel a little tired? Use bunches of good greens and if it’s bitter, stir in a wee bit of honey. Want something creamy? Add a little butter or milk or even half and half just before serving.

Serve soup with a great bread (artisan or a complementary bread like tomato soup with rolls with bits of pepper and sun-dried tomato). Another option is to have a salad with field greens drizzled with olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. If you need to have meat, have a couple of strips of grilled chicken breast or well grilled canadian bacon on top of the salad.

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