Friday, February 12, 2016

A Simple Soup

I know I am a little crazy.  But it is days like yesterday that bring that fact home even more.  I had an awesome morning with an old friend and her little boy, who were in town for an overnight playdate.  Right after lunch they got in their car to drive home, R went down for a nap, and D walked out to go into the hospital for a few hours to do patient follow up.  Right as he walked out we talked a little bit about plans for the rest of the day.  It was Ash Wednesday, so we were planning on going to mass in the evening, and then having a vegetarian dinner.  Since I didn't have anything planned, Don suggested we just have some soup and bread.  And then he walked out.

(Note: this is not really true.  Actually, before he left he asked me to please do something nice for myself like read or write something, instead of picking up legos.  Because I was on my hands and knees picking up legos.  And sometime in that conversation we talked about a simple dinner of soup, because it was Ash Wednesday and that was an easy thing to do when you are not eating meat.  But mostly we talked about me not cleaning or doing laundry the whole time R was taking her nap.  Because my husband loves me and wants me to take care of myself.)

And this is where the crazy comes in.

I sat down.  I read for a while.  But I couldn't get settled.  Something was nagging at me.  Something was making me feel shitty and nervous and a teensy bit bitter for some reason.  And then it dawned upon me.

Soup.  A simple dinner of soup.  A simple dinner of all vegetable, no meat, soup.  Are you fucking kidding me?  Because what is the one kind of stock I do not have in my house.  Vegetable stock.  I have chicken stock.  I have ham stock.  I have beef stock.  I even have dashi, from last year when I went crazy for several weeks, ordered a bunch of stuff online from Japan and cancelled life for three days to make David Chang's ramen broth.  But I don't have vegetable stock.  

So what?  I have a pantry.  The pantry has cans.  Some of those cans contain soup.  One or more of those cans of soup are likely to be tomato or another variety of all vegetable soup.  Right?

Wrong.  Not wrong as in I don't have any cans of vegetable soup.  Wrong as in, no, we are not going to eat canned soup.  Wrong as in now I am going to put my book down, get my ass up out of this chair, and make some damn vegetable stock.

Note: this is obviously not what D meant when he suggested a simple dinner of soup.

So, here you have it.  A recipe for some not so simple vegetable stock (yes, one of the ingredients is dried mushrooms, which I happened to have because of the afore mentioned ramen broth adventure in the Spring of 2015) followed by a recipe for not so simple vegetable soup.  Pair with a thawed loaf of bread from an Italian restaurant that you forgot was living in your freezer.

Vegetable Stock
1 Huge Stock Pot
32 cups of water (or however much that was that I poured in there)
2 carrots, peeled and broken into pieces
2/3 bunch of celery, root cut off so I could pretend I rinsed the dirt off of it
1 large onion cut in quarters, peel left on
1 head of garlic cut in half 
4 dried mushrooms from a bag in your pantry from when you went crazy and made ramen broth, or whole mushrooms of you have them, or mushroom stems if you are insane and keep mushroom stems in baggies in your freezer for use in making stock.  Along with shrimp shells.
4 sprigs of thyme 
A handful of parsley
Salt and whole Pepper corns to taste

1. Literally throw everything into the pot and bring it to a boil.  
2.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, or whatever keeps things at a low simmer on your stove top, and simmer that mother for as long as you have.  Seriously, if you don't need the stock until tomorrow or you are working ahead, simmer that all day.  All. Day.
3.  Except half an hour in decide that the mushrooms are really potent and take the two biggest ones out.  Reserve for the soup.
4.  When you are done simmering that mother, turn the heat off and let it cool a little.  Or put on some protective clothing, get your strainer and another large pot or Tupperware out, and strain that mother while it is simmering hot.  It will splash.  It will burn you.  An onion skin will pour out into your strainer, act as a luge, and cause about 4 cups of scalding hot stock to shoot up at you, soaking your apron that thank God you remembered to wear and sweater and jeans.  You were warned.
5.  Show your two year old the stock and ask her what color it is.  This is fun because everything is blue.  Everything.  Well, not really.  Your stock should be dark brown because of the mushrooms and onion skin.
6.  Use immediately, or cool in the fridge and then portion into freezer bags and freeze for later use.

Simple Vegetable Soup
1/2 sweet onion or yellow onion, diced super, super small so your kids don't freak out at the texture
4 cloves of garlic (or less or more) chopped finely
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 potatoes, diced
4 mushrooms from your stock, chopped however you want them
2 cups of cherry tomatoes that were getting a little wrinkly, cut into quarters
8 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of farro, barley, kamut, rice, or whatever locally sourced, non GMO, ancient grain you have on hand

1. Melt a pad of butter and a blop of olive oil into your soup pot on medium low.  Add the onions and garlic at the same time and sweat them for at least 10 minutes, low and slow.  You don't want them to brown, just get soft.  Add salt and pepper.
2.  Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes.  Saute these with the onions and garlic on medium for a few minutes, until the tomatoes start getting mushy.  Add more salt and pepper.  If you want to add any other spices, this is the time.
3.  Add your vegetable stock, preferably warm from the stock pot or the microwave.  Turn up the heat to bring the soup to a boil.
4.  Once it is boiling add the grain of your choice, and stir.
5.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the grain is cooked through.  If you notice the soup getting too thick for your taste, because the grain is absorbing it, then add more stock.

Enjoy your "simple" vegetable soup with crackers, bread, or some shavings of Parmesan!