Friday, March 4, 2011

My Soup Kitchen

It's been unfortunate to neglect my writing. I have so many entries written in my head I just can't seem to find the time to sit down and write. So here I am at work, writing my blog. Shame on me! I've never done this before - but today, due to events related to the bureacracy of my daughter's preschool (which is run by the same administration as my employer) I'm working on as-needed basis today. I told Irene (my coworker) she's okay with it, she's a great supporter of sticking it to "the man" which is what I'm doing - albeit passively.

So I've written (in my head) entries about making and eating flour tortillas, ravioli, chocolate cheesecake, making and gifting cookies at Christmas-time, growing and canning tomatoes (I ordered Roma seeds this season,)a fantasy about working for Alice Waters, and the joy of Rose and Marla's eggs. But what I've been making and thinking about a lot more is soups. Soups are so economical and delicious. With soup you can take the same basic ingredients, and create hundreds of different combinations. This week we had tortilla soup on Monday, and vegetable, bacon and bean soup (needs a different name huh?) on Thursday. I think my family is less enthusiastic about my obsession with the creations that come out of the beautiful black Le Creuset pot that holds court on our stove.(It's too gorgeous to put in a cupboard!) But with a budget of $200 each week to feed breakfast, lunch and dinner to seven people, soup is always a smart choice. Deciding on a garnish is also an important part of soup making. I always like to have a kind of cheese or herb that will float on the soup adding another texture and flavor to the bowl. Paired with a crusty loaf of bread, dinner is served. I consider my kitchen creations inventive and delicious - I once combined white beans with a tomato broth and floated a spoonful of pesto on top. I thought it was brilliant, but my 3 daughters were not impressed. Their favorite soup is sopa de fideo. It consists of a light tomato broth and thin fideo noodles. For them simplicity is bliss.

About soup:
The basis for my soups are usually a mix of carrots and onions, leeks, or shallots and a bit of salt. I add this to olive oil or rendered bacon fat - reserving the bacon to add in later. After softening them for a few minutes I add 2 or 3 cloves of pressed garlic. At this point I would add small cubes of potatoes if I was using them and let the outside begin to soften, brown a bit, but watch the garlic. Then comes the liquid. I usually have chicken stock in my freezer. When we grill or roast a whole chicken we save the neck and innards - you know the heart, kidneys and I think there is a liver in there. I throw these in the freezer and use them and any combination of celery, onions, herbs to make chicken stock when I need it. If I don't have homemade stock I use water. I can't bring myself to pay for canned or boxed broth. The flavor is just not right - I pass. The process of slowly cooking the vegetables will create a broth that doesn't necessarily need anything. After adding the liquid, stir and turn up the heat. Before it comes to a boil taste to see if you need more salt. When it comes to a boil turn it down to keep it at a low simmer. After about 20 minutes at a simmer I would add precooked beans or leftover chicken or any greens that I'm using. I would add the bacon back in at this time. This is a blueprint of how I make soup in my kitchen. Walk through the soup aisle of the grocery store for ideas, but then go home and start your on your own creative, soup project in your kitchen.


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  2. Yum! Thanks for the lesson in soup making. I'm inspired!