Monday, January 7, 2019
From Soup to Nuts
I made a new-to-me soup! and the teen did not want my new soup for his dinner, the brat. he tasted it, but declared it unfit for consumption. I was surprisingly pleased with it. here's the ish...it's Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook "Gypsy Soup". the recipe at the link isn't the one I used, though...I used this version before I realized it was 'adapted'. the only real difference is the addition of kale, and the subtraction of bell pepper and tamari...but that's not the ish. the ish is - - - if you guessed 'the name', give yourself a cookie (or a bowl of soup!). while I'm not going to write Ms. Katzen and demand she change the name of her soup that she published in 1977, I do need to think of something to call this dish in My house, so I don't have to use that stupid name. that being said, this soup is everything. it's so good! the sweet potato I had was sadly all old and spongey, so I had to swap it out for russets, and I saw it suggested that you could swap just about any orange veggie for the sweet potatoes, and any green veggie for the bell peppers, and have it turn out just as good.
there is something about the spice mix that reminds me very much of the 70's - of orange corduroy bell-bottoms, crocheted vests, and wooden-heeled clogs. of food co-ops, and ancient grains, natural hair, and macrame. it doesn't smell like anything that ever simmered in my mother's kitchen, but it's still so familiar, like something from a memory, a dream, or a past life. deja vu soup. seance soup. 70's soup. hearty autumn soup. burnt-orange soup. could I simply call it Romani soup? no, it sounds too much like 'people soup', or 'human soup'. I mean, how would I feel about 'Jew Soup'? I'd probably wonder why the person who named it that couldn't just call it 'chicken soup', which it probably would be...but my point is, it was super-yummy, and I will make it again. this may be my most successful soup to date!
first I learned to make chicken soup - from a shikse (non-Jew) of all people - because...I mean, you gotta, and I AM a Jewish mother, after all (why I didn't learn to make it from my own Jewish mother is another story entirely). last winter I made that garlic soup that was only ok. then I learned to poach chicken, because I needed the broth for butternut squash soup, which turned out ok, and seems to have been eaten. finally, I made the veggie scrap soup I'd been pondering for more than 20 years, and used it in my chili, to cook rice, and wherever liquid was called for in a recipe. I made a second batch of veggie scrap, and used it in my second batch of butternut squash soup which was better than the first batch, but proved too boring to eat plain, or was simply too bland. I need to work on that. so then I made Mollie Katzen's soup with the last of the veggie scrap, and it was amazing! I've been wanting to try minestrone for a few years, now, so that will be next on the agenda...
short story about my relationship to minestrone soup: when I was still young enough to live at home with my family, there was some dish that my mom would make every now and again that my dad, bro, and I loved, that she didn't eat. I have no memory of what that meal was, but I DO remember that whenever she made it for us, she would warm up a can of Progresso minestrone soup, and be so happy to have it all to herself. I remember liking what I was eating, but I also remember being curious about my mom's magical soup. she refused to share it. and so, I never had a bite of minestrone soup in my life, because it didn't belong to me, and my mom told me I couldn't have it. many years later, I had a baby of my own, who I can't imagine Not sharing delicious food with at every opportunity. back then, there used to be this cool organic kid cereal on the market called Mighty Bites, which my baby loved as a finger-food snack, and I loved for it's healthfulness. the cereal company ran a promotion for a free 'Brain Foods for Kids' cookbook, which I immediately ordered, and still keep in my kitchen today. it's got these great little blurbs about which ingredients in each of the recipes offer specific benefits to the child's developing brain and body, and how the child's body processes those ingredients. it's a great read, with wonderful pictures of tasty, healthy meals, and simple instructions so even a kitchen hack like myself can craft a delicious meal. one of the recipes in the book is for 'Mighty Minestrone', and it's been at least 10 or 12 years that I've been looking at that recipe, thinking, "I'm going to make that someday". December 11th was that day. I have defeated another one of the demons handed to me by someone else to carry, and got myself a nice pot of nourishing soup out of it. don't take your minestrone for granted, there may be someone out there who doesn't think they are allowed to have it. you might want to share yours with them. I know I do.
the minestrone was a hit - the teen liked it, but I Loved it! I found myself wondering, though...are the two basically the same? 'Romani' Soup and minestrone? this is the Moosewood recipe from Mollie Katzen:
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped, peeled sweet potatoes or winter squash (or a cup of each)
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of cayenne
1 bay leaf
3 cups stock or water
1 cup chopped, fresh tomatoes (or substitute 1 can of tomatoes)
3/4 cup chopped sweet bell pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 Tbs. tamari
In a large saucepan sautee onions, garlic, celery, and sweet potatoes in olive oil for about five minutes. Add seasonings except tamari, and the stock or water. Simmer, covered, fifteen minutes. Add remaining vegetables and chickpeas. Simmer another 10 minutes or so until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.
Check salt. Add tamari if it could use a little more. Serve alongside cornbread or a crusty harvest bread.
and here is the recipe I used for the minestrone, from Brain Foods for Kids:
2 Tbs, olive oil
1 leek, sliced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 green beans, finely sliced
1 quart vegetable bouillon
1 1/4 cups tomato puree
2 bay leaves
scant 1 cup pasta chapes
2/3 cup cannellini beans (drained & rinsed)
sprig of rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
grated parmesan to serve
heat the oil over medium heat, add the leek. cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender. add carrot, celery, and green beans, cook for another 5 minutes. add bouillon, tomato puree, and bay leaves. stir well, bring to a boil; then simmer, half covered, for 15 minutes.
remove and reserve the bay leaves, and puree the vegetables slightly (with a hand blender or food processor), so there are still some 'bits'. put the bay leaves back in, add the pasta, beans, and rosemary, and bring to a boil. reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. remove the bay leaves and rosemary, and season to taste. serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.
nope, not the same at all. different spices mixes, different beans, different veggies. different tastes. I'm learning, slowly...so what should I make next? I'm a big fan of one-pot meals because they help my process by not being too complicated, and also simplifying clean-up. maybe tomato soup or red sauce? yes! the third of the five French mother sauces! within the past 5 years or so, probably through my voracious watching of movies procurable at my three closest local libraries, I became aware of these 'mother sauces', and their place in French cuisine. not being much of a cook myself, let alone one who knows about things like 'mother sauces', I was happy to learn that my natural instinct towards accumulating knowledge for its own sake followed a path I didn't know was there to tread. I doubt I'll follow it to its end, but the side steps are worth taking by virtue of being there. so - the five French mother sauces: bèchamel, velouté, sauce tomat, espagnole, and hollandaise.
I learned to make roux (butter and flour) one night when a friend's daughter asked to spend the night at my house, and my friend, incredulous that I had survived more than 30 years on this planet without having learned to make it before, not only wrote down her recipe for homemade macaroni & cheese, she cooked it for us for dinner so I would know how to make it for her daughter the next night. and her daughter (who was maybe 10 or 11 at the time?) coached me through both the grocery-buying, and the cooking processes. I believe it turned out ok. so I can make a bèchamel sauce (roux and milk), and Mornay sauce (bèchamel with cheese), which is generally what one uses for the previously mentioned mac & cheese. recently, I had a 'leftover' container of sour cream hanging around in my fridge - I'd bought it for the latkes I didn't end up making for Hannukah - so in the interest of using it up before it went bad, I wondered if I could make a bèchamel sauce from it, since I didn't have any milk. I didn't document the process, but I looked up something that brought me to a recipe for garlic cream sauce, which not only used up my sour cream, but some chicken broth I had, as well. and I had lots of garlic. win-win-win. turns out roux and stock is the base for the second French mother sauce, veloutè.
wow, two of the French mother sauces have been butchered in my kitchen? hell yes. time to destroy a third...to be fair, my Mornay is passable, but I doubt my veloutè would have been exciting to anyone other than me. not bad for a first try, for sure, but it was not a well-executed project (I can't even find the recipe, or remember what I had it with). since there is probably little to no cause for me to even attempt either the espagnole or hollandaise sauces, and I do use jarred marinara frequently enough (and have thought about making my own, often enough), sauce tomat seems to follow the natural progression. it turns out, 'sauce tomat' as specific to French cuisine consists of "salt pork belly, onions, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes (or purée), roux (butter & flour), garlic, salt, sugar, pepper." it also turns out I don't know squat about what we dismissively refer to as 'red sauce' in our house - a sauce which has a deeper and more involved global history that I would have taken the time to consider, before reaching the age where food has obviously taken the place of sex in my life, with no great compliment to Rodney Dangerfield for that joke...
ugh...so much more to learn, still! I feel like my job Here is to fill my brain with as much random, esoteric knowledge as possible to be downloaded when 'what I was' returns to Void from The Circus, and it looks like that's going to be another post, entirely. there was plenty of good cooking happening over the 'holiday season', even in my reluctant kitchen. having covered the 'soup', here's the 'nuts' - the chocolate peanut smoothies didn't turn out that well, and unlike the teen, I'm not of the opinion that it was because I used almond butter instead. the chocolate fondue, on the other hand, was Brilliant, and we devoured it with a whole quart of strawberries, and had plenty left over. we found a way to top just about everything with it until it was gone. I made French fries, just like dad used to make, which means cutting the potatoes up really thin, and frying them almost brown. the teen loved those, too. I did that thing where you take the leftover mashed potatoes, and whatever other leftover veggies there are, and mix them together with some egg and flour to make 'pancakes'...leftover veggie-potato pancakes, I guess. for some reason, I want to think of them as a traditional Romani dish, but I don't know why. they were quite yum, and the teen ate enough of them to make me feel like I get to add another gold star to my Jewish Mama holiday cooking playbook!