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Mama Deb
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cereta :: On soup [+1]

December 2010
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Mama Deb [userpic]

There was a time I made soup every week - not the traditional chicken soup, although I know how to make that, and make it very well. I learned from the best - my mother. Everyone's mother makes the best chicken soup, after all - although I do also like my Yeminite friend's lovely spicy brew. But we rarely had chicken soup on Friday night.

Instead, I made a hearty meal type soup every Tuesday, at least in winter time. These would be thick with meat and beans and vegetables, and I found ways to make them taste different. What I did was come up with a "master" soup recipe. I first got the idea from reading "Moosewood Cooks at Home", where the compiler threw in a line about all you had to do was saute onions, carrots and celery in a pot (the "holy trinity", you should excuse the expression) and go on from there.

And that's what I did. The basic recipe is as follows: chop up a large Spanish onion. Slice a pound of carrots and a stalk of celery thinly, so they fit on a spoon. Heat up a good, sturdy five quart pot, add oil and toss in the veggies one by one, and cook until soft. Toss long cooking ingredients, flavorings and the indispensible bay leaf in, add a quart or so of liquid and simmer. Prior to serving, put in items that don't need long cooking. Serve.

Long cooking ingredients: beef stew, cut small. Beef neck bones. Lamb neck bones. Chicken wings. Turkey wings. Turkey legs. Turkey carcasses. Soaked beans. Lentils. Barley. Potatoes. Sweet potatoes. Dried mushrooms (add fresh with the sauted veggies.) Whole garlic cloves. You get the idea. Note: if using meat on bones or big chunks of meat, take it out before serving and remove from bones and put back in pot. Put the bones back, too, if they're large. Bones = flavor.

Flavorings: fennel seeds. Wine or vinegar (add to sauteing veggies). Freshly ground pepper. Peppercorns. Dried herbs. Parsley. Dill.

Liquid: water. Crushed tomatoes. Stock. Water plus bullion cube if you must.

Extas: frozen corn or other veggies. Cilantro. Lemon juice or a slice of lemon. Scallions. More fresh herbs. This is also the time to add fresh fish if you're making a fish soup.

Variantions: mushroom barley soup: fresh mushrooms with veggies. Pearl Barley and meat with long cooking. Dried is also nice, and add the soaking liquid with the liquid. I like turkey here.

Meatball soup: use crushed tomatoes and water for liquid. Make tiny meatballs out of ground meat, matzo meal and spices. Use Italian seasonings and garlic in the soup and the meatballs. Bring soup to a boil, and plop the tiny meatballs in one by one. Simmer.

Turkey bean sweet potato: exactly as it sounds. Use cilantro at the end if you like cilantro. It needs vinegar or wine to give it some depth. Smells like thankgiving.

Fish chowder, Manhattan style. Make vegetable soup. Add potatoes and thyme. Whenthe potatoes are cooked, take enough soup for one night and transfer to a different pot. Bring to a simmer and add firm white fish in chunks.

I love soup.

On soup

You know, I lvoe the concept of soup, and every once in a while, I encounter a soup I really adore, but my biggest problem is that I don't like the vegetables that seems to be staples in most soups: I don't like cooked carrots or celery (scratch that - I like them just barely cooked, but not cooked until soft). So I'm forever looking for some way to make soup without them, but they seem to be in nearly every recipe.

Re: On soup

Is it the taste or just the actual vegetables you dislike? If it's the latter, there are solutions - carrots and cooked celery take pureeing very well, and then they're just part of the soup. There's also what my mom does when she makes chicken soup - my father z"l also disliked cooked carrots and celery, so she left the celery whole and cut the carrots into large chunks. She also left the parsnip, the turnip and the onions whole, so they were all easily removed. She did leave in the carrot chunks, but Dad just didn't eat them. This would work for a lot of soups.

If it's the taste - I cook in a traditional European way, but many other cultures make soups without carrots or celery. An example would be black bean soup.

Another is perhaps the world's simplest - potato-leek. Cut a pound of red potatoes into chunks, add chopped, cleaned leeks, and cover with water. Cook until the potatoes are soft and the water is half gone. Add two cups of milk, salt and pepper. Just before serving, add fresh chopped dill. No carrots, no celery, and it's practically a meal.