Friday, March 5, 2010

Soup du Jour ... Or Not

Rachel here: Ok, so obviously soup was the name of the game for this post. My mom and I seem to both really enjoy soup (which is sort of funny since I don't recall eating it much when I was growing up, but anyway) and when we were caucusing last week about this week's posts and I was stressing out about my looming midterms, soup seemed like the perfect meal to make. It would have been, too...

So, the other afternoon I decided that I would make soup with the various vegetables in our fridge that were about to turn or of which we just had awkward bits left. Things started out spectacularly as I sauteed celery, carrots, shallot and a bit of onion in olive oil (with a little butter for good measure). I felt so pleased with myself for retaining some of the information I've been made privy to living with John, with this as a really great way to start soups as an example. I was thoroughly enjoying my break from studying, too, and so when I looked in the fridge and discovered a mere half-cup of chicken stock I didn't bat an eye. If I could tackle 3 midterms and a paper in addition to a million pages of reading this week, I could certainly overcome a serious stock shortage. I looked in the door of the fridge and saw a bit of tomato juice and thought, "Eureka! All will be well."


I added my chicken stock and whopping cup of tomato juice to the soup and things were smelling pretty good, though I was acutely aware of needing to come up with way more liquid if this had any hope of not just being a pot of mushed vegetables. Out of the corner of my eye, on top of the refrigerator I eyed an opened bottle of red wine. "Jackpot," I thought.

Now, in case you were at all curious, you can't make soup with wine. You just can't. I poured almost half a bottle of wine into my soup pot and the next morning my house still smelled like a sorority. Sure, a little wine can be a lovely thing in a soup, but using it as the bulk of your stock (ok, obviously there is no such thing as wine stock and this should have been a major clue to me prior to my generous pour) is just nasty. Like, really, truly, awfully nasty. All I can say is, should you find yourself in a similar situation, I suggest pouring yourself a glass of wine and ordering take-out instead.

And so, I abandoned the soup. In a moment of total type-A-ness, I planned on making soup the next night so I could save face for this post. I told my mother (much to her cackling delight) about my faux pas, though, and she and I agreed that we're not here to blow your mind, we're here to tell you about our lives through recipes. Let's just say this is a recipe that, if all goes according to plan, won't be making a reappearance in my life. My ma's recipe below, however, looks absolutely scrumptious.

Janet here: Soup is my go-to supper when I want to make sure there is something tasty for dinner sometime later in the week. It's easy to make ahead, uses up all kinds of ingredients (if that's part of your intent), and it's cheap. One of my favorite soup cookbooks is Soup Suppers by Arthur Schwartz. This is a man who fully understands the heft a good soup can have as a meal. Just add a little salad, maybe some bread and cheese, and you are good to go. Now that's my kind of weekday meal.

Tuscan Bean Soup

serves 6-8

1 pound dried cannellini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about one cup)
1 medium carrot, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium potato, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (about 1 cup)
1 3/4 chicken or beef or vegetable stock
2-3 fresh sage leaves, 2 teaspoons dried leaf sage or 1/4-1/2 teaspoon marjoram
3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 of a 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach or kale, defrosted or 2 cups finely shredded kale or 2 cups finely shredded Savoy cabbage

Soak beans overnight in cold water to cover (or at least several hours)
In a 4-6 quart saucepan, warm the olive oil and saute the onions and carrots until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the potato, broth, sage and garlic.

Drain the beans and add them, along with enough water to cover, about 6 cups. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer steadily for 40 minutes to one hour until the beans are very tender

Ladle out half the beans and pass them through a blender or food processor. Add them back to the soup. Continue to simmer. Season to taste. Add the spinach or kale or cabbage and simmer about 15 minutes more.

Serve in bowls topped with thin croutons and a drizzle of olive oil.

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