Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Soup Mama

I make pretty darned good soup, if I do say so. You could say it's my specialty. Sometimes I follow a recipe, sometimes I stray from a recipe, and sometimes I just throw a bunch of things in a pot and cook it and eat it with a spoon and it's usually really good.

A little secret dream of mine is to one day own a lunch place that sells home-made soups and sandwiches. I could call it Soup Mama. I'll never do it though because I worked in a mom-and-pop bagel shop/bakery/deli during college and while I enjoyed it, the lifestyle wasn't for me. I prefer a predictable 9-5, M-F work schedule where I leave work at work and have my own life at home. Anyway...

Here's a basic recipe for Vegetable Soup with Shortcuts that I made the other night. I concocted this on the fly - no recipes or measurements.

  • one large can of V8 vegetable juice (shortcut #1)

  • one empty large can of V8 filled with water to dilute above

  • one large onion chopped

  • one or two parsnips chopped

  • two or three ribs of celery chopped - use leaves if possible

  • one bag of frozen mixed veggies (corn, peas, lima beans, carrots) -- (shortcut #2)

  • one bag of fresh shredded red cabbage (shortcut #3)

  • one - two cups of cooked pearl barley

  • one can of white beans (shortcut #4)

  • olive oil

  • dried parsley (use fresh if you have it)

  • dried dill weed (use fresh if you have it)

  • one bay leaf

  • salt and pepper (you really don't need much salt if any if you use the regular V8 as it is very high in sodium - even when diluted)

  • cayenne pepper*

  • red wine vinegar**

* Add cayenne pepper at your own risk. I tend to make the soup a bit too spicy, so test as you add. You shouldn't taste the heat of the cayenne pepper. It's not a Southwest style soup. The pepper just wakes up the flavor in the same way the vinegar does.

** Only use a couple of splashes of vinegar as you don't want to actually taste the vinegar. It's just supposed to brighten up the flavor a bit. I find lemon juice works well for chicken stock based soups but red wine vinegar works better for tomato based soups.

Saute onion, celery, and parsnip in olive oil until soft, but not brown. Add V8 juice and water. Add frozen veggies and cabbage and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add barley, beans, spices, and vinegar. Let simmer partially covered for about a half hour. Adjust seasonings before serving.

Use any fresh veggies you happen to have instead of frozen. Or use all frozen. If you prefer to use pasta or rice instead of barley, go for it. Just be sure to add it already cooked - never try to cook it in soup. Experiment and have fun. Making soup is a creative endeavor. That's why I enjoy it so much more than baking, where you must be precise to get good results.


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