Tuesday, May 1, 2007

SOUP DU JOUR

There is such a market for fancy cookware. There was a program on NPR a couple of years ago that was a real hoot and so subversive to the idea that you have to fill your kitchen with 
piles and piles of goodies.  However, a crock pot is an absolute necessity. LOL

I don’t remember the gals’ name but she takes folks on food tours though the French canal country. They travel by barge and the kitchens are tiny, tiny, tiny. From the sound of things she gets by with about three pans, some measuring equipment and a couple of knives. There’s probably no oven so bread and fresh produce is whatever is available at whatever little town they hit at meal time. In that spirit I offer this entry.

This makes an absolutely huge pot of soup. I take in my lunch all week. And we usually have at least one meal for both of us too. So, if you do this, either plan on embracing with your inner soup lover or scale things back a little. Also, any of the following ingredients are optional. This is how we like it. The variations are endless.

Ideally, yeah ideally, we would make our own beef, vegetable, and chicken stocks for this. We do use a couple of whole chickens a month and the carcasses do get cooked down for stock. For the other two, it comes out of a jar, looks like a cube and has a cute little foil wrapper. A messy, cute, little foil wrapper. Siiiiiigh.

We did try saving the trimmings from mushrooms and fresh vegetables for stock for awhile. Idealism crashed into the brick wall called reality. There’s mom and me. Period. It takes at least a month to even begin to accumulate enough little veggie bits to even THINK of getting out the stock pot.

During that time the big plastic bag with the veggie bits is taking up space in the freezer. To be honest there is only so much space in an upright side by side refrigerator/freezer and so many other things to put in it. Bread, muffins, sausage, pre made meatballs, strawberries, marion berries, blue berries. Forget the fiddly bits of veggie trimmings. They do very nicely dug into flower beds.

Anyway, we start with a large crock pot, two quarts of water or stock, four or five bouillon cubes if you don’t have stock, a small onion, and some mushrooms.

If you are really lucky you have access to a bulk food section that carries a dried veggie mix that’s used for a soup starter. If you want, also add about a quarter cup of the veggies, about a half cup of dried beans of your choice and about the same amount of rice or barley if those appeal to you. Chop the onion and the mushrooms, put everything in the crock pot and turn it on high. If you like carrots and celery chop a couple of carrots and a couple stalks of celery and toss them in too. Let it come to a boil while you do other things. It’ll probably take two or three hours for the beans to get done.

Meanwhile, check out the veggie crisper in the fridge. This is a good time to clean the fridge. Just about anything can go into the pot. Zuchinni, cabbage, those tomatoes that are getting a little past their prime, that half a batch of spinach or chard that’s a little wilted, those two orphan green onions that didn’t get added to the last salad. It’s all fair game. We also keep a stash of canned chopped tomatoes just for soup.

*Danger, Will Robinson, Danger* If you use beans that did not come out of a can for this make very, very sure they’re done before you add the tomatoes to the soup or you’ll be trying to chew little pebbles. Under done beans and tomatoes are not a good combination.

So chop your squash, dice up a good chunk of cabbage and get your tomatoes ready. I forgot to mention that we put garlic, lots of garlic in every batch.

This can be made with or without meat. If your inner carnivore is yelling “feed me, feed me” this week you can add any of the following: chicken, beef, meatballs made with Italian sausage, (if you don’t have time for meat balls, just brown off about half a pound of sausage and it will flavor the whole batch) chopped Polish sausage, good salami, leftover Easter ham, left over Thanksgiving turkey, this will take just about anything you want to add to it.

Once the beans and original veggies are done you can add the rest of the veggies and the meat. Bring it back to the boil and turn down to low. Once the new additions are done, you can turn it to keep warm and wait for dinner. Or eat dinner early. Some kind of bread, whatever fruit or salad you’ve got hangin’ around and you are pickin’ in tall cotton.

As for extra seasonings. It’s whatever floats your boat. Black beans, corn, squash, tomatoes and peppers. Red beans, rice, cabbage, tomatoes, garlic and Italian seasoning. Traditional beef stew or vegetable beef soup. We haven’t had a bad batch yet, and the pot gets hauled out once a week.

You can eat half and freeze half. Just be sure to check out the freezer once in awhile to make sure the frozen containers get eaten. These are very handy on days when you’d sooner kiss George Bush than go in that kitchen for anything but a glass of water.

And if it’s summer and you don’t want the crock pot in the kitchen, take it out to the garage. It works.

2 comments:

tenyearnap said...

A crockpot is a necessity, that's for sure. My poor old pot has taken to boiling everything, even when set on low. I think it is the last gasp for The Pot. (sigh) Well, it has had a long life and served us well. --Cin

toonguykc said...

You, me and NPR should start a pledge drive to buy Cin a new crockpot.  Maybe Cory Flintoff will help.

Russ