Archive for January, 2009

Soup Nazi

Just to get this out of the way — what blog about soup could be complete without…

Frugality and Soup

My recent comment about this blog on a Get Rich Slowly post (one of my fave blogs) has brought a flurry of new readers to my humble young site. Thanks JD and the GRS folks! This gives me a great opportunity to talk about my thoughts on frugality and soup.

For me, making homemade soup helps structure a more frugal, simple lifestyle.  For one thing, I am a big fan of the farmer’s market (in St. Louis my favorite market starts up again in May and is open until October — plus there’s a free outdoor yoga class: frugal bonus!). Once per week I can get fantastic, fresh, and generally inexpensive ingredients on Saturday mornings.  During the months that the market is open, I can then use what I find at the farmer’s market to plan my soup for that week. For the rest of the year, I just think about what’s approximately seasonal and what sounds good and go with that.

The next part of the plan is actually making the soup. I usually try to make soups on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. (I rarely make soups to eat right away — the vast majority of soups taste better the next day anyway.) I then take the soups into work for lunch all week. This saves me a lot of money during the week, and a lot of time in the mornings too. If I make more than I can eat in a week, I will also freeze a few containers of soups for weeks when I want more variety, or when I don’t have time over the weekends to follow this little routine. It tends to work out really well.

As part of the above scheme, I’ve also been getting into the habit of making a meal plan each week. And while I consider myself neither hillbilly nor housewife, this website includes a lot of great tips along these lines (including making a family meal plan each week, and some interesting tips–which, admittedly, I haven’t actually tried–for packing lunches, including hot soup).

It’s true that sometimes exotic ingredients that make a soup sound too interesting to pass up can mess with my frugal intentions. However, in the long run, I find that the frugal soup lifestyle saves me time and money — and pays dividends in the way of scrumptious homemade lunch options. Now that I’ve started this blog, I plan to continue making soup at least once per week if not more, and work a longer list of quick weeknight soups into my repertoire. So, stay tuned frugal readers!

Quick Soup Slow Soup (Hot Soup Cold Soup)

I’ve taken to categorizing the soup recipes here as slow soups and quick soups — I think both types of soup has its place. Sometimes, you might want to spend an afternoon roasting vegetables and chopping garlic and simmering for hours on end. And sometimes you just want something easy, quick, and delicious. Both types of soup priorities are perfectly legitimate, and I’ll be covering both on this site… but I think it’s an important to make the distinction.

Hearty Spiced Green Lentil Soup

lentilcrop

This recipe is adapted from the lentil soup recipe in The New Best Recipe, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I use green lentils from the bulk foods section.

Full disclosure: I used to hate lentils and was kind of scared of lentil soup, until I took the plunge and tried out the recipe below. Something about the spices come together so nicely that now I can’t get enough, and it smells absolutely irresistible. As a star ingredient, lentils are both nutritious and cheap — the 7 oz of lentils this recipe calls for cost $1. Enjoy!

Hearty Spiced Green Lentil Soup
serves about 6

3 slices lowfat bacon (veggie bacon will work okay too with a little olive oil), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 cup (7 oz) lentils, rinsed and picked over
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I prefer chicken)
1 1/2 cups water
juice from 1 large lemon
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

1. Fry the bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and bacon is crisp (3-4 mins). Add the onion and carrots; cook, stir occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne and cook until fragrant (30 secs). Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; again, cook until fragrant (about 30 secs). Stir in the lentils, salt, and pepper to taste; cover, reduce the and cook until veggies are soft and lentils have darkened (8-10 mins).
2. Uncover, increase the heat to high, add the wine, and bring to a simmer. Add the broth and water; bring to a boil, cover partially, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the lentils are tender but haven’t broken down, about 30 mins. Discard the bay leaf.
3. Puree about 2/3 of the soup in a blender (or turn off the heat and use an immersion blender) until smooth, and return to pot. Stir in the lemon juice and heat the soup until hot (about 5 mins). Stir in most of the cilantro (leave a bit for garnish).

Soup Quiz

Did you know that January is National Soup Month? Test your knowledge of soup of the world with this fun quiz from yumsugar >>

More on an “Unholy Obsession”

This Best Week Ever post about an episode from season 4 of Top Chef is hilarious (includes clip). I guess I’m not alone in  my “unholy obsession!” Even better though, was during the judging in this episode, hearing renowned chef Ming Tsai really back up soup as more than just a humble starter course–according to him  “soup, as in France, is the perfect challenge for a chef because it has to be perfect.”

BTW — Spike does eventually make his soup.
Squash soup with vanilla creme fraiche recipe >>
Should I try it? Sounds pretty delish…

The Soup Obsession

I have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with soup.

Okay actually it’s a pretty healthy obsession, as far as obsessions go.

Looking back, I think my obsession really started with a wonderful restaurant that I worked at while I was an undergrad. It was a family-owned spot called Kona Bistro in Oxford, Ohio. (Check it out if you ever find yourself in the middle of nowhere in southeastern Ohio, or visiting Miami University.)

The great thing about Kona Bistro was its commitment to quality ingredients. Prior to my time there I had only worked at big corporate-owned places with an assembly-line approach to food. As a server at Kona, I did not have the pleasure of crafting dishes myself, although eventually I ingratiated myself to the kitchen staff who usually loved to dish about their recipes and techniques. And the owners were generous with their soup — wait staff could pretty much eat the soup for free during a shift, a perk that I took full advantage of during my time there.

Prior to my time at Kona I liked cooking to a certain degree, but I  hadn’t thought much about soup. But once I truly understood the simple, direct pleasure a bowl of soup could bring, it started a journey of understanding flavor and ingredients and everything else that I’ve been learning so that I too could replicate the harmonious joy that is a wonderful bowl of soup.

I’ll stop before I bloviate my blog into oblivion. Suffice it to say: me likey the soup.

Roasted Beet Soup

soup11

This recipe is the first soup recipe I came up with entirely on my own. It stems from my love of beets, and it borrows heavily from other roasted vegetable soups I’ve tried and liked. Anyone who likes beets will enjoy this recipe; it is an absolutely delicious — and gorgeous — way to warm up a cold winter day.

Roasted Beet Soup
makes about 8 servings

Ingredients:
4-5 medium fresh beets, trimmed and washed
olive oil
2 small/1 large shallot, or 1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
14 oz can pears, drained (or 2 fresh pears, quartered and peeled)
1 cup dry white wine
quart vegetable stock*
Jane’s mixed-up salt
salt and pepper
dill (fresh is best, although dried is fine too)
lemon
yogurt (garnish)

1. wash and trim beets. place in a glass dish, fill the dish with water, and wrap in foil. roast in 400 degree oven for about 1 hour*

2. splash olive oil in large pot; add shallot, garlic, and a pinch of salt; cook over medium-low heat until soft and translucent (5-8 mins)

3. add carrots, cook until soft (about 8 mins)

4. remove beets from foil; peel and slice; add to pot. add pears

5. add wine and enough vegetable stock* to cover

6. add season salt, salt and pepper, and dill

7. bring to a simmer and then lower heat; cook for 20-30 mins

8. puree with immersion blender (or transfer to regular blender in batches to puree) until about 80% smooth

9. stir in juice from 1 lemon

10. taste; warm soup and add additional salt/pepper if needed

11. serve; garnish soup with dollop of plain yogurt and another sprinkle of dill

*stock variation; after roasting beets, strain and add the (now deep purple) water from the beet pan in place of vegetable stock (use additional seasoning salt)



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