Sunday, August 15, 2010

Soup architecture

I can hear everyone in the 147-degree heat in the rest of the country groaning. "Soup?! Really? When it's 147 degrees outside?" Well, sorry. Southern California is currently experiencing the coolest summer since 1916, with an average July temperature of 69 degrees. Feel free to send some of that heat my way.

But eventually, fall will come, and you'll want to make soup again.

I don't think I've ever made the same soup twice. "Soup" to me is a catch-all term, more to do with ratios than actual ingredients. I use the following as a template. You can mix and match and end up with a great soup every time. You can call it "minestrone" or "ribolitta" or something fancy to impress your dinner guests.

Foundation: Onion and/or garlic. One onion, any color, chopped; or the equivalent amount of green onions or shallots, plus a few cloves of garlic. If you're allergic to onions like my mom, just use a whole lot of garlic instead. (Maybe an entire head.)

Saute this in some sort of fat or oil. I use bacon fat or olive oil most frequently.

If you have carrots and/or celery, chop those and add them to the soft onion and garlic. If not, skip it.

Optional: Meat. Any kind. I've used bacon, Italian sausage, turkey sausage, alligator sausage, andouille, tasso, kielbasa, ham, proscuitto, ham hocks, country ham, ground beef, ground turkey, ground pork, leftover salami, and leftover chicken. Add what you have and let cook a little.

First floor: Tomatoes. Once the base is soft and translucent, add tomatoes. I use whole canned tomatoes, and chop them or smash them with my hand before adding. Add the juice too. 2-3 14-oz cans worth, or the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes.

Second floor: Beans. Any kind, any color. Maybe 1 14-oz can's worth, plus juice.

Third floor: Pasta. Any shape. Macaroni, penne, rigatoni, farfalle, even broken-up spaghetti. Whatever. A couple handfuls. Alternately, potatoes (any kind) or roasted winter squash.

Now add broth--chicken, vegetable, beef, or any combination thereof, preferably homemade--to just at the level of the solids.

Add a bay leaf.

If you have the rind from a hunk of parmesan cheese, throw that in.

Let that cook on low, covered, for a while.

When your kitchen smells really good and the pasta/potatoes are cooked through, add seasonings. Several tablespoons of Italian seasoning (parsley, basil, thyme, sage, marjoram and rosemary, mixed), plus a teaspoon or so of cumin and dried red pepper flakes if you've added meat.

Let that cook some more.

Fourth floor: Something green. A box of frozen spinach, a head of kale, beet greens, arugula, frozen peas, frozen or fresh green beans, zucchini, broccoli, whatever. Those weird things you get from the farmer's market will do very well here. Put the greens in at the last minute and cook until they've just wilted into the soup.

Stir the whole thing, add salt and pepper to taste and maybe some croutons on top, and serve.

1 comment:

  1. I have printed this out and taped it to the inside of my cupboard door! Thanks! I love your blog!