Monday, November 10, 2008

Soup Season

Admittedly, I eat soup year round. Asparagus soup in the spring, corn chowder and tomato soup in the summer. But in the winter, I eat soup all the time. Maybe not every day, but close to it. Because I don't go in to work on Mondays, I often make a big pot of soup (and sometimes a loaf of no-knead bread) on Monday afternoon and then dip into it for lunches and dinners during the week.

For the past two years, my soup cookbook of choice has been Deborah Madison's soup cookbook--officially titled Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, though I've also relied on her recipes from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (especially the lentil minestrone) and The Savory Way (especially the white bean soup with pasta and potatoes), along with very old standards like Mollie Katzen's spinach soup from the original Moosewood. And I don't think Deborah Madison's primacy in my kitchen is really being challenged.

Still, for the past few months, I've been having a flirtation with a different cookbook--The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift. (I'm linking the Splendid Table website rather than the Amazon link for the book, just because there's lots of stuff to look at there, including recipes.) What is interesting to me is that I haven't actually cooked that many things from the book, but I'm still sure that it's a keeper. In fact, I've only cooked three--an oven omelet with chard and green apple, pasta with roasted squash and greens, and the soup I'm going to write about. But I've made the soup and the omelet twice, and I'll certainly make the pasta again. Anyway, what I'm saying is that so far, I'm three for three with this cookbook, which doesn't always happen.

My one caveat is that it definitely takes me longer to make things than the book says it will. (The first time I made the oven omelet, I didn't start til after 8 p.m. and didn't eat until almost 10 p.m.--admittedly, it was my fault for not reading through the recipe to the "bake in the oven for 45 minutes" part, but the prep also took longer than indicated.)

Several of the soup recipes in the Splendid Table book call for either homemade stock or Cheater's Homemade Broth, which is basically canned chicken or vegetable broth doctored up with some vegetables, aromatics, wine and tomatoes. The first time I made this soup, I tried the Cheater's broth and the second time, I made vegetable stock from scratch, but included the wine and tomatoes, which I usually don't do. It was equally delicious both times. It seems like a time/money decision to me. It seemed a little silly to me to spend more than $6 on 6 cans of College Inn garden vegetable broth (which they recommended), when I still needed to chop vegetables and cook it up for half an hour, especially since stock is a great use for the not-so-pretty vegetables I always have in my fridge. Then again, I have a schedule where I can spend part of a Monday afternoon making vegetable stock, and not everyone does. The soup will be delicious either way.

The other secret to this soup, though it's not actually in the recipe, is parmesan rinds. I put one in the stock and another one in the soup, and it really adds another layer of flavor. I was horrified, however, to go to Whole Foods last week and ask for parmesan rinds and discover they were now charging $10 a pound for them. This seemed ridiculous to me, especially since they're throwing at least some of them out. On the one hand, they're trying to present themselves as a place to shop that won't break your budget, and on the other, they're trying to get you other ways. I would like to boycott (and can for the moment because I still have some parmesan rinds in my fridge) but am not sure where else I can find them. This will take some thought.

Anyway, the fabulous soup is very simple and very good and just the thing for late fall/early winter. The chard and chickpeas make it good for you, and the cheese and pasta make it filling and delicious. Alex slurped up the last bowl of this last night, but I already know I'll be making it again soon.

Soup of Fresh Greens and Alphabets
Adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper
by Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift

8 cups (double recipe) Cheater's Homemade Broth or canned chicken or vegetable broth or homemade chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup canned whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands. (Don't use canned crushed tomatoes.)

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 medium to large onion, minced

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 large handfuls escarole or curly endive leaves (or Swiss chard or kale), fine chopped (2 1/2 to 3 cups)

1/2 tight-packed cup fresh basil leaves, fine chopped

1/2 cup tiny pasta (alphabets, orzo, or stars)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. In a 6-quart pot combine the broth, wine and tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, chickpeas, greens and basil. Simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

2. Stir in the pasta and simmer, partially covered, for 6 minutes or until the pasta is tender. Taste the soup for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot, passing the cheese at the table.

My notes:

* I decided to add an extra step and saute the onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil first. You can either do the broth, wine and tomatoes in a separate pot and add it to the sauteed onions and garlic or just add it on top of them.

*I'm not a big fan of tomato pieces in things, so I used my immersion blender on the can of whole tomatoes I used and basically added tomato puree to the soup. I also used a whole can, rather than just a cup, so as to avoid the dreaded container of leftover tomatoes I will forget to use syndrome.

*The first time I made this, I was able to add some of the last fresh basil from my garden. The second time, the basil was gone, so I threw in some dried basil instead--still delicious.

*Swiss chard is my go-to green vegetable, so that's what I used and probably will continue to use

*Don't forget to add the parmesan rind while the soup is cooking, even though you may have to later fish it out of someone's bowl.


A.T.Raghu Nandan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.T.Raghu Nandan said...

wonderful blog!