Sunday, December 26, 2010
Me Want Food: Perfect Blizzard Soup
We have certain food traditions in our home. One of the most important ones is "Snow Day = hot chocolate with real whipped cream in the morning, then soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch." Those are the rules of Snow Day, and they are unflinchingly rigid.
While I love, love, LOVE meat-based soups and stews, we can't mix meat and dairy (thanks, Judaism!) and to me, the grilled cheese is an immutable component of Snow Day Lunch. HOWEVAH, I don't want a cream-based soup, either, because then it's like, Dairy Overload, you know? (Is there even such a thing? I'm going to assume yes.)
As a result, I'm always on the lookout for hearty, grilled-cheese-friendly soups that don't involve meat, or a metric ton of dairy products, and I tell you, that is NOT easily done. (I know there's always tomato soup, but I was looking to branch out.)
With a blizzard swirling outside my window as we speak, I'm happy to announce I found a winner today in this Tuscan Vegetable Soup. It has very little fat and a metric ton of veggies, but still manages to be hearty and full of flavor. (Bonus: It's vegan!) We kept eating it throughout the afternoon, all "this is SO GOOD." (Because -- yes -- we are assholes who compliment our own cooking.) I made some adjustments, and I'll tell you now it required a bunch of chopping/prep work, but not much else. (We also put the kids to work, draining beans, shaking in spices and running the escarole through the salad spinner, and it became a total family activity, to boot.) It also cooks really quickly, in about an hour from the time the first ingredient hits the pot.
In the event you were looking for the perfect grilled cheese accompaniment during the first snowstorm of the season (WE ARE HAVING THUNDERSNOW UP IN HERE, OMG. THUNDERSNOW!), I highly recommend this one.
TUSCAN VEGETABLE SOUP
(adapted from Family Suppers by Jeff Nathan; my comments/adjustments appear in italics)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 medium carrots, chopped (I only had five; I don't think it mattered)
1/4 head green cabbage, chopped (we did half a head)
3 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 head escarole, tripped, coarsely chopped (I did use the escarole, but I feel like spinach/any dark leaf lettuce would easily substitute)
1 cup tomato paste (I used a 6 oz. can; again, it was fine)
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 quarts vegetable broth (if you DID want to make this meat-based, by all means, use beef/chicken stock!)
Two 15- to 19-oz cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed (I couldn't find white kidney beans; I found navy beans -- which are, ironically, white -- and used those instead.)
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil (I didn't have fresh; instead used four of those frozen...cube ones.)
Salt and black pepper to taste
I also added 1/4 cup stelline in the last ten minutes of cooking (itty bitty star-shaped pasta. Orzo, pastina, etc. would also work well)
Step 1: Heat oil in the soup pot over medium heat. Toss in the onions, celery, carrots, cabbage and escarole. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables soften. (I covered the pot; this took about 20 minutes.)
Step 2: Stir in tomato paste, oregano, and garlic. Continue stirring until vegetables are all tender (about 10 more minutes). Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, and stir in the beans, zucchini, and basil.
Step 3: Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until zucchini is tender, and soup is slightly thickened (about 20 minutes; stir in the wee pasta about 10 minutes after adding the zucchini, if you want to).
Season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy! (Preferably with a grilled Edam/cheddar mix -on-sourdough rye, but no pressure!)