Monday, December 06, 2010


December 6 – Make.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

(Author: Gretchen Rubin)

Today, Anna, age 8, was home sick from school. She's had a fever over 102 since for about 36 hours now. It's stressful, because at my workplace, there is no tolerance for parents with sick kids. For most people, it's not an issue, because their spouses are either at home or in more flexible jobs. But for us, it's a nightmare because one of us has to stay home and we're supposed to "let" the "leadership" (ahem) choose which of us is "expendable" that day. Suffice it to say I haven't left the house since Thursday of last week, between everyone else being sick and my husband clearly being the more important of the two of us. Clearly.

Anyway, Anna was home, and she said to me, "Mamma, you're a very soupy person." I laughed, but I knew what she meant. I love making soup. In fact, I think there is very little that brings me as much joy in my life as preparing a soup for my family. Sometimes I follow a recipe, but more often, I'm just trying to incorporate as many vegetables from our CSA share as I possibly can. Sometimes, if we have beef from the mixed quarter (a quarter cow) we get locally each year, I'll add that. I rarely add chicken, just because raw chicken from the store grosses me out. As it should.

I always start with the big, blue Le Creuset Dutch oven I got on clearance several years ago. I put it on the stove and turn the heat on medium-high, and add the olive oil. I finish chopping the onions and garlic and add them to the pot. As they start to cook, I'm finishing peeling and chopping the firm vegetables ... carrots, bok choy stems, celery, usually. I throw those in there and let them start to hiss with the onions and garlic. This makes the whole downstairs smell heavenly. Next, I add the broth, usually chicken from a gluten-free broth concentrate I found and really like. Or, if I'm using beef, I'll add that and let it brown with the vegetables. I add water, too. It gets interesting after this. In the summer, I might add zucchini and tomatoes; in fall and winter, I'm more likely to add potatoes, maybe a can of beans. Frozen corn is popular in our house, so I try ti incorporate that when I can. If I'm looking for some color, I'll use canned, diced tomatoes and their juice (usually goes well in a beef-based soup).

What makes these soups amazing, to me, at least, is the addition of greens. Something leafy and green, maybe cabbage (which I know isn't considered a "green" but I love it anyway), bok choy, mustard greens, kale ... I know this is something most families don't consume regularly, and I'm proud that my children eat leafy greens without protesting.

Lots of salt and pepper go into each of my soups. Sometimes, in the summer, I have fresh herbs to chop; in other seasons, I try to decide whether I need to add a seasoning. Most often, the answer is no, and I encourage my husband to add crushed red pepper flakes or some strong pecorino romano to his dish. I like shredded asiago, cheddar, swiss, or even a slice of provolone lazily laid over my steaming bowl of soup.

I might add canned beans, or make pasta or rice (on the side, I never add these things to my soups because they drink up all the liquid ... besides, now that I'm off gluten, pasta is always made on the side!) to stretch the soup a bit. Sometimes, I take a picture, because it's just that beautiful.

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