Thursday, December 16, 2010

stone soup

My life has been shockingly photo- and wool-less lately. I'm knitting but it's yielded nothing since it's the time of year when I'm constantly interrupted or else what I'm working on is hush-hush. Nothing terribly exciting, though, all the same. The weather has been nasty so the light has been poor and I've barely even taken pictures. Lest I be accused of whining, today was lovely and my whole family and a passel of friends loaded up with hot cocoa in thermoses and went to the zoo lights. For some reason I always have a great time. And the boy wore his brand-new birthday fish mittens that Sorren made for him (pictures someday) and we laughed and jumped up and down and flapped our wings to keep warm.

But this is what I'm really here for:


I make soup every week, and lately it's been a version of the same everything-in-a-pot-to-clean-out-the-fridge sort of old world economizing soup. Sometimes I bake a nice crusty bread for dipping, or noodles, or crostini out of the old stale bread my father blessed us with. I love soup. It's hearty, tasty, includes all the necessary food groups and generally only dirties one pot (plus some knives) and then one bowl each. One night as we were eating our soup my dearly beloved said I should blog about it for you, since -- as he said -- it just seems like soup and knitting go together. So here it is, friends, my baseline poor-person's soup of winter heartiness:

** Measurements are generous and approximate. It's really hard to run afoul with your ingredients in soup **

3-4 quarts stock (I often make my own and then supplement with store-bought)
several celery stalks
a few pounds of root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, celery root, turnips, sweet potato, unsweet get the idea.
2 cups pearl barley
1-2 cups legumes (precooked, or dry if they're quick-cooking like the lentils)
2-3 pounds protein (I like beef in the winter, but I'll also use the baked chicken from the previous night and sausage or hambone for flavor...if the meat is not already cooked, I brown it before adding it to the soup. And before you go judging on the amounts, I feed at least three boys most nights and they always eat up all the meat.)
1-2 large cans whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
spices: cumin, thyme, a whisper of cardamom or cinnamon (I often add these to stocks), rosemary, etc.

Procedure: 1) Put the barley and lentils (if using) in a bowl and cover with cold water to soak while preparing other ingredients (to reduce the amount of your stock they use up -- you can also cook them separately and add them in, but that's another pot dirtied). 2) Saute chopped onion in pot until translucent, add spices and throw in the cubed celery and root vegetables, stir for a bit. 3) Cover with your stock and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. If using uncooked meat, brown it while the stock is heating, then add to the vegetables. 4) Add the drained barley and lentils, cook until tender (approx. 30 minutes). 5) Add tomato and any precooked ingredients and let simmer gently for a bit to meld.

Devour for three meals a day for several days. Or if you're crazy organized, freeze some and save for a rainy day when you don't feel like cooking. My favorite trick (much to my family's chagrin) is to make the same pot of soup stretch out for a week or so, adding some different ingredients and more stock here and there as they present themselves until the character of your soup changes into something totally different than you started with. I always feel like my Croatian grandmother when I do this, since I hate wasting food and soup is such a great, cheap, nutritious way to feed the voracious hordes (and we have us some of those here in this house), especially if you're baking your own bread to go with it.

So long, friends, and keep warm!

star mitties2

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