Tuesday, October 14, 2014

To Every Thing There Is A Season...Soup Season!

Ecclesiastes 3 is a popular biblical verse for those meaningful rites of passages: birth, death, marriage, puberty...

And, more importantly, it is THE game-changer in the Kevin Bacon version of "Footloose".  John Lithgow was NOT expecting his rebellious daughter to employ Ecclesiates 3 as the cornerstone of Kevin Bacon's moving "Let This Town Dance" argument.

And I agree...for everything, there is a season.  Fall just happens to be the season for soup.

It's mid-October here in Iowa - that crazy, unpredictable time of year when anything, weather-wise, can happen.  We could have snow tomorrow and 80 degrees the day after.  That's how we roll around here.

Yesterday, though, was gray and rainy and windy.  My front lawn is littered with yellow and orange leaves from our birch trees, and yesterday's wind was the final straw as many of them finally let go of the summer season.  And it was on this odd and spiritual note that I smiled...and got my mirepoix ready.

Chili is always usually the big family winner this time of year, but I decided with the acumen I'd garnered on the island, I'd try this soup a little different.  Normally, I throw everything into a crockpot and let it stew all day, which ends up being delicious, that is true.

This time, though, I started with mirepoix, which is a 1:1:2 ratio of diced celery, carrots, and onion.  I sweated them in a skillet with some olive oil until they were soft.  Then, I added some minced garlic, before deglazing the pan with some white wine.  A tablespoon of chicken base, a small can of tomato paste and my chili spices (cayenne, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika) then get whisked into the fray.  I think I get more flavor from letting these things come into contact with the heat of the skillet without the dilution of the liquid.

I call this my chili base.  At this point, I could cool it, bag it, and freeze it for later chili makings.

But right now, in the picture above, I've added a bit of V8 vegetable juice for some substance before I add in a can of red kidney beans, a can of black beans, and a half-pound of ground turkey and beef each.

At this point, I'm tasting what's in the skillet and adjusting the seasoning (usually more salt).  Then, I add more V8 until I get the consistency I want.  Because I was going to put this in the crockpot, I add a little less V8 than I would normally.  And voilá!  We have really yummy chili.  Awesomesauce #1.

Courtesy of amazon.com
On the way home from Michigan nearly three weeks ago, we stopped at a consignment store, where I found this gem for two dollars.

I tried the first recipe from it last night - the Winter Nordic Vegetable Soup (see the recipe online here).  And naturally, I can't leave a recipe alone, I've got to make my own tweaks (mostly because of what I can find and/or I need to get rid of in my own veg crisper). 

Here's what I changed:

*Three onions instead of one onion and two leeks

*1 cup quinoa instead of pearled barley (incidentally, using quinoa in this recipe was a mistake - I just didn't like it)

*1 quart of vegetable broth, 1 quart of homemade chicken broth, and 1 quart of water instead of 2 quarts of vegetable broth and 1 quart of water

* A sachet of thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, and parsley stems instead of just thyme and bay leaves

* 1 1/2 pound of carrots instead of celery root

* An added tablespoon of Herbes de Provence during the sweating of the onions

And I did not get a picture of this soup, alas, which is too bad, because it was everything I pictured a cool-weather soup to be.  The quinoa did not work out, but egg noodles might.  I liked adding the carrots because it provided some color, as celery root is roughly the same color as the parsnips, along with the spinach (or kale).  Along with a fresh-baked loaf of bread, this was quite the sustaining almost-winter meal.

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