December 29, 2009

Soup! Glorious soup!

My blog is five years old – and I think in all that time, I’ve only posted one recipe. So today I’ve decided to share my top-secret recipe for delicious vegetable soup.

The glory of vegetable soup is that you make it with whatever you happen to have in the house. It’s especially good for using up vegetables that are starting to get soft and wilt a bit around the edges. Making soup requires no talent and no concentration. Today, for example, I made soup while listening to Beautiful Smart Daughter, Boy in Black, and Free Spirit play the game Scattergories in front of the fire. I’ve often made it while supervising the little neighbor kids as they color pictures at the table.

To make the soup, I first yell for someone tall to get me the stockpot from the high shelf in our laundry room. (If no one tall is around, I have to drag over a kitchen chair.) Then I fill the stockpot partway with water – a couple of quarts or so. I rummage through the cupboards for any kind of tomato product. Today, for instance, I dumped in a big can of crushed tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes.

Then I begin chopping up anything will give the soup some flavor: a couple of onions, some cloves of garlic, several stalks of celery. If I’m feeling especially ambitious, I’ll sautee the onions first, but most of the time, I don’t bother. I cut them up and dump them in. I’m a lazy cook.

Then I look through the refrigerator for any vegetables I can find. We always have carrots, which I like to add just for the color and texture. And usually we’ve got some peppers, too, some broccoli, and some squash. Today, I found a half a bag of fresh baby spinach and dumped that in too. If I have any overripe tomatoes on the counter, I chop them up as well. Sometimes I add potatoes, but only if I’m in the mood for chunks of potatoes. And they don’t freeze well, so I leave them out if I’m planning to freeze some of the soup.

I chop up vegetables and throw them in the pot until I get bored. Then I take a break to check my email, put another log on the fire, or unload the dishwasher. Then I decide to go the easy route and find veggies in the freezer: usually a bag of corn and a bag of lima beans. I dump those in and give the pot a stir. I add more water from the tea kettle if the soup isn’t liquidy enough. Then I make myself a cup of tea and sit down to read the mail.

At some point, I start adding spices: a handful of oregano, a big handful of basil, a pinch of fennel, a couple of bay leaves. The only thing I ever measure is the salt and pepper. I use ¼ teaspoon of pepper and a teaspoon of salt. I don’t know why I bother to measure them: it’s a tradition I guess.

Just as the soup is beginning to smell good, I start rummaging through the cupboards for beans. Always, I use a couple cans of kidney beans, but sometimes I add chickpeas too, or pretty much any kind of bean I can find. By then the stockpot will be getting pretty full. I only know how to make huge quantities of soup.

The last thing I chop up are scallions, if I have them, fresh basil if I have some, pretty much any herbs I can find. And then an entire bunch of parsley. I always buy parsley when I’m planning to make soup. I think the green makes the soup looks so much healthier. I dump in random spices as the mood strikes me: today, for instance, I dumped in some celery seed.

When the soup is done, I offer it to anyone in the house. “Eat some vegetable soup! It’s health food for Ultimate players.” The glory of soup is that it’s an entire meal, all in one pot. And it’s healthy! My household is very tired of hearing me say that. You have no idea.


Queen of West Procrastination said...

This is my kind of recipe. I keep attempting to write out my recipes, but my recipes end up having a lot of "if you happen to have this in your fridge...". Especially soup: I do everything by how it looks and how it smells.

chichimama said...

Yum! If only someone in my house besides me ate soup...I may have to make some tomorrow anyway.

Five years? Really? I guess that is right as A is almost six, but wow!

Miranda said...

Congratulations on your five year anniversary, Jo(e)!

Nels Highberg said...

It sounds scrumptios!!!

liz said...

Happy anniversary!!!

Now I need some soup. Or, as we say it in our house, "soooooooop"

AmpersandPrime said...

delicious recipe!

niobe said...

I am, right at this very minute, following this recipe to the letter (well, more or less). I'm at the check my email/blog part.

Thank you jo(e). You have inspired me in so many ways that I can't even begin to count.

Magpie said...

this is the kind of soup that my mother called garbage pail soup. she lived on it in the winter.

are you vegan? if not, an excellent addition to this kind of soup is a parmesan rind - it gives an ineffable glorious flavor.

jo(e) said...

Niobe: That's the most important part of the recipe!

Magpie: I'm vegan -- otherwise I'd try it.

Garbage pail soup is a good name. I think my soup is "Stuff I want to use up so it doesn't end up in the compost pile" soup.

skatey katie said...

oh brilliant.
it's pretty much exactly the way i make soup too, 'cept i use dried beans and i bung all my old veggies into an ancient pressure cooker. that way it only takes 20 mins, and i can walk off and forget it, rather than coming back to a burned-on-compost pile in the pot...
happy souping X