Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow's Remedy

Is it really snowing... AGAIN? This winter has been bedecked with snowfall... after snowfall... after yet, another snowfall. And what do I want when it's freezing and snowy? A bowl of soup. I bought beautiful green squash (aka zucchini) the other day, so today I will be making zucchini soup. It's one of the easiest soups to make, and like i pointed out in a previous post dedicated to everything SOUP, you simply don't need recipes for simple soups. Zucchini soup is just sauteed onion, celery, zucchinis, and fresh dill. Add a can of cannelini beans, smashed, or a cut up starchy potato to thicken it if you don't want to go to creamed route.

Thankfully, I found my camera cord, so I have 2 soup recipes today. One is a very hearty minestrone soup. Minestrone is an Italian soup, usually tomato based, that has many different vegetables, and traditionally includes beans and rice/pasta of some sort. However, I did not add rice or pasta, so I should I not call it Minestrone? Fine. It will be "everything but the kitchen sink" vegetable soup. There. That's better and way more professional sounding anyway. I like to make a big pot of soup so that I can freeze in containers, so this recipe made a lot.

Rustic Vegetable Soup
-Earth Balance & olive oil
-Salt & pepper
-Dried Italian seasoning (oregano+thyme)
-Fresh thyme
-1 medium onion
-3 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 stalks of celery
-2 small carrots
-2 small zucchinis
-1 yellow squash
-1/2 eggplant (figure about a cup of each vegi chopped)
-1 container Pomi Chopped Tomatoes
-1.5 tbsp. tomato paste (I buy the Israeli brand that looks like its applesauce, 4 containers connected together)
-4-6 cups water or low sodium vegetable broth (preferred brand: Trader Joe's)
-1 can chic peas or cannelini beans
-1.5 cups chopped white cabbage
-3 cups kale or spinach (raw)

-Heat a tbsp. of Earth Balance and a tbsp. of olive oil in a soup pot, and saute the onion. When translucent, add the garlic and saute a minute until fragrant. Add a tbsp. fresh thyme, and a tsp. dried Italian seasoning, as well as a tsp. of salt and a pinch of pepper.
-Add the chopped celery and carrot and saute for a minute or two and then add the rest of the vegetables. Add a little more oil if necessary. Make sure that all the vegetables are roughly chopped to around the same size (big cubes) so that everything is uniform. Add some salt & pepper again. It's important to season the soup well now, so that you don't have to add salt to a bland soup once you're eating it.
-Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. You can substitute with tomato sauce, or marinara sauce, whatever you have on hand, it will probably still taste good. It's all about experimentation.
-As far as adding the main liquid, it is much easier to add more liquid at the end if need be, as opposed to taking liquid out. That's why I wrote 4-6 cups. It may be more, may be less. The rule of thumb is to initially add enough liquid to cover all the vegetables.
-Bring to a boil and prepare the chic peas (drain and rinse well), cabbage, and kale or spinach (wash and roughly chop). I prefer to buy a head of cabbage and cut strips myself as opposed to buying the precut bag, because I like rough, not finely cut cabbage. Once the soup is brought to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for a half hour. About 10 minutes before you think the soup is done, add the chic peas or beans, the greens, and cabbage. The chic peas and cabbage need to be just softened, and the greens just need to wilt a little bit. The hot soup will do all that in a flash. You can add basil too, or chopped canned artichoke hearts if you have on hand. Just like I said before, it really is everything but the kitchen sink, and a meal in a bowl!

My second soup is a Mushroom Trio soup. Normally, I never buy mushrooms because Avi can't stand to even look at one, but I was food shopping and saw such great shitake mushrooms. Obviously, at $4.99 a pound I'm not gonna buy 3 or 4 pounds of it, plus they aren't "meaty" enough to be the sole star of a mushroom soup, so thankfully enough, the baby portabellas and creminis were just as nice. I bought 2 containers of the baby bellas, and 1 container of the cremini, or typically known as white or button mushrooms. You can buy them pre-sliced, pre-washed, whatever you want to make your life easier. So, I bought 1/2 lb. of the shitakes, and 3 of those wide containers, I'm not sure how many ounces each container was, I want to say 10 or 12. In any event, I guess I used roughly 2-3 lbs. of mushrooms. The thing with mushrooms is that you don't want to soak them in water, because the mushroom will drink that water like a sponge, and get soggy in the cooking process. Obviously this isn't as much of a problem with soup as it would be for a simple saute, but any extra liquid in a soup that you are trying to thicken, won't be your friend. Also, steer clear of scrubbing the mushrooms, at the risk of totally bruising them. I know you're probably thinking that mushrooms are SO dirty. Yes, this is why buying the pre-sliced, pre-washed (or whatever they do) is a great commodity in the supermarket today. Just an "FYI," when using mushrooms, the whole button or portabella mushroom CAN be used (with the exception of shitakes, whose stems are way too woody to eat). For instance, when making stuffed mushrooms (yum! Though I never make them because of my husband's unrealistic aversion!!!) you chop up the stems, and saute them with a few other yummy ingredients to make the filling. I keep going on tangents don't I? Anyways, the best way to clean mushrooms is to rub the dirt off with a damp paper towel, or brush them with a pastry brush (not the silicone kind). This will do the trick, though it takes a lot of patience!

"Cream" of Mushroom Trio Soup
-1 medium onion
-1 stalk chopped celery
-6 cloves garlic, minced (mushrooms in and of themselves do not impart that much flavor, so 6 cloves of garlic sound like a lot, but it's not)
-Salt & pepper
-Italian seasoning
-4 sprigs of thyme
-2-3 lbs. of mixed mushrooms (cremini, baby portabella, shitake), cleaned & roughly chopped
-2 potatoes, peeled and chopped (any medium sized kind, I used red)
-4 cups water or low sodium vegetable broth (preferred brand: Trader Joe's)
-1/2 cup milk (optional)
-Wonton Crisps (Nasoya Wonton Wraps- my new best friend, cut into strips and lightly fry) and chopped dill

-Saute the onion in a little olive oil and Earth Balance, then add the garlic, then celery. Saute each by itself before adding the subsequent ingredient. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
-Add all the mushrooms and potatoes and saute for a few minutes before adding the water or broth. Season again with a little salt.
-Add the liquid slowly (enough to cover the mushrooms, add more later if you need to)
-Add the thyme sprigs. You will fish them out later, so if you happen to have twine to tie them together to make it easier later, then do that. Otherwise just remember to fish out however many sprigs you put in!
-Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer and let cook until mushrooms and potatoes are all soft. Take out the thyme sprigs, and puree with an immersion blender. Add milk if you want a creamier effect.
-Garnish with wonton crisps and dill

Savor the flavor, not the weather!! And on that note, hopefully it will make like the soup and disappear!!!

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