The Weekly Soup

 

The Weekly Soup

This soup consists of whatever needs to be used up in the refrigerator- the nearly forgotten onion half, the leafy center core of celery and those carrots that have become flexible, but haven’t changed color yet.  You can also add leftovers from previous meals such as broiled or roasted meat, vegetables and cooked grain.

If you are new to cooking, or are tired of watching vegetables die in your refrigerator, this is a good one to do on a regular basis. This meal may old hat for you- people have been cooking whatever they have since the dawn of time; however I hope I can offer some new ideas in the adventurous section below.

Here are the basic guidelines:
1. Go through your refrigerator every week or two and throw out whatever is clearly over the hill.
2. Examine what is left and put together a combination of ingredients that would make a decent soup. It’s okay to purchase and additional ingredient or two, like an onion or garlic, to ensure your soup really sings.
3. Put the chopped ingredients in a pot of broth or water and simmer until cooked. Add a little salt and an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar to taste and enjoy.
The art comes into choosing which ingredients to include.

Here are some more tips to ensure your soup tastes like an enjoyable meal, not a weird experiment

  • Be honest about which vegetables are still good candidates for the soup. It’s fine if they are little flexible, but anything that looks faded, wrinkled or discolored should be thrown out.
  • Use a 2-quart or larger sized pot to cook the soup, and have some wide-mouth, freezable containers with lids to store leftover soup. This soup is a life saver for when you don’t have time to cook.
  • Chop  ½-1 cup of each vegetable to into bite sized pieces.  Buy pre-cut vegetables if you hate to chop. More than 1 cup will make that vegetable the main focus of the soup.
  • Limit yourself to 3-6 different types of vegetables. You can also add chopped boneless pieces of meat or drained canned beans (not refried.)
  • Onion, celery and carrots are a classic combination and mild vegetables like green beans, potatoes and mushrooms work in a variety soups as well. Garlic becomes mild and even sweet when simmered in soup, so add several peeled and chopped cloves if you wish.
  • You can use ground meat or sausage in soup. Be sure to break or cut it into bite-sized pieces before adding to the soup.
  • Cover ingredients with water, broth or a combination of broth and water. If the boxed or canned broth has been opened and sitting in the refrigerator for more than four days, give it a smell or better yet, start a new box. Or you can also add a spoonful of a concentrated paste like “Better than Bullion” which can live in the refrigerator for over a year.
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of an acid such as balsamic, wine or apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. The right amount acid will make the soup more flavorful, not sour.
  • Let the soup cook for at least 30 minutes or until firm vegetables like potatoes soften. Give it a taste before adding salt. If it needs to be saltier, add only ½ teaspoon at a time, give it a good stir and taste again before adding any more.

For More Adventurous Cooks

  • Soak a cup of dried beans, lentils or quinoa in a quart of water overnight and discard soaking water before adding them to the soup.
  • If you want to make your own chicken broth, place last night’s roast chicken carcass in a pot with at least a quart of water and a tablespoon of acid and simmer for an hour or more. You can also add a few peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, a couple of bay leaves for more flavor. Strain the spices and bones before adding the broth to the soup.
  • Start your soup by placing chopped onion, mushrooms and two tablespoons of oil in the pot on medium heat and stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms brown.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of dried herbs or ground spices to the pot and stir for a couple of seconds before adding the meat, broth and vegetables. I love Italian seasoning, which is a blend of thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage. I also like to use a teaspoon each of cumin, paprika and turmeric. Herbs and spices do lose potency with time, so toss any seasonings that are over a year old and purchase small amounts of your favorites.
  • If you wish to add uncooked brown rice or other grain, add it immediately after the liquid, since it will need at least 30 minutes to cook.
  • Think of favorite dishes you can replicate in soup form. I like pumpkin curry, so I combined left over cooked winter squash, coconut milk and curry powder to make a soup. If you love Italian food, tomatoes, basil, zucchini and garlic would be a good mix.
  • Let strong flavored vegetables be the main focus of the soup. If you have beets, make borsht. This also goes if you want to use a lot of a particular vegetable. If you have lots of mushrooms, let it be a mushroom soup. Look online and in cookbooks for inspiration.
  • If you have any leftovers, pour them into in wide mouth containers allowing at 2″ of space if you plan to freeze them. Fluids expand when they freeze, and allowing this space will help prevent the container from cracking. Fill the sink with 3-4″ of ice water. Place the containers in the ice water for 20 minutes. Move the containers to the refrigerator once they are no longer hot.
  • Once soups are completely cool they can bed moved into the freezer. To thaw soup, place them in a pot of warm water. The wide mouth prevents the glass from cracking and allows the slightly soup to slide out of the jar and into a saucepan to be reheated. Soup can stay frozen for over a month.
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