The Floating Opera, the title of John Barth’s first novel, is a perfect way to describe soup. Todd Andrews, the protagonist in the novel, has to decide whether or not to kill himself. Don’t worry, I haven’t gone from soup to nuts, so I won’t be comparing cooking with his life vs. death decision. However, like Barth’s idea of an unmoored showboat, drifting up and down the river, I have had a bottomless pot of possibilities sitting on the stove, my wooden spoon paddling ingredients across a fast flowing current.
Leftovers, usually a grain or legume, are the master keys to my soups. Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way by Lorna Sass is a wonderful guide to grains. I encourage you to read it and learn about buying, cooking, and integrating grains into your meals. She even gives advice on storing leftover grains in your refrigerator. Start thinking of them as the prepared food aisle.
After a quick forage into my refrigerator, I start marrying ingredients together faster than an all-night chapel in Las Vegas. And unlike Vegas, what happens here, doesn’t have to stay here. For my latest soup, I used spinach, carrots, and leftover polenta. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I have a penchant for pesto. I added pea shoots pesto to jazz up the broth. The focaccia sitting on my bread board was a few days old. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spill a few tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet, and toss in garlic. In a few minutes I had croutons to float in the soup. For good measure, I topped each bowl with grated parmesan cheese.
There is a subtle beauty in the poetry of these everyday soups. You can use the template below to get you started. Soups on. Grab a spoon and celebrate your daily roll call.
1-2 cups cooked polenta
7-8 cups water
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 or 2 onions, diced
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, diced
spinach (I threw in a few handfuls)
salt and pepper to taste
a few spoonfuls of pesto
croutons (for each individual bowl)
grated parmesan cheese
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue cooking for another five minutes. Stir in carrots and cook briefly before adding 7 cups of water. Cook until carrots start softening and then stir in polenta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add spinach and pesto and continue cooking for a few minutes. Serve with croutons and parmesan cheese.