Tag Archives: soup

Off the Beet’n Path Soup

My wife turned toward me and asked that fatal question. No, not “how does this look?” The other question. Having just finished our coffee, we were two love-abiding citizens sitting in the kitchen of our contentment. She looked in the refrigerator as if it would provide an answer to her question and then shifted her attention to me. I could hear the matrimonial metronome ticking. I could feel us dancing to the rhythm of an unspoken dialogue indigenous to couples who have been together a long time. I could see by her facial expression that she wasn’t in the mood for yet another peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich. Cold air was taking a bite out of a May day. Definitely not yogurt and fruit, either. I could hear myself saying yes before she asked what she should take for lunch. Yes, I will make soup.

Guided by the vision of a warm flame, I gathered a bunch of beets and a scattering of turnips. I always have what seems like an inexhaustible supply of organic carrots because I buy 10 lb. bags from Costco, so I pulled out 3 or 4 carrots. I grabbed a head of cabbage because I wanted to throw a little into the mix. Beets and cabbage does not a borscht make. (If you are having a problem making sense of that sentence, try reading it aloud with a Yiddish accent.) I could’ve easily pulled out two other vegetables from the fridge. Or I could’ve taken out a bowl of cooked wheat berries. But I was after the comfort of the colors red and orange.

Potluck. That’s the best way to describe my method of making soup. And, so far, it’s been a big pot of luck. Ask my wife, she’s the one not eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

Off the Beetn Path Soup

1 bunch of beets (3-4 beets), chopped

3-4 turnips, chopped

3-4 carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery, diced

6-7 cups of water

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 or 2 onions, diced

3 or more large garlic cloves, chopped

orange zest (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

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 celery and cook briefly before adding water. Add beets, turnips, and carrots. Cook until vegetables start softening, about 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add orange zest (optional).


Quick Split Pea Soup

My stressed out wife says she needs soup for lunch today. She wants to know if I can deliver. Deliver, as in will it be ready by noon? Or, can I walk it up the block to where she works? I knew that with only a few ingredients and minimal cooking time, I could create a soup that was unassuming, uncluttered, and unadorned, honed to the bone and honest in its goodness. I also knew that I had pesto in the refrigerator. Pesto is one of the all-time soup doctors. I usually have some type of pesto in the freezer or refrigerator. I recently made arugula pesto because I bought a big bag of it at the farmer’s market.

I poured a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pot and diced an onion while the oil got hot. This is called buying time. It’s similar to writing a letter when you don’t yet know what you’re going to say, so you start with the salutation. It makes you think that you’ve started. And guess what. You have. Once again you’ve tricked yourself into believing that you know what you’re doing. And guess what. You do.

What could I pull off the shelf that was within arm’s reach and not buried behind my memory’s cobwebs—something that wouldn’t require pre-soaking or take hours to cook? Split peas.  If you’re keeping score, that’s multiple choice answer A. No time to look at the other choices, certainly not E, none of the above. I chopped a few garlic cloves and threw them into the pot, added carrots and continued cooking for a few minutes before adding water. In no time, I was carrying a container of soup to my wife. I had a bowl myself. “Pretty good,” she said. I had to agree. A man doesn’t argue with his wife.

Quick Split Pea Soup

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, diced

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

3 carrots, diced

1½ cups split peas

7 cups water

salt and pepper to taste

a few spoonfuls of pesto

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. Add split peas when water starts boiling. Simmer for approx. 30-40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pesto when split peas are cooked and continue cooking for a few minutes.

Bread and Cabbage Soup: Soul-satisfying Simplicity.

There is elegance in simplicity. Chopping an onion. Smashing garlic against a cutting board. Ladling hot broth over a piece of bread.

At its most elemental, cooking soup is the art of wooing flavor out of a pot of water. If soup is an antidote against civilization and its discontents, then bread and cabbage soup is the plain truth. Uncomplicated and unpretentious, it uplifts and nourishes the soul, providing comfort against hard times and cold weather. It is a pas de deux between fire and water, onion and garlic, bread and cabbage. It is a celebration of simplicity.

Soup, however, can be a hard sell in our household. My vegetarian daughter wants nothing to do with vegetables, grains, or legumes floating in water. And my son’s idea of a vegetable is a potato or a carrot. My wife and I actively participate in willful acts of omission when asked what’s in a pureed soup. Does our son really need to know that we’re advancing civilization by camouflaging cauliflower or broccoli? My daughter’s wink lets us know that she, too, is a willful participant in our sleight of hand. It never hurts to have one of your kids on your side.

So, why did I think I could sell them on eating bread and cabbage soup? I didn’t. I planned on serving them pizza that was leftover from dinner the previous night. The soup was for my wife and I. Soup and salad. I had a head of cabbage in the refrigerator and leftover four-grain bread waiting for me on the cutting board. I turned on the oven to reheat the pizza and thought why waste an opportunity to roast garlic to squeeze on the bread. We were good to go.

I warmed slices of bread topped with garlic paste and grated mozzarella cheese. When the pizza was hot I called my kids to the dinner table. I thought I needed to have my hearing checked when my daughter asked if she could try my soup. And checked again when my son also requested a taste. “This is really good. Can I have a bowl?” my daughter asked. “Can I have one, too?” my son chimed in, seconding her motion.

Salad anyone?

Bread and Cabbage Soup

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic

½ head green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

6-7 cups of stock or water

bread (preferably leftover or day-old)

cheese (I used mozzarella, but any cheese will do)

salt and pepper, to taste

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 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, cover, and cook until the cabbage has wilted. Add the stock or water (I used water and added left over tomato broth from canned tomatoes that I used for pizza sauce). Lower the heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Toast slices of bread and melt cheese on top of each slice. Place each slice in a soup bowl and ladle soup over.

I kept it very simple. If you want, you can also arrange layers of bread, cheese, cabbage and broth in a casserole and bake in a 350° oven until the cheese has melted and the crust is golden (about 15 minutes). Then ladle into soup bowls and serve.