Frugal Soup for the Soul

It’s a rainy day in Lafayette, Louisiana today. I’m sitting in my home-office typing to you with the window slightly open, rain pouring off the gutters on my roof. The temperature outside is 70 degrees, arguably too warm for soup but the rain gives enough chill to validate my desire to make soup. This morning, also, I was followed by blogger John Bryan-Hopkins. His blog outlines national food days. Today, is national soup day. Who can disagree with that? The only way I could possibly be more convinced that today is a day for making soup would be my vegetables chopping themselves and jumping into the pot!
Most of my friends know that I am a “foodie”. Though I generally detest the term (it’s like the culinary “hipster”, it makes me cringe when I hear it but I can’t say I’m a chef so “foodie” it is) I accept this label and the gifts that come with being one. For Christmas this year my surrogate family (mom and brother) gave me an indoor herb garden and a book called “1 Stock, 100 Soups”. Everyone who cooks should know how to make a vegetable stock but in case you don’t this is the basic recipe for vegetable stock, which I will be using to make my soup today:

Makes 4 Cups:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion chopped finely
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks finely chopped
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 small parsnips, thinly sliced
  • 1 small turnip, thinly sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 fresh parsley sprigs
  • 2/3 c dry white wine
  • 4 cups water

Heat the oil in a large pan. I use sunflower oil because I love it. Add the onion, leeks, celery, and potato and cook over a low heat until softened and just beginning to color. Add the rest of the vegetables and white wine, and cook for two minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Increase the heat to medium, pour in the water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for an hour. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the basic vegetable stock into bowl. (I get really intense here to get the most flavor out I use a food mill on the vegetables and then wring them out in a cheese cloth to get the most stock out of them. This is optional, you could just strain them with a fine mesh and you’d be fine, I’m sure.) Then, I strain it again in a finer strainer. .

**photos of stock**

It will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. I pour mine into an ice cube tray once it has cooled, and once the stock cubes are frozen I bag them in a gallon ziploc container, this way when I need stock it defrosts quickly and it saves space in my tiny freezer! Making your own stock is one of the most rewarding and money saving things you can do in your kitchen. I am notorious for cooking dinners that take less than a half hour to prepare and the secret to the flavor in them is using homemade stock in nearly everything.

It’s raining today so I’m not going to go to the store for my soup ingredients, nor will I follow any particular recipe. I went pantry shopping and found a soup! Ingredients:

**photos of ingredients**

  • 6 frozen stock cubes
  • 1/2 c pearl barley
  • 1 bag frozen baby carrots
  • 1/2 lb ground chuck (frugal tip: Be friends with your butcher! If roasts are cheaper than ground meat, ask him to grind up a roast for you. Yesterday, chuck roasts were on sale for 1.50 a pound! Ground chuck pre-packaged was 2.49 a pound (sale price!) I asked at the counter for the butcher to grind up 10 pound of roast and picked up my ground meat on the way out after I had bought my produce)
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 bag frozen brussels sprouts

Optional for garnish

  • 1 onion sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic sliced

Put the barley into a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently with occasional stirring until all the water is absorbed. Add your ground chuck and cook until browned. Throw in stock cubes, frozen carrots, and Brussels sprouts. Continue to cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender and no longer frozen. (Would probably be a lot better with fresh vegetables, but I’m not leaving in this horrible rain!) Pour in your can of tomato sauce (I used a 15 ounce can). Stir frequently, add in no more than one cup of water if your soup looks thick, the vegetables will lose water and add it to the soup as it cooks.

My grandmother taught me this way of garnishing soups that is very elegant and tasty. Slice up onions and coat them lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread onion slices out onto a cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees, checking every five minutes for browning. When the onions seem brown or sticking to the pan, stir them a little. When the onions are mostly colored lay the sliced garlic in the pan and coat it in the olive oil and seasonings that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking onions and garlic in the oven for about 20 more minutes, checking for browning every five minutes and stirring. In about thirty minutes you have deeply flavorful carmelized onions and garlic. Put a spoonful of the mixture onto each bowl of soup before serving and it takes the soup to a whole other dimension of flavor! (Or just eat it out of the pan, it’s that good.)


Note from thepandamother: UNFORTUNATELY my phone will not upload the pictures, I think some drool (Ethan’s, not mine) got into the usb port. I’m currently storing it in a bag of rice to absorb the moisture (cool trick for electronics that get wet!) so it should work in the next couple of days. I will post the photos then.