Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ah, the mysteries of fall

It's a lot easier to like fall when fall behaves like spring. It's been sunny and warm here the past few days, and as I walked through the park this afternoon with my little baguette of a dog, I decided I needed to savor and enjoy what's left of the season. I needed to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, or in this case, stop and appreciate the golden and russet leaves covering the ground. So I swished through the dried leaves, the baguette hopping along at my side, and admired the thick carpet of color camouflaging, but not protecting my shoes from, the dog poop below. So pretty, though, those leaves.

And as I walked, now avoiding the leaves and the piles of poop that lay beneath them, I came upon a tiny crabapple, eaten down to its core and discarded under the tree from which it fell, by a bird, perhaps, or a squirrel. I chuckled to myself, imagining the little squirrel up on its hind legs as it ate, the diminutive apple clutched firmly in its tiny paws. Or, I thought, the apple might have been eaten by one of the human denizens of the park, a crazy person feeling a little peckish, perhaps, or just drunk. And then I stopped chuckling, because mental illness and alcoholism are nothing to joke about, and also, people were looking at me funny.

To further celebrate the season, I came home and ate the perfect fall meal. What, you ask, is the perfect fall meal? Why, a cup of my very own vegetable soup, of course, followed by one (or five) of Elisa's C3OW cookies. That's right, I invented this vegetable soup, as much as someone can invent a dish that was probably eaten by the Druids while they assembled Stonehenge.

Here's what I like about my very own vegetable soup that I invented: Because I invented it, I get to decide what to put in it. There are no mushrooms, of course, nor are there potatoes or pasta, which are ubquitious in vegetable soups, but, in my opinion, unecessary (and overcooked, if you reheat the soup for leftovers). And it's quite flavorful, my soup is. Hearty and autumnal, warm and filling. So full of vegetables it can be a meal in and of itself, but it's also good with a side of walnut toasts. Or a crabapple, perhaps.

The Best Vegetable Soup Since Stonehenge

1 small to medium onion, diced [or chopped or whatever; I'm looking for small pieces here]
2 carrots, diced [see above]
1 celery stalk, diced [ditto]

The French call it mirepoix, and it's one of the reasons this soup is so flavorful. Another is the Parmesan rinds.

4 garlic cloves, minced [or finely chopped] and separated
28 oz. can diced tomatoes [or whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks]
15 oz. can chick peas
6 cups liquid [I usually use 4 cups of stock, 2 cups of water]
1 cup frozen corn
1 zuke, diced or whatevs
2 bay leaves
Parmesan rinds [remember when I told you to save these? Now's the time to put them to use. If you don't have any saved rinds in your freezer, cut the rind off the cheese in your fridge, or just skip the rind and garnish the finished dish with a grate of fresh parm]

1. Heat a glug of oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and three cloves of minced garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, picking out any gross ones, add a pinch or two of salt, and bring to a simmer, add the chick peas, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add the liquid [I like to use four cups of stock and two of water, but I've used more water with good results, and of course, the better the stock, the better the soup, not that I can be bothered to make my own], cheese rinds, bay leaves, bring to a boil, and simmer for 25 minutes.

4. While that's simmering, heat another bit of oil in a small pan, add a clove of minced garlic, then the zucchini, a sprinkle of salt, and saute until the zuke is just cooked.

5. Back to the Dutch oven: After 25 minutes of simmering, add the corn and taste. Depending on how much stock you used, and how salty that stock is, you'll need to add more salt here, and some freshly ground pepper. Simmer for five more minutes to cook the corn, then add the cooked zucchini, and remove the bay leaves and parm rinds.

6. Put a handful of spinach in each bowl and ladle soup over it, then top with pesto [I just buy some premade stuff, but if I were a little more Martha Stewart and a little less crazy-chuckling-person-in-the-park, I'd have homemade pesto frozen in ice cube trays for just these sorts of occasions] and perhaps some grated Parmesan.

7. Eat soup, followed by numerous cookies, and thank the lord for the bounty of autumn.


  1. Mmmm.... your recipe for veggie soup makes homemade soup accessible for me. Maybe I'll attempt this in the winter when I'm feeling ambitious. Until then, Progresso it is! So sub-par - I should really splurge for Muir Glen, at least.

  2. I am so glad you finally posted this recipe! I was starting to think you were just never going to give it to me. Member when I asked you for it and asked you for it and asked you for it?

    Oh, maybe it was just once...

  3. It really is the best soup since Stonehenge! I have made this soup twice in the last three weeks. Each time I have made a double batch so I can eat it for lunch and dinner for a week - this gruel thing seems to run in the family.

    I use the Rapunzel bouillon that Kater recommends but I use the one with sea salt and herbs. I like the extra tang you get form the herbs. Also, I am a huge fan of mushrooms so I add mushrooms to it and I threw in edamame as well.

    I highly recommend this soup. Do it! You won't be sorry!