02 May 2017

"There ain't a body, be it mouse or man, that ain't made better by a little soup."

Today I'm making soup. 
I like to make soup because it's basically just putting a bunch of good stuff into a pot (or a slow cooker) and going away to do whatever one wishes or needs to do.  The bits and pieces will cook, the flavors will meld; soup is like a good community it makes a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. As the pot bubbles happily, the soup will fill the kitchen, the house, the world with an aroma of savory goodness. When day is done and one drags oneself to the home hearth, tired and perhaps depressed, soup will be ready to fill the empty places, to warm the cold, to comfort with a full tummy and maybe, just maybe a little peace or at least some rest. 
John Steinbeck (East of Eden) said, "The lore has not died out of the world, and you will find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for the funeral either." 

As the school year ends with all sorts of assessments and testing and field trips and rushing desperation, my church will show the teachers at Shearn Elementary (just a few blocks away from our building) a little appreciation. I'm making soup for lunch tomorrow. 
"That is soup that you are smelling... times are terrible. And when times are terrible soup is the answer. Don't it smell like the answer?" Kate Di Camillo (The Tale of Despereaux) who is also the source of the quote that titles this blog. 
My soup is both my "thank you" to all the educators who have spent this year with our children and my prayer for them as they face the final weeks of this year. I like it when I can ground my prayer with action.

The guests around my dinner table now often include vegetarians. I have found soup a helpful solution. On a recent menu was Vegetable Beef Stew, Deconstructed. I made a classic French Onion Soup in the slow cooker with a chuck roast. Before serving I removed the roast, shredded it, and served it on a platter.  In a separate pot I had made a vegetarian veggie soup. My guests served themselves. Some ate veggie soup. Some ate French onion soup. Some like my husband ate mostly meat. Others Reconstucted Vegetable Beef Stew by taking some out of both pots. A salad, a selection of cheeses, and crispy bread. Delish!

Soup is for me a dangerous undertaking with somewhat uncertain results. The first line of one of my never-finished-writing-it novels reads: "She was the kind of woman who couldn't make soup; she always ended up with a stew."  That's me!

My soup of the day is a creamy vegetable spinach artichoke soup with tortellini and mushrooms.
I don't think soups require recipes (probably how I end up with stew, huh?) but here goes:

Melt 5 Tbsp. butter. Add 5 ribs of celery (diced fine) and 2 sweet onions (diced).
Saute for a few minutes (medium heat) and add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms.
Season with granulated garlic and parsley, basil, thyme, black pepper, salt.
Add 5 oz. bag of baby spinach (when I make it again, I'll use 2 bags).
Saute until spinach wilts.
I had about 2 cups of good homemade chicken stock in the freezer and that was already in the slow cooker (5 quart oval) thawing. I added 2 cups of Swanson's chicken broth. (If I hadn't had the stock that needed to be used, I'd just use more broth. If I went with a vegetable broth, the soup would be vegetarian. I lined the cooker to make this clean-up a bit easier.)
Add 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables.
Add the celery, onion, mushrooms, spinach mixture.
Add 2 cans (14 oz. 5-7 count) artichoke hearts (drained and quartered).
Add 1 1/2 cups of Half-and-Half.
Add 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese (I grated it, not from that green can.)
Lightly Stir.
Cook on high for 3 hours.
Which will be just in time for me to adjust seasonings and have a bowl for supper.

"If a cook can't make soup between two and seven, she can't make it in a week." Anthony Trollope, (Can You Forgive Her?) My Trollope reading got interrupted a couple of years ago and slipped so far to the bottom of the list that he was gone. I'm hoping to get back to him soon.

Before reheating, I may add a bit more broth or cream if the soup is not soupy enough.
And I expect I'll probably add a bit more Grated Parmesan.
I'll refrigerate over night and reheat tomorrow morning.
When it's good and warm I'll add 10 oz. of four cheese tortellini and cook on high for about 30 minutes. (Tortellini could have gone in with everything else but I like it a bit firmer. I thought the overnight wait would make it mushy. In fact, someone who is not me could have made this soup the morning of the luncheon but I don't do mornings.)

Then I'll turn the setting to warm, unplug the slow cooker, and take it to Shearn for the teachers' soup and salad luncheon.

"If you feel all damp and lonely like a mushroom, find the thick, creamy soup of joyfulness and just dive into it in order to make life tastier." Munia Khan, a poet I've recently discovered. I don't yet know whether I like her but I do like this image.

Another soup related discovery: I like seasoned croutons in soup even better than crackers.