You know the story, right? A dirt-poor traveler had nothing but hunger to his name. His only possession was a cooking pot, and he got the fire going. He added water and a
rock. A passer-by was feeling rather hungry, so our clever cook invited him to share his meal on the condition that he add what he had. In went a carrot. The next wanderer
joined them, and added his potato. Someone else had a bit of dried meat, another gave his garlic. This went on until there was a great feast.
Cooking is the greatest nursery of creativity. What may appear at first as a failure can become the gateway to the greatest thing since potage.
Try to keep it simple at first. Give yourself the opportunity to recognize flavors and techniques. Experiment cautiously for the sake of your taste testers, if not for yourself.
Keep a pencil handy to note your discoveries.
Basic Vegetable Stock
*Always save the liquid from cooking vegetables & legumes.
Use trimmings of: apples, beans, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, corn cobs, garlic, lettuce & greens, melons, onions & their skins, pea pods, pears, pineapple, potatoes, pumpkins, scallions, spinach, squash & zucchini, tomatoes
Use strong flavors in moderation: cabbage, cauliflower, celery, asparagus
Bitter--don’t use: banana peel, citrus, eggplant
Collect vegetable scraps in the freezer until you have enough to half-fill a large pot. Sprinkle with about 1 t salt.
Cover with water and bring to the boil. Lower heat & simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste to be sure that you have a good flavor. Strain & store in the refrigerator.
Heat stock to boiling every week to kill bacteria.
Chicken Broth for 24
Combine & simmer until chicken falls from its bones, 1-2 hours:
at least 1 whole chicken*
4 chopped leeks
1 chopped head celery
S & P
8+ chopped carrots
6-8 l (quarts) water
2 kg chopped root vegetables (potato, turnip, yams, etc)
Strain soup. [Simmer dumplings]
*When de-boning chicken for other meals, reserve the bones in the freezer until needed. The Thanksgiving turkey carcass makes a fantastic broth.
**In the weeks leading up to preparations, freeze onion skins, garlic and vegetable peels--but NOT asparagus, broccoli, aubergine or citrus, as they will be too bitter
Sephardic Matzoth Soup can include
1 T paprika
1 kg cooked chickpeas
1 T ground cumin
1 kg green peas
Meat, Poultry and Fish Stocks: simmer meat bones for as long as possible, with bay leaves or juniper berries if you have them. Strain; season to taste. They freeze well.
You can make any soup by adding whatever is available to your hot stock. Cook until the chunks are tender, purée if you want it smooth. For noodle soup, add the pasta and simmer until just tender--they will continue to soften in the hot soup.
If your soup seems flavorless and bland, try adding one or a combination of: herbs, spices, dried onions, grated Parmesan or other hard cheese, sherry or Cognac, toasted nuts or seeds, grated coconut. This is also a good way to become familiar with different flavors. By experimentation, you’ll learn to identify one from another.
When you’ve eaten your Parmesan cheese down to the rind, pop it in the freezer until you’re making a hearty soup (like minestrone). Simmer the rind in the soup and remove just before serving to add a rich flavor.
Cream-of-any Vegetable Soup makes 5 C
1 T [olive] oil
2 crushed cloves garlic
1 minced onion
1/4 t salt
500 g chopped vegetable of your choice
[2 chopped potatoes]
1 bay leaf
3 C stock
herbs & pepper or curry powder to taste
Heat to boiling. Simmer gently until tender. Discard bay leaf.
Le cool slightly; Purée soup in blender--DO NOT purée hot liquid! It'll explode all over you!
Then heat gently with:
1 C milk or yogurt or grated cheese
[1/4 C sherry or cognac or 2 T fresh lemon or lime juice]
Please don’t boil your soup--that will result in a loss of flavor and beautiful color. Simmer it gently instead.
Steamed shrimp look and taste radiant in a creamy asparagus soup.
You can perk-up the flavor of carrot soup by stirring in a bit of orange juice.
Why not add your favorite spice? Star anise does something mysterious and wonderful to leek-ham soup.
Celeriac and Blue cheese makes a smooth and creamy combination with a delicious bite. Flavor it with a dash of Cognac.
For a really hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soup, whisk in a bit of instant potato purée. Add it a spoonful at a time, or you may end up with flavored mashed potatoes.
When adding eggs to any hot mixture, always mix a little of the hot mixture into the beaten eggs to avoid curdling...unless of course, if you want egg-drop soup.