Archive for March 17, 2011

Soup Week – Not To Be Confused With Weak Soup

Two weeks ago, my bff Rae sent me a photo of a flowering Tabebuia tree currently blossoming in her yard.  The subject line of the email reads, “I guess it’s officially spring!” 

Well, maybe in Florida it is.  Not so here in East Central Minnesota.  As of the second week of March, I still can’t see my 5’2” next door neighbor standing by her vehicle when I walk down my driveway.  The culprit is not poor vision, it’s that imposing barricade of mounded snow – the result of shoveling our record-approaching snowfall out of the way for the past four and a half months.  Even as I type up these notes, more flakes appear and drift lightly to earth. 

78.7”  That’s the figure I’m hearing when I dare to peek at televised weather reports.  Sometimes it’s better not knowing these things. 

A safer bet for non-stressful television viewing is a local program that broadcasts, among other things, recipes and shopping bargains of interest to Twin Cities’ residents.  I tune in most weekdays for some lighthearted chatter as I eat a late, post-snow-trudge lunch, fascinated by a regular feature called Kitchen Takeover.  In these segments, a local media-savvy chef goes into the homes of viewers and teaches them how to introduce some novelty into family meals using ingredients they already have on hand.  The very thought sends shudders down my spine.  So much for the non-stressful bit. 

Surely I can’t be the only observer to whom this sounds more like a living nightmare than a dream come true.  I’ll grant you that it makes for good television.  But I don’t even allow my family and friends into my kitchen to help with clean-up when they’ve just finished dining at my table.  There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which is that, even though I clean up along the way like Mom taught me, my prep area still looks as if it had been marauded by a hoard of Huns by the time everything gets dished up and set on the table. 

And doesn’t anybody else out there cook in a decades-old kitchen with warped cabinetry, dulled counter tops, squeaky drawers, and cracking linoleum?  Certainly not the eager beaverettes who gobble up the chance to invite this handsome stranger in to rummage around in their pantries.

This brings me to fess up to the foundational source of my horror at the thought:  I subscribe to the Erma Bombeck credo that it is much easier on the conscience to pack away every tiny bit of leftover food into a tightly covered container and then throw it away two weeks later, after it has started to reproduce and turn odd colors.  This practice makes me a bit self-conscious about inviting guests into the clearing-up process.  Just imagine having a celebrity chef rooting around amongst all the various petri dishes.  I can’t even. 

But keeping dibs and dabs of leftovers has advantages as well, and in my defense, I rescue far more of those little bits and bobs than ever get sacrificed to the garbage disposal – which I don’t have in my 52 year old kitchen.  One excellent use for them is in homemade soups, and this being just one more in a long succession of wintry days here in the Upper Midwest, a week of soups seems just the prescription to soothe the weary soul who longs for fresh cantaloupe, but will no doubt miss these bubbling pots of heartiness when the summer heat and humidity come rolling in. 

So, from my own files and adapted from other cited sources, I offer you recipes for Chicken Lentil Soup With Celery, Light Tomato Soup Three Ways, a swoon-inducing Sweet Potato Soup, my carnivore’s version of Rachel Ray’s Curried Vegetable Soup, the Leftover Maven’s favorite Mish Mash Beef Chowder, and finally, Christmas Soup, based on a recipe from Alton Brown.   

That’s six days’ worth; on the seventh day, you rest, and serve up a soup-sampling smorgasbord to ensure that there are no leftover leftovers.  As always, non-foodies can skip to the last paragraph.  (more…)

March 17, 2011 at 2:25 am Leave a comment

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