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A shy cook's question for Lane Morgan about making soup from scratch  RSS feed

 
Valerie Dawnstar
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Hi Lane,
My first attempt at making a soup from scratch was a dismal failure. It tasted awful! I have been reluctant to try cooking anything since. Have any encouraging words for a shy cook? Super simple recipes?
Thanks for being here!
 
Lane Morgan
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Oh Valerie, you can do it! Are there kinds of soup you particularly like? If you could give me a couple of favorites we can figure something out from there. Do you do other kinds of cooking?
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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I am more of a baker. Mix it up, throw it in the oven and you're done.
I really like all kinds of veggies - never met a vegetable I didn't like. My weakness is knowing what foods work together. It seems some folks have a sort of sixth sense about that. I would like something that is easy to throw together with just a few ingredients (long ingredient lists put me off right away, but I have an awesome herb garden) and a bonus would be something that could be made in large quantities and then could be frozen.
 
Brenda Groth
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think of what you would find in boughten soup and put in the same types of things...say chicken..is good with almost any vegetable, the usual are peas, carrots, potatoes, celery (celery makes the soup). just add some stock or broth and chicken meat and some poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, if you don't have poultry seasoning add sage..

you can do the same with beef, same vegetables only use beef and beef broth..some thyme in place of sage.

cabbage is good with carrots, onions, celery, beans or green beans and i like it with ground beef and some tomatoes..but you can throw nearly anything in..

that should give you a start..always taste before adding more herbs..or salt.
 
Jessica Gorton
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The only way to really learn how to cook, and to learn what tastes good together (and to you!) is to start doing it! I've had some dismal failures in my years of cooking all kinds of things - I'm the kind of person that likes to experiment, never met a recipe I haven't altered in some way. But over time, I've come across some combinations that I've collected into an inner "go-to" cookbook. I love winter squash with leeks and bacon, raspberries with chocolate, parsnips and rosemary, brussel sprouts with maple syrup and sriracha...I could go on, but you could also read a bunch of cookbooks for likely combos.

If I could plug a different cookbook than Lane's here (sorry, Lane!)...I just finished reading Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food, and I kept thinking throughout, "this is how I cook!". Her lessons on cooking are perfect, a simple set of guidelines that will teach you the basic methods of grilling, braising, baking, etc etc. She combines that with an array of really pared down recipes, a quartet of sauces, a pizza dough and a pie crust, roasted vegetables...if you are unconfident in the kitchen, this is a book to gently guide you through the different kinds of food preparation you need to know.
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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I will experiment in the garden. I can mostly eat my failures there. I suppose I could compost my failures in the kitchen but that is little compensation for when I'm hungry. I am more interested in putting vegetables together without the meat so much.
 
Lane Morgan
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Simple soups

Here's one easy, creamy soup, which I got from my friend Larry Gonick.
I haven't tried this, but I think a vegan version with coconut milk would work just fine. I usually use 1%. When you have tasty vegetables, you don't need a lot of butterfat to make the soup good.

3 large leeks, white parts only, chopped
2 pounds winter squash, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup milk or cream
salt and pepper
nutmeg

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the leeks and sauté gently 3 or 4 minutes until they soften. Don’t let them brown. Add the cubed squash, stir to coat with oil, and sauté another minute or two. Add stock, bring to boil, and then simmer, covered, until squash is soft.

Purée mixture. Then add the milk or cream and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with grated nutmeg, and serve hot.
SERVES 4

And here is another, not creamy, and really best with meat stock and/or lard

BASQUE SOUP
This is adapted from Elizabeth David’s book of Mediterranean food, a great sourcebook of traditional recipes (with traditionally vague measurements). You may substitute olive oil for the lard; it won’t taste the same, but it will be good. This soup has a robust flavor, as you’d expect, and with good bread and a salad, it makes a complete meal.

1/4 cup lard or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 pound pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1 medium cabbage, sliced
1/2 pound dried haricot beans or navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 quarts stock or water
salt and pepper

Heat lard or olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan or soup pot. Add onion and brown. Add pumpkin, cabbage, beans, and garlic and cook briefly, stirring to coat the vegetables with oil.

Add stock or water, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook gently, covered, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Adjust seasoning before serving.
SERVES 6.



And here's my basic vegetable stock, from the book, along with the reason I forced myself to actually write it down.

I’ve made some not-tasty vegetable stock in my time. I used to figure that pretty much any garden leftovers, plus some onion, would make a good broth. I was wrong. The wrong flavor balance can ruin the soup, especially soups designed to highlight mild vegetable flavors. Now that decent vegetable broth and vegetable bouillon mixtures are widely available, it’s not necessary to make your own. However, every garden produces vegetables that are too grungy to serve up on their own but are ready to give their flavors to the pot. Here’s a good basic combo. The lentils add a bit of depth that I like, especially in vegan dishes. Leave them out if you want a clearer, lighter stock. This freezes well, so make lots when the mood and the ingredients coincide

An onion, roughly chopped. (I don’t peel it. The skin adds color).
2 medium leeks, white part only, chopped
2 carrots
2 cups of chopped garden greens. Chard and beet greens are good choices, lettuce is another possibility. Avoid the cabbage family except for maybe a bit of kale
A handful of parsley
A bay leaf
2 celery sticks or ½ cup chopped celeriac (optional)
1/3 cup lentils
8 cups of water

Put all ingredients and the water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 40 minutes. Strain, pushing the vegetables against the sides to collect those last bits of flavor. You can add salt to taste or wait and salt the soup when it’s made.

 
Landon Sunrich
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Brenda Groth wrote:celery makes the soup
Distilled wisdom right there. Home grown organic celery often lacks the bulk and watery crunch of store bought - but the flavor!!! Its a whole different vegetable. I never liked celery until I grew it.
 
Terri Matthews
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I struggled with soup for YEARS before I learned that I was trying too hard!

The first soup that did well enough was chicken soup. That is, I boiled some chicken with a buillion cube and I added a little pinch of dried garlic. THEN I got just a pinch of vegetables from the fridge. This did not give me a chunky soup but that was for the best as it was a simple enough soup so that I could tell what worked.

Later on I added too much of one item from the leftover vegetables in the fridge-was it green beans?- and I realized immediately that it tasted more like green beans than like soup. I learned a LOT more from making the bare-bones version of the soup than from the recipes that I had been using.

I make a very good soup now.
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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Thanks for all the inspiration all! Time to get cooking!
 
Valerie Dawnstar
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... and I'll be sure to put in lots of leeks this year!
 
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