Sunday, March 1

Sunday Soup Blogging

THE third bag of onions I've bought this (last) month has confirmed, in its vermiform green intention to Get Growing!, what the previous two suggested: that Spring is just around the corner. Goodbye, hearty soups and stews! Farewell, twenty-two quart pot of chicken stock left on the deck overnight to cool with lid weighted down so the raccoons can't get in it! We repeat, with allowances for variations in your own milage, that we can't figure out why you'd wanna live where it's warm all the time.

Soup is a touch item, like dumplings, fried chicken, or home-baked goods. The best comes from people who make it every day, not from people who "know" "how" to "cook". It's not amenable to chef tricks. Good soup requires balance and finesse, not raw power; you can't dump a bunch of spices in a batch in an act of contrition. (Anybody know a fancy restaurant that'll fry you up a plate of chicken? I don't. They can't stand the competition from Popeyes.)

I'm a pretty decent cook, but I don't think there are as many as ten soups in my repertoire I'd risk on guests. Here's one, though: easy, fast, and three-seasonal:

Tortellini Soup

1 large onion, sliced
2T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced, roasted preferred by me
1 qt. good-quality chicken stock, or vegetable stock
1 c. water
8oz. fresh cheese tortellini
couple handfuls of spinach, depending on your hands
crutons; romano; pepper to taste

•saute onion in oil over medium-high heat; let it burn a little. c'mon. always let 'em burn a little

•add minced garlic and cook very briefly. never trust a cook who tells you to saute garlic all the while onions are sauteing

•add stock and water, bring to boil. add tortellini, return to boil, reduce to low boil and cook 6-7 minutes

•cut spinach in chiffonade stir into soup, turn off heat, and let sit for a minute while spinach wilts

•serve topped with crutons and grated romano. and yes, that means fresh grated romano.

4 servings


Poicephalus said...

I live where it is always warm because I like to ride my motorcycle 12 months every year.

But I would like to come by for some soup.


Davis X. Machina said...

I made a gallon of onion soup, which is now cooling in the mudroom, so that if the power goes out -- and it was out Sunday-Wednesday already this week -- I have something ready to go, and Coleman-friendly, without opening a fridge or freezer.

There won't be any good onions till mid-June or so now.

LA Confidential Pantloae said...

Mr. Riley,

While I have the utmost respect for your opinions and, indeed, regard your internet postings (both on this blog and elsewhere) as must-reads, I am afraid I must disagree with your traditionalist viewpoint on soups.

Harrumph and snap your suspenders all you want, but one can make excellent soup from recipes. I have in fact done so, and served them to considerable acclaim, not just to jaded urbanites such as myself,but to genuine heartlanders as well. Assuming, of course, that you would grant Harrisburg, PA as much heartland status as Indianapolis. If not, of course, we have another discussion.

Also, I do have some doubt that the term 'chiffonade' is familiar to chefs and those they love anywhere outside of a metropolitan center of 3,000,000 or more.

Lastly, and being unable to restrain the sneering impulse that comes so readily to us East Coast elitists, is 'cruton' the Roumanian spelling for 'crouton,' or did you have something else in mind?

Kia said...

In the perennially hot part of the world where I grew up, people love hot soup and various souplike things, usually on the spicy side. Pepperpot soup, callaloo, "run down", mannish water (a goat head soup), fish tea, beef soup, cock soup, stew peas (what the Southerners here call red beans and rice.) Sunday afternoons when one dined English-style, i.e., early, and watched one's uncle happily sweating over his bowl of beef soup and then listened to him sucking the marrow out of the bones. Fresh scotch bonnet peppers cut into it for the grownups. My grandfather particularly liked a soup/stew made from the head of a really big grouper. I suppose for people from cold climates, all this makes as much sense as the people I see here eating ice cream in winter.

And did cold-weather people invent gumbo? Actually that's a dish that totally supports your thesis about homemade vs. restaurant.

I can get homemade soup at some Caribbean restaurants (there's a Cuban place about halfway between DC and Baltimore that makes it the way my grandmother did) but I have not been able to figure out how to make it myself, not having learned as a child. The real thing has a texture that completely eludes my efforts. And I don't know anybody who knows how to make crab callalloo, so I go by a recipe in the Gourmet cookbook. It doesn't taste Caribbean--it tastes cookbooky but not in a bad way. It gets eaten.