“Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?”
Judith Martin (Miss Manners)
The first time I ever had a matzo ball was in Prince Edward Island. In a bean soup, no less, introduced to me by an ex-pat New York Jewish vegetarian back-to-the-lander, in the last century. Maybe it was the times. Heady insights were fast and frequent in those youthful days, but I was really blown away by this. This was definitely ‘off road’ and I exulted in the revelation of this new and exotic food of the gods. I have since familiarized myself with the chicken soup variety and hold it high in regard. I don’t know if it’s from nostalgia or not, but to this day, matzo balls in bean soup give me a thrill like nothing else. I hope you’ll like it too.
Recipe: Matzo Ball Bean Soup
First start the Matzo Balls……
2/3 cup matzo meal
2 tbsp oil
1/3 cup sparkling or soda water
2 eggs, beaten
Mix matzo meal with water and oil.
Add eggs and salt.
Cover and refrigerate for an hour. You can do this part the day before if it suits you.
Now you can start the Soup…..
The preparation of this soup is not done in a linear movement; it’s sort of a multi-tasking effort. So I’d like to diverge from my usual formatting of ingredients and highlight them so they stand out more clearly.
½ lb. dried navy or cannellini beans which would have been soaking in a large pot of water since last night, or, for the last 8 to 10 hours.
Drain the beans and then cover them again with water and bring to a boil with a couple of bay leaves. Lower heat and simmer for a good hour or more. Alternatively, you can skip this part and use 2 cans of white kidney beans.
While that’s underway, heat a “dollop” (hi Julia!), or two, of olive oil in another large pot.
Add to it the next three vegetables which have been chopped into bite-sized pieces….
2 leeks, cleaned and trimmed of dark green ends and outer tough leaves
3 large carrots
3 stalks of celery
Cook and stir this mixture over medium heat for a few minutes.
Add to this:
2 litres (or quarts) of vegetable stock
Cover and bring to just barely a boil. Immediately lower heat and simmer for 10 min.
If the beans need more cooking, continue doing so. When they are tender, add them to the
vegetables and stock.
Simmer now for at least another ½ hour. With a potato masher, mash some of the beans and vegetables to thicken the soup. Alternatively, you might puree some of it (just be sure to remove bay leaves first) and then mix it back in.
Heat a large skillet and add:
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups shitake (or other) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
Saute on med-high heat, stirring, for about 5 min.
Add to soup, along with:
½ bunch of parsley, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ to 1 tsp ground white pepper, if you have it
2 tsps poultry seasoning, which is a ground blend of sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, nutmeg, and black pepper…..if you don’t have the blend, then try to add some combination of these herbs, as you see fit.
salt, to taste
Stir this all in and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. Here you can fiddle with the seasoning and thickness and add more spice or more stock if it needs it.
While the soup is ‘making’, get back to the Matzo Balls.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. With two wet spoons, (the dough is sticky and wetness helps), form 1 ½ to 2 inch balls of the matzo mixture, placing them on a large plate. This makes about 10 to 12 balls. Nudge them carefully into the boiling water, lower heat, and let simmer for 25 or 30 minutes. They will double in size. Remove to a plate and add to soup when it is ready. Garnish with minced green onion.
The other Soup of the Day is made with Yellow Peppers and Winter Squash. When I make it in the summer, I use carrot instead of squash and weight it more heavily with the peppers. It’s really good served chilled on a hot day with a swirl of yogurt and some fresh coriander. At this time of year, however, it is comfort that we want, and the addition of roasted squash is just the thing for it. You can use Hubbard or Butternut or my favorite, which is Buttercup.
Recipe: Yellow Pepper – Squash Soup
½ to 1 buttercup squash, or, 1 ½ to 2 lbs
¼ cup olive oil
2 leeks, trimmed and cleaned, or, 1 large onion, chopped
2 or 3 yellow peppers, chopped
1 to 2 liters of vegetable stock
1 tbsp La Bomba, or some other spicy condiment
salt and pepper (black and/or white)
Pumpkin seeds for garnish
First halve and de-seed the squash. Place cut side down in a shallow baking dish with a splash of water and roast at 350 degrees for at least 30 to 45 min., or until tender. Turn the squash over part way through for even doneness. When cool, scoop out of shell.
Heat oil in med-large pot and sauté the leeks and peppers for 5 min.
Add one liter of stock and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 min., or until tender.
Add squash and hot stuff. Puree. Add more stock as necessary to achieve the desirable texture.
Salt and Pepper to taste. Garnish with pumpkin seeds.
Something good to go with this soup would be Spicy Fennel – Mozzarella Crostini……
Recipe: Spicy Fennel – Mozzarella Crostini
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 to 2 tsps fennel seeds
¼ tsp chili pepper flakes, and/or:
1 tsp La Bomba, or other spicy condiment
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 10-inch Baguette or Ciabatta, slit horizontally, then cut vertically into 3 to 5 -inch pieces
Add to a well-heated cast iron skillet the oil, fennel seeds and chili flakes and stir.
After a couple of minutes, add the sliced fennel and La Bomba.
Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until caramel colored and tender…..about 15 to 20 min.
Add minced garlic and stir. Turn off heat and cover.
Reassemble the cut bread and heat in 325 degrees oven for 5 or 6 min.
Remove and open out. Top with fennel and cheese. Place under broiler for a few minutes to melt cheese.
A good week to all!