Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Early Fall Vegetable Soup

King oyster mushrooms
We've definitely entered an ideal state for making soups. There's a little bite in the air, and a windbreaker in the evening hours no longer cuts it. At the same time, I'm not quite sure if I'm ready to go totally just meat and potatoes in preparation for cooler weather. There is still a wealth of vegetables available as part of a late harvest. Sure, the tomatoes are no longer picture perfect and super sweet, and the corn is probably going to be gone in a week, but there are still tasty tomatoes, the last of the corn, fantastic, big fat green beans, thick and hearty carrots, and even the last of those beautiful, pink-speckled cranberry beans.
So in the spirit of keeping things healthy and appreciating the last of the vegetables, while also appealing to the need to ward off some of those growing chillier still fall nights, I ventured to simmer up a fantastic vegetable soup based all on what veggies are still available. For this recipe, you'll need one head of garlic, four ripe medium-sized tomatoes, four big fat king oyster mushrooms, some parsley, a good slice of rind left over from a piece of parmesan, two cobs of corn, two cups of cranberry beans, two cups of chopped green beans, four large carrots, and about six cups of good chicken stock. Everything about this faux recipe, like I said before, is about just using what is still available, and what you might have on hand. The only way to screw it up is to mis-time things so that some veggies are soggy and overcooked while others remain undercooked. That's why we're using this particular sequencing.
Roasted garlic
1. Starting out is nice and easy. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the top off of your head of small garlic, and place on top of a sheet of tin foil. Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil over the top, and then wrap tightly in the tin foil. The idea is to roast the garlic for about forty-five minutes so that the insides are nice and soft, and easily dissolve into the actual broth throughout the cooking process. Plus, roasting garlic is one of those smells where you find Jesus. Jesus is in the roasting garlic in the kitchen... look for him there.
Peeled, chopped tomatoes
2. While the garlic is roasting, take this time to peel and chop your tomatoes. You'll want to set a pot of water on the boil, and then slice a shallow x into the bottom of each tomato. Drop them into the boiling water, count to ten, take them out and rinse under cold water. The skins should come right off. After peeled, you can remove some of the seeds, and roughly chop the rest of the tomato flesh.
3. When your garlic is done roasting, and nicely cooled on the kitchen counter so that you can handle it safely, pour about two tablespoons of olive oil into a large dutch oven over low heat. Squeeze all of the garlic that you can out of the head and into the olive oil. Stir it round to mingle with the oil for a moment, and then add your chopped tomatoes. Allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly to get the tomatoes really going.
Parmesan rind
4. Now we'll want to add a bunch more ingredients to really get a well developed, earthy broth. First, with this particular soup, I chose to wrap about five sprigs of parsley into a little cheese cloth and throw this in with the tomatoes. I also took this opportunity to slice the kernels from my corn cobs, and throw the actual cobs into the soup to add more corn flavor. (The kernels themselves will be cooked near the end, because they don't take that long to cook.) Now, you can pour in all of your chicken stock, slice your king oyster mushrooms into approximately 1/2 inch rounds and throw those in, and as a final boost, though it may sound a little odd, add your rind of Parmesan cheese. This rind is going to add a lot of salt, will complement those delicious mushrooms perfectly, and also add a sort of nutty flavor to the soup. We'll take it out later on, along with the cheese cloth parsley packet. At this time, you can cover the pot, and allow it to simmer for about an hour or so, until you feel that perhaps the tomatoes have melted down nicely into the rest of the stock.
5. After your tomatoes have merged with the liquid stock quite a bit, you can start adding your other elements. First, add the carrots. Those should cook for about thirty minutes.
Cranberry beans
6. This might seem a little bit like cheating, but I like to precook my beans so that I can add them at the last minute and know that I won't be over cooking them. Beans can be tricky, even fresh beans. If they burst, your soup will begin to thicken up and get murky, which we do want to avoid with this soup, since we want it to be chunky, but still have a fairly clean tasting broth. So boil a pot of salted water, and add your cranberry beans. Let them jump around for about fourteen minutes and then taste. If the beans are no longer mealy tasting, then they are finished, and you can drain and set aside. Also, once the beans are cooked, you can use this as your cue to take out the parsley packet and the cheese rind.
Green beans
White corn kernels
7. After thirty minutes have passed, you can add your green beans. Let those cook for about twenty minutes. Then it's in with the corn kernels. After about five minutes, those should be well on their way to cooked, and you can add back your cranberry beans. When everything is warmed up, add salt and pepper to taste, and you're done!
Finished vegetable soup
This is a delicious, chunky, wonderful vegetable soup. The mushrooms add a little bit of a savory depth to the soup, not to mention that the texture of a long cooked mushroom is really fantastic, such a satisfying chew. Then there's the freshness of the parsley, the saltiness and nuttiness from the cheese, those sweet thick carrots, and then the bit of color from the green beans and those bright white kernels of corn. And let's not forget the cranberry beans, which add yet another element that really comes together with the earthy mushrooms and the nutty Parmesan. I hope you enjoy this tomato rich, sweet and homey vegetable soup.

1 head of garlic
4 medium tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
4 king oyster mushrooms
Rind of Parmesan
2 cobs of corn
2 cups cranberry beans
2 cups green beans
4 large carrots
Salt and pepper

No comments:

Post a Comment