Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Everything but the kitchen sink

This is one of those soups Michael will take one look at and say something like, Is there anything you didn't put in the pot? I am up to my elbows in A•B•C Vegetable Soup. It is a veggie broth and tomato base with all manner of chopped, diced, sliced and minced vegetation (and those cute little alphabet noodles!) We also still have Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

I've been thinking about soup a lot recently. It's a real favorite with Cafe customers and it is bitterly cold out there today. But my thoughts have taken more of a philosophical bent.

Soups can be very sublime, have deep complex flavor or highlight one perfect note. Word on the street is the last batch of Tomato Basil Soup was one of my best. That's a good example of a soup that highlights one perfect note - the union of tomato and fresh basil. Michael's Chicken Noodle Soup has a very loyal following and it is sublime. But it's just chicken noodle soup you say? No. Chicken noodle soup is where you toss a chicken in the pot with onions, carrots and celery and let it cook away for the afternoon; take the chicken off the bones, toss in some noodles and call it dinner. Michael starts his soup by roasting vegetables for the stock (mind you, these veggies are throw out later and are replaced with fresh vegetables to be served in the actual soup). Noodles are cooked and held seperately from the soup and added to each bowl as it is served. This keeps the noodles from over cooking and becoming a gummy mess. Did I mention the noodles are tossed with extra virgin olive oil and minced parsley? My point is sublime is often about taking extraordinary care with very ordinary things - it is love shown in the details.

But my Vegetable Soup? I throw everything in but the kitchen sink and hope for the best.

Some of our most popular soups are the easiest ones to make. The Tomato Basil Soup is one example, another is the Pumpkin Black Bean Soup. I'll tell you a little secret. When you see the PBB on the menu it probably means there is a lot of work to be done in the kitchen. It's my fall back easy soup. With every ingredient in your cubbard, a great pot of soup can be had in about 30 minutes. All you have to do is dice an onion and open a few cans.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup
4 cups vegetable stock (or water and 4 Knorr Vegetable bullion cubes)
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 32 oz. can, pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling, but usually found in the same place)
1 16 oz. can, black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoon curry powder (I like Penzey's Sweet Madras Curry)
2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
1 32 oz. can tomatoes, diced or pureed

In a soup pot (6 qt. or larger), saute onions in olive oil unitl tender and lightly colored. Have stock or water and bullion at the ready. Add curry, cumin and cayenne to the onions and saute to toast spices. This will only take a minute, then add stock or bullion water all at once. Add all remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat until hot.