Sunday, February 14, 2010
ROASTY, TOASTY CLEAN-OUT-THE-REFRIGERATOR SOUP
Somehow February always feels like the longest month, even though it's the shortest. The last two weeks have been no exception. Five inches of snow last weekend, followed by close to ten more this week in a two-pronged storm that didn't "quite" meet the meteorological definition of a blizzard, but was still pretty punishing for a city like Cincinnati. This morning I woke to predictions of another six to eight inches and felt my shoulders sag as though they were already bearing that cold, snowy weight. How to get through this long, dark night of the winter soul? My spirits warmed when Shamu at The Karmic Kitchen suggested this week's Dim Sum Sunday theme: hot, steamy soup. But what to make? I'd recently made bean soup, and did a soupy seafood stew last weekend. I pored over my bulging file of soup recipes, then googled some more. Lots of appealing ideas, including one for asparagus soup with parmesan custards and another for roasted eggplant soup with goat cheese dumplings - I'm always a sucker for "stuff" on top of soup. Inspired by the vision of a soup colorful enough to yield a blog-worthy photo, I also had to face the cold, harsh reality that I had so many leftovers in my refrigerator I didn't know where I would store more after making a pot of soup. So, as often happens here in the Intuitive Eggplant Kitchen, I decided to wing it, using a bunch of items I had on hand. First I roasted leeks, golden beets, and asparagus slicked in rendered bacon fat. Bacon always perks me up, but as I checked my veggies for doneness, the earthiness of their roasty aroma made me even happier I'd decided to go the roasting route. Then I decided to fry some bacon, because, well, what isn't better with bacon? I had in mind to make a sort of chunky baked potato vichysoisse "with stuff." So I sauteed shallots and mushrooms in - you got it - more bacon fat, then added chicken broth (alas, from a box this time, but I was, after all, cleaning out the refrigerator), some white wine, and eventually some 1/2 & 1/2. I let the roasted leeks steep in the creamy goodness for a while, then added two leftover smoked potatoes cut into hearty chunks. When the soup pot was back up to a simmer, I added the beets and asparagus, not wanting to overcook them. Tasting for salt and pepper, I added more, but still wasn't quite where I wanted to be. A bit of dried thyme and basil from the winter pantry helped, but what made it all come together was tarragon. Fortified with this steamy bowl of soup and a bit of toasted bread with goat cheese, I'm ready to head down the hill to the bus stop tomorrow morning . . . I think.