Post # 54 Mmmm! Soup Is Good Food!

October 5, 2012 at 10:23 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 54 Mmmm! Soup Is Good Food!

It’s getting cold out on the prairie now.  We have all the windows and doors in the house open to chase out the dust and stale air.  In the evening the scent of the night-blooming jasmine in the garden wanders through the house.  The fireplace crackles in the morning and evening, and the puppy with little fur curls up in the heat from the flames.  It’s perfect soup weather!

Soup, when made properly, is some of the most delicious, economical, and nutritional stuff on the planet.  The broth is infused with all the goodness of the ingredients being used.  Making it warms the house with a wonderful aroma.  Eating it warms the body and spirit with a wonderful sense of well-being.

Last night, I made Beef Onion Soup with Tomatoes.  It’s six simple ingredients, one of those being water.  Check out the picture below!

It’s so simple to make that the only real challenge is knowing when to stop adding ingredients!

First, take your chunk of beef and cut it into one-inch chunks.  If there’s too much fat, remove it, but on this piece, I left all the fat on it.  Fat adds richness and flavor to the soup, but too much will make the soup feel greasy.  You can use any kind of meat you have, but I particularly like the flavor of beef and onions.  I was introduced to this flavor combination in a Chinese restaurant in Africa.  Anyway, brown the beef chunks in a tablespoon of oil in a large pot, in batches as necessary.  Please don’t crowd the meat because this will cause it to steam and not brown.  The result will be gray chunks of meat and little color to your broth.  Second, once the meat is all browned, chunk up your onion and garlic.  The onion can be in various sizes, but the garlic should be uniformly small.  Don’t mash the garlic, but mince it.  Biting into a small garlic chunk is one of the pleasures of this soup.  Fry the onion and garlic for about a minute to a minute and a half, just until they start to release their flavor and all the brown fond on the bottom of the pot is released.  If you can’t get all the fond up, put a small amount of water or wine or broth of whatever meat you’re using to unstick it.  Don’t let the onion or garlic burn at this point.  Third, add six to eight cups of water and stir to mix thoroughly.  Now comes the best part.  Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat so the soup simmers.  The onion and beef will float to the top, but as they cook, they will start to sink to the bottom.  Depending on how much water and how high or low the simmering is determines how long you will let the soup simmer.  Stir occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.  Allow the soup to reduce by on third of the volume of water.  This isn’t precise, just eyeball it.  This will take a couple of hours.  You can taste the soup occasionally, and the flavors will intensify, but do not give in to the temptation to add salt or spices at this point.  Once the soup has reduced, add the can of tomatoes.  Stir to mix thoroughly and raise the heat to bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat again, and allow to simmer for several minutes.  Then taste it and add salt and pepper as you like.  Finally, boil up two cups of penne pasta.  That’s two cups dried pasta, not two cups cooked pasta.  I try to go for different shapes of pasta in my soups for interest, but it can be any kind of pasta you have on hand.  Just don’t put in too much pasta or the broth will disappear!  Be careful and don’t cook the pasta completely.  You want the pasta to be about half-cooked.  Once the pasta is ready, drain it completely, and add it the soup.  Raise the heat to bring it back to a boil and allow the soup to cook for about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Taste again, adjust any seasoning, and serve!

I usually serve this with fresh bread, but if that’s not available, crackers, toast, croutons, bread sticks, almost anything will do.

As I was writing this, I remembered a time when I was in second grade.  At the time, we lived in upper-state New York with those terrible winters!  One day, in early Fall, my mom called my brother and sister and I into lunch.  We sat down to a bowl of steaming soup and PBJ sandwiches.  PBJ is still one of my favorites!  The soup, however, looked a little suspect.  We were used to chicken noodle or tomato or bean soup from a can, but this was sort of white-ish, almost grayish soup with funny lumps in it.  When we asked what it was, the answer was mushroom.  We were horrified!  Everyone knew that eating mushrooms would kill you!  We’d been told a million times!  Mom was trying to get rid of us!  We ate our sandwiches, but refused to eat the soup.  Of course, we couldn’t tell her we were on to her nefarious scheme so when we refused to eat the soup, we didn’t tell why.  Frustrated, she finally told us that we weren’t leaving the table until we all ate the soup.  Never, ever underestimate the stubbornness of a child.  Ever.  We sat there until it was time to clear the table for supper.

Mom never tried to serve us mushrooms again.  I was in my late teens before I discovered that they were wonderful.  Now, they’re one of my favorite foods.  Go figure!

Enjoy your soup!  Let me know if you try this and how it turned out.

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