January 2 – January 8, 2023
Monday: Leftovers and Goat Cheese Salad with Arugula and Apples
Tuesday: Vegetable Soup with Baguette and Whipped Butter
Wednesday: Chicken Tinga Tacos
Thursday: PFC Thursday Night Delights
Friday: Smoked Salmon Quesadillas, Green Salad
Saturday: Sausage and Mushroom Pizza
Sunday: Turmeric-Lime Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Salsa, Rice, Salad
Whipped Butter is Better Than Sliced Bread, and Also on Sliced Bread
The real subject this week is Vegetable Soup. But, as a title for the post, “Vegetable Soup” is just too boring. Whipped butter, on the other hand, hinting at violence committed on a dairy product, as well as the unctuous quality of the result and the ‘calories be damned’ cut of its jib is, while confusing by itself, when evoked in reference to the old ‘sliced bread’ meme, works somehow. These are mysterious stylistic matters of prose writing and I deal with them on a regular basis so that you won’t have to. . . You’re welcome.
But isn’t, you are wondering, vegetable soup pretty damn boring after all? It is boring, I would argue, only by contrast with, say, Osso Bucco or a well-cooked pasta with Bolognese Sauce, or perfectly chilled caviar on a water cracker. And, if your intake consists entirely of such items then, yes, perhaps vegetable soup would be boring. On the other hand, if you keep eating Osso Bucco and Bolognese with their fat and red meat content, and caviar with its salt, your exciting life will not be a long one. So, how about taking a break from the jet-set stuff and having a bowl of vegetable soup every once in a while?
And, if that makes sense to you, then pay attention to the recipe below, which will show you how to turn vegetable soup into a meal that even UFR, Mr. “I’ll have the strip steak, medium rare,” liked, when he was at our house the other day.
The trick with the soup is to take your time building layers of flavor and to get the seasoning exactly, exquisitely correct. This means tasting your broth as you cook and amending it as needed. This is simply good cooking, and the recipe below will show you how to achieve this result.
But here’s another trick – an unfair trick, but a very useful one.
When serving your vegetable soup, put a platter of sliced baguette and whipped, salted butter on the table. Actually, better make that two baguettes, so delicious is it with the whipped butter in the context of a truly savory vegetable soup. Oh, and a third baguette might also help if Billy or UFR are coming to dinner.
Let a stick of butter come to room temperature, then put it in a bowl and whip it with a fork until its very soft and creamy. Now add a good pinch of flaky sea salt – the kind with big flakes (Maldon would be perfect) – transfer it to a serving bowl or ramekin, whip it again to distribute the salt and, leaving some attractive ridges on the surface with your fork (think Zen garden), and sprinkle another pinch of sea salt on the surface.
Look, you don’t want to indulge in large intakes of whipped, salted butter every day, but hey, you’re having vegetable soup for dinner, so go a little crazy with the accompaniments, okay?
Serve this butter with sliced, toasted or untoasted baguette. (Slice the baguette on the diagonal to create large pieces.)
Vegetable Soup to Die for – well, perhaps not die, but at least go out of your way for – well, maybe that’s a bit strong – how about just Good Vegetable Soup?
Good Vegetable Soup
(adapted from Ina Garten’s Provençal Vegetable Soup – Barefoot in Paris)
Timing: 70 minutes
Ingredients: Serves about 7
2 cups chopped onions (2 or 3 medium or 1 ½ large onion)
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (maybe 3 medium leeks or 2 large ones)
3 cups ½ inch diced boiling potatoes (unpeeled – use any of the ‘golden’ varieties)
3 cups ½ inch diced carrots (about 1 lb.)
½ lb. haricots verts (cut in half or thirds) – regular green beans work
3 quarts of chicken stock
4 ounces spaghetti, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons or more kosher salt
1 teaspoon or more ground black pepper
1 cup Pistou (a sort of pesto – recipe below)
Grated Parmesan for serving
Chop the onions, leeks, potatoes and carrots, trim and cut the haricots verts.
Assemble the other ingredients.
You can make the pistou while the soup is cooking.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot (all those vegetables and the chicken stock have to fit), then add the onions and sauté over low for 10 minutes or until they’re translucent. Now add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, salt and pepper and sauté over medium for about 8 minutes (Ina suggests 5 minutes – but I like to get a little more cook on the vegetables and even some browning won’t hurt).
Now add the chicken stock and saffron, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. During this 30 minutes, make the pistou (below). After 30 minutes, add the haricots verts and the spaghetti and simmer for 15 more minutes.
Serve hot, putting a dollop of pistou into each bowl and offering the bread and butter on the side.
4 large garlic cloves, ¼ cup tomato paste, 24 large basil leaves,
½ cup grated parmesan, ½ cup olive oil
Place everything except the olive oil in a food processor or blender and pureé. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil in to make a paste. If you need to save this, put a film of olive oil on top.