An Ode to Soup

The weather has turned cooler and many of our dinners are turning to soups. We been enjoying a variety of soups both at home, dining out, and at friends’ homes. There is just something about fall and winter soups that warm not only the body but seems to warm the soul.

mister gardener has prepared some mighty tasty soups… always from scratch.  Last night it was butternut squash soup topped with homemade croutons and toasted pecans for a little contrast.

butternut soup 2018

mister gardener does the cooking and everyone in the fam agrees soups are what he does best. It’s comforting to hear him in the kitchen chopping those root vegetables into small pieces. His mother was his inspiration. I must admit that she taught him better than my mother taught me….although I loved 💕 my mother’s cooking.

Vegetable soup is probably my favorite of his soups cooked with garden fresh vegetables. In the summer, he can add tomatoes straight from the garden. In the winter it must be canned tomatoes.

vegetable soup 2018

Another of his most tasty soups is chicken noodle. Yes, he stews the entire chicken and, yes, he makes the noodles using the method his mother taught him when he was knee-high and standing on a chair at the kitchen counter. No pasta machine. He uses the old-fashioned cut-with-a-knife method and it’s the kind of egg noodle that melts in your mouth.

Homemade noodles 2018

Beef stew, corn chowder, ham and potato..all good. We eat a lot of potatoes in soups and otherwise, because he’s the cook and it’s how he ate growing up. I existed on more rice, hominy, breads for starches down south. I’m sure he ate healthier. Our southern eats seemed to be too much salt, sugar, and butter, something we siblings laugh about to this day!

Lately our book club is also feeling the call for soup like this delicious one chocked full of zucchini, mushrooms, sausage, tomatoes and tortellini topped with parmesan cheese…. a very Tuscan theme for the Italian book we just finished. Good job, Connie!

connie's soup 2018

Book club is here this month and I’m trying to think of a soup to compliment the classic book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, that we all wanted to reread as adults.  The setting is the slums of Brooklyn, early twentieth century when food was way too scarce. Hmmmm…. If you’ve read the book and have menu ideas, please share!

Soup does a body GOOD!

After running errands trying to beat one of our recent snowstorms, I was greeted at home by rich aromas wafting from the kitchen. mister gardener, who does practically all the cooking in this household, was making his mother’s chicken noodle soup. That means starting with a nutritious stock from scratch using an organic whole chicken from our farmers’ market and his mother’s homemade egg noodles.

He was removing the chicken bones and vegetables from the stock pot when I poked my head around the corner. It had been simmering for an hour and a half with an assortment of vegetables and herbs and smelled heavenly. The dough had been rolled out and drying on a side table.

As a toddler, he remembers climbing up on the kitchen stool up to watch and ‘help’ his mother roll out the dough and cut the noodles. He uses her recipe and her methods to this day… rolling out the dough, letting it dry, dusting the dough with flour, rolling it, and cutting the noodles.

Sliced carrots, sliced celery are added to the stock and it all simmers away until the vegetables are just tender. The reserved cut-up raw chicken is added and, finally, the delicious noodles are tossed in for the last 5 minutes. A little salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and some chopped fresh parsley just before serving, and dinner’s ready. (I’d like to think the parsley is my small contribution since I am tending it in my lovely winter herb garden!)

Dinner is served….

Chicken Noodle SoupChicken Stock: mister gardener makes his stock mostly with chicken bones. He reserves the raw breast and thigh meat, and partially cooks the bones and a few extra chicken parts, sans skin and fat, in water until the fatty foam forms on the surface. He tosses that water and starts a fresh pot of water with the same bones and simmers the stock for 1/ 1/2 to 2 hours with cut up carrots, onions, celery, garlic head, fresh thyme, and parsley. He strains the stock through a colander and he’s ready to make his soup!

Gardening in January

New Hampshire winters arrive early and by the time January rolls around we are yearning for green. So earlier this month we made an attempt to create a bay window herb garden in the kitchen even though we must deal with the low light winter sun and temperature fluctuations next to the window.

Selecting an attractive planter was my job. No plastic planter on my windowsill! I wanted metal and I found the ideal trough at Terrain, one of my favorite online stores. The dark zinc metal tough is 36″ long, 5″ wide, and 4″ high and fits perfectly in the bay window.

Habit & Form Troughmister gardener was in charge of buying and planting herbs. We now have chives, basil, oregano, and sage growing in the kitchen and being used in cooking. Because they aren’t getting the needed 6 hours of sunlight, we supplement with a grow light.  So far, so good.

We are now satisfying our need to dig and tend a garden and mister gardener is having fun with our herbs elsewhere in the kitchen.

carrot soup

Carrot soup garnished with fresh chives from the new kitchen garden

Quick Carrot Ginger Soup

2 T. butter
7 large carrots
1 large onion
1 t. minced ginger
2 c. vegetable stock
2 c. water
1 t. orange zest
salt and white pepper
chopped chives for garnish

Melt butter in a large pot. Add carrots, onions and salt and stir until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add chicken stock, water, ginger and orange zest. Bring to a simmer, cover until the carrots thoroughly soften, about 20 minutes. Remove the orange zest and discard.  Add the soup to a blender in very small batches holding the lid down and purée until completely smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped chives.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

One Potato, Two Potatoes

A few weeks ago mister gardener harvested masses of potatoes from his garden. He doesn’t have to think garden spudstwice about when to dig. He just knows. Out the door he goes each September with two empty bushel baskets and a pitch fork and back he comes several hours later with mountains of spuds, Red Potomac, Yukon Gold and Russet, ready to store in a dark, cool corner of the garage for the winter.

I know that our menus will undergo the annual change from more rice in the summer to more potatoes in the cooler months. You see, mister gardener is not only the official Grower of the Family Vegetables, he is also the Chef de Cuisine.  Like Forest Gump and shrimp, mister cook will spend the winter creating different approaches to preparing this versatile tuber from the soil.  His potatoes will be baked, boiled and sauteed; they’ll be mashed, steamed and french-fried; he will roast them, make potato salad and arrange them in casseroles like scalloped potatoes or au gratin potatoes, all of which I love.

Each day mister cook puts much thought and preparation into his meals but his culinary mastery is most obvious when one tastes his soups. Not only does he grow his own vegetables, he prepares his own stock, he grinds his own meat and he makes his own noodles. Of all his soups, my favorite is his corn chowder made with garden fresh Yukon potatoes.corn chowder The recipe follows:

Corn Chowder with Yukon Potatoes

serves 6

4 strips bacon (can leave out if vegetarian), cooked and crumbled
1 yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 T. butter
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 c. chicken stock
2 c. 2% milk
4 cobs corn, kernels removed
2 t. chopped fresh thyme
2 Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
salt, pepper, paprika, parsley

Cook bacon over medium heat until crispy, then remove from pan, leaving fat.  Add the onion, celery and carrot and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper and cook a few minutes more.  Remove from pan.

Melt butter in the same pan over low heat.  Add flour and stir for a few minutes until it takes on a nutty aroma but does not color.  Gradually whisk in chicken stock and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in milk and turn up heat to medium.  Add crumbled bacon, sauteed veggies, corn and thyme.  Add diced potatoes and simmer for about 20  minutes or until potatoes are cooked through.  Taste, season and serve.  Sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley for color if desired.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Virginia