Monday, August 4, 2014

| method: soup |

I love soup. Always have. Once I figured out the basic method for making soup, I was in soup heaven. Here is my basic technique. It's a great way to use up whatever you have in the fridge and make a hearty meal or two or four. I love to make a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week for my lunches. I take a mason jar full of soup and my favorite easy salad for lunch all week long. (Sidenote: favorite easy salad is arugula with a diced hardboiled egg, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.)

Okay. Soup-making time.

1) Fat and aromatics.
Get some fat going in a big pot. Olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, butter, whatever. 
Add in your aromatics. Things like onion, leeks, shallots, garlic, carrots, celery. Whatever you want. Tip: if you're doing garlic, don't go too hot or it will burn. Keep on a medium heat.
Saute until they start to get soft.
(Meanwhile: heat up your broth. I usually heat water in an electric tea kettle and add the liquid veggie bouillon to it. You could also just heat broth in a separate pot, of course.)

3) Other veggies and seasonings (maybe).
Rule of thumb: if you're using dried seasonings, add them now. If you don't know what kind of herb to put in, I find oregano or thyme are often a good bet. I also love to add just a hint of crushed red pepper to almost anything. (If you're using fresh herbs, save for later.)

Another fun option is to add in some wine here. A cup or two of your favorite and then save the rest of the bottle for dinner.

Add in other veggies in order of hardness. So if you've got things like cabbage, peppers, zucchini, potatoes add them sooner. Save stuff like kale, spinach, or other greens for later. Cook for a while until it starts to get softer. 

4) Protein, broth and simmering. 
If you're adding a protein, now is the time. Beans, cooked lentils, etc.

Add enough broth to cover everything. This is also a great time to add something like a can of diced tomatoes or tomato paste. 

Simmer for a while to let the flavors start to mix together. (Side note: now is also a good time for grains if you're into that: small pasta, rice, bulgur, quinoa, couscous.)

5) Finishing.
If you have remaining fresh herbs, now is the time. Salt and pepper, too. When in doubt, fresh parsley is never a bad bet. 

It's also a great time to finish with other options:
- dash of vinegar (red wine vinegar or rice white vinegar are often lovely)
- dash of lemon juice
- milk is a good option (temper* it first so it won't curdle)
- plain yogurt adds nice tang, or sour cream (again, temper*)
- a can of evaporated milk makes things really creamy
- note: do NOT mix acids with dairy or things will curdle

*Tempering is when you try to bring the dairy up to a similar temperature as the soup. So put your dairy in a separate container and then ladle in some of the broth and stir until the milk mixture starts to get pretty warm. Then stir it all into the soup slowly. Make sure the soup is either on low or off by the time you do all of this. 

| method: salad dressing |

I am big on knowing METHODS for making things so that I can just make them up as needed, without a recipe. Here are two of my methods for making salad dressing.

You need to work with 1 part olive oil, 1 part canola (or other veggie oil) and 1 parts acid. So, for example, 1 T of EACH oil and 1 T of acid. The two kinds of oil are important because if you just use olive oil it will harden in the fridge. And if you just use canola oil, it will taste bad. :-)

For the acid, you can use any kind of vinegar or lemon juice. Probably other citrus, too, though I haven't tried that. I have used white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar. Rice wine vinegar is one of my favorites.

Then you need some kind of sweetener. I kind of eyeball that, but if you don't want it too sweet, go with about 1/2 of one of your other parts. So, if you're doing 1 T of each oil, go with about 1/2 T of the sweetener. Good sweets are honey, sugar, jam, agave, brown sugar.

Salt and pepper. Whatever seasonings you want. Good options are things like oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, cumin, turmeric, dill seed, celery seed. Pretty much anything, really.

I like to use jars that already have markings on them (baby bottles are GREAT!) or just take a mason jar and mark it up on the side with your amounts. Pour in your oils and your acid. Add the sugar and seasonings. Shake and shake. Refrigerate whatever you don't use.

When I am in a hurry, I often just throw together 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic and then some nice jam. Raspberry, strawberry, apricot. All are delicious.

Another option is to do 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic, and then a touch of high quality whole grain mustard (dijon will work in a pinch, too.)