Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nana's Homemade Soup #1

Hey! Here it is, halfway between the First Sunday of Advent and Christmas Itself, and I'm still making presents, decorating and planning goodies to eat for the 12 Days of Christmas!

The weather turned unusually cold down here in North Texas tonight, and I thought I'd send you my recipe for Nana's Homemade Soup. Nice to sip while trimming the tree, especially with hot bread, salami and cheese panini, or hot cornbread!

Nana's Homemade Soup

Okay, this is fun. Maybe you never made homemade soup before, but it’s as easy as offending an in-law. Here’s how it goes:

Start this right after breakfast if you want it done by lunch, okay?

Now, when we started being friends, I advised you to keep a good-sized plastic container in your freezer for “juices,” by which I mean water from cooking your veggies, liquid from the cans you open, the water with which you “deglaze”* your meat pans after you use them, the last little bit (or the last ‘quite a bit’ of gravies—except cream gravies), and so on. You get the idea. But don’t use cream sauces or cheese of any sort. That’s for something else.

Even fish juices and waters, like from tuna cans and fish oils (for example, from smoked oysters) are fair game, but keep them in another, separate, freezer container; just be sure to keep them, because they make chowder to die for! Imagine all the essences of the sea, combined with meltingly mealy potatoes, sweet kernels of corn, leeks sautéed in butter, and good rich hot milk in a creamy soup, speckled with black pepper and fresh parsley! Oh, yum!

“Save them juices,” as my son-in-law, the non-saver-of-juices joked, after tasting it. “Nana, save them dee-licious juices!”

I like to tear a few pieces of processed seaweed into tiny bits and scatter them in the soup; they’re full of iodine, which steps up your thyroid function and helps you be energetic. Some say it even helps you drop a pound or two, eating lots of seaweed. If you’re sensitive to iodine, for pity’s sake, stay away from it! If you’re not sure, ask your doctor, don’t take my word for it.

All I know is, it tastes fantastic to me and makes me feel good! Try all this new stuff, unless your doctor says otherwise. You’ll love at least some of it, and it’s all a great adventure, right?

My friend Bora used to warn me daily that I was feeding my family too much sodium from the canned-veggie juices, that we would all die horribly of heart attacks, or strokes, or Creeping Sodium-itis, or whatever, and on and on and on, and then I watched her make her own version of soup, during which she added a good handful of salt. Hmmmm.

I don’t add salt to my soups, or do so very rarely, depending on taste, and none of us have died of heart attacks yet, praise God, so I think you’re pretty safe. If, however, you or someone in your family has a coronary or other problem, be sensible – don’t use this recipe, find another one. There are a lot of them out there.

Anyway, back to the soup: Take all that good leftover liquid, dump it in a stockpot or whatever you usually make soup in, add:

--one or two (16oz) cans of diced, crushed, or whole tomatoes;
--a large onion, peeled and finely minced;
--a can/freezer package of whole-kernel corn;
--as many cloves of garlic as you enjoy (I use half a dozen, peeled and coarsely
--a couple of the outer, discouraged-looking ribs of celery, washed, trimmed,
chopped fine or sliced into 1/4-inch slices,
--a handful of washed, minced, celery leaves,
the mixed veggies left over from dinner night-before-last (anything but broccoli
beets, or broccoli raab; for some reason, they don’t work well in this);
--the meat from any leftover roast, the spare grilled hamburger no one ate (cut in
small dice), the two chicken legs, boned and diced (that just means take
it off the bones, there’s nothing fancy about it, believe me!)
--Diced green peppers, rutabagas, any veggie but beetroot, cabbage, broccoli,
broccoli raab or their relatives. Squash, carrot, corn, peas, green beans and so on are fine.
--Do not add dried beans, split peas or lentils unless you want to cook it much, much longer. That’s a whole ‘nother story. More on that later.
--If you haven’t any leftover meats, use a pound of beef stew meat, beef bones with lots of meat on them, or a cheap piece of chuck, diced, and boil it up until it’s practically falling apart; and:
--between a quart and a gallon of water, as needed. Start with the quart and add more as you need it.

Boil it all up gently until the meat is falling apart, the veggies are cooked, and it smells heavenly and has reduced at least one-third in volume; then add lots of parsley, if you like (not more than ½ cup, fresh or 4 BIG Tbsps, dried), and especially if your soup has any oil on top that you chose not to remove.

I usually remove mine. Just skim it off with your soup-cooking spoon. NEVER save beef tallow (fat) for cooking, but some people use chicken or pork fat with good results, in different parts of the world. Make our own decision about that.

Don’t add salt until right before you serve it. Salt toughens meat and when your liquid boils down, it gets too salty if you’ve salted it too soon. You can add pepper whenever you want.

By the way, did you know that the parsley on your plate at a restaurant is there to aid your digestion? Of course, you have to eat it for it to work. Looking at how pretty it is doesn’t help much. *smile* But that’s why it’s there.

Serve your soup in nice crockery dishes or something that the kids will like (and can’t hurt), and you can even let them help you pour the juices for the next batch of soup into the container ‘for our special soup.’ Little ones, and even children not-so-little, love doing this, and pre-teens and teeners like making the soup themselves.

Try it and see.