Blue Plate Special Soup
Here’s a good recipe I made up tonight, and since it has no real name, I have given it the name I think is most appropriate for the way I live, which is to cobble stuff together and hope for the best.
During the important process of naming it, I tried ‘leftover soup’, but that was too boring. It makes you think you’re getting something that should have been thrown away two days ago; ‘steak soup’—too grand; it’s got some steak in it, but not much; ‘spaghetti sauce soup’—too weird; you shouldn’t mix your food forms when creating a recipe name. For example, when I hear ‘baked potato soup’ my culinary toes curl.
My daughter, upon seeing the picture of the soup taken with my iPhone-wannabe, dubbed it Maggot Soup, but that’s just mean. She’s always been dubious about my cooking. I don’t know why. She’s still alive, after all.
This particular soup sums up my approach to cooking on a day like today, when it’s cold and grey, I have no desire to go out to buy ingredients, and I have plenty of compatible-enough ingredients waiting for some imagination on my part. This is not as difficult as it sounds. You just have to know what likes to be with what, and for how long they can tolerate each other’s company.
So here goes. Try this idea when you’re stuck with leftovers (but not just any leftover; the ingredients have to at least have something to offer each other, otherwise you really will end up with Maggot Soup).
6-8 cups of homemade broth. Mine was made from leftover (frozen) Thanksgiving turkey, a large lamb bone, vegetables, and herbs. Then this is strained, everything but the broth is tossed, et voila, you have homemade broth to do with what you will.
Broth goes well with certain things that want to be thrown into it. One of the things that won’t mind being thrown into broth is a half-bag (or so) of leftover navy beans (or other white bean). I had a half-bag from some stupid earlier recipe which didn’t require an entire bag of beans. So I left this half-bag (approximately one cup of white beans) to soak overnight until they plumped up, and mixed them into the simmering broth this morning.
Then, there was the approximately 2 cups of thick organic spaghetti sauce leftover from a few days ago, which wanted to become an Italian-inspired wedding soup (or minestrone), but didn’t quite know how to pull it off. This was comprised of chopped up and then sautéed chicken-mozzarella sausage; whole organic sun-dried tomatoes in oil and herbs; a jar of organic heirloom tomato sauce, one cup of some red wine or other (doesn’t matter what, really), plus sliced shallots and garlic sautéed gently along with the sausages, and lots of virgin olive oil to sauté in.
At the end of the spaghetti-sauce-making process, which takes somewhere between a half-hour and hour (let’s call it 45 minutes to stew properly, so all the flavours become friendly) you might end up with a very thick sauce indeed, and if you haven’t made sufficient pasta, you can count on left-over sauce. There’s always too much to throw away and not enough to bother making more pasta for.
So you throw this conglomeration into your stock with the beans, and let them all simmer together while the beans soften. This will take awhile; probably a few hours, since we’re not going anywhere, it’s cold out, and where are you rushing to, anyway? You could throw in a bay leaf if you like, but if you’re using leftovers that were adequately seasoned, you probably won’t have to add any new seasoning to this soup. It will be very flavourful on its own.
At this point in my soup-making process I had a decision to make, but it wasn’t difficult. I had a leftover grilled steak bone with plenty of meat remaining from an enormous 22 oz. T-bone steak dinner. I had had the foresight to include in my doggy bag the steamed spinach and leftover oven-seared potatoes as well (restaurants serve way too much food a lot of the time), and so, after chopping the leftover steak and throwing it and the entire bone into the soup, the vegetables followed, giving the soup some necessary greenery (and a little more starch to thicken it).
At the point when the soup starts to thicken and the beans soften, you can add approximately 1-2 cups of elbow macaroni (I had, inexplicably, two mostly-empty boxes with a cup of macaroni each sitting in my pantry). You let these simmer until they’re done, about 20 minutes or so (any more and they get mushy) and then you eat the soup, which should be done by now, with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese on top.
If the soup becomes too thick, just add more broth to it.
The soup is now divine, but it only attained this state of perfection because it comes from a long line of previously cooked food, all of which could have been thrown away, but was instead rescued and put to work.
So here are the real ingredients:
- 6-8 cups broth
- Tomatoes, herbs, red wine, chicken-mozzarella sausage (chopped and sautéed), a jar of heirloom tomato sauce, all cooked together, leaving you with a thick sauce or paste, if you will.
- Cooked and seasoned T-bone steak, the meat cut into pieces, bone included for added flavour and because there’s still meat attached to the bone, but the only way to get to it is to let it simmer in the pot.
- One cup steamed spinach, drained, obviously.
- One half-cup (or more, if you like) oven-roasted vegetables (I had potatoes, although you could easily use green beans, chopped up asparagus, anything that will hold up over hours of simmering and won’t become mush).
- One cup (approximately) dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained.
- One to two cups (approximately) elbow macaroni pasta noodles.
- As much grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese as you like on top.
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- Country Style Ham & Potato Soup Recipe (averagebetty.com)
- Italian Wedding Soup (spicecreekcatering.wordpress.com)
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