Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Soup Pot

It’s supposed to go down to the low 20s next week in North Texas and stay cold for the rest of January. The weather people haven’t mentioned snow, sleet and ice yet, but we seem all set for “stock show weather.” My mind naturally turns to soup.
This post will be submitted to the Charity Souper Bowl on the blog Branny Boils Over. For every recipe Branny receives, she’ll donate one dollar to the ASPCA, and she doesn’t want to be embarrassed by donating $13. So if you have a soup recipe, send it to her. This post is also dedicated to Scooby, my sweet but silly and aging Australian shepherd who is pacing the study floor now because he wants to go check out the kitchen floor for crumbs dropped.
For years, when my children were young and hungry all the time, I kept a soup pot. Everything went into it—a bit of a casserole, vegetables from corn and potatoes to carrots and green beans and peas, the tag end of gravy, a smidgen of leftover sauce, or the water left behind from boiling or steaming vegetables. Once a week, I fixed what I called “soup of the week.” I took a look at the soup pot and decided what it needed to make a soup for a family of five. Usually the concoction was brown—but, then, I’ve heard Texas is the land of brown food--chili, chicken-fried steak, fried potatoes. Sometimes I added an undrained can of tomatoes or a cup of broth or whatever was needed for texture and taste. You can add herbs, and salt and pepper are often a must. The kids liked it and never complained about the brown color.
You do have to be a bit careful about what you mix—if you put much chili, King Ranch chicken or something else with Mexican seasoning in it, you probably don’t want to add that leftover bit of tuna casserole (does anybody make tuna casserole, that relic of the ’50s?) Think of it as a theme to your soup pot: if it’s Mexican and you need some body to it, add a drained, rinsed can of pinto beans. If it’s more the traditional French or Italian soup pot, with say vegetables, meatballs or chicken, add some pasta or potatoes if you need starch.
For the patient, dedicated cook, here’s a minestrone recipe my daughter, Megan, gave me. It feeds an army. Megan actually makes a double batch if she’s going to dice all those vegetables. She keeps it in the freezer in batches that will feed two adults and two pre-schoolers, and she says the children love it.


1/3 c. olive or salad oil

¼ c. butter

1 large onion, diced

2 large carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 medium potatoes, diced

½ lb. green beans, trimmed and cut in 1” pieces

Sauté the above in a large soup pot until lightly browned. Add,

6 c. water

16 oz. can diced tomatoes

5 oz. fresh spinach, shredded

2 medium zucchini, diced

6 beef bouillon cubes

1 tsp. salt (taste first)

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 40 minutes.


1 16 oz. can cannellini (white kidney) beans

1 16 oz. can red kidney beans

Cook 15 minutes until slightly thick. Do not overcook.

Sprinkle each serving with grated fresh parmesan or romano.

Serve with crusty French bread or garlic bread. Just slice the bread, spread it with soft butter, sprinkle with pressed garlic, chopped parsley, and parmesan or Romano. Broil until just brown at the edges.

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