Thursday, April 19, 2012

the simplest soup

Cooking, believe it or not, requires a load of planning if you want to make a true art of it. It starts with planting the seed in your mind of what you want to produce and then letting it take root in the form of a shopping list.

"Well, duh!," you pontificate.

But I'm not talking about preparing one meal. It's the kind of cooking I liken to weaving a basket, where the original elements (your shopping bag loot) form the foundation, and where new meals are born out of the last, introducing a new ingredient or two as you go, like weaving in the next piece of straw.

I have been recently considering if how I cook is really sustainable. Not in the sense of buying organic and composting, etc..., but rather am I really being efficient with my time and resources? No matter how I love preparing meals from scratch and rejoicing over the nourishment the soul receives as a result, there inevitably comes a time when the last thing I want to do is cook. The monotonous cycle of shopping, loading the fridge, figuring out what to make, (if I had planned well enough, I would have had a meal plan for the week so that would reduce one notch in the cycle of what to make), prepping the ingredients, actually assembling them (the fun part), eating (even better) and then the dreary act of clearing the table and loading the dishwasher (which is even more of a drag when the last load has not been emptied), and finally starting over the next day - it can become so exhausting, and then burnout happens and it's all about eating out (for the next several meals).

My fabulously multi-talented wedding photographer Jen Altman put it so beautifully in her food blog entry 'the little things': "it ebbs and flows," this desire and energy to cook. And I can surely attest to that. Not only is cooking at home less of a hit on the pocket book, but it's also the healthier route, no doubt. So why is it so damn easy to throw that logic out the window and cave into being lazy and jumping in the car to eat enchiladas at TDS???

I recently have been obsessing over this book that I picked up a couple weeks ago in CA, and coincidentally, the author is one of the co-founders of one of our favorite restaurants in Athens. It has completely made me re-think and in essence re-learn the way I cook.

I could wax on about the sheer simplicity in her cooking principles. But I would much rather you read the book and I can get on to the recipe you came here for!

So without further ado, I present Turnip Greens Soup.

Remember these little critters?

I made a killer lamb stew with these baby turnips on Monday that I honestly wish I had time to document (except for these)

Yum. As per Tamar's instructions, I saved the greens. Here in the South, this "greens" business has taken a while to register on my cooking radar and I had been admittedly a bit intimidated by what to do with this kind of produce. If you have a Farmers Market in your neighborhood, I assure you, this whole vast world of "greens" can be revealed to you as well. It's an adventure well worth getting on board with.

Because it was my "Vegan Tuesday", I would make the simplest soup out of the greens. How hard could it be? Tamar proclaims they (the greens) are "worth their weight in gold" so why throw them out?

By mere coincidence, the recipe that I clicked on upon doing a quick google search, happened to be from a vegan blog, go figure. I have adapted it by using turnip greens instead of radish greens and increased the quantity of fresh herbs by a lot. You can play with it too and add whatever greens you have on hand or are inspired to buy.

Turnip Greens Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Large Shallots, finely chopped
4 Cups Turnip Greens (or other greens), packed
4 Cups Vegetable Stock (I used a low sodium variety)
1/4-1/2 Cups Fresh Mint, roughly chopped (I had this amazing apple mint from the farmers market that was very bulky)
1/4-1/2 Cups Fresh Italian Parsley, roughly chopped
Sea Salt (to taste)
Freshly ground pepper (I used a Pepper Blend)
Fresh Lemon Juice (to taste)
French Breakfast Radishes for garnish (optional)
Crème Fraîche for garnish (optional)

In a stock pot or large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat and add shallots, stirring often to prevent browning.
Sauté until translucent.
Add the greens and wilt and then add the stock.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, covered.
Add chopped mint and parsley.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Remove from heat.
Purée in a blender in batches or with an immersion blender.

Serves 4 large bowls, 6-8 small.

To serve: garnish with left-over herbs if you have any or with thinly sliced radish and a fresh crack of pepper. Note: do not over-pepper as some of these greens already have a peppery quality to them. Taste first! Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice. This really brightens up the soup.

On Tuesday, I ate as is, vegan style. But my husband enjoyed it with a healthy dollop of crème fraîche. Although I was blessed to have such a cleansing meal on Tuesday evening, I licked my bowl dry when I got to add my even healthier dollop of crème the next day, its resulting girth and depth making it incomparable to its vegan counterpart.

So there it is. 15 minutes and you have a wholesome meal if you add a hunk of bread to it. Although I firmly advocate for simplifying in the kitchen as much as possible, I also believe in giving the stove top a break as well to allow that flow to return to the spirit. As I told Jen the other day, "Never feel bad about not wanting to cook. If love isn't going into it, then what does the soul have to digest?" So next time you feel the urge to really go shopping and cook, I challenge you to let that flow weave a multitude of meals for you throughout your next week.

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