Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dark Days: Accidental Gypsy Soup

This particular accidental soup begins by cooking some greens in a pot of water and then forgetting about them or just letting them cook longer than you originally intended.

In fact, I had turned the heat pretty low. But nothing gets past my wife, the professional chef. She took note of how long the greens had been cooking, how all the nutrients had been leached out of the greens into the cooking water, and relayed this information to me in the way that spouses sometimes do. I explained that I had purposely turned the heat down so the greens wouldn't overcook, to which my wife replied that the cooking had been going on for at least an hour--she knew precisely, because we had just finished our weekly yoga session, which is an hour long.

Just as this discussion was gathering momentum, a small voice was heard to suggest using the water in which the greens had been cooking as a soup base. This would be our friend and yoga instructor Beth, who happened to be sitting at the kitchen island sipping a cup of coffee and listening in. As friends sometimes do, Beth was trying to rescue the situation. It had not occurred to me to use the cooking water for soup. I grabbed a spoon and tasted. Brilliant!

Flash forward to that evening. Dinner time approaches. I am seated at the kitchen table with our dog-eared copy of The Moosewood Cookbook, reacquainting myself with the recipe for one of our favorite dishes from that classic volume, "Gypsy Soup." We had flashed on this particular soup because it contains a quantity of sweet potatoes, and we had received a number of sweet potatoes in our weekly CSA box.

Sweet potatoes plus my (overcooked) greens, also from the CSA box, plus the aforementioned cooking water sounded like an amended version of Gypsy Soup. I was literally ready to start chopping onions when I noticed my wife heating up the stock pot to cook an artichoke for our daughter--that being the stock pot in which I had been saving my soup base.

"Where's the soup base?" I inquire.

My wife gives me stricken look. "Oh," she says.

"You threw out my soup base?"

Apologies. Lots of apologies.

Well, I thought that might be the end of our Accidental Gypsy Soup, what with the soup base having gone down the kitchen drain. But I adjusted. The Moosewood Cookbook suggested using stock or water in this soup. So I just used water--filtered water. It came out fine, using our CSA sweet potatoes and a few other things from the crisper drawer and the pantry.

What makes this soup are the spices and herbs: lots of paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, dried basil.

Heat 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pot or Dutch oven and add a large onion, diced medium, three medium carrots, peeled and diced, 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced medium, and three garlic cloves, chopped fine. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften. Add 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon dried basil, a dash of cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne and a bay leaf and cook a few minutes longer.

Stir into the pot 1 1/2 cups cooked greens (such as kale, collards, Chinese greens) roughly chopped, 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, and 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, or 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas. Cover with enough stock or water to make the soup the consistency you prefer. We like ours on the thick side. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are all cooked through, about 10 minutes.

To serve, season the soup with about 1 tablespoon tamari and ladle into warm bowls. A thick slice of crusty, whole-grain bread would be excellent with this.


grace said...

ed, i love reading posts with anecotes about your wife. like the time she gave you looks while you ate too many lobster rolls in maine. and i've only met her... maybe three times!

Ed Bruske said...

Grace, those anecdotes always go right to the core of the matter, don't they?