Soup for a Winter’s Night

mushroom and onion soup veg close-upCrazy December. Crazy time of year to start writing here again. But it bothered me that 2015 would go by, and there would have been no entry made the whole length of the year.

I began a great new job a year and a half ago, but it changed everything, because it changed how much and when I work. Ah, time!

My husband, who works from home, cooked more. I cooked less. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I cooked less regularly, not the habit of it so much that I’d had. But I missed it…the cooking, and the habit of cooking, and the writing, too, which had been part of the process.

So in this crazy December, I decided to blog again. I thought, “Will I do this differently, now that I’ve been gone from it for a while?” But, no, I’ll do it the same. I like focusing on one ingredient three weeks in a row. The use and repetition of things grounds me, slows me down. It focuses me.

wine...mushroom and onion soupIt can be an ingredient as simple as wine. Used to deepen the flavor of a mushroom and onion soup, which is what I made the other night.

I steeped one ounce of dried porcini mushrooms with three cups of tea-kettle hot water to rehydrate them, and also to turn that water into a mushroom broth.

Into a dry pan over medium heat, I added thinly cut strips of sage from a few sprigs I had pulled from the garden recently and kept in a shot glass of water by the kitchen sink. It was a small handful’s worth, about a tablespoon if compressed.

As that began to cook and give off its piney outdoor scent, I tossed in, as I sliced them, eight ounces each of white button and cremini mushrooms, and four ounces of shiitake mushrooms (stalks removed and added to a bag of broccolini stems in the freezer…with the hope of actually making a vegetable stock from them at some future date!).

With the mushrooms all in the pan, I turned the heat up to medium-high, stirred them, and allowed them to cook and create their own juices while I sliced two red onions. I cut the onions in half, and then those halves into thin slices, and added to the mushrooms.

Didn’t want everything to steam, and did want some browning, so I turned the heat up to high. I also added some chopped parsley stems. Just to use them, since I had some fresh parsley I was going to use to garnish the top when all done.

The mushrooms and onions became beautifully limp and browned. I squeezed excess liquid from the now-rehydrated porcini, cut into thin slices and added to the pan.

Now that things were nicely cooked down, I seasoned with salt and pepper.

I lowered the heat some, and poured in a lovely half-cup of a dry and mellow merlot. As I stirred it through, it lifted off the dry bits from the bottom of the pan and seeped into the mushrooms and onions, deepening the color and flavor.

The whole thing, right at this point, would have been delicious  poured over a bowl of buttery fettuccine, but I had that porcini broth. About two cups remained, the rest having been absorbed into the porcini.

So I added that broth to the mushrooms and onions, along with another cup of water, brought it all to a boil, tasted for seasoning.

The porcini broth and wine were all the stock this soup needed. A very light, but deep flavor, along with the texture of several mushrooms…the smooth white and cremini, and the softer and spongier texture of porcini and shiitake.

mushroom and onion soup in bowl

A couple ladlefuls into a bowl, and a sprinkle of parsley on top.

A deep and quiet soup for a deep and quiet winter night.


Happy New Year.



Cold Day, Hot Soup

greens1 1.26.13Greens and beans. Second Week. Soup.

Still January. And…it genuinely got cold. Highs didn’t get out of the 20s this week, and the lows were in the teens. Even some snow.


I wanted to make soup anyway, but it felt even righter.

This time I came home with collard greens and dandelion greens. I don’t always double up on greens in one dish, but they’ve been looking so good to me in the store, I can’t walk out of there with just one kind!

Lots of chopping for this one, but then it goes together pretty quick.

I used…

  • 1 bunch collard greens, rinsed and dried
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens, rinsed and dried
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 3 small carrots, diced
  • 3 small parsnips, diced
  • 3 small potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf

I decided to start by cooking the greens in a separate pan. A matter of logistics. Since I had such a lot of greens, I decided to start them in a pan with a wider bottom. Then I could spread them out, and they’d take a little less time to cook down, and would be co-cooking while the other vegetables got going. If I’d stuck to one pot, then I would’ve added the greens to the other vegetables after they’d cooked and browned some.

So I got oil heating in the pan for the greens. Trimmed off the ends of the collards, and cut the stalks into thin slices, then into smaller dice-size, tossed them into the pan to start cooking. I like to use the stalks whenever I can, as long they aren’t too fibrous. I’ll cut them into thin slices, and then cut further if I need to, as I did with these, because I wanted something that sits easily on a soup spoon! I cut the leaves in half once and then again, and in some cases even a third time (because collard leaves are like big fans!), to get vertical ribbons, which I cut into smaller squares, again keeping spoon-size in mind. Turned them in the oil to coat them.

I cut the dandelion greens, and added them. A little salt and pepper, stirred, put on the lid, allowing the greens to cook down over a low/medium-low heat.

I heated enough oil to coat the bottom of my soup pot. To that, I added the diced onion and celery, and the minced garlic cloves, and let them soften. Then came the diced carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and dried tarragon, with salt and pepper to taste. I cooked those over a medium heat til softened, and spooned in the cooked greens. Along with a bay leaf, I poured in four cups of vegetable stock and a can of rinsed red kidney beans, checked for seasoning, let it all come to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes to be sure everything was heated through.

And I toasted a thick slice of multigrain bread.

greens2 1.26.13You see it posing in the picture. After the beauty shot, I submerged the bread and let it get soft with the broth. It didn’t complain.

The broth took on the flavor of the greens, which was really nice. And each bite had a different mix of flavors. Sometimes carrot, sometimes parsnip, sometimes the kick of garlic, or the hint of tarragon.

Beautiful, hearty, and warming from the inside out.