Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Soup for dinner

Being a graduate student and lecturing a class means that this is crunch time. The end of the quarter means final exams and papers to grade, a syllabus to finalize for next quarter, not to mention the usual tasks involved in writing a doctoral dissertation. My wonderful other half is usually able to step in and whip up something tasty for dinner during these busy times, but he himself is a music teacher with his big winter concerts happening today and tomorrow, and thus, is a bit stressed and overwhelmed himself. So, while I usually jump for joy at the thought of take-out or eating out, I'm in in the middle of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a highly enjoyable family food memoir about her plight to grow and make her own food from scratch (including cheese!). Thus, when Rich suggested take-out over the phone, both a twinge of guilt and a determination to resist the ease of dialing our favorite local Thai or Indian restaurant came over me. So, back to the kitchen I went in search of dinner.

Potatoes! I had just purchased a 5 lb bag of organic russets and lying their next to the big ole' bag of spuds was a huge white onion. I grabbed the potatoes and my copy of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and flipped to the soup chapter, remembering having read a recipe for a simple potato soup. So when moments earlier my empty fridge seemed like take-out was our only hope, I was able to whip up a delicious, comforting, and steaming bowl of brothy potato soup for dinner. This soup tasted like a cheeseless, gluten-free YET DELICIOUS version of a French Onion Soup. We added some butter-sauteed mushrooms to our soup just before serving (the only other vegetable in our fridge besides wilting celery) and dinner was served. Rich had his with a couple of slices of gluten-free toast, but I chose to not add any white flour to this already carb-alicious soup, and was duly satisfied.

And since we're a household of 2, we both have lunch for today!

Here's the recipe, modified only slightly, from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
2.5 pounds potatoes, peeled
3 sprigs of thyme (if you have it) or 2 tablespoons parsley
broth or water (we freeze broth for nights just like this)

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat, add the onions and bay leaves, and cook slowly. Meanwhile, quarter each potato lengthwise, then thinly slice. Irregular pieces are fine -the smaller ones will fall apart, giving body to the soup.

Add potatoes, raise the heat, and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to color and a glaze builds up on the bottom of the pot, about 10 minutes. Add 1.5 teaspoons salt and 1 cup broth or water. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen the solids. Add 2 quarts of stock/water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are soft, 20-30 minutes.

Clean and thinly slice 1 cup mushrooms, set aside.

Remove the bay leaves, taste for salt, season with pepper, and stir in the thyme (or parsley). Turn off the soup.

Melt 1 -1.5 tablespoons butter in a small frying pan. Add mushrooms and saute on medium for about 3 minutes until the mushrooms have softened.

Ladle soup into your favorite soup bowl, add mushrooms, and enjoy!

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