*Or, Enough Vegetable Soup for an Army
*Or, My Dad Actually Cooked this Vegetable Soup for an Army
Well, howdy! I hope all of you in the US had an enjoyable President’s Day on Monday, while we here in Ontario enjoyed a statutory holiday with Family Day (translation: “Sit-on-your-butt-and-relax-inside-while-the-frigid-snow-and-wind-whip-around-the-house-outside-creating-snowdrifts-taller-than-the-HH-Day). Before I get to today’s stupendous soup recipe, I thought it might be fun to share a bit of the food that the HH and I have been enjoying over the past couple of weekends.
You see, I handed in the final first draft of my cookbook manuscript last weekend, which occasioned a brunch celebration! I’d been reading and hearing about a place called The Beet for ages, and since we were already in that general area of town to pick up photos from the photographer, we decided to drop in.
The food was AH-MAY-ZING! The place offers an all-organic menu, with many vegan and gluten free (and vegan/gluten free) options. I began the brunch with a juice called “Beet It”: a vibrant and zingy mix of beet, apple, carrot and ginger:
Next up was a main course of the Buenos Dias Wrap, a rice tortilla filled to bursting with quinoa, black beans, avocado, pico de gallo and Daiya cheese (which they gracious subbed instead of the dairy cheese):
And wrapped it all up with a rich, decadent raw chocolate cheesecake:
(The HH opted for the Huevos Rancheros with a hunk of local sausage and a big piece of Apple Crumble Cake for dessert. Two thumbs up from him as well.).
This past weekend was another brunch happening, this time to meet up with one of my favorite blogger buddies, the newly-settled, all-the-way-from-Australia, loving-her-new-job and Queen-of-all-things-chocolate: Hannah, or Wayfaring Chocolate! We met up at Fresh in Toronto, another favorite spot for healthy, whole foods dishes. After hugs and much chatter, we finally ordered once the server came by for the second time:
[Blog friends are among the best, y’all.]
My choice was the Powerhouse bowl (new to me), which was layered with avocado, chick peas, grilled tofu steaks [which I exchanged for tempeh], sunflower sprouts, toasted nut & seed mix, tomato, red onion & spicy tahini sauce. A stellar combination (despite the fact that the tempeh steaks resemble poo in this photo):
While Hannah chowed down on the Macro Greens bowl: steamed greens & broccoli, grilled sweet potato & tomato with bean sprouts and choice of dressing (she had salsa):
We had a grand time gabbing about (in no particular order) adapting to Canadian winters, working one’s dream job, family and computer experts, avoiding hospitals, cupcake cravings, funnel web spiders and drop bears. Thanks, Hannah, for meeting up! And I’d highly recommend either one of those restaurants if you’re ever in the Toronto area.
And now, from restaurant food to. . . .army food!
Although I didn’t realize it back then, there was much about my childhood that was a little “different” from the typical upbringing most of my friends had (and I’m not talking about those chartreuse bell bottoms I refused to give up even when they were almost up to my knees, either).
To begin with, my mom worked outside the home throughout most of my grade school years (fairly unusual during the era of The Brady Bunch). She and Auntie M both toiled in the same building on Monkland Avenue, at a company called International Film Distributors. While Mom didn’t actually have anything to do with the films per se, she spent her days as bookkeeper to the boss, Mr. Diamond, who reminded me a bit of a rottweiler with his black hair slicked firmly back off his forehead, his face slightly square with flattened nose and eternal scowl, and a temper that could erupt without any warning.
Once in a while, though, he’d reward my mom with movie passes which she then handed off to us kids. (Now, don’t be envious of those free movies; the type of films IFD distributed always seemed to be lower-tier, or else those my friends and I had no interest in seeing; to wit, Three Days of the Condor, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Up the Sandbox, Dog Day Afternoon, or The Twelve Chairs. . . remember any of those?).
(“Mum, we don’t remember any of them ,either, but I’m sure we would have liked Dog Day Afternoon–I mean, what could be bad about an afternoon frolicking with other dogs?”)
In addition, my dad worked crazy-long hours; in contrast to my friends’ suit-and-tie clad, office-bound fathers, my dad often left the house before the rest of us were even awake, spent his day in a blood-stained apron sawing up cow parts, then returned home long after dinner was over. He repeated this pattern six days a week; on Sundays, he drove the rest of us back to his store for grocery “shopping” excursions. He did, however, take one Monday off every two weeks; and it was on those Mondays that he cooked this vegetable soup.
Even if I’d forgotten it was my father’s day off, I remembered the moment I strode through the door at lunchtime. On those days, I was greeted with the scent of carrots, celery, parsnip, peppers and a slew of other veggies gently bobbing in a massive pot on the stove, my dad leaning over inhaling the wafting steam. He chopped and tossed various vegetables, alternating with rice and seasonings, twirling between the counter and the stovetop like a weathervane perched on a farmhous roof. He always made a massive amount, enough to last the rest of the week for all five of us.
You see, when my dad was in his twenties, after he left Poland, he ended up for a time in the Russian army. (He still speaks fondly of the wonderful socialized medicine over there. Gee, Canada, you might take a lesson–?!). In any case, between riding horses from town to town, chopping wood in the forest, guarding an outpost in Siberia and getting into knife fights with the enemy (there’s a thin scar still visible on his waistline), my dad worked as the barracks cook for a time, so he became accustomed to cooking in bulk.
There was something magical about dad’s steaming vat of soup, too, a flavor my mother could never reproduce no matter how many times she attempted the “recipe.” His method harkened back to those days when, as a soldier, he had to make due with whatever meager ingredients were on hand. Like so many of those traditional recipes, my father’s soup contained whatever forgotten, neglected or nearly wilted vegetables were on hand, with just ingenuity and thrift guiding his movements; yet every time, it ended up exactly the same, the soup simmering all afternoon until everything in the pot softened, colors fading like paint on the side of a barn.
How did he manage it? Even when he used barley instead of rice, or green pepper instead of red, or split peas instead of baby lima beans, the end result was the same: a hearty, golden broth, steaming with pale, colorful chunks that we slurped up with gusto. In fact, the only consistent part of the recipe was that it contained no meat whatsoever, since in that case, my mom would refuse to eat it.
Well, this is my rendition of that soup. It’s not exactly like my dad’s, but like any family recipe, I’ve tweaked it to make it my own. I hope you feel free to do the same; the recipe is very fluid (fluid. . . . soup–get it? I swear, I crack myself up). If you’re not a fan of rice, use your grain of choice; feel free to substitute similar chopped veggies for the ones I use here. The end result will invariably be a good one, and you’ll have a filling, simple meal that will both nourish and delight.
I’m linking this recipe to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.
My Dad’s Vegetable Soup
Although there is quite a bit of prep here, this recipe will yield a lot of soup. You can leave the pot simmering while you go about your business, then enjoy a steaming bowl of pure, delicious nourishment–that night, and several more as well. Feel free to mix up the vegetables here to your preferences.
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups (1 L) vegetable broth or stock
8 cups (2 L) water
1 large carrot, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup (120 ml) baby lima beans
1/2 cup (120 ml) rutabaga, diced
1 cup (240 ml) shredded cabbage
1/3 cup (80 ml) oat groats (I used Cavena)
1/3 cup (80 ml) brown basmati rice
1 broccoli stalk, cut into florets (and dice the stalk)
1 cup (240 ml) cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 red or green sweet bell pepper, diced (or use half of each)
1 cup (240 ml) trimmed fresh green beans, cut in 1 inch (2 cm) lengths
1/2-1 cup (120-240 ml) fresh dill, chopped
1/2-1 cup (120-240 ml) fresh parsley, chopped
1-2 tsp (5-10 ml) fine sea salt, to your taste
In a LARGE pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent, 7-10 minutes. Add the broth, water, carrot, parsnip, celery, lima beans, rutabaga, cabbage, oat groats and rice and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 40-45 minutes. As the soup cooks, a foam may form on the surface; skim this off and discard.
After about 45 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and increase heat just until boiling once again; then lower heat to simmer and allow to cook for another 1-2 hours, checking occasionally (if you feel like it), topping up the water level if you feel it’s getting too low. Add salt and taste. Adjust if necessary. Serve. Makes enough for an army (okay, not really. It actually makes 12-15 servings). May be frozen.
Note: I find that chopping all the veggies in advance really speeds the process and makes it seem less onerous; you can then just throw them in the pot and walk away.
Suitable for: ACD All Stages, sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, nut free, vegan, low glycemic.
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© Ricki Heller, Diet, Dessert and Dogs