Friday, April 11, 2008

Improv for Beginners

Recipes are great (especially the previous quinoa recipe. . . give it a try), but no one should be shackled to a list of things they know how to make. At some point you have to suck it up and improvise. One of the easiest ways to start in the throw-it-together-and-hope-for-the-best world of cooking is with soup. Soups have no problems of structural integrity or touchy cooking times, and they can be tinkered with at almost any point. They may seem a little Early Bird Senior Special, but in reality soup can be -gasp- exciting.

Once, we had almost no food in the house. However, we did have some couscous. I had seen a soup recipe that involved toasting couscous in oil and stirring in tomato paste before adding stock. . . but we had no tomato paste. Instead, we added some leftover tomato sauce. We also threw in frozen spinach and thickened the stock with a handful of red lentils. The soup needed little more than some North African seasonings to be delicous. Toasting the couscous first made it swell up beautifully, and the broth was just thick enough. A wonderful soup.

Just last night the weather was cold and rainy. As my coauthor and I were riding the L home, we composed a soup in our heads. We had some fresh pasta in the freezer and some sage that was nearing the end of its life. Add some canned white beans and canned corn (I know it sounds gross, but try Trader Joe's. It's amazing.) and there's a soup. We didn't have any vegetable stock in the house, but that wasn't a problem. Cook up some onions and maybe carrot and celery, add garlic, pour in water, and you have a stock. A dash of soy sauce gives it a nice savory flavor without really tasting like soy. You could also pick up veggie stock, but why bother?

I know spring is approaching, but around here that seems to involve many dark, rainy days. Even when the weather warms, soups can make a delightful light dinner. Keep in mind this simple formula: tasty things + broth + seasonings = soup. There may be some limits, but I haven't found them yet. Happy cooking.

1 comment:

Veronica said...

OK, My tasty things:
Plus broth? Beef Broth.
Ranch Dressing mix...
And I just approached the limit to your equation. SCORE!