Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hurray for Soup!

I was joylessly contemplating another meal made from the prepackaged contents of my pantry. Ugh—macaroni and cheese or Rice-a-Roni? I couldn’t bear another meal of dehydrated cheese with a side of sodium. But what were my other options? Then lightning struck! Crushed tomatoes. Canned corn. Elbow macaroni. With some ingenuity and a few other ingredients, I could have minestrone! I excitedly collected everything that I thought might make an acceptable soup.

I wouldn’t call my minestrone “traditional”. I prefer to think of it as Kitchen Sink Minestrone. Everything but the aforementioned kitchen sink went into it. My ultimate goal was to make something that would pass as edible, while being healthier than the majority of my recent meals. Healthier than Tuna Helper? Unbelievable, I know.

My final ingredient list was:

1 ½ tbsp of minced garlic
About 1 cup of frozen Southern-style hash browns
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
5 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 quarts of water
14 oz can of corn
14 oz can of chickpeas
2 oz elbow macaroni
8 oz of frozen peas
5 cubes of frozen chopped basil (5 tsp)

I heated 3 tbsp of oil in my 7 quart Dutch oven, since I figured I would end up making a very large amount of soup. I quickly cooked the garlic, and then added the hash browns. Right from the freezer. Why thaw? Then I dumped in the tomatoes, chickpeas, corn and the water. I crumbled the bouillon cubes right into the soup. I know they say to dissolve them in the water, but that’s really just an extra step. I brought this to a boil, then reduced it to a simmer and covered it.

After about 30 minutes of cooking, I added the macaroni, which proceeded to stick to the bottom of the pan. Rather than stir the soup, I had to scrape it. Eh, it won’t affect the flavor, and I’m probably the only one who’ll be eating it. I covered the pot again and let it cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring/scraping occasionally. I then added the peas and the basil. Again, right from the freezer. I let it cook another 5-10 minutes, adjusted the seasoning with salt and pepper, and decided that enough had gone into it.

When I served it (to myself), I topped the soup with a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese and some chopped parsley (from the freezer). To be honest, it tasted better than I expected. I was quite pleased with myself. But did I achieve my goals? I feel a lot better knowing that I’ve gotten some vegetables into my body, as this hasn’t happened too often in recent weeks/months/years. I can also say with no small sense of accomplishment that the soup was edible, and quite possibly even tasty. Another bonus is the realization that I have an option other than dried noodles in a powder sauce. Of course, I did end up with a vat of soup. If anyone wants to partake of the Makeshift Minestrone (oooh, that’s an even better name), come on over!

One final note.  I rarely use spell check, but decided to give it a go today.  Spell check was not pleased with my use of "oooh" and recommended that I change it to "pooh".  Thanks, spell check!

“Cold soup is a very tricky thing and it is the rare hostess who can carry it off. More often than not the dinner guest is left with the impression that had he only come a little earlier he could’ve gotten it while it was still hot."
                            --Fran Lebowitz
                               Metropolitan Life

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