Soup and (Fresh!) Salad
During that hot spell with temperatures reaching into the 90s a couple of weeks ago, I thought my soup-making days were done until fall. But I was wrong.
Like the old-time Maine sage says, if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.
Now, some of us have given into relighting the wood stove during the evening, closing the windows, and actually making soup. The temperatures have dipped into the 50s, 40s, and for some of us, the 30s.
Our gardens may be in and actually producing lettuce and other greens, but the weather is still chilly at times. So we have the best of both culinary worlds – a chance to enjoy a hot soup and biscuits, then perhaps a fresh salad right from the garden to accompany it for the evening meal.
The heavy rains we had didn’t help many of our flowers and other delicate plants, but it is good for the soil and could assure us that if we have a drought in July, at least some moisture will still be in the ground. June is so often a month of way too much rain that sometimes hurts our gardens more than it helps. A few years ago, my cucumber, summer squash, and other plants got so much rain that they molded rather than produce blossoms and fruit.
I don’t think that will be the case this year. But of course, every year is different and regardless of how thoroughly we read the Farmers’ Almanac or listen to the long-term weather predictions from our local forecasters, only time will truly tell what kind of a year this will be.
For now, though, it is often chilly and the greens are coming in. Here’s a simple soup to make for one of those chilly nights. Although most of the vegetables growing in our gardens are still too young to use in this soup, just think how much greater it will taste when all the herbs and vegetables are fresh, which I figure should be in about two months!
Chilly Night Vegetable Soup (6-8 servings)
1 stick butter, margarine or substitute butter
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 green onions (try using a couple of very young onions growing in the garden)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 potatoes, unpeeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped (mine reseeded itself so I have fresh), or 1.5 teaspoons dried
1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
1.5 teaspoons dried basil
2 bay leaves
salt to taste
sprinkling of garlic powder
3.5 quarts chicken stock
2.5 cans tomato paste (6 ounces each)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (another three weeks and the fresh from the garden ones should be ready)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 cup cut-up fresh or frozen green or yellow beans
Melt butter in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven, then sauté until slightly tender, the celery, onion, green onions, garlic, potatoes and carrots. Add parsley, thyme, basil and bay leaf. Add salt to taste. Stir in stock and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Add green peas, corn and beans. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45
minutes. Top each serving with grated Parmesan cheese.
The greens I’ve planted this year have run the gamut from tender and sweet red and green leaf varieties and butterhead, to the tangier mesclun and arugula. So our salads are an adventure in themselves. Soon, tender, baby spinach with all its marvelous flavor will be added.
Using a huge variety of greens makes for a lovely salad. I like to arrange the various colors and textures on a luncheon plate, and add tiny green onions, also fresh from the garden. Later, I’ll have those juicy, very tasty fresh tomatoes, but for now, either we go without, or I use Back Yard Garden tomatoes grown in nearby Madison.
When serving an all-greens salad, the simpler the dressing, the better. It’s at these times that I use a little olive oil and a splash of wine vinegar or cider vinegar, along with sprinklings of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Later, the heavier, more flavorful dressings will be used.
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