The Oracle

Filed under COLUMNISTS, FOOD

Column: Vegetable Soup for the Soul

The+finished+vegetable+soup+is+brimming+with+carrots%2C+celery+and+pasta.++This+variety+of+noodle+is+called+Campanelle+or+Gigli%2C+which+is+the+most+adorable+pasta+name+in+the+world.
The finished vegetable soup is brimming with carrots, celery and pasta.  This variety of noodle is called Campanelle or Gigli, which is the most adorable pasta name in the world.

The finished vegetable soup is brimming with carrots, celery and pasta. This variety of noodle is called Campanelle or Gigli, which is the most adorable pasta name in the world.

Photo by Anna Allgeyer

Photo by Anna Allgeyer

The finished vegetable soup is brimming with carrots, celery and pasta. This variety of noodle is called Campanelle or Gigli, which is the most adorable pasta name in the world.

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The middle of winter is upon us.  The rainiest and coldest months of the year here in Los Angeles are January and February, and there always seems to be a monotonous rhythm that takes over the winter.

But the beauty of Los Angeles comes in the random spring sunshine that hits in the beginning of February and makes us crave something summery and light. 

With such few winter days to capitalize on, making soups, roasts and other wintery specialties are the perfect reason to cancel all your weekend plans and cook up a storm.  Or, if you are a little more social than I am, invite your friends over for a Saturday night dinner party.

First of all, what’s in season?  For the average supermarket shopper, the concept of foods having “seasons” can come as a shock, but the truth is that in-season produce is cheaper, tastes better and is more sustainable. Some produce that loves January and February in California are avocados, citrus, root vegetables, brussel sprouts, chard, tomatillos and kale. This is your public service announcement that winter is not the season to surrender to boring pasta and mysterious casseroles from the 70’s. I am so fortunate to live in sunny Los Angeles where fresh produce is a year-round event, so let’s make the most of it.

I hereby present you with the most fantastic, utterly mind-melting vegetable soup that has ever existed. This dish requires time, and lots of it, to create the scrumptious result — but it is well worth it.  

To begin, acquire a gallon sized Ziploc freezer safe bag, and begin to fill the entire bag with vegetable scraps. I fill mine with garlic, onion, carrot, potato and turnip skins for weeks before I begin to make this soup.  Every time you have a new vegetable scrap, whether it be leek tops or celery roots and leaves, add them to your bag and replace it in the freezer.  Another interesting addition can be parmesan rinds, the waxy case that envelopes the so-called “King of Cheeses” —Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This adds a fatty, creamy texture to any dish without it tasting of cheese.

To begin your vegetable stock, add an onion to a hot stock pan, searing with olive oil on high heat until it begins to emit a roasty aroma.  Then, add the contents of your Ziploc bag of vegetable scraps and any new vegetables you happen to have. Add peppercorns, thyme and parsley, and cover with water.  Keep the pot on simmer for five to ten hours.

Chop celery, carrots, onion and dice a parsnip and a small turnip and set aside. Drain the stock and set aside. Set another stockpot over high heat and begin to sweat onions in olive oil.  Add the rest of the vegetables and saute for five minutes, and add the stock.

Add parsley, and, if desired, a little bit of grated ginger (it won’t be detectable, but pushes the soup over the edge to the land of soup heaven). Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are at your desired texture, and season with salt.  Tip: never season a stock until the very end of cooking, as it is hard to predict the salinity of a reduced broth.

Always store your finished soup without noodles, otherwise they will become mushy and unappetizing.  When you are ready to serve your masterpiece, add your desired serving of soup to a small pot. Add egg noodles, and cook until they reach the desired texture. Bon appetit!

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