Mom’s and My Vegetarian Vegetable Soup
Mourning the loss of a mother is a process. First come those very early, busy days where shock, a flurry of tasks, and the constant presence of friends and family preserve you. Then comes the unfolding over months. For me, it has come with good days-ones where my brothers, the rest of the family, and I can talk about Mom without too much sadness, and where life goes on pretty much normally, and bad ones-where tears pop out of nowhere, where I wake up with her on my mind-or maybe not- but in a dark mood, and can’t seem to make decisions (of which there are many when administering an estate), or can’t get much of anything done and tasks go uncompleted. There have even been days where the thought of cooking just makes me weary, and I can’t bring myself into the kitchen.
Today brought a different kind of day. Last week my brother brought me a quart sized recycled cottage cheese container from his freezer. “I think it’s some of that crawfish etoufée you made for Mom.” I took a quick peek, “No, I think it’s the fish soup base” (which I had made for him to add filets of fish to for feeding Mom during her illness), I responded. Whichever it was, Ric, a 40+ year vegetarian, had no use for either. I stuck it in the fridge, until I had a chance to make room in my freezer for it, and forgot about it for a few days.
Turns out the thawed dish was a vegetable soup (that did happen to be one of the faded markings on the top of the container), and I was able to ascertain that it was a non-meat base, so I e-mailed Ric and asked him if he’d like me to “oomph” it up and give it back to him. “Sure,” he responded.
Now, soups weren’t Mom’s strongest suit. She insisted on boiling stocks with the lid on the pot. I tried to tell her that they were best cooked uncovered, that stocks needed to reduce to intensify flavor, but old habits die hard. And, I have a problem with vegetarian broths. I feel they’re a little anemic, lacking the depth of a meat or chicken based stock, but I recently read a post in which Food Woolf recommended adding a Parmesan rind to vegetable stocks for added richness. I had, of course, known of this technique for making Minestrone (which usually also includes some meat), but had never considered it as a general stock booster. I had to give it a try.
So, to Mom’s very basic vegetable soup, I added the rind, a scant cup of diced tomatoes, a couple of smashed garlic cloves, a few more diced onions and carrots (there was plenty of celery in it already), and about a cup of corn kernels left over from a party last week. A bit more salt, black pepper and a few red pepper flakes finished it off. Finally, waiting patiently in the fridge to be used, was a vacuum pack of Six Bean Medley, a gift from Melissa’s Produce I picked up at the end of December, so half of that went into the soup, as well. Turned out to be quite a respectable (and hearty) soup, after all, that Mom and I threw together.
P.S. While I was in the kitchen, I decided to stay a while and baked a Morning Glory Cake.
Vegetarian Vegetable Soup
Many recipes are not exact formulas, but rather guidelines to follow, with bits of your own self-expression thrown in. This is especially true of soups, so please treat this as such, and do your own thing. Like a sweeter soup- add more carrots/and or tomatoes. Got other veggies to use up, throw them in…you get the point.
- About 5 quarts of water
- 1 cup onions, diced
- 1-2 cups carrots, diced or thinly sliced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 2-3 large glaric cloves, smashed or minced
- 1 large piece of Parmesan rind
- 1 cup (or more) corn kernels
- 6 ounces Six Bean Medley or other cooked beans
- Any other vegetables you may have around- Mom’s original soup included a few bits of summer squash
- Salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
- Minced parsley to garnish
- Add onions, celery, garlic, thyme, Parmesan rind and half of the carrots to the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Allow the stock to simmer until reduced by lamost half.
- Add the tomatoes, the remaining carrots, corn and squash or any other vegetables desired to the stock and continue to cook until they are tender-about 20-30 minutes.
- Add the cooked beans, salt, and two peppers, and let cook for another 20 minutes or so. Sprinkle the tops with minced parsley and serve hot.