Saturday, January 28, 2017

Soup Days
Vegetable soup is a common comfort food.  As a kid, canned Campbell’s tomato soup and boxed Lipton chicken and noodle soup were often served by my mom on rainy, winter nights. A few years ago, on a dark, stormy midnight I walked outdoors and the front deck was covered with heavy, wet snow. The pine trees and wires amid me looked eerie because they were shrouded with white powder. At 7:30 a.m. I flicked on the lamp—it didn’t work. “Power outage,” I mumbled. It was the beginning of the first day the lights went out at South Lake Tahoe. 

I hoped for the best, but by dusk I went into survival mode and prepared for the worst. I was clad in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans and felt like a characters in The Day After Tomorrow doomsday film.  But it was cozy in the candlelight sitting by the crackling, warm fire. I ate a bowl (or two) of vegetable soup. It was the premium canned variety that I found in my pantry next to a box of whole grain crackers. I appreciated the typical go-to foods which sufficed but were nondescript.
During our recent Snowstorm 2017 event, I revisited the gift of soup. But this time around, the lights stayed on. Instead of a ready-made type, I revamped my friendly semi-homemade vegetable soup recipe. I added Mediterranean delights, including fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, and pasta. It’s like a Wedding Soup but without chicken or meat. The hearty vegetarian soup made with superfoods helped make the challenges of our endless storm more bearable with its comforting taste of nature whipped up in about 30 minutes.

Chunky Italian Vegetable Soup

1 carton (32 ounces) organic vegetable broth
¼ cup red or yellow onion
½ cup celery
¼ cup fresh barley and basil, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup carrots, chopped
½ cup zucchini, chopped
1 ½ cups uncooked whole grain rotini
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (garnish)

      Pour broth into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add onion, celery, barley, basil, thyme, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil again. Add salt and pepper. Then, add remaining vegetables. Simmer for 15 minutes. In another pot boil pasta for several seven minutes until cooked. Add pasta. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Top with cheese. Serves 4. * Serve with slices of sourdough cracked wheat bread. Slice in rectangles. Spread with butter, and sprinkle with minced garlic. Place on foil and toast in a 425 degree oven until hot and crispy.

      I can personally attest that the aroma of herbs and garlic in the kitchen were amazing. The first spoonful of the easy-to-make hearty soup was better than the stuff in a can. And crispy, buttery bread beats crackers any day. While ready-made soups are quick, making the extra effort to use a broth, fresh ingredients, and TLC make a big difference. This soup is worth writing home about. Soup’s on!

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