Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Debi: The Soup

You may think "The Soup" is a television show that wraps up the week's amusing entertainment news, but around here, it's an actual food. It's THE actual food, THE Soup, not just any soup, but THE soup, the soup to end all soups. It started as a recipe called "Chris' Aloo Chana Soup" in the cookbook called The Garden of Vegan, but at this point, I think I've tinkered with it enough to post my version without infringing on the intellectual property rights of the authors. (By the way: buy that cookbook. TONS of good stuff in it.)

Let me back up a little. I've always really loved soup, and when my youngest was just starting solid foods, several medical issues made swallowing difficult for her. Soup was a perfect food at that time: soft and liquidy, and it was easy to add extra nutrients and fat to her bowl without forcing the rest of us to eat heavy cream or, the granddaddy of all "supplements," virgin coconut oil (which, at room temperature, is the consistency of vaseline). In some other blog post, I'll write about the soup that got her from age 1 to 2 without her wasting away. But that's not The Soup.

I made The Soup for the first time about two years ago. It had looked daunting to me before then, since it has so many different herbs and spices in it. I thought surely it would be muddy-tasting, and if it didn't taste right, I wouldn't know what to add to make it better. One day, though, I had a hankering for Indian food but didn't want all the fire of curry. I decided to tackle this just once, promising that if it didn't turn out, we could always add it to some black beans or some rice to dilute the flavors.

Bite your tongue, naive Debi!!!

It was love at first sight. All those rich eastern colors pouring into the pot, resting on the sauteed vegetables before being swirled into the broth! The smells of someplace far away mixing with the familiar of onion and my own homemade stock! The luscious sharpness of the tomatoes adding the perfect amount of acid! This is truly the soup of the heavens.

You may have to shop for some of the ingredients. I have to send Garam Masala to Stori in Alaska every year, for example, but if you live near a major city, you should be able to find it reasonably cheaply. Here's my version of the original recipe from the cookbook. Take your time, and savor every moment.

Aloo Chana Soup
Original source: The Garden of Vegan (cookbook) with tinkering by Debi

1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, ideally homemade to avoid the sodium
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 large carrot, chopped
1 can chick peas
14 oz canned tomatoes, diced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried mint
1 cup steamed broccoli

In a large soup pot, saute the onion, and celery in oil until the onions are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute. Add the stock, potatoes, carrot, chickpeas, tomatoes, and stir in the turmeric, cumin, cardamom, garam masala, salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the mint and broccoli. Let stand covered for at least 5 minutes (or, in my case, all afternoon). Warm and serve. Mmm!

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