I was very tempted to call this post “refrigerator soup” but I feared no one would ever read it if I did. But now that I have your attention, what I am about to share is my technique for how to use up as many of the vegetables in your refrigerator to make something comforting and delicious. I typically make this soup for lunch on Sundays when I have a bit of time to scrounge around for odd bits of leftover vegetables in the veggie bin and generally assess the status of the week’s leftovers.
The ingredients in this soup change week to week but the technique is generally the same. The possibilities are literally endless. In place of barley, you can substitute lentils, Israeli cous cous, tubetti pasta, baby shells or macaroni. Onions can be substituted for leeks or shallots. You can use practically whatever vegetables are in season, and even add beef, chicken or baby meatballs. Continue reading
I have a confession to make. I stole the carrots to make this soup. I’m guilty. But before you close this link out of fear that your integrity will be compromised by making this recipe, let me explain. We have a plot in our local community garden. The growing season is from April to December, or whenever the Village of Gambier gets around to clearing us out. I don’t know the actual demographics of our Village but I would guess that it is 95% populated by students and faculty of Kenyon College, ourselves included. Having been through one full growing season at the garden, I’ve noticed a trend amongst its residents. Come April/May, academics are feeling tired but enthusiastic about the impending summer months. June, July and August symbolize time to yourself, a chance to get out into the sunshine and steer clear of anyone between the ages of 18-22. They energetically plant their gardens, weed and water them for about a month. Then come the trips, Ohio’s unbearable humidity, and the slow, creeping realization that you’re being paid for 12 months a year because the expectation is that you’ll actually do a little work during the summer.
Meanwhile weeds begin to take over. Seeds fruit and then flower. Greens bolt. Summer squash takes over. And eventually these garden plots go from orderly, romantic landscapes to cubist nightmares. So on October 20th, as my daughter and I were harvesting ground cherries and arugula, I couldn’t help but peak over at our neighbors over grown mess and notice carrot tops. After carefully monitoring our surroundings for signs of approaching scholars, I ventured over to investigate. I brushed aside some dirt to find an outcropping of orange tops. I looked to my left and noticed a few more tops peaking out. Soon I had called Adeline over and we were excavating pounds of amazing carrots that had been sweetening all summer long! Round, knobby, crunchy and delicious, these were some of the best carrots I’d ever had.
Home cooked Chinese food played a large role in my culinary upbringing as a child, hence the inspiration for Soy Sugar Sherry. I am told that during the few years that my parents were married, they literally ate Chinese food every night, most of which was homemade. My mom actually took Chinese cooking lessons at night and when she’d return home, she and my dad would stay up all night recreating the dishes she had just learned.
On weekends as a one year old they’d take me to Chinatown to (once-was) Joy Luck on Mott Street for Beef Sung and Soy Sauce Chicken. I’m told that I would eventually wilt at the table in my high chair, comatose after too much food and excitement, something my daughter has been known to do as well. Perhaps my first MSG hangover?
With so much Chinese food running through my veins as a child, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I started creating recipes of my own. There’s something incredibly satisfying about a clean, light and yet fulfilling bowl of wonton soup. There’s definitely some scary stuff out there, slippery, heavy noodles encapsulating a grey mound of mystery meat, swimming in tasteless bright yellow broth. For mine, I’ve added ginger and scallion for freshness and bite, but tried to keep the amounts subtle. The mushrooms add earthiness to the filling, and keep them very light. Using a food processor ensures that the flavors are well integrated. The beauty of this soup is that can be kept simple, as this recipe calls for, or elevated to a super filling main course with loads of veg, tofu or roast pork, even some Chinese egg noodles. It’s a fantastic base, and a technique that can easily be adapted.