I can't help but feel a little bit like I am backsliding into a winter coma every time the temperatures slip. I instantly start to refer to my mental winter-survival-guide, "Make a pot of soup! Build a fire in the woodburning stove!" Tim and I divide and conquer, sticking with our strengths; he loves to make a fire and I love to cook soup.
We are running a little light on homemade chicken stock so I opted to use the vegetable stock we made earlier this year. I figure if we are starting there I should just make a vegetable soup. As I gathered vegetables from counter-top baskets and the bottom drawer of our refrigerator, I really didn't have a starch like a potato to give some bulk to the soup. After a quick peek in our cabinets, we had less than a quarter box of elbow macaroni so I decided to use pasta as my starch. That's the thing about soup--it comes together organically that way.
So I chopped the vegetables somewhat uniformly and into the pot went a tablespoon or two of olive oil, a yellow onion, a few medium carrots, two stalks of celery, several small parsnips, and some garlic. I stirred occasionally, allowing the vegetables to sizzle over medium heat until they developed some color. Then I added a heaping spoonful of tomato paste to add that essential umami flavor, balancing the sweet of the carrots and parsnips with its savory richness. (If you don't have tomato paste, a bit of full-bodied red wine will add the same depth.)
Then I added 3 containers of vegetable stock (about 6 cups) and a cup of water to the pot, stirring to combine and lift any bits off the bottom. Two bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and some salt & pepper were all the soup needed for that last bit of flavor development. I turned up the heat to medium-high to bring it to a boil, and then reduced it to medium-low to simmer.
After ten or so minutes, I remembered that I wanted to add macaroni, so I tossed in two handfuls and set the timer to check it again in ten more minutes. When the timer went off, the macaroni was just al-dente and the vegetables were all cooked through without being mushy.
After I served myself a bowl, I decided the soup needed some color. I suggested Tim add a handful of frozen peas to the pot and before he ate any. The addition of the peas (not pictured here) gave the mostly reddish colored soup a pop of color and a nice snap in texture when eaten. It turns out between the parsnips and the macaroni noodles, I didn't miss the potatoes at all.
There's really not much of a recipe to this so I won't pretend to give you one, but if you hesitate in trusting yourself to make soup without a recipe I suggest throwing caution to the wind. Simple soup like this tends to pull itself together without much help from the cook.
On a completely unrelated note, I've been compiling a list of food-related podcasts that I have been listening to while I travel for work so keep an eye out for those soon!