It Comes Together Organically

Did I imagine that it was 70 degrees and partly sunny a few days ago?  The chilly gray skies have returned and I'm starting to think I dreamed the whole thing.  I'm feeling a bit deceived by the weather patterns.  Spring and I are on a cycle of spending some time together and then suddenly we are estranged.  I'd like it if Mother Nature could make up her mind about letting the warm weather stick around for good.  My green thumb would appreciate it, too. 

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!


  1. Nice veg photo, Jen! And I'm looking forward to your food podcast list. One of the things I love about soups is that you don't really need a recipe :) Stay warm.

  2. Nice post! I made a similar soup this week too! This weather called for it.

    And p.s. Could you provide some hints about making a homemade veggie stock? I'm looking to get started on that this summer.


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