It’s a beautiful day for Stone Soup – literally. Today in Washington DC, the sun is out and the temperature is positively balmy. Spring is definitely in the air. Not a day one normally thinks of how to keep warm.
But I like to think ahead – and weather forecasts say the weekend brings a 20+ degree drop in temperature; winter sliding back to chill us for a bit longer.
There is nothing better to warm the body – and the soul – than delicious, steaming soup, especially if it took less than one hour to make. I recently found a simple, quick and inexpensive soup recipe in Sally Schneider’s “A New Way to Cook.”
While Sally Schneider calls it “French Winter Vegetable Soup,” I think of it as Stone Soup. (The book of that name is one of my favorite children’s books. It retells the folk story about three hungry soldiers who tricked villagers into making – and sharing – a hearty soup, starting with a single stone.)
Schneider’s basic recipe is simple. For the base she uses water, small amount of olive oil and a bit of salt brought to a boil in a pot. Then she adds assorted vegetables cut very small. Finally, she simmers the soup in a pot, partially covered, for half an hour.
The recipe shows Stone Soup as my friend Phil and I made it earlier this week. We added a thick slice of pre-cooked ham from the deli department of the grocery, cut into cubes roughly the same size as the vegetables to make the soup a bit heartier. You can also add a thick slice of bread toasted with some cheese on top as a crouton.
From left – celery root, carrot, parsnip, fennel, garlic & onion.
The genius of this “Stone Soup” is that you can vary it depending on your tastes and what you have on hand. If you’re adventurous, maybe you’ll even go out to find and add a vegetable you’re not familiar with. You won’t be sorry.
Substitutions are fine too. Zucchini and bell peppers (red, green or yellow) work well if you don’t have celery root or fennel. Lots of different vegetables melding together in the simple base give this version of Stone Soup complex flavor.
If you are a carnivore (or meat-a-tarian as my son Liam used to say), you can add leftover chicken or sliced ham from the deli department.
The soup is great the next day. You can also freeze it if you want to keep it for longer than 3-4 days. Now, doesn’t that sound like great insurance against a cold wind from the north?
A delightful and light soup made from a base of water, olive oil, and salt, with cubed vegetables and chicken or ham (optional.)
- 1-2 small potatoes, preferably Yukon gold
- 1 small onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 1-2 parsnips
- 1 turnip
- 1/2 celery root
- 1/2 fennel bulb
- 2 leeks
- 1 clove garlic, minced or smashed
- 1/2 cup cubed chicken or ham
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- thick slice(s) of bread - optional
- 1/2 cup grated or shredded cheese (for topping on bread crouton) - optional
- parsley and herbs Thyme, rosemary, and basil work well.
Peel the outer skin from vegetables that need it (e.g. carrots, onion, parsnips, celery root and garlic) and wash the skin of the rest of the vegetables.
Cut the vegetables except for the leeks and garlic into very small cubes, about the size of your thumbnail.
Slice the white part of the leek off from the green part, cut off the bottom strings from the white part opposite the green stem, slice the leek in half lengthwise and wash it well, separating the inner layers to let water run through where dirt can be hiding. Cut each lengthwise piece of the leek into half thin half-moon slices.
Put all the cut vegetables and meat (if using) into a large bowl. (Cut any meat into cubes roughly the size of the vegetables, or if it is cooked chicken, maybe shred it.)
Add the clove of garlic.
Bring 4 cups of water, the olive oil, and salt to a rolling boil on the stovetop. (When you start the water/oil/salt heating, small bubbles appear around the edges. That stage is a simmer, which is how the soup should look when it cooks with all the ingredients. But at this first stage, it must be heated to a higher temperature, until large bubbles appear all over the surface of the liquid.)
Add the vegetables (and meat.) Put the lid on the pot halfway, so that air can escape from the pot. Turn the light on the stovetop down so that the soup is simmering (small bubbles, mostly on the sides) and cook for 30 minutes. Taste - add pepper and more salt if desired.
If desired, add a crouton with melted cheese and/or herbs. You can also add parsley and/or other herbs, either minced or pounded into paste with a teaspoon of olive oil.
Enjoy Stone Soup!