This is the recipe for what I basically live on: it’s a hearty, vegetarian, salt-free stock with which I create meals. It’s cheap and healthy (xactly: just like me) and no-fail (yup: not like me at all). Even though I am providing some sort of a concrete process for the base, it, as well as the other stuff you throw in, can be played around with and you can use whatever you have in the fridge or whatever’s good and/or on sale at the market.
The base is a variation of a mirepoix or holy trinity, with celery and onion: I then add garlic at the last minute, instead of bell peppers or carrots, which I may or may not throw in later. The magic ingredient of this handiwork is time which you sneak in over the course of a few days. Many times, I’ll have one batch of this soup in the “build” stage on the stove and then another, more finished batch in the fridge, ready for chowtime. This soup does not go bad, it just gets better and better with time (again true: just like me).
My suggestion is to start this process on a lazy weekend morning or afternoon; you’ll need to tend to this for about three hours at its start and I suggest using a large 5 to 6 quart casserole pot for the cookage process. You’ll cook this for dayz, bunny: it tastes so much better, just like love, if it isn’t brand new.
DAY 1 – here’s what you need for the base:
1 big yellow or white onion, or two smaller ones
½ bunch of celery, give or take a few stalks – you want to have about the same amount of celery and onion
Chop these up as finely as you can bear: the finer the chop, the more potential for flavor so take your time, turn up some music and chop away; get it all down to tiny pieces – you’ll have roughly two cups or so of each vegetable. There’s nothing wrong with doubling this recipe, too; just bear in mind it may take longer to cook it all down.
In the casserole pot, gently heat up some olive oil on low heat for about a minute: use enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pot, a good long pour; you can always add in more, as you need, since you don’t want your vegetables to burn or get dried out.
After that minute of heating the oil, add in the finely chopped onion and celery: the oil should never get too hot; you don’t want to shock or scald the veggies. Coat the celery and onion mixture, making sure all of it gets good and oiled; even add more olive oil if you need. Make sure your heat stays at an extremely low simmer, then top the mixture off with a good spanking of freshly ground black pepper (be generous because you won’t be using salt, so this will help the flavor as well as the cooking) and let this simmer, very low and covered, until the onions and celery get really soft. This will take some time; I let this go for well over an hour, usually close to two hours (remember: you won’t be eating this tonight, you are just building your base). Check on the mixture and stir every 15 to 20 minutes or so: make sure the heat stays super low and add more oil, if you need, to keep the mixture soft, and definitely feel free to re-pepper.
During this time, chop a half a head of garlic, about 10 – 12 cloves or so. If you are like me and living in a world where no such thing as too much garlic, use the whole dang head. Chop every clove by hand as finely as you can, itty bitty pieces, to almost a paste. Yes, it takes time so catch up on some crappy TV on your DVR and not feel guilty about it. Pretend each clove is an absurd old problem that you are literally cutting down to size. The finer the chop, the more tasty the final product: chop, chop, chop, chop and chop away with love in your heart.
After 90 minutes to two hours, your celery and onion (the dynamic duo for the time being) should be nice, soft and translucent: add a little more oil, pepper it up and stir for minute or two so that the added oil gets some heat.
We’re now about to enter phase 2: where the dynamic duo meets the superhero garlic and the angels above your head sing to the newly formed trinity.
Add in the garlic, stir well and stay put by the mixture. It’s important that the garlic not get burned or fried, so this phase only takes about two minutes, tops. Once you start to really smell the garlic, once all the fabulousness has been released by the heat after about a minute, give it another thirty seconds or so, stirring and smearing it all around, getting the celery and onion good and saturated with the miracle that is garlic.
Phase 3: another nice, long sleepy phase – add a little bit of water, like a half a cup or so, to this mixture no more than two minutes after you have added the garlic. You could even add white wine, if you’d like, for some zing. If you are a total cheater (and I ain’t hatin, playa), you could actually add some other stock, but it’s healthier if you stick to H2O because this will allow what you have slaved over to actually come through once you are finished. Believe me, it’s worth the wait. The addition of this liquid will allow the ingredients to continue to soften and mix.
Cut up a lemon into 8 pieces, making sure to remove all seeds. Carefully squeeze out each piece into the mixture, checking for and removing any errant seeds; squeeze out every last drop you can. You could use a juicer but I think you get more juice if you do this by hand; as well, there is something about the ceremony of squeezing, and chopping by hand. It just tastes better, in my opinion.
Phase 4: let’s call this mixture “soup” – we’ve earned the name and it certainly has by now. With both the water and lemon juice, the soup should be a nice and chunky dense mix. Add some more freshly ground pepper and let it continue to simmer, over that low heat, for another hour. Then turn the heat off, keep it covered and let it sit to cool enough to go into the fridge, for about another hour or so (no worries if this is longer: it’s not going to turn into poison if it doesn’t go into the fridge immediately after an hour).
Whew: Day 1 is ovah! Instructions for Dayz 2 and on are forthcoming.
Happy New Year, by the way! My resolution is to blog every day. Let’s see if that happens. I am just glad I finally started this thing this year and I am very excited to see what the next year brings. 2014 was the end of some stupid stuff for me so I bet 2015 will be the start of some not-so-stupid stuff, just like this post depicts the start of some not-so-stupid soup: the elixir of the earthling! Soup for DAYZZZZZZ!!