There is nothing better to warm the body -- and the soul -- than delicious, steaming soup. I found a simple, quick, and inexpensive soup recipe in Sally Schneider's "A New Way to Cook." She calls it "French Winter Vegetable Soup." I adapted it and refer to my version 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.) This soup, like the one in the story, is laden with different vegetables, but it does not require any particular one or large amounts of any of them.
The basic recipe is simple: water, small amount of olive oil and a bit of salt brought to a boil in a pot; add an assortment of veggies cut very small; and simmer the soup in a pot, partially covered, for half an hour. My friend Phil and I made the soup with a thick slice of cooked ham from the grocery deli department, cut into cubes roughly the same size as the vegetables. You can also add a thick slice of bread toasted with some cheese on top as a crouton.
The genius of this soup is that you can vary it depending on your tastes and what you can muster in the way of vegetables. Don't be alarmed if you have never eaten, or even seen, some of the veggies listed in the recipe. If you can find them, I hope you'll try them - you won't be sorry. From left, the vegetables listed below are: celery root, carrot, parsnip (hiding next to the much brighter carrot -- it's the same shape, but light colored), fennel, garlic and onion.
If you cannot find some of the specified veggies in your grocery, or if you are not adventurous when it comes to odd-looking produce items, then substitute others, such as zucchini or peppers (red, green or yellow.) If you find a variation that you love, I hope you'll let us know by adding your own version as a comment so others can learn from your success. If you are a meat eater (or meat-a-tarian as my son Liam used to say), you can add chunks of leftover chicken, sliced ham from the deli department, or a beef bone to flavor the soup. The soup is great the next day, and can be frozen and defrosted 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?
Mother's Stone Soup (adapted from French Winter Vegetable Soup)
Servings: 4 bowls
Estimated Cost - $2.60 serving ($10.35 for pot of 4 servings)
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large or 2 small potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold - can use red potatoes, don't use Russet or baking potatoes)
- 1 small yellow onion (least expensive type of onion)
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1-2 parsnips
- 1 turnip
- ½ small celery root (ugly little thing, but delicious in soup or shredded in salad!)
- ½ small fennel bulb (fresh it tastes like licorice, but cooked it has a divine, subtle taste)
- 2 leeks
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ cup of cubed meat (chicken or ham)
- fresh ground pepper
- thick slice(s) of bread (stale works best)
- approx ½ cup of cheese grated or shredded for melting on top of bread or adding to soup when it is served
- parsley and herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and basil can be added just before serving - cut up very small or pounded into a paste with a teaspoon of olive oil
- Good knife for cutting vegetables (and cubing meat if you're adding it)
- Cutting board
- Garlic press (If you don't have one, use the side of a knife to smash the garlic on cutting board)
- Bowl to hold cut veggies before adding them to soup
- Pot with lid (large enough to hold about 2-3 quarts)
For step-by-step directions, click here.