last night's soup

There are certain dishes that I have made without ever consulting a recipe. Fried eggs, for example. Tuna fish salad. Popcorn. And, until recently, polenta. Boil up some water, pour in the grits, and get stirring. Add a little bit of milk, a hunk of butter, a few twists of salt and pepper. Stir and wait, wait and stir, and that's all there is to it. So, when I came upon David Tanis's polenta recipe -- several paragraphs of text, no less -- in his cookbook, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, I was intrigued. About half way through the recipe, I encountered the following lines: "Continue to stir while the polenta gets its bearings. After a few minutes, it will be bubbling very gently, with the occasional ploop."


Say it aloud and try not to smile. I dare you.

Leave it to Chef Tanis to remind us that we turn to recipes for so much more than a mere list of ingredients and a set of instructions. What I love about his polenta recipe is not that it provided me with new insights into how to cook polenta, but that it offered me a new way to think about the polenta that I was already cooking. Heck, it gave me a whole new word to describe one of the most pleasurable parts of polenta preparation: the plooping!

Due to the freeze-your-face-off winter winds whipping around these parts, I've thrown together a big pot of recipe-less soup not once, but twice over the last two weeks. My sister, Kasey, and my friend, Varina, have both asked for the recipe, and neither of them seem satisfied with my response of, "Just pile whatever veggies you have around into a big pot and cook it for a long time." And so, in honor of never-written-down recipes everywhere, here you go, Kasey and Varina. The ingredients change, of course, depending on what I have on hand, but I've included the recipe for last night's version at the end of this post.

While the soup was simmering last night, I cooked up some polenta (ploop, ploop) and plopped a big spoonful in the center of each bowl. After surrounding the polenta with moats of vegetable soup, I topped off the dishes with some grated parmesan cheese.

If you have not tried polenta in soup, you must. I don't know which is more delicious, the corny grains that dissolve into the broth or the creamy spoonfuls scooped from the center mound.

Stay warm out there, my Boston brethren. Eat soup. Ploopity ploop.

Last Night's Soup

1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, chopped into thick rings
1 yam, chopped into chunks
1 28 oz. can of whole, roasted tomatoes
1 can navy beans
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped
3-4 T. of fresh herbs (last night, I used sage, thyme, and parsley), finely chopped
1-2 t. dried basil
2 T. Olive oil
Water or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste

[More potential ingredients for other nights: turnip, zucchini, cabbage (instead of kale), potatoes, pinto beans, shallots...]

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and add the onions. Sauté the onions until they are translucent and slightly brown around the edges. Add the garlic, and sauté just until the aroma rises. Add the carrots and the yam. Stirring occasionally, let cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the can of roasted tomatoes, juices and all. Fill the empty can with water or vegetable broth and add to the pot. The veggies should be just submerged in liquid. If they are not, add more water or broth. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Turn the flame down so that the soup gently simmers. Allow the vegetables to cook and soften for about 20 minutes.

Add the fresh and dried herbs and stir in the beans. Mound the chopped kale on top of the soup and cover. Let the kale steam for five minutes, and then stir it into the soup. With the flame on low, simmer for about an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over little mounds of polenta.


megan said...

Uh, this blog might make me start to like cooking...


Elishag said...

I just made this tonight and it was a crowd pleaser. But now I need the recipe for polenta!!

Ashley said...

I just discovered your blog through Orangette and must admit to reading them at work. All is well until I try to say "ploop" outloud and proceed to giggle, loudly. Thank you Sweet Amandine, it was nice break. Now back to work.

Jess said...

Hi, Ashley
Welcome to Sweet Amandine! I'm very happy to be able to provide you with some entertainment during your work day. I promise not to tell your boss. (I don't blame you for laughing. "Ploop." It gets me every time.) Hope to see you again soon.

Steph said...

This was soooo good. I couldn't believe how sweet it was. I decided to omit the yam and added another carrot. I also didn't have navy beans so I used cannellini. This is making my fall just a little more delicious. Thank you Jess!

Jess said...

You're so very welcome, Steph. Your variations sound good to me.

Sandra said...

I just discovered your blog a couple days ago. I like it very much! After making that roasted carrot and fennel soup (yum) and reading a few posts, I decided to start at the very beginning. It's perfect because it's January again and quite cold here in Sweden. I enjoyed this soup tonight and was even inspired to make polenta for the first time. Thank you :)

Brittany said...

This looks really delicious I'm hoping to make it soon. Is the yam you used the American sweet potato or the African yellow/white yam?