Pantry Soup and The Sorcerer’s Apprentices
As a mother, a wife and in the past a supplier of daily meals, I often felt like a sorcerer. That is it was up to me to conjure something to eat from whatever might be in my refrigerator or pantry that day. Sometimes it might be something as easy as pancakes, another day we might end up with chicken curry. I was never a meal planner but I always kept my house filled with basics so that depending on my mood I could usually make something that fit what I felt like that day. Lately, I’ve been facing new challenges in that I’m home alone A LOT! I haven’t been real good about keeping my home stocked with daily supplies. For me it is hard to adjust to cooking for one. And knowing how much to buy for just moi. Plus, I don’t like going to the grocery every day. I used to go just once a week. With a family I know someone will always eat it but I get tired of the same food day after day. Oh, the challenges a sorcerer must face.
Which led me to making this soup. I worked with what I had and it came out quite good. It was even better the next day. A minestrone it isn’t because it doesn’t have zucchini or green beans or cabbage or potatoes. And it isn’t really a bean soup because I didn’t add a whole lot of beans. And I added some lean ham so I guess it isn’t a straight up vegetable soup. So I’m just going to call it pantry soup because I used what I had in the fridge and pantry. The important thing when making soup is to make it your own. You don’t want beans, well add more veggies. No ham, add bacon, smoked turkey or leave it out. You can’t make a mistake.
Which leads me to this book I just finished. The Sorcerer’s Apprentices (A season in the kitchen at Ferran Adria’s ElBulli ) written by Lisa Abend in 2011. ElBulli was rated the top restaurant in the world 5 times in a row by Restaurant magazine. It was open for 6 months each year near a little town, up a big hill, on a rocky road in Spain. Every year, every single reservation disappeared in a single day. Between 500,000 and two million people applied for this 30 course dinner. 8000 got in. I never got it. I never applied. And now it is closed. Adria will be turning El Bulli into a foundation where chefs can go to create. And create they will. Adria is the person who invented foams and spheres and smoke. The so called father of molecular gastronomy. His creativity was without bounds when it came to food. Each year 3000 stagiaires would apply to work in the kitchen for 6 months- for free. 32 lucky ones were accepted. They never even got to taste the food they dished up! This book is their story, Adria’s story and the story of El Bulli. It is a different look at food and the world that revolves around it. Next time you go out to eat think about the background of those aspiring chefs. They work hard, long hours for usually not much moolah. What inspires them? This book gives you an insight into their world and into the creative genius of Ferran Adria. Each year he created 30 totally new dishes to shock? inspire? his clientele. Copy was not a word in his repertoire. The Sorcerer’s Apprentices is a fascinating book to read and may change your outlook on how you think about the food you eat. Then again it may make you very happy that you eat the way you do.
And back to Pantry Soup. I have no apprentices in my kitchen. And frankly yesterday, well, I was just happy I only had to conjure up soup.
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic
1 onion chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 red pepper chopped
4 slices ham
1 c crushed tomatoes
1 can white beans drained and rinsed
2-4 c chicken broth
1 piece of parmesan rind
Bay leaf, 1/2 t smoked paprika, salt, pepper
Melt oil and butter. Add garlic and onions. Saute lightly and add carrot,celery, red pepper. Saute until softened. Stir in ham and cook lightly. Add tomatoes and seasonings. Stir in 2c chicken broth.Add cheese rind. Let simmer about 1 /2 hour. Add beans and another cup of chicken broth. Cook another 1/2hour on a very low simmer. If this gets to thick add more chicken broth. Serve with a grating of parmesan cheese and you may sprinkle with basil or cilantro.
Save your cheese rinds. They add good flavor to soup. Remember rendered bacon, pancetta or turkey will also work. Or don’t use at all and make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chcken.. Just make this your soup! Today, YOU are the sorcerer.