Down the Rabbit Hole Soup (vegetarian)

Christina sat on the other side of the kitchen counter, her pointy boots rested on the chair opposite her. She looked like a lanky teenager, and she was telling goofy stories trying to lighten my mood. I was chopping my way through a thick cloud of post holiday depression. My knife was too dull, causing me to have to work hard to get through the springy outer skin of the potatoes. I looked up just as the knife came down to miss its mark and slice my left thumb. The pain throbbed instantly. I looked up at Christina, who had a worried look on her face. “Is it bad?” she said. “No” I said, but the pain in my thumb just bubbled up all the emotion that I have been keeping inside. The feelings that lay beneath the surface, the distance I feel from my family, the fear of being a disappointment, the resentment for expectations unmet, the friends that have moved on. I tried to freeze over, but the cap had been cracked and the emotion began to ooze.

My pity party was interrupted by a message of divine inspiration.
“I saw that coming”
“What?” I said to Christina.
“I swear, I just saw you cut yourself..and then, you did”
“weird” I said, although I was not one bit surprised.
“and remember how we both were oddly struck by the look of that one woman last night, and then she told us that she was pregnant”
“yeah, that was strange” I said, feeling lifted by the notion that the universe is guided by some sort of intelligence which can be accessed by keeping an open heart.
The stock

1/2 white onion
1/2 bunch celery, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
1 Tbsp salt
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 large purple cloves of garlic
the carrot tops
Simmer the onion in 1 cup of cold water while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients as they are prepared and 8 cups of cold water. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Strain.
While the soup stock is simmering, cook 1 1/2 cups black eyed peas in 3 cups of water. (throw the peas and the water in cold and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender. Do not add salt or seasonings at this point, because the beans will take longer to cook.
The soup
4 oz cippolini onions, diced
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, diced
1/2 bunch celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 head fennel, diced
4-5 carrots, peeled and diced
the black eyed peas (the food not the band)
some salt and pepper for seasoning
In a soup pot, heat 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil. Add 4 oz cippolini onions, diced, and a little salt. Add the potatoes, cook on high until the onions are caramelized. Add 1 cup of water and the garlic and celery and cook for 5 min. Add the fennel and cook for 5 min. Add the soup stock, carrots and black eyed peas. Season and serve.
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Rock Your Own Style Tomato Leek Soup

The sky spits out a constant rain of glitter. It intoxicates the imagination from a safe distance, like crackling runaway sparks of a fire that dance their way through chimney smoke. The scarf wrapped tightly around my neck is unbearably scratchy, and the groceries pull my shoulders into a submissive shrug.

The grocery store was a tumultuous ocean, a sea of arms in winter coats, hat tassels and little feet poking through grocery carts. We steered our way through moms wearing furrowed brows, with children crying salty tears, and ruddy faced dads with a far away look as though searching for signs of land.

“Go pick out some brown sugar” I say to Christina “I am going to go get us some water”.
“Alright” she says as she clunks her way through the billowing swells of grocery carts down the baking aisle. When I get back she is still standing in the aisle empty handed, while a little old lady stands by her side, helping her navigate through the selection. I laugh “what is taking you so long?” The woman shoots me a scornful look as though to say I should have known better than to send Christina off by herself in these rough waters. The woman turns her cart in a huff and sails down to the cereal aisle.
We part ways again, I send Christina to the tea aisle and head over to the produce. When I get back I find her pacing slowly. “What are you doing? Did you find the tea?” “No” she said “I forgot what I was looking for”. Christina, who can take on a job in technology with no previous experience and in weeks climb her way to the ranks of the top performers, is lost in a grocery store. On the way home I wondered if anyone in the history of the world has ever had as much fun together as Christina and I do.
Christina wears cowboy boots with snow pants and a big weathered motorcycle jacket with a sheriffs badge pinned to the front. Sometimes she likes to catch total strangers off guard by saying “there’s a new sheriff in town” causing them to crack a nervous smile. The sight of her winter ensemble throws me into fits of laughter. “Ma’am” Christina said to the 20 something in the elevator one morning “does this outfit make me look like a freak?”
“Are you talking to me?” the woman looked up surprised. Christina nodded “Naw, you look like you just like to rock your own style”.
Rock Your Own Style Tomato Leek Soup
Quick veggie stock:
throw 1 diced onion, 1 bunch celery, the ends of 1 bunch asparagus (the part you wouldn’t serve), 2 bay leaves, 2 carrots, some peppercorns, and the greens of leeks into a pot and cover with water (about 6 cups). Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until fragrant and flavorful (about 1 hour).
Strain stock and bring to a boil. Add 4 large tomatoes, and 2 packages heirloom cherry tomatoes (pierce the skin of tomatoes with a knife first). In a separate pan, saute 2 yellow onions in a mixture of oil and butter (~2 Tbsp) with a pinch of salt until brown. Add to the simmering tomatoes. Cook about 30 min. Blend with a hand blender, then strain. If you prefer a more textured, fuller tomato soup, add 1 can crushed tomatoes (or just don’t strain!). Add 4 sauteed leeks using the white ends only, some diced fresh dill, some fresh diced basil and some fresh ground pepper. Before serving add a little cream if you like. Enjoy!
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Summer Visits Winter Soup

Wind blew fierce and wild onto the cold winter’s morning, scattering wayward snow like sand along the jet black streets. Our blinker clicked, and the windshield wipers squeaked hard against the glass, which was tired from fighting chilly winter battles. The rhythmic back and forth of the wipers unveiled lighter shades of morning continually until we were paused at the airport terminal. We eagerly scanned the smiling, red-faced travelers for signs of our own family. An icy shell encased our car, and there was a sound of shattering glass as we cracked the trunk open…

I am caught between a memory and a premonition, rhythmically stirring the vegetables and lavishing the pot with salt and basil. The holiday storm has unloaded banks of red and white Starbucks cups unto the garbage cans lining our town. The grocery stores are sampling eggnog and the flower shops carry wreathes and poinsettias. Everyone lingers a little longer at the coffee shop, weighing in with the Year’s Christmas card milestones. We cheer each other into the conversation, as though the finish line to 2009 stretched right around our circle of chairs. I will miss this place when it goes.

“Do you have to squeeze the tomatoes and make a mess like that when you make a tomato based vegetable soup?” Christina asked. “Shhhhh” I whispered, as though trying to convince her not to discourage the soup from going through this process of transformation. For some reason, she obliged and looked apologetically at the soup. It was a funny moment.

Summer Visits Winter Soup

4 cups vegetable stock (here is my recipe for vegetable stock)

3 onions

1 bunch celery

2 cloves garlic smashed

1 Tbsp peppercorns


1 tsp fennel seeds

1 bunch carrots, peeled

2 cups mushrooms chopped

8 cups water (or to cover

2 bay leaves

Simmer vegetables for 1 hour in cold water (add the water and the vegetables in increments. Simmer the three onions in about 2 cups of water for awhile. Then add the celery and more water..etc..) Strain into the vegetable soup.

The Soup

3 medium potatoes

1 large yellow onion

8 peeled diced carrots

3 summer squash diced

2 cloves garlic minced




2 cups green beans

2 cups kidney beans cooked

2 cans peeled whole tomatoes

Dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Dash of hot peppers (optional)

Cook the potatoes, onions and salt in a little oil. Add the remaining vegetables and cook, uncovered (about 10 min). Add vegetable stock and tomatoes (squeeze them in). Cook covered until tender.

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Thyme and Patience Soup

Clunk, clunk, smash, the muffled sounds of catastrophe rattled my pillow, reverberating into my eyelids and snapping them open like blinds. I shot out of bed and skidded across the smooth hardwood floor toward the sound of the noise, like a child playing around the house in their socks. I stood at the entrance of my bathroom door, where the scene inside confirmed my worst suspicions about the origins of the sound. Sasha, and Charlie frozen by my sudden appearance, stared wide eyed up at me from their perches on the toilet and bathroom floor (respectively). Eugene, too mired in mischief to notice my arrival, was helping himself to the contents of my medicine cabinet. Toothpaste smeared on the sink with little tufts of cat hair sticking out, my jewelry dish was smashed to pieces on the counter.
Sasha blinked her wide blue eyes, which against the dark background of her face fur, seemed to hover in space. Charlie, propelled by a train of meowing that characteristically starts the moment I open the bathroom door and ends when his little orange nose gets to the food, waddled right past me. Eugene pricked up his grey ears and turned toward me, one white paw still hovered in the air as though to say, one false move and I’ll knock the rest of this loot right off the shelf. My anger subsided when he twisted his little face in an awkward way that reminded me that he was a cat.
I picked him up and placed him down on the living room carpet. The winter air delivered a cold blue stillness to the morning. It was beautiful and calm, but soon was chased away by the yellow light that climbed across the carpet. I was feeling irritable and inconsolable. I walked out into the afternoon, too bundled to feel the light of day. The farmers market was closed. It was too cold to smell the pine trees at the Christmas tree lot, and I walked by un-enticed. It wasn’t until I exited the elevator on our floor of the apartment building, and smelled the root vegetables cooking from all the way down the hall, that my chilly mood began to lift. This soup is made of bitter vegetables that can only be sweetened with thyme and patience. It has a creamy texture and the flavor of the crispy caramel richness that gathers at the bottom of the frying pan. It is the perfect way to sooth a winter mood.

Thyme and Patience Soup

3 golden beets
4 parsnips
3 Yukon gold potatoes
1 1/2 Vidalia onions
1 Rutabaga
1 leek
6 cloves garlic
vegetable stock (or chicken stock, or water)
olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel beets, rutabaga and 2 of the parsnips and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a roasting pan, salt bath veggies in oil. Add 1/2 sliced Vidalia and the garlic cloves (peeled). Roast covered for 40 min, then remove cover, add 3 Tbsp butter and roast for an additional 20-30 min.
During the final 20-30 min of roasting, heat a soup pot and add 1 diced Vidalia, some olive oil and some salt. Cook the onions until they begin to brown, stirring patiently and constantly to release their sweetness. Ignore the noise around you. Ignore the noise in your mind. Focus. Enjoy the time you have set aside to stir the onions. Add a little thyme to the mix and inhale deeply. Now add the potatoes, peeled and diced, and the remaining parsnips. Stir until they begin to soften. Add 1 cup of stock and cover.
Now is a good time to clean off the counter. When you are done, add another cup of stock, and a pinch of salt and cover again. When the timer goes off for the veggies in the oven check to see if they are done..not yet? add another ten min. Continue cooking the potatoes. Add the white part of the leek (diced) and continue cooking. When everything has reached it’s desired softness, pour the roasted vegetables into the soup pot, add stock to cover and cook together. Blend with a hand blender and serve thick (Christina said she likes it when she finds a potato or beet that has escaped the blender in her soup, so if you prefer, don’t blend it all the way!)
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