Non-vegan Vegetable Soup

Is it soup yet? Ageless question, but maybe the real answer is that it was always soup, and will forever be almost becoming soup. You can’t force soup into existence, but you can tease out the soup-like inner natures of various things. In today’s example, it is vegetable soup for non-vegans. Another paradox, ho-hum.

The quest for the vegetable soup of the ages started with meat. Specifically corned beef, and if you keep an eye on various meat markets in the waning days of March, you can find some damned good deals on a corned beef brisket. And for once, someone is using the term “meat market” not as a euphemism, imagine that! Past two years, there were no good scoops to be had, at least not in my neck of the giraffe.

But this year, behold the cornucopia of corned beef briskets on steep discount by March 24th! I bought six. Two in the fridge and four in the freezer, which made my freezer sad and it need to see the freezer doctor. But it was worth it, now it’s August and i’ve still got one in the freezer.

When you cook a brisket, you end up with a few quarts of water, which are normally secondary to the juicy brisket you just fished out of the pond. I’ve always just dumped the bracken water down the sink. But it always smelled so good going down the drain, that i felt pangs of lost opportunity, like i should be using the whole carcass as the natives do.

Last time, i reserved the liquid. Kept it in the fridge until it was time for another brisket, combined the two batches, and that’s a good base for some soup, dontcha think? Yes, think. Veggies coaxed into soup, using meat-water. What could go wrong?

As it turns out, there’s nothing wrong at all. Bash some garlic cloves, scrape out a couple cans of tomato paste, toss in some spices, then make it boil. Made soup before, but this time applied some science to it, and it really works. First, brainstormed and asked others, about what should go into a soup using corned beef stock. Then learned up on each of the ingredients, listing how long each one needs to cook. And once you know the times, you can plot a schedule, so that each of them finishes cooking at the same time.

I know a few recipes where you’ve got to add a certain ingredient at just the right time, but this was the first time i juggled so many at once. Here’s what it ground down to:

* whisk the broth to break up deposits.
* add tomato paste, crushed garlic, and spices.
* make this boil, keep the heat on high.
* add overnight-soaked great northern beans and dry rinsed lentils.
* 12 minutes later, add celery, shallots and vidalia onions.
* 7 minutes later, add potatoes, carrots and leeks.
* 7 more minutes after that, add parsnips and scallions.
* and after 7 minutes, add bok choi stems.
* let it all cook for 7 minutes, and then it’s soup.
* careful, it’s hot.

Where the recipe says “spices”, insert your own faves. I think this is basic enough a veggie soup to take on whatever spice regimen you throw at it, and wear it well too. Spices i used were marjoram, thyme, sage, parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, fennel, savory, a bay leaf, black pepper, white pepper, pink pepper and pink Himalayan salt, whew. Oh yeah, turmeric and paprika too.

Someday i might make this with mace, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon and cloves, skipping the garlic. I can taste that in my mind’s tongue, and it’s not half bad. Parsnips would positively have an orgy with cloves and allspice.

Come to think of it, parsnips would easily become intimate with ginger, say fried in butter alongside a ginger-root slice, then topped with cinnamon sugar… oh boy, that’s a million dollar recipe right there. Ah, someday.