Root Soup

When someone once asked James Beard why there were no soup recipes in one of his cookbooks, he is said to have replied:  “Recipes for soup?  You look in the refrigerator, and then you make soup.”  Actually, James Beard did publish some soup recipes over the years, but his reply should be recalled by anyone considering what to cook on a cold day.

That was really how I first made root soup.  Not that I confined my inspection to the refrigerator:  I also checked the pantry and the steps leading to the basement where we stored the potatoes and onions.  It was cold, and we did not want to go out.   So we made soup with potatoes, onions and carrots, a leftover ham bone with a bit of meat attached, some beef bouillon cubes and assorted items from the spice rack.

Today I use beef broth, but you can use bouillon cubes as well.  The cubes tend to be salty, so be sure to taste when the soup is nearly done before adjusting the salt.  The rutabaga, parsnip and turnip produce a much more flavorful soup, and if you do not have a ham bone on hand, the smoked pork hock works great.

And if you have something else in the refrigerator that you think might work, just toss it in and hope for the best!

INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 cups each chopped
Potato
Rutabaga
Carrot
Onion
1 cup each chopped
Turnip
Parsnip
2 cans beef broth
1 meaty ham bone or smoked pork hock
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
Water as needed

PROCEDURE:

Peel and chop the potato and rutabaga into 3/4 inch pieces.  Peel or scrape the carrots, split lengthwise and cut into 1/4” slices.  Peel and dice the onion into 1/4” pieces.  Peel and chop the turnip into 1/2” pieces.  Peel the parsnip, split lengthwise and cut into 1/4” slices.  Put all the vegetables into a soup kettle or 8 quart Dutch oven  Drop in the pork hock and add the beef broth.  You should have about 4 cups of beef broth.  Add water to cover about 1/2 inch above the vegetables.  Stir in the salt and other spices.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 2 hours.  Remove the ham bone or pork hock, cool and separate the meat from the skin and bone.  Chop the meat into 1/2” pieces and return them to the soup.  Let simmer for 5 minutes and taste.  Add salt or pepper as necessary to adjust seasoning.  Serve with bread and salad.

NOTES:  Today I often use two smoked turkey drumsticks instead of the pork hock.  They provide the flavor and meat with less fat and fewer calories.  This recipe makes enough soup to serve 5 or 6 people generously usually with a bit left over.  You can cut the recipe in half if you wish, but the leftover soup holds well in the refrigerator for a couple of days or you can freeze it for use in a few weeks.

Dowjic–A Soup For All Seasons

I was supposed to be getting directions to The History Theatre in St. Paul.  However, a link on the theatre web site to nearby restaurants caught my eye, and suddenly I was reading about “a great and mighty Kurdish tribe called the Babanis.”  Five hours later we were at Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant on St. Peter Street in St. Paul.   Everything we tried was delicious.

For a first course Jerri ordered Babani’s version of tabouli salad made with couscous rather than bulgur, and I tried Dowjic, a chicken rice soup described as having a tangy bite that “has traditionally kept many a Kurdish traveler from wondering too far from home.”  I didn’t get a taste of the tabouli, but when Jerri sampled the dowjic, she said, “This is really good.”  And then, “You should try to make this.”

So I searched the web, found some recipes and experimented with them until I had a version that we thought was as good or even better than that wonderful soup we first had at Babani’s.   Chicken and rice soup is wonderful on a cold winter day, but lemon, basil and yogurt make dowjic a light and refreshing soup for all seasons.  Here is how to make it.

INGREDIENTS:

1 chicken bouillon cube
Black pepper
1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
Water
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked rice
Juice of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons (about 3 T)
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 T finely chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried crushed basil

PROCEDURE:

Put the chicken breast in a saucepan with enough water to cover the meat.  Add the bouillon cube and a dash of black pepper.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer slowly for 9 to 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the meat to finish poaching in the hot liquid for another 10 minutes while you are starting the soup.  Remove the chicken to a plate to cool and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

In a large pan or pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil, then add the rice and lemon juice. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. With a fork or wire whisk, beat the egg until lemon colored in a medium size bowl and then beat in the yogurt.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, very slowly add one cup of the simmering stock to the yogurt, whisking constantly to prevent the yogurt and egg from curdling.  Whisk the yogurt mixture into the  broth.

Add the chicken, salt and basil.  Stirring frequently, heat the soup over low heat until it is steaming, but do not boil. Taste and add a little more lemon juice or salt if needed.

NOTE.  When I squeeze a lemon for this soup, I remove the seeds but leave the pulp in the juice.  About 3 tablespoons suits our taste, but you may want a little more or less. In an emergency, you can use reconstituted juice.   This soup is great for lunch too!