Spring tonic ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

23 April 2007

Spring tonic

Last week was the week from hell. All I wanted to do for the entire weekend was lie in bed and read various trashy things. I also needed delicious vegetable refreshment, however. I set out to devise some.

I had actually been wanting a soup like this for a while. It is spring, even if spring in California can generally be described as "what it's like the entire year". If only the rainy season were actually rainy. Anyway, the idea of fresh vegetables and herbs and broth sounded perfect. I even initially wanted a cold soup; that changed, however, when I tasted my result.

Ideally, this would have ended up in serious awesome very thin soup/juice form. However, the lack of half-decent puréeing equipment put a stop to that. We don't have a blender; we don't have a full-sized food processor. All we have is a tiny 2-cup food processor that only chops things to a fine, muddy dice. It did that job pretty well, but I would really have preferred a serious carrot-juice puree spectacular. There is nothing like a full shooter of vegetable action.

Spring tonic soup

butter or olive oil
fresh dill and parsley
veg broth
dry vermouth
yogurt/sour cream/vegan versions

Get out your big sauté pan and warm it up.

Chop up several carrots and a shallot or two as finely as you like. The shape and size doesn't really matter here, especially if you have a better puréeing solution than we do. Smaller pieces cook faster, however.

Put some butter or olive oil in the pan, melt/warm it, and add your carrots and shallots. Let them cook slowly, stirring every once in a while, until nice and soft. Add a splash of dry vermouth and let it cook off at some point in the proceedings.

In the meantime, do two things. First, clean a handful each of fresh dill and parsley, rip the leaves off their stems, and chop finely. I really wanted an overload of dill here, so I just kept adding more until I got thoroughly sick of picking the bits off the stems. Now you know what to do with the rest of that bunch of dill from the nicoise the other day.

Second, make vegetable broth. Stick your shallot scraps, carrot peels, and herb stems in a pot of water with any other vegetable odds and ends you have lying around, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Then just cook until you need to use it. You can use pretty much anything for stock besides beets and cabbage: the former is red; the latter is cruciferous. I do the stock cache thing and stick all my extra veg bits into a freezer container, so I can dump them into hot water whenever necessary. It is also clearly fine to just chop up whatever you have, though. Plus, herb stems! Dill!

When the carrots and shallot are sufficiently soft, add some vegetable broth and purée until smooth. A hand-held immersion blender would be ideal here. I had to work in something like four annoying little batches. Try not to do this.

Add broth to achieve your preferred texture. Add all your chopped herbs. Stir it up and taste it. Is it delicious? Do you need some salt or pepper? Add them, stir, and taste again.

Serve in little bowls, ones you can drink from, if possible. I definitely wanted to drink mine. I also wanted some plain yogurt on top, clearly. You might want some sour cream, or some vegan substitute business, or some buttermilk. That had been my initial idea for said soup, but such a thing isn't exactly a staple at our house, while yogurt is.

Drink hot or cold. Either is delicious. I think I ended up liking it hot best, however. The cold required a far smoother and more clearly juicy texture. Oh man. I have to try it again, after acquiring better technology. Damn you, technology! Why do you always win?