The seduction of the season. Have you noticed it? A heavy stillness in the air. Low-humidity breezes. Cool nights; easy sleeping. We’ve entered my favorite time of year.
Different things motivate me to cook in each season. When the slow ebb of daylight hours is apparent, my interest is always in gumbos and hearty soups with grains.
I freeze asparagus and broccoli stalks for vegetable stock, so when I’ve accumulated several pounds, I make the standard stock mirepoix of 16 oz rough-cut onions and 8 oz each rough-cut celery and carrots. I make an herb sachet of 1 bay leaf, 8 whole black peppercorns, 2 whole cloves, several sprigs (or 1 tsp dried) thyme and a small bunch of fresh parsley. Using kitchen twine and a coffee filter, I bundle the ingredients and tie them onto the handle of the stock pot, covering the vegetables with ample cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for at least 1 hour. Strain into containers standing in a bain marie (cold water bath) until nearly room temp, then refrigerate or freeze.
Having a simple, yet deeply flavored stock available for soups or gumbos (seafood stock) transforms and fundamentally enriches them. If you have an over-supply of asparagus stalks, fine. Use the stock for a cream of asparagus soup. Broccoli stalks: broccoli soup. Add sweetness to the overall stock by increasing carrot content. Super-easy; nearly zero cost.
Pearl barley (1 C; 40 min cooking time) and pinto or cannellini beans (1 pound; pre-simmer 60-75 min) in the pantry. Add whatever sliced vegetables make the soup your own, and don’t forget the deep green veggies. Adding tomato puree or tomato juice gives additional depth of flavor. Season with salt and pepper.
Soothing; deeply flavorful. De rigueur for the season of comfort and color.