Friday, September 17, 2010

A Better Broth

Have you ever found yourself looking into the depths of your freezer in search of something - anything - to make for dinner, and come face to face with a bag or two of some unidentifiable edible? On one hand, you know you should really use up that quarter pound of ground beef, or the handful of vegetable medley that would barely serve one. But when you're feeding a household those piddly amounts of freezer food just don't cut it in the volume department. We all know it takes well over 1/4 lb of meat to feed a family of four, and at the same time you're not likely to find many takers for the chronically mushy, freezer-burned plant life.

That is, until you break out the soup pot. Soup is the great equalizer of the food world - if you can chop an onion and saute a mirepoix, even if you have not a clue what that is, and you have access to some form of liquid, anything is game. You can add almost anything you find in your freezer, fridge or pantry to a flavourful broth, and over a lazy afternoon coax out everything good that you forgot about those forgotten ingredients.

It's almost always a case of "I found this in the freezer/fridge/cupboard, what can I do with it?" that directs my cooking experiments with my mom's weekday soup menu. Whether it's that last chunk of ground beef, those slightly wilted mushrooms, the almost sprouted potato or the ten cans of beans brought home by a certain step-parent from Costco in a fit of World War mentality, mom knows that I'll figure out something to make them all work together. Usually the size of the pot is determined by just how much crap stuff I can find in about a half hour, and of course the ever-economical shell beans are a great stretching tactic. This week's pot had no less than five types of beans in it - frozen green, fresh Romano, canned Mexican red and dried adzuki and kidneys - and got fleshed out with some tomatoes, sweet potatoes and barley. Still dealing with the overabundance of cucumber in our crisper drawers, I grated half of one big guy and let it melt into the broth seamlessly.

This soup is one of those that freezes incredibly well too - which is good, because it fits neatly into the category of "soup for a year" bulk-wise!

Beany Beef and Barley Broth
Serves 10
1/4 cup water
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 large onions, diced
6 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 baby beets, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
5 cups beef or rich chicken broth
2 cups water
29-oz canned tomatoes with juice
5 fl. oz low-sodium V8 cocktail
1 2/3 cups roasted tomato sauce (or chunky tomato sauce)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
5 oz adzuki beans, soaked overnight
6 oz kidney beans, soaked overnight
10 oz cucumber, grated
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
35 fresh Romano beans (Italian flat beans), shelled (you can also use fresh or frozen baby lima beans)
7.5 oz sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup pot barley
19 oz can small red Mexican beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb fresh or frozen green beans, chopped
  1. Heat water in a large stockpot over medium-high.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring to crumble.
  3. Add onions, carrots and beets and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to turn golden - about 8-9 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer, until fragrant.
  5. Stir in wine and cook over high heat, stirring well, to dislodge the fond from the pot and reduce slightly.
  6. Add broth, water, tomatoes, V8, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, soaked beans and grated cucumber.
  7. Stir in bay leaves, thyme, oregano, basil, paprika and pepper, then bring to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3 hours.
  9. Stir in the freshly shelled Romano beans, sweet potato and barley and cook 1 hour further, until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems.
  10. Add canned and frozen beans, uncover and cook at a brisk simmer for 30 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 402.3
Total Fat: 6.0 g
Cholesterol: 17.0 mg
Sodium: 1,024.5 mg
Total Carbs: 65.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 18.8 g
Protein: 21.9 g

1 comment :

Lucia from Madison said...

Love this entry. Very helpful!