Saturday, October 24, 2015

From Soup to Nuts

This is the time of year, when there's a chill in the air and leaves crunch underfoot, that just seems right for soup. It's hard to beat a steaming hot bowl of your favorite soup to warm the cockles of your soul.

Evidence of the existence of soup goes back to 20,000 B.C. so even then they knew a good thing. The word "soup" comes from the unappetizing image of pouring some poor gruel over a crust of hard bread or "sop". Okay, forget that, soups can be really good and good for you. Chicken soup for a cold, anyone?

Just a couple miles up the road from my house is Christ Church in Stevensville, MD. That's where the Kent Island Farmers Market sets up on Thursday afternoons all year around.

There, about a dozen farmers offer all of the traditional produce items like tomatoes and corn, but also hard to find items like shiitake mushrooms and kohlrabis. They also offer a slew of products derived from their harvest such as pastas, breads, and much more.

One of my favorite features of the market is the soup kitchen. Using fresh products from participating farmers, the Soup Groupies, as they call themselves, prepare four soups each week that are just this side of wonderful. The menu varies each week.

The four soups include a creamy type, a meat-based, a seafood-based, and a vegan, most of which are gluten free. I could go into paroxysms of delight describing the tastes that manifest themselves in these soups, but I'll just show you a recent week's menu and you can imagine the flavors yourself. They are all just as flavorful as they appear.

Week of: Oct 15th       
Soup Menu (SM (8 oz) $3, MD (16 oz) $6, LG (32 oz) $12)
Creamy Vegan:
Creamy Curried Cauliflower
Onions, celery, garlic, cauliflower, white wine, coriander, curry, vegan base, coconut milk, bay leaves

Brats ‘n Beer
Onions, carrots, fennel, cabbage, brats, potatoes, beef and chicken base, Newcastle Nut Brown ale, bay leaves, fennel & dill seeds
Meaty Seafood:
Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo
Onions, celery, carrots, sweet peppers, poblanos, okra, shrimp, andouille sausage, tomatoes, butter, flour, fish & chicken base, herb blend, gumbo file, parsley
Beets, Red Onion & Cherry
Red Onions, garlic, beets, sweet potatoes, white wine, dried cherries, cherry juice, orange juice & zest, vegan base, bay leaves, coriander, dill, pinch cayenne

The Soup Groupies also offer three or four different salads (menu below), which along with a family-run bakery's selection of breads and rolls, will supply you with a complete meal or five, depending on how much you get and how big your family is, 

You can taste before you buy, which is great if you're suspicious of anything with beets or capers in it as I am.

You can also sign up for their email list, pre-order, and they'll have your order all packaged up waiting for you. Of course, even when I've done this, once I get there I almost always taste something and add it to the order.

This past week I bought some of the upper three soups here (the beet thing kept me from making it a clean sweep), and three of the salads, and I ate on them all week. 

Salad Menu (SM (8 oz) $3, MD (16 oz) $6, LG (32 oz) $12)

Chicken Salad
Chicken, green onions, celery, mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon juice & zest, parsley, dill, garlic salt and pepper
Fall Slaw
Red & green cabbage, fennel, grated carrot, green onion, apples, radishes, kohlrabi, Daikon radish, craisins, lemon juice & zest, Dijon mustard, cilantro, maple syrup, garlic salt & pepper
White Bean Salad w/ Olives, Tomatoes & Basil
Cannellini beans, green onion, cherry tomatoes, green & black olives, white wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, basil
Brown & Wild Rice w/ Pecans
Brown & Wild rice, green onions, celery, grated carrot, pomegranate, diced zucchini, toasted pecans, pears, queso fresco, pomegranate juice, olive oil, agave, coriander

In addition to the ready-made meal items at the market, you can buy farm-fresh eggs, sausages, olives, crabs, fresh juices and a dozen different nut butters, including almond and pecan, and also macadamia and pistachio. My favorite is the Old Bay Peanut Butter.

If you don't have a resource like this near you and you're handy in the kitchen, or even if you're not, but you're feeling adventurous, pull out your slow cooker, mix up your favorite soup stuff and "bon appetit". Most soups fare well with freezing, so you can make lots and feed on it all fall and winter.

I probably have you already, but if I mention eating more soups helped me lose a few pounds, would that convince you that soups are a good thing? "Mmm, mmm, good".

Stay warm, my friends.

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