The Cookbook Addict: Deck the Halls with Bowls of Soup!

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November 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm

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Soup is at the center of my table as late November’s bluster sweeps the last leaves from trees and scours the sky to a leaden gray. If the frenzied swirl of holiday preparations threatens to overwhelm me, I’ll turn to a comforting pot of soup for an uncomplicated weeknight meal. Gathering with friends over a convivial supper of soup is, perhaps, a more authentic way to celebrate the spirit of the season than any glitzy party, and when the holiday glow fades, soup will be a soothing antidote to the overindulgence I’ll swear never to repeat.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, soup also resonates with a sense of sharing, connection, and giving. In the Soup & Bread Cookbook, Chicago food writer Martha Bayne, a self-described “author turned soup-wrangler,” dishes up stories about soup, community-building, social justice, and an idea that germinated one dark and lonely night in a Chicago bar and then grew into a nationwide movement. Since January 2009, that bar, The Hideout, has hosted a weekly Soup & Bread night, serving steaming bowls and crusty loaves prepared by volunteers to, as Bayne tells us “bring people together to serve a common good.” The food is free but donations are collected for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. In the last two years, she took Soup & Bread on the road to Seattle and Brooklyn and in the process discovered a nationwide network of fellow soup-makers who have built a fascinating spectrum of social ties.

Originally self-published, this newly revised and expanded edition gathers more than 80 recipes for soup (and a few for bread) from home cooks and some of Chicago’s brightest culinary lights (Paul Kahan, Stephanie Izard, Rob Levitt, and Cleetus Friedman, to name a few). Loosely subdivided into nine chapters, each one focuses on an inspiring story about the soup-based initiatives Bayne encountered in her travels and the community connection and social change it fostered. In visits to a Chicago church basement, a neighborhood soup swap in Seattle, a Detroit artists’ community, and the ongoing discussion about social responsibility at the Jane Adams Hull House Re-Thinking Soup project (which now echoes through the halls of the White House), Bayne stirs up an inspiring, joyful and delicious celebration of shared connections. It’s gratifying to know, too, that a portion of the book’s sales is donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Deck the halls with bowls of soup!

I still have some beautiful parsnips, leeks, and celery root from Geneisis Growers, sourced from the pre-Thanksgiving Green City Market, and along and with frost sweetened spinach from my garden, I’ll make this soup.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup from Grace Tran
Serves 12

Bayne says: When Grace said she was bringing a soup built on roasted root vegetables to Soup & Bread, I was expecting heavy-duty winter starches like sweet potatoes and turnips. Instead, the soup is full of light and sprightly parsnips and celery root, mixed with earthy nutmeg and the surprise of spinach. Roasting the roots first brings out the sugar and helps build fantastic flavor in the pot.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup pearled barley
8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 cups water
10 thyme springs
2 bay leaves
½ pound celery root, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound baby spinach
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss celery root and parsnips with olive oil. Roast for 35–45 minutes, until caramelized. Stir occasionally.

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add onion, leeks, and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in barley. Add vegetable broth, water, thyme and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Add celery root and parsnips and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over moderately low heat until barley and root vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes to an hour.

Stir in spinach and nutmeg and simmer for 5–7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve in deep bowls, along with hearty whole-grain bread.

Reprinted with permission from Soup & Bread Cookbook: Building Community One Pot At A Time, by Martha Bayne, Agate Surrey, November 2011.

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