Until fairly recently, we've been big eat-outers and take-outers. Nothing fancy, but as many locals know, one of the joys of living in St. George is the steadily expanding supply of interesting and cheap ways to avoid cooking at home.
Like everybody else, though, I've started to reconsider the wisdom of a lot of our routine financial decisions. The wisdom, for example, of maintaining a portfolio of takeout menus in the pantry. Or of going out again tonight and again not using the rapidly aging collection of vegetables in the refrigerator's crisper drawer.
Just how much, I've begun to wonder, is all this home cooking-deferral costing us, anyway?
What I've discovered has made me put down the phone and the takeout menu--not forever, but probably for longer intervals--and cultivate the chef's knife, the soup-pot and the ladle.
When I announced to friends recently that I was thinking about making soup--a soup, that is, my first--it felt like I was announcing my intention to become a champion pole-vaulter. But it was easier than I anticipated. More to the point, I ate one or more meals for three days from that one pot of soup, combined variously with bread, salad, rice or another grain.
Part of the reason my first soup-making effort was so problem free, was that my wife Ellen made the (chicken-based) stock. I didn't ask her to; didn't even know she was doing it; she just did. I thanked her and then added black-eyed peas, which I'd soaked overnight, and some salt and pepper. She pronounced the result bland but encouraging.
The next day Ellen threw some ham-chunks and some herbs into the pot and cooked it again. It probably will not surprise you to learn that the soup got better and better with each re-heating. Till it was no more.
MY OWN STOCK, EVEN
Tonight, I've made my own stock: Quartered onion, quartered red-skinned potato, three cloves garlic, large carrot chunks, lotsa water, two tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.
Just added whole peas (which, in my blindness in the bodega, I thought were canellini) soaked for 24 hours, a bunch of chunks of turkey wings. Ellen added herbs.
I'll be checking the peas every half hour or so for tenderness, and when they're tender but far from mushy, per Ellen's instructions, I'll turn off the flame and leave the contents of the pot to thicken overnight. Only to reconstitute those contents in the morning.
SPLIT VS. WHOLE
I've discovered I like soup's malleability. Add water, cook it down, throw in a little bacon, include those leftover this-es and that’s. More adventures in soup-making to come.