Monday, May 26, 2008

Shredded

The other day, I was getting myself all gussied up for a date with Joe, my local boy du jour, and in an effort to compensate for my lack of height and too-long jeans, I donned an old pair of heels. They looked great: black and close-toed with just the right amount of heel for my jeans, and they made that wonderful click-clack click-clack rhythm as I walked around. So off I went to the grocery store for some rations, feeling like quite the fox. I mean, who goes grocery shopping in heels? Certainly not me—on any other day, that is.

My grocery stores (yes, plural—and I shop at both: Whole Foods and Jewel-Osco) are only about six city blocks away from my apartment, so it’s not a bad walk, even in heels. But by the time I was home again, my shoes were falling apart. The front part that covers the toes was peeling back its black cover, revealing the greyish fabric underneath. I really wanted to wear those heels on my date, and they are my only pair, so I pressed on, reasoning that my jeans, for the most part, covered the damage. It’s shabby chic, I told myself. You’re a writer and a graduate student. It’s hip to wear your clothes to shreds. It’s practically part of your identity.

Maybe. Or maybe it’s a sign of time poverty and lack of interest in shopping. I’ve never been particularly trendy; honestly, I’m kind of a square. I just don’t care enough to keep up on trends. Even so, the idea of owning and wearing shredded clothing does not appeal to me, but now that I’ve been in graduate school for five years and counting, it seems much of my wardrobe has fallen into disrepair. I lack the time, desire, and cash to replace it all at once. I guess that makes me unintentionally trendy—that is, of course, assuming that shredded jeans and heels are stylish at all. I’m so clueless that I have no idea!

Stylish or not, I wonder if shredded heels might have an allure of their own, a certain dirty glamour that speaks of late nights and city life and boys du jour. These shoes have character; they whisper desire and sex and sneaking home in the wee hours of the morning, reeking of sweat and stale perfume. Though I may be the owner, these shoes speak of a life that I rarely lead, which makes me want to hold onto them in case they, like a raggedy pair of Cinderella’s glass slippers, might turn me into a woman I can only fantasize about being.

So I’m no sex goddess. But I might be a kitchen goddess. As you probably know, the quality of being shredded is highly appreciated in the kitchen. Shredded cheese? Put it on this here pizza. Shredded zucchini? Throw it in this zucchini bread batter. But the most brilliant innovation in shredding that I’ve seen in a long time is shredding carrots before adding them to soup. Carrots are one of my all-time favorite vegetables and a key component in most of my vegetable soups. But carrots, since they are so hard, need a long cooking time to tenderize in soup. That’s fine if you’ve got plenty of time, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to cook soup carrots faster? That’s where shredding helps. Since shredded carrots are so small and thin, they cook quickly, making it possible to pull together a batch of soup in thirty minutes or less, depending on what other goodies you add. Though I might eventually replace my shredded jeans and my shredded shoes, I’ll be shredding stuff in the kitchen from here on out. Trendy indeed.

Saturday Lunch Soup with Orzo Pasta
Inspired by the Vegetable Soup Variation for “Simple Garlic Broth” in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
Makes ~4-5 big bowls of soup

Homey and delicious, this soup is Saturday Lunch Soup to me because I like to make it for lunch after simmering a fresh batch of vegetable stock from my saved vegetable scraps. Saturday morning is just perfect for stock-making, the sort of activity that reconnects me to my cooking self after a long week in the lab. Brothy and satisfying, this soup is like a chicken noodle soup for vegetarians—minus the chicken part. But a handful of orzo pasta, tidbits of vegetables, and the delicious flavors of garlic and sage make this soup utterly slurp-able.

Good stock is essential for this soup: its flavor is front and center here. Because I’m passionate about soup, and because I don’t always have homemade stock on hand, I like the cubes of Vegetable Bouillon from The Organic Gourmet for this and other soup recipes. These bouillon cubes make a delicious stock. Keeping them on hand means that I’ve got the means to make soup whenever the mood strikes. Which is pretty much every Saturday.

8 cups mild, tasty vegetable stock
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with the handle of your chopping knife
1-2 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1-2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 generous cup of frozen green beans
½ cup uncooked orzo pasta
A splash or two of red wine vinegar (to taste)*
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

1) In a large soup pot, begin heating the stock to simmering. Move onto the next steps while the stock is heating up.
2) Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for several minutes. Add the crushed garlic cloves and saute for another minute.
3) Add the onion mixture to the soup pot. Take a ladleful of hot stock, add it to the (now-empty) skillet, swish it around a bit, and then add it back to the soup pot. This process is known as deglazing. It helps get all the oil and tasty bits into the soup!
4) Add the sage, grated carrots, and green beans to the simmering stock. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cook for about ten minutes.
5) Add the orzo, stir, cover, and simmer for about nine minutes or until the orzo is tender. Test for doneness by tasting some orzo from the pot.
6) Taste the broth. If desired, add a glug or two of red wine vinegar as well as some salt and pepper. Adjust the seasonings until the broth tastes just right to you. Serve in nice deep soup bowls.

*I do highly recommend adding a splash or two of red wine vinegar, even if you aren’t big on sour stuff. The vinegar adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the broth; here, it doesn’t end up tasting sour, just full of flavor.

4 comments:

daphna said...

Oh wow, this looks really good! I just printed it out. Do you think it would work with brown rice or small pasta instead of orzo? I think it would take me a long time to use up a box of orzo, but maybe it's sold in the Whole Foods bulk bins.

Rosiecat said...

Hola, Daphna!

Yes, I do think it would work with rice or other pastas. For uncooked brown rice, you'd probably need to increase the simmering time to 30 or 40 minutes, depending on how tender you want the rice to be. Other pastas should have similar cooking times as the orzo.

I also find that a little box of orzo lasts a while, but it's such a great pasta for soups that I love having it on hand. Happy cooking!

Nick said...

Very nice idea. I just shredded some carrots of my own for the first time. I put them in a bulgur pilaf, but sounds great for soups.

Rosiecat said...

Nick, I have to say, the shredded carrot is one of my favorite newer discoveries. In addition to this soup, I also like making a tortilla wrap filled with bean dip, cheese, shredded carrots, and lettuce. It makes an excellent lunch, especially with a cup of soup like my Lunar Gazpacho or Homemade Tomato Soup. Ah, I really need to learn how to insert links into my comments! Help!