It’s a rainy Saturday in Seattle (almost a cliché, though inaccurate as both New York City and Chicago both have more rain than we do). After being away for 3 weeks, emptying and turning off the refrigerator, we’ve been rebuilding its contents from scratch. I can’t believe how efficient I’ve become with cooking. The freezer is so organized and because I can clearly see what’s there, I’m actually using the items.
Cooking is now a creative activity for me for me. I could never have believed it earlier in my adult life. Today I knew I had a chunk of Trader Joe’s carnitas, there were a couple stalks of celery, some mushrooms, some bacon, most of a sweet onion, some baby carrots, fresh garlic and a partial carton of beef broth let over from last nights pot pies. I’ve been learning to use and enjoy the herb thyme lately due to its use in a pot pie recipe I’m fond of.
A light soup sounded just right for the day. I put a couple pieces of thick sliced bacon on to fry in my trusty, can’t-live-without, Faberware stainless steel electric frying pan. I then did what Madher Jeffery, the noted Indian cookbook writer, implores - I focused completely on each task I was moving through. I carefully sliced the onion and celery into almost perfect ¼ inch chop. Then I very thinly sliced each baby carrot piece and mushroom. For the two large garlic cloves, I sliced them thin then chopped them by cutting the other way across the slices. Then I turned to the carnita chunks dispatching them into ¼” chop. Each item had its own pile on the cutting board. The thyme nearby with the opened cans of diced tomatoes and lima beans, I was ready. The soup came out light and delicious. I've had two bowls.
I used to be afraid of or at least intimidated by concocting dishes, it certainly would not have been relaxing. Now it feels like indulging in art or crafting. Learning how to cook Indian cuisine and practicing often has helped me to gain confidence with herbs and spices and how to prepare the ingredients so they come together nicely. The steps below might be second nature for good cooks but for me they are things I wouldn't have done before. I often felt frustrated, even overwhelmed by cooking and certainly never tried anything without a recipe.
- Frying a small amount of bacon and using it's grease for flavor in frying the vegetables softening them for the soup.
- Unleashing the fragrance of the herb used by frying it for a bit in the vegetables.
- Preparing all the ingredients ahead so they are smoothly and easily added when their time comes.
Light and Tasty Vegetable Soup with Ham
Yum, a substantial but light soup heavy on the vegetables but meaty enough for dedicated meat eaters.Ingredients
2 pieces of bacon, fried and crumbled
A good sized handful (about 1 cup) of ¼’ chopped carnitias ((or other left-over meat)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
5 baby carrots, sliced thin
½ can lima beans (just beans)
½ can diced tomatoes (just tomatoes)
3 cups beef broth. (Could use more)
Two good pinches dried thyme
Put the bacon on to fry. Chop up meat, onion, celery and thinly slice the carrots and the mushrooms. When the bacon is done, remove it and, when cool enough, crumble it. Leave the bacon grease in the pan. Add more cooking oil if needed. Fry onion , celery and carrots until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms, garlic, and carnitas and crumbled up bacon. Sprinkle with the thyme and fry to open the fragrance of the thyme. Spoon in the tomatoes and lima beans and pour in the beef broth. Let simmer on very low heat for ½ hour.