For most of my adult years, I’ve been an eat-out kind of guy. If someone says “dinner” my knee-jerk response is, “what restaurant?” (And yes, I always want to know what the soup of the day is.) Lately, though, with the nights (and the economy) closing in, I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of friends around my own kitchen table. It gets crowded, and the chairs may not be the most comfortable, but the food is top-notch and the noise level is just right. And the best of these friendly nights always center around–what else?–the soup.
Whether it’s my own gazpacho or my friend Mary-Ann’s melon soup in the summer, ground-nut “stew” or sopa de ajo in the winter, a pot of soup, a loaf of bread, and a bottle of wine make for the kind of night I can depend on. If I’m feeling low, it restores me; if I’m feeling fine, then all of a sudden I’m feeling even finer. Therapists would probably say it’s just the company. But they don’t know the power of soup.
So here, perfect for October, is Mary-Ann’s recipe.
The Weird Sisters’ Toadstool Soup
|Meal type||Cumin, Mushrooms|
|1||Gather 1 1/2 - 2 pounds of fresh mushrooms (I like crimini for this, or any other hearty, woodsy-tasting fungus)|
|2||Pull 8 - 12 scallions (use as much of the green as possible)|
|3||If you have fresh morels, porcini and/or hen-of-the-woods to hand, use them, by all means. If not, in a bowl (or hollowed-out half-skull) reconstitute a cup or more dried mushrooms using just-off-the-boil water and a half cup of white wine. Let them reconstitute quietly whilst you prepare the rest of the soup.|
|4||If you use fresh morels, porcini and/or hen-of-the-woods, leave them whole or slice them so they're recognizable and sauté them in a bit of olive oil (or butter), separately from the mainstay of the soup. Set them aside.|
|5||Wash and chop the crimini mushrooms and the scallions.|
|6||Heat 4 - 8 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy cauldron (or soup pot). Sauté the scallions in the cauldron until soft (5 minutes, covered). Add the mushrooms and cook for 7 - 9 minutes, or until they are weeping copiously. Mix together: 4 - 8 tablespoons of flour 2 - 4 teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon salt (more to taste) a good, sound grounding of fresh black pepper|
|7||Add the flour mixture to the mushrooms and mix well. Cook on medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add 3 - 4 cups of milk, scalded (I use skim) - less for thicker soup, more for thinner soup, etc. 1 - 2 cups of dry white wine - less for thicker soup, more for thinner soup, etc. Bring to a boil, then turn down the soup and cook for 10 - 13 minutes, stirring often. The soup will thicken.|
|8||Adjust the seasonings.|
|9||Using a stick blender or blender/food processor, blend the soup to a consistency that pleases. I like mine a little lumpy. Add the morels, porcini and/or hen-of-the-woods after the soup is blended. (If you have reconstituted the mushrooms, save the liquid and use it in a stock. It freezes beautifully and tastes grand.)|
|10||Serve with courageous bread and fresh figs, cut in half and caramelized cut-side-down on a grill or cast iron skillet.|