stone soup ~ L.A. style

October 18, 2012 § 12 Comments

I flew into Los Angeles a few days ago to spend some time with my parents. When I arrived it felt like I had taken a short trip back in time from our coolish fall back to over-90 summer again, not exactly what I had in mind. But yesterday I awoke to a cool overcast morning and the clouds gave us enough shelter to make soup sound like a good idea for supper.

On Wednesday my sis and I had gone to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, one of my must visit stops on almost every trip to L.A. The Wednesday market is even bigger than Saturday’s, since that’s the day many Los Angeles chefs shop for fresh local ingredients. Australian finger caviar limes or fresh figs, anyone? We didn’t buy anything too crazy on this trip since my parents like pretty simple food.

Nearby there’s some good Japanese shopping and dining in West L.A. We found lunch at a Japanese food court inside of a Japanese market – a big bowl of shrimp and anago eel tempura over rice. It came garnished with a shishito pepper and a poached egg, both also tempura deep fried. It was messy and delicious! Living in Colorado, I do miss the breadth and depth of the L.A. food scene. Onto our own food scene in my parents’ kitchen last night…

Do you remember the story of Stone Soup? This is the edition I remember reading many times in my childhood. To me it’s the story of creating a delicious meal and community seemingly from nothing, and discovering the bounty of food and camaraderie that people once strangers can share.

We started with some gems from the farmers’ market, the last of the season’s corn and a small kabocha winter squash (Japanese pumpkin), two of my mom’s favorite vegetables and a perfect transition to fall. Most of the other vegetables were household pantry and refrigerator staples that provided the classic French base for stocks, soups and stews, mirepoix. This is just a fancy word for two parts onion and one part each of celery and carrot which I cut into a small dice to cook evenly and look pretty in the finished soup.

To get the most flavor from the ingredients, I grated the ginger, minced the garlic and added the corn cobs after cutting off the kernels which I set aside. There were a couple of small tired wrinkled tomatoes from the garden; I peeled, cored, crushed and then added them to the soup base too. A sprinkling of salt and I had a true stone soup approach to using everything available.

After adding water and a touch more salt and removing the corn cobs, I had a flavorful and aromatic broth that did not need the addition of chicken stock. In fact I think chicken stock would have masked the light flavor of the vegetables and background notes of the ginger. For the same reason, I omitted adding the herb sprigs of thyme and rosemary Dorie called for in her Around My French Table recipe. While the vegetable base had been cooking, I prepared the kabocha squash for it’s starring role by first removing the stem (either cut just underneath, or struck with the back of a heavy knife).

The hard part is splitting hard winter squashes open, so be patient, use a large heavy and sharp knife and watch those fingers! You can easily scoop out the seeds and pulp with a big spoon. I cut the squash into big wedges as they’ll break down into smaller pieces as they cook and get tender and soft.

Everyone into the jacuzzi! Another 10-15 minutes of gentle simmering and we have a be-ooo-ti-ful soup! Taste for flavor and seasoning.

I added a spoonful of white miso for some salt, sweet and umami. I had baked a loaf of sourdough for my dad before leaving Colorado, so that and butter were the only additions our soup dinner needed.

My version of spur-of-the-moment vegetable soup, aka stone soup a la SoCal Japan garnished with some cilantro and scallion.

And here are my make-up FFwD dishes from the last couple of weeks…

Last week’s crispy crackly apple almond tart was a big hit at our annual Oktoberfest pot luck, a perfect finish to the hearty celebration dinner of sauerbraten and red cabbage that our friend Paul has perfected over the years.

I contributed eggplant caviar (August 2011) prepared with end of the season eggplant and tomatoes to another potluck, this one at Cure Farm’s fall CSA pig roast party. The tiny glistening bits of vegetables coated with the olive oil and lemon juice did remind me of caviar, but I forgot to take a picture of the final dish, whoops!

Braised cardamom curry lamb (November 2011) made a warming meal for one of the below freezing nights we had at the beginning of October, a warning of winter’s approach.

Creamy cheesy garlicky rice with greens (September 2011) was an easy fun spin on classic risotto and let me use just picked kale from the garden and whatever rice and cheese was handy. We had a couple of weeks of good eats, just too busy to write about it!

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§ 12 Responses to stone soup ~ L.A. style

  • Cher says:

    “Everyone into the jacuzzi” = :-)
    Another great roundup – and I can’t stop thinking about that apple tart. It was soooo good.

  • Love your soup. Great idea adding miso. The apple tart looks wonderful – you have been busy.

  • betsy says:

    What a great combination of flavors, Marilyn. Love the squash, corn, tomato, and miso. That sort of straddles summer into fall. I hope your parents enjoyed the treat. Your Japanese lunch looks amazing. It looks like you didn’t peel the squash. Is that true for all kabocha? What a time-saver, if that’s true! Enjoy the rest of your visit to LA.

    • Piebird says:

      Hi Betsy, I wasn’t sure those vegetables would all go together, but I’ve had good luck with vegetables growing at the same time from the farmers’ market. And yes, you don’t need to peel the kabocha-type squashes as their skins get very tender. you can tell which winter squash are in this family by their spongy-appearing stems (moschata, I believe). once I started down the Japanese flavors, the miso just seemed right.

  • Mary Hirsch says:

    After reading Andrea’s Post and then reading yours, I just want to go back and try again. Your entire Post, the various dishes you made for many different reasons, social get-togethers and causes, is so interesting. I just kept scrolling down, wanting more. California markets spoil you for any other food markets in the West, don’t they. I also love the addition of corn to the soup. I have always enjoyed the Stone Soup folktale, all the versions. I sense that you have a very interesting family and family history, Marilyn. You certainly have a keen appreciation of good food also.

    • Piebird says:

      Hi Mary,
      Yes, wasn’t Andrea’s soup beautiful with the multi-colored vegetables? I was impressed by how she maintained the integrity of the purple cauliflower as well. And yes, SoCal food lovers do not know how lucky they are with their year round horn of plenty. Thank you for your generous comments, Mary. I so appreciate your friendship!

  • nana says:

    Lovely soup, I love the addition of the corn. All of your catch-up recipes turned
    out beautiful.

  • First time visitor, Marilyn – loved your approach to each of the recipes you showed! I was especially surprised with adding the corn cobs to the stock. I also left out the thyme and rosemary, but used just one chicken bone to give the stock just a little oomph.

  • Alice says:

    what a great catch-up! I loved all of those recipes and in our house, that apple tart went really, really fast and it was SO delicious!! :)

  • I have just realized I´m not receiving your new posts via e-mail anymore. I´ll subscribe again but you might want to check it out.
    On to the food, the soup sounds so good with corn, it´s one of those veggies that I love with almost anything.
    And the apple tart was a hit here too, will make it again soon! I too have to go back to some recipes, I just don´t have the time right now.
    Glad you´re visiting your parents and having good weather in california Marilyn!

  • Elaine says:

    Your version of stone soup looks wonderful. I love that you made your own vegetable stock and used up veggies from the garden as well as some that you found at the market. All your round-up dishes look fantastic and makes me want to make them again. The Santa Monica market sounds like so much fun.

  • Marilyn, what a fantastic post – I do not even know where to begin with my comments or rather praise – I absolutely adore the way you cooked your Spur-of-the-Moment Vegetable Soup and described it so well with so much important information! The Eggplant Caviar and the Curry Lamb look utterly delicious too and I am most impressed with the wonderful layered look of your Crispy-Crackly Apple Tart – we loved that one too and the recipe was so much fun!

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