I am wearing socks! I have on a long sleeve shirt! I woke up this morning with a cat under the covers, so I’m taking the hint and airing out the down comforter to put on the bed. I am just so happy to have my windows open and fresh air flowing into my house.
As I write this, it is actually gloomy and chilly with a light mist of rain. I’m making ground beef and vegetable soup to serve for dinner with friends tonight, so it smells incredible right now. This recipe shares the starting point of nearly every soup I make and is simple to learn. The big trinity of flavors that form the base notes of this soup are caramelized onions, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Keep those three in mind because you will see them mentioned a lot through the next several blog posts. I’m also trying to decide between making focaccia or biscuits. I still have time to figure it out.
This sort of day holds most of us teetering on the brink of nostalgia. There is an instinct to gather around a warm fire or meal with those we hold dear and summon intense memories of those we miss. When I had the Café, and before that at Cupps Café, I would see an uptick of students with journals and pens laid out on the table, dessert crumbs and hot drinks forgotten in front of them. The internal search for meaning and the slow coming of age that goes into becoming an adult was a most heavy burden in the early fall.
Back in my days at Cupps Café, on a gray chilly day like this, a certain bearded fellow would perhaps peer into the kitchen. I would have set aside whatever I was doing and brewed some Earl Gray tea and smeared some tahini and honey on hot toast to share with my dearly treasured scholar. I would not trade anything for those moments where he debated plans for his future and I reflected on my past. To this day, we share text messages that simply say “tea and toast.”
What a comfort the language of true and abiding friendship.
- OliveOil-1 tbsp
- Onion-1 large, chopped
- Carrots- 6 peeled and cut spoon size
- Celery-1 heart, sliced spoon size including the leaves
- Mushrooms-fresh sliced or dried 8 ounces
- Lentils-dry, 1 cup rinsed and drained
- Tomatoes-canned diced, 15 ounces
- Balsamic Vinegar-1/4 cup
- Soy Sauce-1/4 cup
- Garlic-granulated, 2 tsp.
- Thyme-dried-2 tsp.
- Basil-dried-2 tsp
- Salt-kosher, 2 tsp.
- Black Pepper-2 tsp.
- Bay leaf-dried, 1 large
- Chicken Stock-1 quart
- Water-1 quart
- Ground Beef- 1 pound
- Thyme-dried, 1 tsp.
- Garlic-granulated-1 tsp.
- Salt- 1 tsp.
- Heat soup pot over high heat and add olive oil. Add chopped onions and turn heat down to medium. Stir onions occasionally allowing them to soften and brown about 8 minutes.
- (If using dried mushrooms, soak in hot water to soften for 10 minutes before draining and adding to the soup pot)
- Add Carrots, Celery, Lentils and Mushrooms and stir to combine. Raise heat to high.
- Add Balsamic and Soy sauce and stir to scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the Bay Leaf, Garlic, Thyme, Basil, Salt and Pepper and stir.
- Add the canned tomatoes including the juice. Add Chicken Stock and Water and stir, bring to a boil and cover with a lid.
- Turn the heat to low and allow the soup to simmer for about 2 hours.
- When the soup has simmered for about 2 hours return the heat to high.
- Heat a sauté pan on high and add 1 tsp Olive Oil. Add Ground Beef and break up with a wooden spoon into bite size pieces.
- Season with the Garlic, Thyme and Salt. Stir and cook until just cooked through, and then add to the soup pot.
- Cook the soup for about 10 more minutes and then taste for salt.
- At this point the soup may need more Balsamic and Soy, go slowly adding 1 Tbsp at a time and allow the flavors to meld before tasting again.
- It is not unusual for me to season with more garlic and salt and then balance with Balsamic two or more times before the soup is served.