I often mention the bounty that is the Upper Valley and how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful corner of the world. Not everyone, however, is as fortunate. Where the most stressful part of our day is what to make for dinner, some people worry if there will be any food to eat.
The conflict in Syria, which has been raging for so long, has displaced almost 4 million people, many of whom go to bed hungry. Half of them are under 18 years of age. A co-worker recently shared with me a most beautiful cookbook Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity. The proceeds go toward humanitarian efforts to assist people displaced by this brutal conflict. The photography is stunning and heart-wrenching. All of the recipes, contributed by chefs from around the world, are for soup, and they all look delicious.
“Whether in times of crisis or times of peace, gathering family and friends and sharing food is one of the most powerful and life affirming acts we can do…and there is nothing more comforting and nourishing than a bowl of warm soup” –Alice Waters
The book starts with five recipes for stock. It is easy to breeze down the grocery aisle and pick up broth in a box. But starting from scratch and coaxing out the flavors from “throw-away” items like bones and scraps, one begins to appreciate the universal appeal of soup.
Chicken soup has been nicknamed ‘Jewish Penicillin.’ Why? First, because it is administered with love by your mother! But second, because the essence has been extracted by hours of simmering that provides elemental nutrients from the ingredients. It is not rumor that makes soup healing; it is goodness, aroma, love and fact. It is an excellent source of calcium and other minerals. It also generates gelatin which aids digestion and boosts metabolism. These are just some of the nutritional benefits you get directly from eating real food (as opposed to supplements and pills). So pick your favorite recipe and proceed to the appropriate aisles to get your ingredients. The stock recipes make fairly large quantities so plan on freezing some for later use or share it with a friend!
No matter which recipe you try, remember, eating is a political act. Like many political acts, inaction speaks as loudly as action. But there are three simple things that you can actually do: buy local, buy organic, and buy fair trade. It is a big world we live in and we can express our shared humanity through what we buy and what we eat.
The Co-op Food Stores supports local businesses and sustainable agriculture. Through your purchases, the co-op you support in Africa or Central America may help build a school or help a child go to bed with a healthy comforting bowl of soup. You never know …
To learn more about this project and order a copy of Soup for Syria, check out http://soupforsyria.com/book.php.
4 lbs. chicken bones
2 onions, quartered
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 tsp. black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
In a large stock pot combine the ingredients with one gallon of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for two hours, uncovered. Skim the surface occasionally. Add another two quarts of water and simmer, uncovered for at least one more hour. Strain the stock, discard the solids. Chill the stock and skim the fat off the top.
Anytime I work with vegetables in my kitchen I save the scraps in a durable container (or bag) in my freezer. When it reaches “critical mass,” it is time to make soup stock. The amount of purchased ingredients that go into the stock pot should be minimal: those Sunday chicken carcasses? Into the stockpot. The more the merrier; it enhances flavor and is kind to the pocketbook.
For a classic chicken soup loaded with meat use a whole chicken in the stock recipe! After 1 1/2 hours remove the chicken and allow it to cool enough to handle. Now strip all that meat off the bones. Dice (or rip apart) the meat into the size pieces you desire and put it in the refrigerator. Throw all the bones back in the pot and simmer for another 1 1/2 hours. In the meantime, cut up all of the vegetables you want for your soup. Strain and skim the stock, add all of your ingredients, simmer until you veggies are tender, and serve!
Spanish Garlic Soup
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (approximately one whole bulb)
4 day-old slices thick rustic bread, coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Saute the garlic until golden brown, being careful not to let it burn. Stir in the bread and cook for one minute, allowing flavor of the garlic to seep into the bread.
Add stock and bring slowly to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes; add salt to taste.
Crack the eggs into the soup one at a time. Allow the eggs to poach, 3 to 4 minutes.
Ladle the soup into warm soup bowls, making sure there is an egg in each bowl. Sprinkle with paprika and serve immediately.