Why is that food cravings have no sense of timing and just won’t respect your schedule? Yesterday I was craving a bowl of fresh, homemade, flavorful soup. Problem? I had about 25 minutes to assemble and consume this fantasy soup before I had to be somewhere. Yikes! There was no way I had the time to make my new favorite: Chow’s Basic Vegetable Soup. The prep alone (cutting vegetables into tiny cubes), not to mention the assembly and simmering time, made it just not an option. Phooey.
What to do when you’ve got your heart — and your stomach — set on soup and no time to spare? Get creative with leftovers and vegetable broth. (Even if you don’t make your own, you’ll find that having store-bought broth in your fridge or pantry can be a lifesaver when you need to throw together a quick meal.)
Don’t fear the idea of soup-sans-recipe; it’s easier than you might think. You’ll want to make sure that you have a ratio of stuff-to-broth that makes your mouth happy, but the rest is up to you as far as flavors and textures go.
So, how to make soup magic happen in 25 minutes or less? As I’ve mentioned, make sure you’ve got the broth aspect covered. Also, try to group your leftovers together on the same shelf in the refrigerator. (Trust me, it might seem a little, er, over-organized, but after years of “where the f— are the beets I roasted last night?” or “what happened to the last piece of cake?” and moving plastic containers around like chess pieces, I’ve learned my lesson.) With no time to spare, here’s what I found:
- 1.5 quarts of vegetable broth (ok, that’s probably more than enough for a bowl of soup)
- About 1/2 cup of two-day-old roasted butternut squash cubes
- About 3/4 cup of two-day-old sautéed chard with red onions and garlic
- About 1/4 cup roasted carrot and onions (actually, it was half a roasted carrot — yes, I’m serious about the no-food-waste thing!)
- Two small-ish roasted beets
- A chunk of baked swordfish with olive oil and preserved lemon (Yes, you can use leftover fish! Next-day use is fine, especially for firmer fish. I don’t keep cooked fish longer than a day, though.)
I immediately nixed the beets. Everything else was an option, though. The butternut squash and carrot pieces were pretty chunky, so I quickly cut them into bite-sized pieces. It wasn’t pretty, but I was going for filling and tasty, and no one was grading me on my plating. I then dumped the carrot and squash pieces into a microwave-safe soup bowl, along with the chard and onions. I gave the fish a quick heating in the microwave — about 20 seconds, just enough to take the chill off — then shredded it by hand into small pieces and mixed it in with the vegetables. Finally, I poured in just enough broth to cover everything. After a quick spin the microwave (about a minute or so, with a couple of pauses to stir and taste), the addition of salt and pepper to taste, soup was on.
And it was good soup. Recipe or no, it had flay-vah! The homemade vegetable broth definitely brought something to the party, as it has its own combo of flavors going on. The vegetables were close to al dente in texture, but not mushy, because I didn’t have time to simmer the soup. I think the aromatics — the combo of onion, garlic, preserved lemon (just a hint) — definitely helped make the soup interesting. And the swordfish gave the soup some body and an almost stew-like consistency. While I probably won’t be able to replicate that exact soup next time, I’m looking forward to the next no-recipe waste-less Wednesday soup.
What about you? Do you make no-recipe soup? How are you using leftovers to reduce food waste? Share your ideas, either in the comments below on our Facebook page.