People often ask how I learned how to cook and why I seldom use cookbooks. One word: my parents. I'm actually visiting them right now in Seattle and thought I'd share a "recipe" for my dad's mostly vegetable soup with you. This "recipe" perfectly illustrates his philosophy on cooking: simple ingredients, great flavors, and many variations.
Mostly vegetable soup (Note: to make this a completely vegetarian dish, use vegetable broth or water as your liquid.)
4 quarts liquid (use chicken stock, vegetable stock, water, and/or combination)
2-3 celery stalks
3 garlic cloves
salt & pepper
1 red pepper
1 can green peas
1 can crushed tomatoes
green parts of celery
2 bay leaves
toppings: sour cream or mayonnaise, chopped parsley, dill and/or green onions
1. Peel and chop all of your vegetables.
2. In a large pot (6 quart capacity) add your liquid, all of the potatoes, a third of parsnips and a third of celery, 1 garlic clove, salt and pepper. Slowly bring the mixture to just before a boiling point.
3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan and add carrots, the rest of the celery, parsnips, red pepper, onion, 1 garlic clove, and zucchini. Saute till the vegetables are tender and fragrant.
4. Back to the pot with potatoes, add cabbage, fresh parsley and celery greens and bay leaves and once again bring to almost a boiling point. Cook till the vegetables are tender.
5. In yet another pan, add a bit of oil, the last garlic clove and a can of tomatoes. Let everything bubble and get happy together.
6. Once the vegetables in the main pot are tender, add sauteed vegetables, more salt & pepper if necessary and cook for a few minutes.
7. Add tomatoes with garlic and green peas.
8. Adjust seasonings, add a bit of sugar if necessary and remove the bay leaves.
9. Serve the soup with sour cream or mayonnaise and/or parsley, green onions, dill.
The soup gets even better the second or third day.
Variations: if you want to turn this into borsht, add a few beets to the vegetables when you are sauteing them, but keep a quarter of one of the beets for later. Once the soup is completely done, grate that one quarter of the beet and add it to the pot. The color and flavor will really benefit from that one burst of freshness.
And this is your typical Russian soup, or at least the kind of soup my family has been eating for decades! You can add or leave out any of the vegetables. Feel free to use broccoli, white beans, green beans, etc.
Did your parents influence how you cook? If so, please share!