Last night, after watching what was another beautiful sunset (but no green flash, that I could see at least) I began to ponder, and ponder was what it was, what I might make for dinner. I happen to have a fridge full of interesting veggies at the moment – Brussels sprouts, leeks, fennel, cauliflower and eggplant, among them. I’m trying to use those things first that need to be eaten before they go bad, so I was sort of focusing on the eggplant and the fennel.
So, as I do when pondering what to make for dinner, and having a few ingredients in mind, I began to peruse my cookbooks. I recently got two new cookbooks from the River Cottage genre and came upon a nice one for a fennel rocket (arugula) pasta.
Having settled upon this, I began to get up, when another of my new favorite books about food (it is, sort of, a cookbook. But it is really more accurately a book celebrating the splendor of food) caught my eye. An Everlasting Meal by Tamar E Adler. It is a glorious celebration of food – and reads more like a memoir of meals than a cookbook. I recalled that in it she has a wonderful section on what to do with old bread (not what you typically expect of the average cookbook) and that I happened to have a Mexican/French baguette on the counter which I had been allowing to ‘age’ for just such a purpose.
So the fennel rocket pasta got moved to the back burner (metaphorically speaking) and the stale bread came to the forefront. Bread soup, that is.
So, here is my slightly modified recipe for ‘bread soup’ with a significant nod in the direction of An Everlasting Meal:
Easy, Frugal, and Delicious Bread Soup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup any combination of leeks, onions, celery, garlic (I used them all)
1/2 cup of parsley and rosemary
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup dried mushrooms, rehydrated in boiling water (reserve water for use in broth)
4 cups (more or less) of stale breadBroth or other cooking liquid
Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add leeks, onions, garlic and celery. Saute until soft. Adler suggests adding salt to keep them from browning, which I did.
Meanwhile, rehydrate dried mushrooms – I had a variety, but use something flavorful – in a small bowl with boiling water.
Back to the soup. Add parsley and rosemary. Stir, let wilt a bit. If anything begins to stick, pour in a bit of beer (I used Victoria, as that’s what I had) or wine.
Add stale bread. Adler says to remove the crusts. I didn’t, since on my Mexican/French baguette, removing the crusts would have removed much of the bread. Stir to coat the bread with the olive oil, onion, herby mixture.
Let it cook just a bit, then add your broth or other cooking liquid. Adler recommends saving pasta water, water that you use to boil veggies, or other ‘cooking liquid’ that one might, unthinkingly, throw out. I happened to have some pasta water which I used, as well as the re-hydrated mushroom water, and then some beer, white wine, and a bit more water (since I had no stock thawed) to make it so the liquid just covered over the bread mixture.
Let it simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Serve, garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.