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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Zuppa Arcidossana: De-Accessioning my Pantry with Soup

Many bloggers of the frugal persuasion--Funny About Money comes to mind--are chronicling their efforts to build a pantry. Having stockpiled food minimizes your need to run to the store (a time and money consuming activity). Plus, there is a reduction in stress in knowing that--whatever else may go wrong--you at least can have something to eat. Funny, in fact, saved money beyond her expectations.

I've had an overstocked pantry for a while. Hence, I am engaged in the opposite task: unbuilding my pantry, that is, using up the stuff. Like many clutterbugs, accumulation for me is more fun than de-accumulation. Add to that the fact that my two children, with their big appetites, are not around too much, and we have a problem. I finally figured out that you're not saving money if you never use the stockpile!

So for the last 8 weeks or so, I've been trying to use what I have in the house and garden. this has meant a lot of eggplant eating (frozen from last summer) and greens (from the garden). It's taken longer than anticipated to make a dent In fact, I'm not sure if I've made a dent at all.

This morning, while looking at the New York Times website, I came upon a soup by Mark Bittman:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings

1 cup 1/2-inch diced carrots

1 large onion, chopped

3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped

Salt and black pepper

1 cup stale bread (use coarse, country-style bread), cut in 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 pound spinach, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped

1/4 to 1/2 cup ricotta salata, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (feta may be substituted)

1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, optional.

1. Put oil in a large pot or deep skillet and brown sausage over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When sausage is cooked through and leaving brown bits in pan, add carrots, onion and garlic, and continue to cook until vegetables begin to soften and brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. Add bread to pan and stir for a minute or 2; add spinach and continue cooking just until it wilts, a couple of minutes.

3. Add about 2 cups water and stir to loosen any remaining brown bits from pan. This is more of a stew than a soup, but there should be some broth, so add another cup of water if necessary. When broth is consistency of thin gravy, ladle stew into serving bowls and top with cheese and some freshly chopped parsley if you have it. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.

This soup required ingredients that were already in my kitchen: a good de-accessioning recipe. Plus, I love soup. It calls for a little sausage, dried bread (we are a baking household, so this is great), carrots (we have some that are getting kind of old), spinach (we can use chard from the garden), onion. It also calls for ricotta salata cheese, for which you can substitute feta.

In addition to subbing chard for the spinach, I subbed regular old breakfast saysage for the Italian sausage. I can just imagine an Italian peasant saying "Oh, I need 1/4 pound of Italian sausage. I only have breakfast sausage. So I'll head over to the store. And leave my breakfast sausage to molder in the fridge." I also had some cooked chickpeas in the fridge. I can similarly imagine my peasant saying, "Too bad I can't use those chickpeas, but the recipe doesn't call for them."

Anyway, I just tested the recipe. Delicious! Check out the New York Times so you can see a picture of the soup.

Try it Readers!


Duchesse said...

I love Mark Bittman! I rely on his 101 Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less" all the time:

Removing sausage from a casing is a neat trick, and makes it much mellower and subtle in a soup. As I usually make soups form stock, this is a novel technique and I'm keen to try- thanks!

Frugal Scholar said...

I ate the leftovers last night and it doesn't need the cheese at all. Chickpeas were a good addition. I used bulk sausage so no casings.