Soup for Social Change a.k.a. "Work With What You've Got" Soup
Sometimes we think we need to have the perfect ingredients for soup, or for social change. Often we just need to start with who we are and what we have around. It's like the old story of stone soup, everyone brings what they've got and makes something good together. The new year arriving has many of us looking for a fresh start with more positivity, justice and good health for ourselves and our communities. The political climate and race based violence will not miraculously change, but we can change the ways that it effects us in our day to day existence, and the ways that we care for ourselves and those around us to be able to manifest more positivity and justice. Sharing homemade food is an act of love and community building. Whether it's building connection and caring for yourself, your family or with your broader community; eating good food together is a significant act of showing love and building connection which can fortify us for the work we do in the world.
Let's be real here, if we want to do more cooking at home, it needs to be easy and adaptable to whatever we have around and feel like eating. Sometimes we have fresh veggies in the fridge, sometimes just a few frozen ones. Another thing is that many folks are jumping off the high protein wagon in favor of more sustainable and just, plant-based diets. For this diet to stick, meals need to be delicious and nourishing, and this soup is a great place to start. This base recipe is easily adaptable to whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, and you can add some meat or fish as well if you wish.
I've been making these "work with what you've got" soups as often as I can, and surprisingly, even my kids (who are not huge soup fans) love this one! The inspiration was a bunch of vegetables I had in the fridge after Thanksgiving, and you can easily substitute any veggies you have on hand (or even in the freezer). This soup was flavored with rosemary and fennel seed (kids choice), but I have made the same soup with curry and also with lemon and thyme, it's a great base to switch up as you like with whatever you have in the kitchen.
One thing that makes this soup easy is that it doesn't include a pre-made stock. I don't generally use stock in my soups, mostly because I don't manage to keep enough of the homemade stuff around, and I don't like (or want to spend money on) the store bought kinds. Essentially, this soup is packed with lots of vegetables that when simmered together make the stock right in the soup, giving it great flavor, without the added step or expense of making a separate stock.
The basic premise of a simple soup: chop and sauté a bunch of onion, celery and carrot, add spices, water, lentils, a sweet potato and other vegetables (in order of the time they need to cook). Simmer, adjust seasoning and enjoy. The bonus to this soup is the fresh crushed garlic, set in oil with a pinch of salt (and hot pepper if you want to spice it up), which when drizzled on the soup makes it so so good! When I don't have celery and carrots, I often add a can of diced tomatoes and more garlic. If you don't have a potato, sweet potato or winter squash, don't sweat it, work with whatever you've got.
When you sit down to dig into your bowl, you might take a moment to acknowledge the people around the table, all those that worked to get the ingredients to your table, your ancestors whose lives made way for yours, the divine forces (nature, god, whatever makes sense to you) that surround us, and the good we want to bring about in days to come. A warm bowl of homemade soup and a moment of intentional gratitude and visioning what we want to manifest in the world can have a bigger impact than you might think on yourself and those you share it with. Here's to deepening our commitment to caring for ourselves and each other as an important part of bringing meaningful justice into the world this year!
Also, check out this excellent recipe for Soup JouMou - the Haitian Liberation Soup from Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm, cooked in honor of Haitian Liberation Day, January !st!
Soup for Social Change a.k.a. "Work with what You've Got" Soup
3 medium onions, small dice
3 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin half circle slices
2 Tablespoons oil
8 cups water
1 potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (optional)
1 sweet potato or 1 1/2 cups of winter squash peeled and diced
1/2 cup of dried lentils (brown, black or green)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (for color, paprika could also be used)
Adobo/garlic salt (or sea salt) - to taste
Black pepper to taste
Greens of your choice cut into bit sized pieces (6 leaves kale or collards, stems removed, fresh or frozen chopped spinach, escarole, etc...)
Any other vegetables you like (frozen corn or peas, cut green beans, zucchini, etc...) For this batch of soup I only added greens, but feel free to add other vegetables!
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (stems removed, leaves finely chopped) & 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds - OR - 1 teaspoon curry powder (less or more depending on spiciness) 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin - OR - Zest of 1 lemon, 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme.
Garlic oil condiment for extra flavor: 4 cloves or more of garlic minced or mashed, 1/2 cup of olive oil, salt to taste. Hot pepper added if you want it spicy.
This may or may not feel comfortable to you, but try it. To start, take a breath. Even if the world around you is swirling with stress and craziness, take 10 seconds to breathe and set an intention about cooking something nourishing for yourself and others. Carry this intention with you through the cooking process as much or as little as you are able to. Transforming raw ingredients into warm and delicious food is a gift everyone will be grateful to share.
Set a medium sized soup pot over medium heat. Add oil, onion, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, being careful not to brown them much, about 8 minutes. Add spices, salt and pepper and sauté for 30 seconds to release flavor.
Add 8 cups of water or less, just enough to reach about 1 inch from the top edge of your pot. Add cut potatoes, winter squash if you are using and dried lentils. Bring the pot to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until lentils start to get soft, about 25 minutes. It's also fine if the soup cooks for much longer on low heat with a cover on, if that works better for you. If your soup is too thick, add some water, if it's too watery, let it simmer longer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Add cut greens and any other vegetables that take less time to cook, such as corn, zucchini and green beans. For the batch of soup in the pictures, I only added chopped kale at this point. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until tender.
While the soup is simmering, prepare your garlic oil. Serve the soup with the garlic oil on the side for people to add as desired. For this batch I made a spicy garlic oil and a not spicy version to satisfy everyone at the table. Serve the soup on it's own or feel free to add bread or rice to bulk up the meal if desired.
Thank you to my love and partner in life Enroue Halfkenny for posing for these pictures, when he really wanted to be eating his soup, and for sharing his wisdom and love with me on the daily.