My friend Isabel (with whom I bonded in 2d grade) sent me an e-mail from San Diego the other day saying that one of her sons had begun referring to her vegetable soup as “Mom’s Dumpster Soup” instead of “Mom’s Veggie Glop.” Inspired by Avery’s concept, I decided that I did not feel like making Cumin Panko Chicken, Confetti Rice, and Sauteed Spinach tonight; I wanted soup and biscuits. I wanted comfort. I wanted to clear out the fridge preparatory to tomorrow’s grocery shopping.
So, I assembled everything that needed using up, and made this soup. The only thing I found that didn’t add was the unused spinach, which I felt would decrease the chance of the soup being appealing to the boys. I will try to use it in some meaningful way (which means it will lie in the vegetable crisper until I realize that its limp and repulsive, at which time I will throw it out or give it to my dad for compost).
You, too, can make Dumpster Soup – I’d always start with a base of some onion, carrot, and celery if you have them, and remember that you don’t want to add any quick-cooking things (like pasta or pre-cooked veggies) until the end of cooking time lest you should cause them to dissolve totally.
You may also add already-cooked things like leftover meat, noodles, rice, boiled or roasted potatoes, or cooked pasta at the very end, although I’d avoid things with heavy marinades, sauces or butter. On the other hand, if you have one spectacular leftover with some flavor to it, say cooked pasta with a light tomato sauce, why not use that as a spring board and make a tomato-y soup with some Italian spices? Even I, however, would probably not throw in both the cooked pasta in tomato sauce and the leftover, dilled new potatoes. I don’t think.
If I’d had them, though, I would happily have added canned beans of any variety, canned tomatoes, or bits and bobs of frozen vegetables. You can also play with seasonings – I went pretty neutral, but you could use some lemongrass and cilantro for Thai-ish, or some cumin seeds and cilantro for Mex-ish, or whatever takes your fancy.
Finally, this would probably be even better the next day, and after a night in the fridge it would be easy to remove the solidified fat from the top before adding water and broth and re-heating.
Dumpster Soup: The General Outline
- Limp, old carrots )I did not peel them, but trimmed them)
- Limp, mangy celery with leaves
- The last two onions in the bin, peeled
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 Tablespoons cooking oil
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (this is a lot, but it was their “due date,” and I wasn’t going to do anything else with them)
- Vegetable or chicken broth – at least 6 cups canned, homemade or made with good quality boullion cubes (I mixed all three types).
- Ancient, raw broccoli
- Leftover cooked carrots
- A bit of leftover Alphabet pasta
- 1/2 box uncooked Vermicelli, broken into smaller pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Parmaggiano-Reggiano rind (optional)(I keep these in the freezer)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grated Parmesan (optional)
- Hot Sauce (Optional)
In food processor or by hand, finely chop celery, carrots, onions and garlic. In a large, heavy soup pot heat cooking oil over medium and add chopped carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook until tender, 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently and reducing heat if there is any sign of burning.
Trim fat from chicken and cut into cubes about 1 inch in size, smaller if you prefer. Stir into sauteed vegetables, add bay leaves, cover with 6 cups broth and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for at least two hours.
When chicken is tender, skim fat from the top of the soup, and taste. If its too strong/salty, add plain water. At this point, you may continue to simmer the soup covered, over low heat until about 30 minutes before serving time; if you are adding a cheese rind for flavor, this is a good time to add it to the soup.
30 minutes before serving, add any frozen vegetables that you wish to use. 20 minutes before serving add any raw vegetables, cut into small pieces. 10 minutes before serving raise heat to high, and add pasta, if you choose. (If the soup is very thick at this point, add more water or broth and bring to a boil before adding pasta). When pasta is cooked tender, reduce heat to low, add any previously cooked or canned vegetables, or cooked rice or noodles and stir to heat through. Taste and correct seasonings, remove bay leaves and serve with grated Parmesan or hot sauce.