WARM UP WITH SOUP
My husband Allen used to tease me about having a “three degree comfort zone”. I get too cold if the temperature is under 70, and too hot if the temperature is over 72.
In Michigan, I start feeling cold in the fall. That usually starts in September, but sometimes as early as late August. Other times it doesn’t hit until October. But I start making lots of soup at that time of the year.
COLD BUT BEAUTIFUL
The other time of year that I get too cold is after the new year. I no longer need to worry about making food gifts for people, getting stockings up, tree decorated and otherwise running around like crazy, just as others do. After New Year’s Ever, I start to slow down and don’t move as much. And then the temperature goes down. As a result, I am sure it is never too warm for soup in January in Michigan. I guess that’s an understatement if ever there was one.
So, fair warning, this will be a month of soups and other comforting, warming recipes.
But we had beautiful new snow this morning, I still have electricity, and I can have a tasty soup simmering as I enjoy the nature and gorgeous images outside my windows. See?
When I checked the refrigerator, I realized that I had some leftover pork tenderloin. I don’t often use it as a soup starter, but I remembered an old recipe that uses leftover pork. Sure enough, I had all the supporting-role vegetables, stock, diced tomatoes and even fresh greens. This must have been meant to happen.
I often make this with leftover chicken, because I seem to find that in the refrigerator more frequently than leftover pork. Either works beautifully, but I do love the texture of small chunks of pork instead of chicken. Of course, you can also forgo the meat altogether, and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock, if desired. The canned white beans provide protein and substance, after all.
PICK YOUR PROTEIN
Should you want to add additional protein and the substance of the original recipe, you could add a vegan meat alternative. I would not use tofu in this soup because I think it would not have the toothsome texture I like as a contrast to the soft vegetables, but I think tempeh would be good. I would cube and pan-fry tempeh first, then proceed with the recipe.
If you are unfamiliar with tempeh, click on this link about tempeh to find out more.
I don’t usually add bell pepper to this soup, but since I had half a yellow bell pepper, I decided to chop it up along with the carrot, onion, and celery stalk and some fresh parsley. The colors look great, don’t they? Start by sautéing the chopped veggies and put the pork and parsley aside until later. Add the minced garlic and dried thyme when the veggies have started to soften. Sautéing dried herbs releases the oil and brings out the essence of dried herbs.
Pour in the stock and canned diced tomatoes, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat. Then just let it simmer along until the vegetables are softened. Finally, stir in the diced pork and the beans and heat until warmed.
I prefer cannellini beans over Great Northern beans. Unfortunately, I think everyone else is my little town of Dexter feels the same way! I have not been able to find cannellini beans in the two grocery stores I usually frequent in the last two months. Any white bean really works, though: cannellini, great northern, navy or baby lima beans. So, don’t make a trip out in the cold, just use what you have on hand for a deliciously satisfying and flavorful soup.
- 1/2- 3/4 cup each chopped celery, carrots and onions
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2-pound leftover cooked boneless pork tenderloin, chops, or chicken breasts
- 2 cans cannellini or great northern beans, (15 oz.) drained
- 4 oz. fresh spinach leaves or kale, chopped
- optional for garnish:
- fresh parsley, chopped
In a large saucepan or stockpot, sauté the chopped vegetables for about 5 minutes to soften. Add the minced garlic and dried thyme, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the diced tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the pork, beans and spinach or kale; cook for an additional 5 minutes or until pork is heated through and spinach is wilted. Garnish with fresh parsley.