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The Bend Magazine

Melding Flavors

10/31/2020 05:00AM ● By Justin and Kayla Butts
By: Justin & Kayla Butts   Photos By: Rachel Benavides

“Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold.” This nursery rhyme, first recorded in 1760, comes from real life. In those long-ago days, most meals were cooked in a cauldron over the fire. The pot hung from an arm in the hearth so it could swing out to add new ingredients, then swing back over the fire. 

This dish was originally called pottage, which meant “from the pot.” Pottage became porridge when thickened with grain. Pudding was made by sewing vegetables (peas were always the English favorite) into a cloth bag and dropping the bag into the pot. That way, a hunk of mutton or sausage could be cooked simultaneously in the cauldron outside of the bag.

“Nine days old”; this is where it gets interesting. There were no refrigerators, microwaves, or even stovetops back then. Any non-shelf-stable ingredients brought into the house (an old hen, a mutton leg, or the delicacy of a beef tongue) were thrown straightaway into the cauldron. All types of vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms also went into the pot before they spoiled. 

While new ingredients were regularly added, the contents of the pot were being ladled out to each member of the family daily for breakfast and supper. At breakfast, before the fire was stoked, the soup was cold; at suppertime, it was hot. Some like it hot, some like it cold. 

Nine days is a little much for us, but there is science at work to explain why soup improves as it simmers. The best soups achieve their glory in the melding of flavors. Each ingredient, given time in the cooking process, releases its unique essence to the whole. These flavors combine to create something entirely new. Soup always tastes better after a day or two.

We humbly offer three soup recipes to fit the local ingredients of our lovely fall season. We can hardly wait for the beets and other root vegetables to ripen to get them into a soup. This borscht offers a stunning color at the table, and pairs well with any main course. Use only local ingredients, grown without chemicals, picked at their peak of flavor.

For the mushroom soup, visit Natural Grocers or the Asian Food Market to find the best selection of mushrooms. If you like string bean casserole for Thanksgiving, make this soup ahead of time to use instead of canned cream of mushroom.

For the Italian wedding soup, get your Italian sausage from local favorite Turkey Hollow Farm. Their pastured pork sausage comes perfectly seasoned and only needs heat to rise to its perfection.

Sautéing the vegetables, caramelizing the onions, and deglazing the pan in wine are keys to flavor in these soups. The sautéing process maximizes the sweetness and flavor of the vegetables and helps them hold up in the long, slow cooking process. Also, start with your own homemade broth made from wholesome local ingredients, rather than using lackluster store-bought broth.

Hot or cold, new or old, these wonderful soups offer something for everyone to love this fall.

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 8

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves 8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
Meatballs:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 lb Italian sausage
1 large egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Soup:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup acini de pepe or orzo pasta
1 cup escarole or kale, torn 
8 cups chicken stock
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Directions:

In a large stock pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Combine remaining ingredients for meatballs in a large ball using your hands until well combined. Roll into meatballs, about 1.25” in diameter. Cook for 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. 

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the same pot. Add onions and carrots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Finally, add greens, pasta, chicken stock, salt and pepper to the pot, increasing the heat to high until mixture reaches a rolling boil, about 5 minutes. Spoon in reserved meatballs and decrease heat to a simmer, low-medium. 

Cover the soup and cook an additional 5 minutes to allow flavors to marry. Serve with parmigiano reggiano and fresh parsley.

Creamy Mushroom Soup
Serves 6

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Ingredients:
4 tbsp butter
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry wine (white or red)
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups beef or chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

 

Directions:
Heat butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, before adding garlic. Cook one minute, until garlic is fragrant, and add mushrooms, cooking an additional 5 minutes, until mushrooms begin to caramelize. 

Deglaze pan with wine and cook 3 minutes, while scraping the bits from the bottom of the pot. In a small bowl, combine flour and 1 cup broth, whisking until flour dissolves. Add flour mixture to pot and stir frequently, until mixture is bubbling. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes, until mushrooms are fork tender. 

Borscht Puree
Serves 8-10

Prep time: 25 minutes 
Cook time: 45 minutes
Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 beets, peeled and finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and finely chopped
6 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
6 cups water
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup crushed tomatoes 
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Optional: sour cream or plain Greek 
yogurt to garnish

 

Directions:
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add vegetables and stir frequently, cooking until tender and fragrant (about 10 minutes). Add broth, water, tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the pot and increase to high heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Cover soup with a lid, reduce to low-medium heat, and simmer mixture for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before blending. 

Working in batches, puree mixture until smooth using an immersion or standing blender. Serve with fresh dill and a dollop of sour cream/Greek yogurt. 
Tip: To decrease the time and difficulty of chopping vegetables, blitz in a food processor by working in batches.