Saturday, September 6, 2008
Its another one of those weeks. I'm scrounging around the kitchen trying to feed myself for a few more days on the random odds and ends of the kitchen. What with school starting, buying textbooks, some auto mishaps that needed immediate attention, and rent, I'm pulling out the old bag of tricks to stretch my food budget.
Somehow, this always comes back to a loaf of stale bread. It might just be coincidence, but it seems every time I go through one of these "Let's see how long I can go without heading to the store" moods, I'm left staring at a loaf of bread on the shelf, long past it's fresh sandwich slice days. I don't eat a lot of bread, and everyone in the house buys their own (we're pretty independent eaters in general), so there is inevitably a loaf of bread past its prime in the cupboard at any given moment.
Last time I had this problem, I made a delicious panzanella, but I've been living off salads recently and wanted something a bit more filling. I've picked up this habit of making a roast chicken every Sunday night, and using it throughout the week, from curries to chicken salad to sandwiches, and I had a really great broth from last week's bird. Why not make a soup? At first I was going to just make some croutons out of the bread to put on top of a bowl of soup (french-onion style) but then I thought, why not make a bread soup?
This probably is not the traditional way to make a bread soup, because I added the bread cubes at the beginning and not at the very end, but this gave the soup a thick, satisfying texture. The bread acted like a sponge and soaked up all the herbs and broth - so the end result tasted like a combination of thanksgiving stuffing and chicken noodle soup.
I had a few vegetable odds and ends lying around the kitchen, so I roughly chopped what I had (a bell pepper, a summer squash, whole garlic cloves, and some grape tomatoes which I left whole) and threw them under the broiler for about 6 minutes to get a bit toasty.
While the veggies cooked, I sauteed an onion and a diced hot cherry pepper from my garden in some olive oil. When the onions were just beginning to brown, I added two cups of chicken stock, a teaspoon each of sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and parsley, and a good amount of salt. I cut up about 7 slices of bread (mine was whole wheat sourdough but this would be good with most breads, I'm sure) into cubes and threw them in to the soup, brought this to a boil, and reduced to a simmer. When the veggies were browned and fragrant, I tossed them into the pot (I mashed and chopped the roasted garlic before adding it - yum!), added two cups of water, and let the whole thing simmer for about 2 hours while I went to the farmers market.
When lunchtime rolled around, I ladled a big bowl of the soup and topped it with freshly chopped basil, tomatoes, and pine nuts. So comforting, and I'm sure it would adapt to any veggies you have lying around.
Satisfied with my week of frugality - down to the last slices of bread - I took a precious $20 to the market this morning to replenish the kitchen. I met up with some of my band mates and we sang a few songs (I pocketed five bucks for three songs - not bad!) and went off to stretch my dollars. I'm so excited about how much I got! There was a great deal at one vendor - three boxes of any fruit for 8 bucks! I walked away with 5 pears, 4 big peaches, and 6 nectarines, which will certainly last me a while. I also got some beautiful cylinder beets, a bag of apples, a huge bunch of basil, a cantaloupe, a big zucchini, a baking potato, and a bag of bee pollen (nature's superfood!) - plus it was a beautiful morning to be at the market - the skies were gray but the air was fresh and not too cold.
I'll let you know what I do with my market bounty - until then, eat well!