How To Make Soup Without A Recipe

I am feeling overwhelmed with all the leftover food from Thanksgiving. Add that on top of all the food I made testing recipes for the blog, my refrigerator is stuffed to capacity. I will feel counterproductive if the food goes to waste.  Ultimately, it is a difficult task for two people to be solely responsible for consuming these large quantities of leftovers. I am humble enough to realize the big picture, too much food is not really a problem. Yet, I can feel the spiritual “Waste not, Want not” glare from my parents singeing me. Plus, my freezer is full.

One benefit of having too much food is I do not have to go out to the grocery store and shop. As long I have a surplus of pantry staples, I can make whatever I desire. Today is a soup kind of day and I am hoping making an impromptu soup for myself and Joe will help me eat up some of this food.

There is no need to follow a recipe for an impromptu soup. Just follow your instinct, desire, and what is in your refrigerator. It is easy to make soup without a recipe. Simply, keep in mind these three layers: the base, the body, and the enhancements. The base is your stock. The body is the ingredients, “fixings,” you want to put in the soup such as meats, vegetables, and grains. The enhancements are the herbs and spices. They give your soup that je ne sais quoi, add depth, and additional flavor to your impromptu pantry soup.

I decided to make turkey soup for lunch using up my homemade turkey stock, cooked turkey, celery, mushrooms, ginger and basil. All ingredients were available and needed to be used up. I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and fresh basil leaves to liven up the flavor of the turkey stock.  It is not a necessary step, but it did add a zippy layer of flavor to contrast the rich turkey stock.

How to make soup without a recipe:

Start with your base, the stock. Homemade stock is best, but if store-bought stock is all you have then go for it. I always say to use what you got. Making soup is an easy way to use up the container of store-bought stock. Vegetable, chicken or turkey stock is a great base with most soups. If you are using store-bought stock, taste it before you season with salt. Use as much stock as you need to feed yourself and or your companion(s), about 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups of stock per person. This will depend on what type of soup you are making and how hungry you are.

I wanted to make enough soup for myself and my husband, with no leftovers, and used 3 cups of stock.

How to Make Soup without a Recipe

Enhance the stock to the flavors you desire. This is the optional phase of impromptu cooking and depends on your time, what’s available, and your mood. If you have fresh herbs or spices and you want the flavor to be layered within the stock, add a sprig of a herb or two and let it steep in the stock.

I added some lemon zest, crushed ginger root and a sprig of basil. I steeped the herbs for 30 minutes, then strained out the herbs with a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth. 

Optional ingredients: garlic, fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, dill, cilantro, parsley, lemongrass, ginger, chili paste, white wine, coconut milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, lime zest, lime juice, sherry just to name a few.

Tip: While you are heating up the stock, be careful to prevent the soup from boiling. Boiling will make the stock cloudy.

Add the body, the “fixings”. The fixings can be vegetables or proteins, like cooked chicken, pork or shrimp, or a combination of the two. If cooked rice, potatoes and pasta are available they can be great additions as well. This is a pantry soup so add whatever you want to use up in your fridge or freezer, and believe will taste well together. The amount of each ingredient is up to you. Yet, keep in mind there should be more broth then the fixings, because it is soup not stew.

If you have fresh vegetables cook them first by sautéing them, such as onions, celery, carrots or mushrooms. Or blanch vegetables like green beans, sugar snap peas, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, escarole. Frozen vegetables do not need to be defrosted before adding them to your soup stock.

I had some mushrooms, celery, scallions and cooked turkey to use up and added them all. First, I sautéed the celery until softened then added the mushrooms and minced ginger. Once they were all cooked, I added the turkey to heat through. Then I added the cooked ingredients to the soup stock and garnished with scallions and basil.

Assemble and heat through. Put all the prepared and cooked fixings in the stock and heat up. Now you have a simple and delicious soup for lunch or dinner. It is a savvy soup using food from your refrigerator and pantry, and done in 30 minutes or less. A simple process that will get your culinary creative juices flowing and your taste-buds happy.

How to make soup without a recipe.

 

© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Lamb Chops, An Early Fall Harvest Dinner for Two

Up until recently lamb was a special occasion meal that was right up there with crab for my requested birthday celebration. I love lamb, but it can be pricey, especially for a family of 5. My five are not your average eaters, 3/5 of them are big, athlete, hungry eaters who devour their meal in half the time as everyone else. Needless to say, we did not serve lamb on a regular basis when my sons were all living at home.

Now that we are two serving lamb, especially lamb chops, is more affordable and we do not have to wait for a special occasion to have a treat. At my grocery store the rib lamb chops come already cut up into single rib pieces and will cook in less than 5 minutes on the stove.  To make delicious lamb chops all you need is a small amount of preparation and a couple of standard ingredients. The lamb chops are so delicious very little needs to be added in for flavor. Do not be intimidated, believing that lamb chops are “gourmet” and will be difficult to prepare. They are little gems and so easy to prepare.

How to make lamb chops

First take the lamb chops out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you want to cook them. Take them out of the packaging and arrange on a plate. Blot both sides of the lamb chops with a paper towel, then sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt lightly but evenly over the lamb chops on both sides. At this point you can decide how “fancy” you want to get. I like to sprinkle ground sumac and a bit of chopped fresh rosemary, but you can decide what, if any herbs and spices you would like to add. If you do not have sumac, salt and rosemary will be just fine. I do not apply ground pepper at this time because when I cook meat with ground pepper, the pepper can burn in the pan or on the grill and have a bitter taste.

Lamb Chops Early Fall Harvest Dinner for Two recipe

Let the seasoned lamb chops rest on the counter for one hour. The meat will come up to room temperature, which is what you want. Beginning the cooking process with meat that is at room temperature vs 40° F, means less cooking time. There is no need to cover the lamb with plastic wrap, just keep them undisturbed on the counter. If you are nervous about having uncovered meat on your counter, loosely cover the lamb with plastic wrap.

When you are ready to cook the lamb chops, use a skillet, cast iron pan, or grill pan, and heat the pan on the burner on high heat. Add a drizzle of oil (canola or olive oil) to the pan, just enough to lightly coat the bottom. You are ready to cook the lamb chops when the pan is hot and the oil will be shiny and just about to smoke. Arrange the lamb chops on the pan, turn the heat down to medium-high heat, and cook for 2-3 minutes undisturbed. Be careful not to crowd the pan by adding too many lamb chops. Depending on the size of your pan and how many lamb chops you are cooking, you may need to cook the lamb chops in a couple of batches. In my 12-inch cast iron skillet, I can cook 5-6 rib lamb chops at a time.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

A Hint of Summer on a Winter’s Day

I made a new discovery this past week. As I was walking around the produce department I spotted a fruit that I had never seen before, lemon plums. The color was what first grabbed my attention, a warm vibrant yellow with a thin smooth skin. Their shape is somewhat similar to a lemon and somewhat similar to a plum, but longer and a little larger. These days anything bright and warm looking will hold the attention of any skeptical winter weary person. The end of winter is here and we North easterners no longer see the virtue in the color grey. I stared at these lemon plums as if I was watching a long summer sunrise. Entranced, I collected some plums to buy and bring home.

Lemon Plums in season in winter.

My research informed me that lemon plums are in season now and from Chile. They are rare and I was instructed to snatch them up when I saw them. Lemon plums are picked when they are yellow and unripe. As they ripen they gradually turn the color of a reddish-orange, the darker they get the riper and sweeter they will become.

Ripening lemon plums

Ripening lemon plums

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.