Dream On: Soup & Sandwich

My biggest, greatest dream ever, ever, ever is to open up a little sandwich shop.

My dinner. One day, this will be your lunch, and the world will be a better place.

Of course, it will be charming and marvelous and will close for a few weeks every July when I am on vacation with my family.  The menu will be simple and honest: local ingredients, clean flavors, fresh bread, house-roasted meats, artisan cheese…  There will be soups and salads and cookies and muffins, but the options will be blissfully limited.  (That is, until Monet moves to California and brings her bakery with her, more on this in the next paragraph).  I do not want to own a salad bar, people.  If I did, I’d franchise a Sizzler.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good salad, okay?  But I adore the art of pondering, preparing, and presenting good and accessible food.   I have a dream, readers, and it’s not putting together a low-fat, voluminous barrel of roughage for some carb-fearing, sweatsuit-donning woman who can’t get off her Blackberry to order her food.   My dream, in short, is to make each person whom I encounter a little happier, a little kinder, by providing him or her with a really fantastic, unfussy lunch.

By the way, why can’t I just operate a little lemonade stand on the corner of California and 4th or 5th street like an eight-year-old girl could?  I don’t understand.  Why can’t I just set up shop and not pay taxes or tell the city or operate without a permit like the little girl can?  It’s not fair!  Besides, if it’s about sanitation, we all know I’m less likely to dunk my snotty hand in the pitcher than that child is, right?

I also need to mention my virtual friend, Monet.  (I know, I have a virtual friend!!)  She and I have a zillion things in common: we both live with guys named Ryan, and have undergraduate degrees in English.  And nothing brings us as much joy as creating beautiful food for the people we love.  Monet is a baker; she makes breads and muffins and cookies and cakes from her own little kitchen in Colorado, although she is moving to Austin soon.  Everything she makes is gorgeous and full of love.  She and I have recently been co-dreaming: what if we could combine her fluffy, home-baked loaves of bread with my, well, ability to put turkey on a piece of sourdough?  Oh, it would be heaven!  And we’re having so much fun, using this little joint dream as inspiration!  Oh, the treats she’ll bake, and the sandwiches I’ll press!  She even wrote a special entry in her adorable blog about a loaf of bread made with our sandwich shop/bakery in mind, and it’s wonderful, and it gives me a shout out, and I love attention almost as much as I love talking about food.

To you, this might be a boring picture. Not to me. This is my law degree, my modeling contract, my hedge fund.

So, dinner last night was the good old standby combination of a bowl of soup and a nice sandwich.  I make a big lunch for dinner sometimes, and it saves money and is really satisfying because I’m actually hungry enough to eat a Ryan-sized lunch when it’s dinnertime.  I can’t imagine gobbling that whole thing down at noon.  (One day, I’ve got to do a post on Ryan’s lunches.  They are enormous.  Although lately they’ve been boring and much smaller because he’s too busy to eat anything interesting.)  Anyway, I digress… Back to my sandwich!  It was a pretty standard Lauren-when-hungry sandwich: a clean-out-the-fridge-compilation of honey turkey, grilled peppers and onions, provolone, raspberry mustard, and tangy balsamic vinaigrette on humble, organic 100% whole wheat.  I was out of spinach, and that enrages me, because I love a nice line of green poking out through the melted cheese.

I also had a big bowl of the veggie soup I made yesterday afternoon.  This soup was literally the star of my lunch for months, and I love it.  It’s not enough food for a full meal, so you’ll need a grilled cheese or at least some fruit and protein or something.  Anyway, I took a thousand pictures of this afternoon’s soup-making, because I thought it would make an interesting post.  I am now pretty sure that it won’t,  but I have so many pictures of chopped onions I’m tempted to write about the process anyway.  Honestly, would you like to know how to make vegetable soup?  And even if you did really want to know, do you actually want me to show you how, in pictures and with painstaking attention to detail?

Well, gosh!!  If it means that much to you, reader, if you really insist!!

VEGETABLE SOUP 101

Veggie Soup: So Easy, Kinda Ridiculous

For those of you who know how to make a really simple soup, this tutorial could bore you.  You might want to do something more interesting, like, mull over this million-dollar question: why do you have to spray non-stick pans with non-stick cooking spray?  Now, for the rest of you, read on!  We’re going to learn how to make a crazy-easy veggie soup!

  • Things you’ll need:
    1. A large pot.  It could be a big, big soup/pasta pot, or a pretty big pot or whatever.  It cannot be a shallow saute pan, obviously… we’re making soup, remember?  I use this big multipurpose pot my mom dragged to LA in her suitcase for me: it’s a 5-quart capacity pan.  Sometimes, it’s almost overflowing, but that’s not the pan’s fault, it’s mine.  I sometimes go a little overboard with the vegetables…
    2. A can opener.  To open a can of beans and a can of tomatoes.  Unless you intend on rinsing and soaking your own beans, which is cool.  Or crushing your own tomatoes, which is also cool.  But if that’s your plan, I’m surprised you’re reading this— you should probably already know how to make vegetable soup.
    3. A knife, a cutting board.  Duh.
    4. A stove.
    5. And some way to store all the leftovers.
  • Ingredients:

    Meet the Veggie Soup Dream Team!

    • A big onion.
    • 1 or 2 big carrots,
    • Celery.  I use a lot, and you should, too.  Or at least 2 ribs, but live a little!
    • Potatoes.  For thickening, and texture variance.  I use two little red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes, depending on my mood.
    • Veggies of your choice.  This should change with the seasons, what’s on sale, and what’s getting questionably soft in your vegetable crisper at the moment.  I chose a small, firm eggplant, and these little baby squash from my farmers market.  But normally, I’d add a whole lot more than this: bell peppers, green beans, cabbage, interesting squash, greens, root vegetables, whatever!  Sometimes, I add corn, but that hinges upon my choice in beans, etc.
    • Canned Tomatoes.  Some people like more, some people like less.

      Tomatoes, of course!

      I get a big old can of diced San Marzanos and use them all, because I love them, and they are rich and delightful and make the best broth.  You could use half a can if that makes you feel better.

    • Broth/Stock/Something.  If you have homemade chicken stock in your freezer, by all means use it!  But ask yourself, “why, if I have homemade chicken stock in my house, am I sitting in front of my computer, reading ‘Vegetable Soup 101’, an entry in a blog written by a girl who doesn’t look a day over seventeen?”  Okay.  Now, I buy the low-sodium Organic Chicken Stock at Whole Foods, it’s pretty affordable.  Even though I’m paying for water, it makes me happy, so I do it.  You could also use a bullion cube, but I like to control the sodium in my soup, and since I can’t find my San Marzanos without salt added, I have to cut out the salt in other places.  You could also use water.  Or just throw some leftover chicken bones in your soup and pull them out later, which I think my mom does, but I could be totally wrong.  Whatever you do, make sure you’re choosing something natural.  You are putting together a hearty vegetable soup and the worst thing you could possibly do is contaminate it with artificial chicken flavors and MSG.  (This, by the way, is one of my favorite things about Whole Foods Market: as a company, it maintains “quality standards” for everything it sells, which means that when I check the labels, I check for salt, for saturated fat, for nutritional benefits, and try to choose the product with the shortest ingredient list possible.  Half of the work is done for me: products that contain artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners and freakish preservatives, amongst other things, never even make it to the shelves.  And I feel good about that.)
    • Beans.  I like Cannellini beans (white beans) because they really blend well with rich tomato flavors.  Garbanzo and kidney varieties are also good bets.
    • Pasta/Grains.  I like to add a serving of whole wheat shells to the pasta to thicken it up and keep it hearty and filling.  I like the shells because a piece of celery or a chunk of tomato ends up stuck inside and it’s so cute!  Woo!

      Spicy!

    • Spices.  Parsley, thyme, rosemary, paprika, pepper, garlic powder, whatever!  Fresh parsley would be ideal, but I don’t always use it, because I’d rather spend the money on an eggplant and I haven’t gotten around to growing any yet.
    • An old rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano.  When you get to the rind, freeze it, and then dump it in your soup for flavor.  This is totally optional.  But awesome.
  • The Method: (I know this is getting long…)

    • Chopped & Ready

      Chop up the root vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, potato) into big chunks if you are like me and hate baby food. I like my soups rustic and my vegetables easy to identify.  If you are using other random root vegetables, throw them in now too if they need a good bit of cooking/softening time.

    • Saute the root veggies in a little bit of olive oil for a few minutes.

      Saute root veggies with some spices. Seasoning throughout cooking is tasty and subtle, not overpowering and obvious.

      Add some spices now!  It’s important to start seasoning at the beginning and then throughout the process, not just at the end.  This is especially true with dried and strong herbs, such as rosemary.  Nothing ensures a failure like way too much rosemary added to a soup way too late.  Garlic powder is an easy way to manage flavor here, since it will coat everything and not burn like fresh garlic might.

    • Add softer vegetables once the root vegetables are partially softened.  But don’t add greens now, they’ll overcook.  Add those at the end, or just enough for the soup you are eating now.  Nobody wants a good bowl of soup ruined by spinach that cooked for an hour.

      Roots + Softies + Pasta

    • Once the softer vegetables are incorporated, throw in some pasta.  Do not use more than a serving of pasta, or you will end up with pasta in sauce, not soup.  Trust me.
    • Then add the canned tomatoes.  I recommended adding them pretty soon after the veggies are in because squash and especially eggplant are natural sponges: they soak up liquid.  And if they soak up some best-quality tomatoes, isn’t that grand!?
    • Add the beans.  I’m gross and I dump the whole can in, juice and all, because I like how thick it makes the soup.  I know this is disgusting and I don’t care.  Besides, the ones I buy are a no-salt added variety, and the beans are for a soup, not a salad, so whatever!

      Beans, for protein/thickness/fun

      If loving bean goop is wrong, then I don’t want to be right, folks.

    • Chicken broth/stock, a note: I use the stock throughout the cooking process as a stand-in for oil.  When the pot starts to dry out and the liquid evaporates, I throw in some water or stock as needed.  Once the tomatoes are in and everything is pretty well-a-cooking, I’ll add the remainder of the stock.  I’ll also add the cheese rind now.  (You’ll have to take it out eventually, it’s not edible.)
    • Turn the heat to super low so everything doesn’t boil off.  Leave the pot partially covered and walk away or clean up your kitchen or take a shower or dance a little or something.
    • One of my favorite things about making an enormous pot of soup is that for the next few days, my life is really easy.

      When everything is soft and aromatic and lovely, have a small bowl and smile.  Then pack the rest up.  It will be even better tomorrow, and you’ll never have to worry about incorporating vegetables into your diet, because you can just throw a serving of soup on the stove, reheat it, and enjoy.  Please don’t microwave it!  You worked so hard!  Don’t!!

Anyway, that was pretty easy, right?  I’m hoping to have something interesting to share with you all really soon.  Any suggestions?  Oh, and by the way, I was talking to my good friend Jenna about this, and thought I’d mention it here.  I wanted to make a pot of vegetable soup, and clearly, I got around to it.  But a part of me was hesitant to write about it, and not just because it’s pretty boring.  It’s more like, how can a bowl of soup compete with black and white cookies from scratch?  Seriously!  I feel like nothing gets as many oooh and ahhhs as homemade junk food, and honestly, I’m starting to ooze sugar from my pores.

The End.

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Comments
15 Responses to “Dream On: Soup & Sandwich”
  1. Lauren, I’m SO rooting for your sandwich shop. I’d visit every day. Your passion for the idea is palpable through my computer… Go for your dreams, girl! And your writing… Your writing is so hilarious. I especially love the mention of a “Ryan-sized” lunch – HA! Boys always do their meals bigger.

  2. Jessie says:

    Lauren, I think you should probably open that sandwich shop asap because I’m sick of restaurants with soggy bread laced with wilted lettuce and old tomatoes that can’t stand up to anything. Your sammies don’t seem to have that problem… Let me know if you expand to D.C. Thanks girl!

    Jessie
    http://www.themessiekitchen.com/

  3. Monet says:

    So you are adorable…but I keep on saying this so I know its losing its power (I’m looking for another word here, but I can’t find it, so “power” is what we have). I have full confidence that if we made this sandwich shop happen…we would be wildly successful and blissfully happy. The two of us could share a cup of coffee and a muffin every morning before we opened the store. We could sit by the window, gossiping and reading our current “book club” selection (because we would have a book club). I love your veggie soup instructions. I love soup. And we will have to make lots of it to go with my crusty loaves of bread. Much love!

  4. Chrissy says:

    That’s what I figured… I didn’t mean to put you on blast for missing that step, although it does seem pretty obvious

  5. Chrissy says:

    I’ve been catching up since finals are over and I’m a little confused where the refined suger goes… Do I sprinkle it on top or should I just eat this with a Twinkie? Both are fine by the way…

    • Lauren says:

      Chrissy! So, you could keep it simple and dip the Twinkie into the soup at your leisure, like a giant breadstick. Or, if you have a little bit of extra time and want to do something special for you and JT one night, try chopping up the Twinkie into half-inch cubes, and toasting them for a few minutes. Then, toss them on top of the soup, like croutons.

  6. actorsdiet says:

    i’m so happy to have found your blog (via monet’s) – great to see another l.a. food blogger…

    • Lauren says:

      Thanks, everyone!

      There’s no better place to get your veggies than L.A.

      And no better way to use a degree in English!! (that’s questionable, ha)

  7. Sounds very tasty and healthy 🙂

  8. jenna says:

    your moms right, its way too hot for soup in miami. can i please come visit and you can cook for me?

  9. What a fun post, and that soup looks divine:)

  10. Mom says:

    Oh it is so lovely to live in California where the soup season is long and the veggies are so fresh now. The Miami soup season ended in mid April coinciding with our week long (adult spring break) cruise! It is way to hot to think about anything but a chilled gazpacho garnished with a wedge of lime and some sour cream…………aka invite Aunt Marcia for lunch!!! Happy cooking and blogging……….xoxo Mom

  11. Btw I wish you all the luck in opening up a sandwich shop… it’s been my dream to open up a tiny cafe back home in India! And who knew… I have a undergrad degree in eng lit too… maybe its all that heavy reading that drives us to food!

  12. My favorite weekday dinner is soup and a sandwich! It’s the perfect meal. That veggie soup looks so colorful!

  13. lisasfoods says:

    Yum – I love soup and sandwiches. Sounds like a light and healthy dinner.

    If you were to open a sandwich shop and I was in the area, I’d go. I love fresh and delicious sandwich ingredients.

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