Sometimes the best laid plans go awry . Today’s dish really is an unrecipe: in fact, not only did I use the “little of this and a bit of that” method, I didn’t even intend it to be soup!
It all began in the vegetable market, when I had a taste for something hearty, yet vegetarian. Autumnal flavors were on my mind, and zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and mushrooms sounded like a good start.
I sautéed an onion and some garlic with the mushrooms, and added some italian herbs. Sounds good, right? Well, it all went astray from there. As I tossed chunks of zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes on top of it in the slow cooker , I had some second thoughts. I wondered if 5 hours in the slow cooker might make them soft. I wondered if they might give off too much liquid. I added a can of beans to make the stew heartier, and hopefully thicken up what I realized was going to be a pot of mushy vegetables. I turned on the cooker and went about my business. When I came back a few hours later, I had just that: a pot of bland, starting to get quite mushy vegetables. They had given off quite a bit of liquid, but not enough to make soup. I added some stock and some canned tomatoes to the pot and let it cook it’s little heart out. When it was done, I pureed it into a rich, flavorful soup. It’s sort of a riff on a classic minestrone, and a little drizzle of olive oil and some grated Parmesan cheese provided the perfect finishing touch. All’s well that ends well!
Dice one medium onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, and sauté them in olive oil until soft. Add some sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and start to brown. Add a healthy amount of dried oregano, basil and a bay leaf, and place in the slow cooker. Pile on chunks of zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. ( I used 2 zucchini, 1 medium eggplant and 3 large tomatoes.) Season liberally with salt and pepper. Add 1 can of beans, rinsed, ( I used chickpeas ) and set the slow cooker for about 5 hours. Check it a few hours in, give it a stir and realize this is going to be mediocre at best. Add a little vegetable stock, if necessary, and a can of diced San Marzano tomatoes. Let it cook until the timer goes off.
Puree the mixture, and taste to correct seasonings. If it is too thick, add a little more stock. To serve, place in soup bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil, and a dollop of grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy, knowing that good cooks can salvage almost anything!
Photos: Glasshouse Images
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