Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stone soup

Back when I was young, my Granny had an entire set of Collier's Encyclopedia.  She kept them in this armoire/secretary kind of thing that looked like it was meant exactly for it.  It was glass fronted and had shelves that held the Encyclopedia volumes PERFECTLY.  
(Christmas 1979.  Me, my brother, my sister. See the piece of furniture half-hidden behind the Christmas tree?  See the black and red Encyclopedias?  What do you call a piece of furniture like that?  I would LOVE to get my hands on one, whatever it is)

In addition to the encyclopedias, Granny had a set of books called the Collier's Junior Classics (they are on the top shelf).  I think this was a bonus set of books that you got when you bought the really nice set of Encyclopedias.  I used the Encyclopedias for schoolwork...but the Junior Classics were for enjoyment.

I cannot possibly tell you how much I loved these books...or how many hours I spent on my Granny's living room floor reading the stories out of them.  My favorite volume was the one with lots of Greek and Roman mythology (I think it was Roads to Greatness).  I read ALL of the volumes though, numerous times.  One of the stories that really stuck with me my whole life was called "Stone Soup." I think it might have been in the volume Once Upon a Time.  The gist of the story goes something like this (from what I remember):

A couple of travelers come into a village...they are a scroungy looking couple of immediately, the villagers confront them and tell them that theirs is a poor village that they cannot give them anything to eat...yada, yada, yada.
One of the fellows gets a pot out of the things he's carrying and the other guy gets a stone out of his bag...they tell the villagers that they were actually hoping to feed THEM since they'd heard all about how poor the village was.  They had this magic stone that made stone soup.
So they get some water going over a fire, put the stone in the pot and sit back and wait for the stone soup to get ready.  While it's "cooking" they start talking about how even though stone soup is sure does taste better when you add a little of the villagers says "Hey!  I can spare an onion!"  and so on...they get the villagers to add carrots, a little sausage, beans, corn, etc...then they do feed the whole village and everyone talks about how great the soup is.
It's basically a parable about if we all pull together, we can make something great.
But because of that story (and the blue-gillionth time I read it aloud) anytime we were just throwing together soup or stew from odds and ends out of leftovers and adding whatever was handy in the freezer or cabinets, my family called that "Stone Soup."
As you would expect, Stone Soup is never exactly the same twice.  Very often, the base for Stone Soup is whatever I have left over whenever I make a crockpot roast.  Recently, I made a batch of Stone Soup...this one heavily influenced by a crockpot recipe that I read off of Stacey Ballis's blog The Polymath Chronicles.  I had never used a grain in my stone soup before... but her recipe called for one & I decided I'd give it a try.  She used barley, I think...I had some quinoa in the cabinet, so that's what went in mine. (I had bought some quinoa at Trader Joe's because it'd read all about it's attributes recently...then never really had any chance to use it because I had forgotten that I lived with the two pickiest eaters in the entire Northern American continent).
Also from Ms. Ballis's influence, some lentils...another food item I should probably eat more often and that my family never will.  Anyway, I threw it all together and let it cook for a few hours...cooled it in the fridge overnight and brought it to work to feed to the hungry hordes here (If I'm trying new stuff, woe to me if I should spring something like quinoa on my two at home.  I do my test marketing at work.  Because my office?  Will eat anything.)  My co-workers have eaten many, many variations of my Stone Soup.  But several of them have declared this batch my best I thought I'd write down what went into it while I still remembered & share it with all.

This whole things starts with the leftovers of a crockpot first, the crockpot roast:

Beef roast
Lawry's seasoned salt
fingerling potatoes (about a pound...whatever the standard small bag they sell in the produce section is)
small bag of baby carrots
medium white onion (peeled and quartered)
2 packets of au jus seasoning

Get your beef roast (shoulder, chuck or bottom round) and dry rub with Lawry's seasoned salt
Place it in the bottom of your crock pot
Put veggies on top
Mix au jus dry mix with about 4 cups of water
Pour into crock pot
Add any additional water needed to cover the meat and vegetables

The best thing to do is throw this together before you leave for work, set on 10 hours/low and leave...then you come home to a cooked meal, Yay!

Now, on to the stone soup:

AFTER you've eaten what you want of the roast and vegetables, remove any remaining meat and veggies with a slotted spoon from the "juice" in the crockpot to a cutting board and coarsely chop.  Return to the liquid that you cooked the roast in...everything after this is stone soup.  This latest batch I added:

(1) large 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
(2) cans of drained yellow whole kernel corn
(1) can of drained kitchen sliced green beans
(1) cup of uncooked quinoa
(1/2) cup uncooked dried lentils
2 or 3 pinches of red pepper flakes (Stacey's recommendation)
2 TBL Tony Tchathery's seasoning
2 or 3 dashes of worcestershire sauce

Also...Stacey had said that she had a parmesan cheese rind that she tucked into her soup and removed before serving.  I didn't have a cheese rind...and when I asked the guy working the deli at Winn Dixie if he did, he just gave me a very bewildered look.  Winn Dixie is really great about saving you a neck bone, or some hog jowl or fat back (or pigs' feet or tails for that matter) if you ask them.  They just must not get too many requests for rinds from fancy cheeses.
However, I had recently purchased some parmesan reggiano cheese bites for the monkey

because she has a habit of buying $15 wedges of parmesan reggiano, eating a smidge of it and then forgetting all about it. (These were $7.99 per 6 bites normally, but on sale 1/2 off)  Of course, she tasted these individually wrapped chunks and declared them foul and evil.

I tried one and it tasted like a hunk of the $15 cheese to me.  Anyway, I pulled the bag out...there were 3 left (Jeff must have tried it too) and so I unwrapped them and put those down in the soup...where they melted.  Whatever effect putting a cheese rind in your soup and taking it out was supposed to have, I missed.  But I do think melting some in the soup added another layer of flavor to mine plus helped thicken the soup juice as well.  It's probably something I will do again.

Anyway, hope you guys try my version, your own version or hop over to Stacey Ballis's blog and try hers (hers is more fancy).
Bonus picture!  While looking for an old photo that showed the secretary/armoire thingy, I found this one of me & my dad (also in Granny's living room).  I can't believe how hideously awful/wonderful the plaid pants are...
Also?  No idea what my shirt is saying. 
Are you loving my bangs?

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