October Soup #1: Vegetable Cheese Soup
I have a large collection of cookbooks. Some I reference weekly. Others are oddities I pull out for party tricks. Others are pieces of my own personal history.
Last October, when I visited my grandmother for the last time, she told me I could sort through her small cookbook collection and take the ones I was interested in. One of the ones I chose had been a gift to Grandmama from my own mother. It was a cookbook called Encoure! Opera: Organization of People in Ellendale for the Restoration of the Arts. This cookbook had been an early 1990’s fundraiser in Ellendale, North Dakota, to help raise money to restore the town’s opera house. My mother had purchased it while my family lived in Ellendale, a small (population under 1,600 in the 2000 census) town in southern North Dakota.
Compilation cookbooks made for fund-raising are always interesting (if you’re interested in seeing how America cooks) and sometimes distressing (if you’re interested in seeing how America cooks). Many of the recipes in books like this call for assemblage–a can of this soup or vegetable, a jar of Cheeze Wiz, instant pudding, etc. This may be fun and it may be tasty, but I don’t really consider it cooking and it doesn’t usually fit how my household eats.
However, other recipes call for whole foods and require cooking–and there’s a number of well-known contributors: Barbara Bush, Lady Bird Johnson, Phil Jackson, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter (someone obviously hit up the presidents or their wives), Bob Hope, and regional celebrities of that time and generation. (It has been almost 20 years…) I also recognize some community names from my time in North Dakota, and its bittersweet, as some of them, particularly one woman from my family’s church, passed away since then.
I look for ways to adapt assemblage recipes into whole foods recipes, and I did that to one gem from this book this week. Originally from Beryl Ginsbach of the Ellendale Historical Society, I tossed out the canned cream of chicken soup and American Cheese and added milk and cheddar cheese instead.
It’s a delightful, vegetable-y, fall soup.
Vegetable Cheese Soup, compliments of North Dakota
In a large Dutch oven, saute in 1 T. butter or bacon fat, 1 chopped leek (onion may be substituted), 1 diced green pepper, 3 stalks celery, and 2-3 carrots. (Vegetables should measure about 1 C. each).
Add 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth.
Add 2 diced potatoes. (About 2 medium potatoes, preferably red-skinned. Peel them if you wish.)
Add 1 bay leaf.
Cook for 20 minutes, or until tender.
Add 1/2 lb. chopped broccoli, 1/2 lb. chopped cauliflower, and 3 C. whole milk. (If you must use skim, which I really don’t recommend, add a bit of cream to thicken it out.) Heat, but do not boil or the milk will curdle. Add 1/2 lb. cubed cheddar cheese and heat. Salt and pepper to taste. The amount of salt you use will depend on the state of the stock and your own preference.
Enjoy! This soup is delicious the next day, too.