Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Anyway you want it. That's the way you need it. - Beefy Vegetable Soup n' Stew

Monday, Day 24 - I woke up this morning, my bed piled high with furry children.  All five of them,  including The Last Cat Standing.  If my back did not hurt, I would have bounded out of bed with great joie de vivre, but my back does hurt, and I had to settle for sitting up and breathing.  Happiness is relative.

I don't sleep through the night, and when I do awake at 3:30 am or whatever inconvenient time my panic overcomes my need for sleep, I access the internet and indulge in esoteric research.  Before I dropped off to sleep last night it was all about the location of Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds, and the old-timey teams that had played in those locations; when my eyelids betrayed me a few hours later, I was looking up breast ultrasound results (again).  Well now, that proved to be useful because I am convinced that what I saw on the screen at the ultrasound lab were pictures of fluid cysts, nothing more.  I just need to hear this officially from my lady doc and I can move on with my life.  Hopefully it will all come together at tomorrow's doctor appointment.

Having done no cooking for several days, I am finding myself fixated on clam fritters and on a beefy vegetable soup.  I have a rather ingenious idea for the fritters, but frankly, I need the soup and I need it now.  My ability to swallow has deteriorated, which may well be temporary, but until I can manage more than a 1-inch square piece of buttered roll for breakfast, I am going to have to seek out a nutritious liquid lunch.  Even my delicious split pea soup is not going down well, which is kind of crazy, but then so is my digestive system.

So today has been a bad day for dealing with doctors.  Not that the doctors were rude or anything, but circumstances have left me with issues to deal with.  The psychiatrist I've been trying to contact for three weeks did finally call me back, and I actually got an appointment set, and then I learn that the doctor no longer has an office in Kissimmee, or even Orlando.  Winter Park.  Sorry, have to look elsewhere, thanks for returning my call.  The other issue has to do with certain papers that needed to be filled out, and that's enough of that.  I've already made phone calls to try to fix it.

And I have finally been able to get something down my throat, something with rich flavor and nutrition.  The amazing thing is that, totally unexpectedly, I got a fabulous broth for me, a delicious beef stew for the boys, and three gorgeous bones for the boy Yorkies.  While I would love to eat the stew, I can't.  But the broth has been infused with the flavors of all the fresh vegetables, pungent herbs, and beefy short ribs, and I got exactly what I needed.  If you want to skip the last step of separating the stew solids from the broth, feel free to do so and enjoy your beefy vegetable soup intact. Anyway you want it.

This might look like a lot of ingredients, but it all comes together easily:

3 tablespoons roasted garlic extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds beef back ribs (about 3 ribs)
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped,
4 cloves garlic
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large parsnip, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
8 oz. baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, quartered
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried sweet basil
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
kosher salt
coarsely ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 - 32 oz. containers beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
a few drops Tabasco sauce (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper
1 jalapeƱo, halved or quartered, seeds and veins removed (optional)
2-3 ears fresh corn with kernels cut off
1/2  pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 red new potatoes, quartered

Heat the olive oil in a large deep pot.  Season the beef ribs with salt and pepper.  Sear the ribs on all sides, remove and set aside.  To the pot add the onion, leek, garlic, carrot, parsnip, celery, and butter.  Cook on high for a few minutes to promote caramelization.  Add the butter, then the mushrooms, thyme, oregano, granulated garlic, salt and pepper. Stir and cook for a few more minutes, then add the tomato paste.  Let the tomato paste-coated vegetables cook for a few minutes and then pour in the beef stock and stir in the Worcestershire, Tabasco, bay leaves, and sugar.  Bring this to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add all of the remaining vegetables except for the zucchini, yellow squash, and potatoes and cook, covered, another 30 minutes.

Remove the cover, and with a large metal spoon, remove as much of the fat risen to the surface as possible and discard.  Taste and carefully re-season the soup.  Add the zucchini, squash, and potatoes, cover the pot, bring to a simmer and cook for another 45 minutes until the vegetables are all tender.

Remove the beef ribs and let cool so they can be handled.  Skim any more fat that has risen to the surface.  Taste and re-season again, including a glug of Worcestershire.  This is important, because each time you skim off the fat, you remove some of the seasoning.  If you wish, remove the meat from the bones and stir into the soup.  Serve the soup as is, or use a large slotted spoon to remove the meat and vegetables from the beefy broth.

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