Friday, August 28, 2015

Madness and Anarchy - That Cabbage Soup

Is it something in the water?  Eating too much GMO or fast food?  Too much ADHD medication as a child? I am referring to what feels like an almost daily assault on the senses as young and not-so-young men go on murderous rampages. Strangers, ex-coworkers, police officers, neighbors, schoolchildren. The latest was the videotaped shooting of a reporter and a camera man in Virginia.  Apparently the killer, who later saved the state a whole lot of money and shot himself to death, had carefully planned and publicized the event. Why? He was, by all reports, a very angry man. Resentful. Litigious. Confrontational. And now, as we know, murderous.  He wrote that the massacre in the South Carolina church was the last straw, the thing that set him off for the last time.

Some people are saying he was crazy.  Sorry, I've seen crazy and he wasn't crazy. Mean, nasty, hateful, but not crazy.  No excuses there. Did he have a sense of entitlement that wasn't being satisfied?  I don't know, I have no answers, but I don't like it at all. So many people to whom the rule of law and basic morals no longer matter.  No one is in charge, no one is in control.  We are living in a dystopia of our own crafting.

So many murders this past year.  Is it a global societal phenomenon we have to learn to live with? Or does it seem more prevalent and widespread because social media is a virus that spreads the news faster than Fox, speedier than CNN, and with more information than MSNBC?

This is madness. This is anarchy. The world is falling apart while our leaders, our elected officials, the celebrities we listen to, are acting on their pedophilic wet dreams. Some beat on their wives while others cheat on their wives, and the cheating is planned on the government's time clock.  Crap. I could go on, but let me end this rant in the best way I know how: What the fuck is happening here?

I want soup.  I love my egg drop soup from China King because it doesn't have a lot of stuff in it to get stuck in my throat.  Can't eat egg drop soup all the time, and most of my soup recipes have stuff in them.  Chunks of vegetables, slices of spicy sausage, bodacious beans and plenty of pasta.  Delicious but likely to cause me to give it right back.

So in my head I got stuck on that old-fashioned cabbage soup that used to form the basis of this crazy diet that must be one of the only diets I was never on.  But we had a similar soup recipe out of Weight Watchers, and God and Jean Nidetch know that I've been on that diet since Broadway was a prairie.  Both versions were cabbage vegetable soups, no beef, nothing like my mother's sweet and sour Jewish cabbage soup but delicious in its own way, and totally customizable.  And since I am trying to achieve a thinner, non-chunky soup, I chose fresh vegetables that given time and heat will cook down nice and soft. It helped that they were all precut and prepackaged from the Publix produce section.

To start, I sprayed my 6 quart crock pot with Pam, and added about 3 tablespoons of butter, one large white onion, thinly sliced, and half of a pound bag of cole slaw mix.  I set it on low, and left it overnight, starting at around 10:15.  The idea is to get some depth of flavor from caramelization.  I have caramelized onions in a crockpot several time before, but the cabbage was a new idea.  

I checked on it around 5:30, and it was just barely south of some of the cabbage getting burnt, damn it.  So I fished out some of the darker pieces and kept the rest, which was still sweet.  I'd have to say 4 to 6 hours would have been plenty`but I'm going to work with what I've got.

To the cooked onions and cabbage in the crockpot I added:

1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
the remaining cole slaw mix, about 1/2 pound
1 package (a little over 3/4 pound) precut peppers and onions
1 large stalk celery, chopped
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 package (a little under a pound precut new potatoes, onion, and carrots
2 teaspoons (about 4 cloves) minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
4 cups vegetable juice, plus more as needed (V-8 comes in a 46 oz. bottle)

When it came to the precut vegetables, I wanted them even smaller, so I took out my trusty santoku knife and whittled them down to size, especially the carrots. If you want to leave them chunky, that's fine. It only took me a few minutes to place the vegetables on a cutting board and chop them somewhat smaller (oh yeah, I got a very sharp chef's knife and I know how to use it). By the time I got everything in the crockpot, it was 6:30, so I covered it and plan to let it continue to cook on low for 8 hours while I move on with the rest of my day.  I love my crockpots, all four of them.

After two hours, I add several freshly-harvested okra pods that I sliced kind of thin (for okra), as well as a green plum tomato that had been knocked off the tomato plant by this morning's early rain storm.  It looked like a flat pear, rather than a plum, but I chopped it anyway and threw it in.  After four hours, I re-seasoned the soup with half the amount of each spice in the list of ingredients, including the sugar and the minced garlic (I'm using a squeeze tube of garlic for this).  I also added a little more of the vegetable juice.  I ate half of a very freshly-baked orange and blueberry muffin (quality control, you know) but that's another blog post.

Sneak peek. Wait for it ...

I'm holding the baby spinach till the home stretch. After the library, after lunch.

Now at hour seven, I threw in the last ingredient - several big handfuls of hand-torn baby spinach.  The spinach will wilt and does add a certain bitterness which I offset with a few pinches of sugar.  You can always leave the spinach out; the soup is good either way.

And now the great reveal: In the end, I had to pull some rabbits out of my chef's hat to make it delicious (and it is. Was.)  In retrospect, the spinach was a bad idea.  The soup tasted better, and brighter, before I added it.  I had to fiddle with the soup. which had gone flat.  I know, I'm fussy and I'm also my own worst critic, but I had Robert's help on this and he agreed something was missing. Sugar, lemon juice, more salt, Worcestershire sauce, the remaining vegetable juice and Knorr beef bouillon cubes were added in succession, and we tasted and re-tasted until it was good.  So next time, I will start with 4 cups of beef stock rather than chicken, plus 2 Knorr beef bouillon cubes, and I will leave out the spinach at the end. Oh, and if the precut vegetable packages include baby carrots, skip them and chop up a couple of regular carrots instead.  They cook up softer and sweeter.

Serve hot with garlic cheese biscuits. Pass grated cheese at the table to sprinkle on top of each portion.

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