Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Harvest: Broccoli Tomato Soup

I am cresting the hill next to a field near our house, half-running, half-walking on the gravel trail to avoid jolting a sleeping N in the jogging stroller.  At the edge of the field, two tractors, a mower, and a rotary rake stand silent in the early morning mist.  It's harvest time; the hay has been cut and raked into neat rows, and is now ready for baling.  There is something immensely pleasing to me about the neat symmetry of the mowed field, waiting to be cleared.

At the bottom of the hill, there are black figures moving through the rows.  As we get closer, suddenly I realize what I'm looking at: turkey vultures.  Perhaps twenty of them, scattered through the field.  I shudder as I pass them, quickening my pace.  For some reason, looking at them feels like looking at death.

And yet, they are taking care of the field, too ... only clearing away the carrion left by the mower, which made hay, cutting down life in order to sustain other life.  Most people think of harvest as a time of abundance.  But that abundance is inextricably intertwined with loss.  The hay is cut to sustain livestock through the winter.  The vultures pick through the hay to find the rabbits and mice and voles who didn't escape the mower in time.  Death brings life brings death brings the possibility of life again.

There are so many things that are like this, aren't there?  We can't have abundance without loss; we can't have loss without abundance.

We've officially entered the season of the One Pot Wonder around here.  Soups and stews and baked things dominate the menu at our house during the fall and winter, and I'm glad; I like both the kinds of things that simmer all day and the things I can throw into a pot and turn into a meal in a matter of minutes.  This one is an unexpected twist on the harvest, too; people don't normally conjure broccoli when they think of fall -- usually we get stuck on pumpkins and winter squash and corn -- and I don't usually put tomatoes in broccoli soup.  My husband calls bacon the Noble Meat; he's a chemical engineer, so he thinks of things in terms of the Periodic Table.  But you don't need to use bacon to appreciate the harvest from a slightly different perspective; simply omit it for a vegetarian version.

Broccoli Soup, Monastery Style (from the Monastery Soup Cookbook)

1 lb. broccoli
3 garlic cloves
6 c. water
6 parsley sprigs
4 strips lean bacon (or veggie bacon or smoky tofu or skip it entirely or perhaps use a smoky cheese below)
6 T. olive oil
1 6-oz can tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, grated

Wash the broccoli, slice into small pieces. Chop the garlic, parsley, and bacon.

Pour the olive oil into a soup pot, add the broccoli, garlic, parsley, and bacon, and saute them for a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and 2 cups warm water. Stir well. Cover the pot and allow the soup to cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining water and cook the soup over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper and simmer for a few minutes. Just before serving, puree the soup in a blender. Soup can be served hot or cold. Garnish hot soup at the last minute with some grated cheese.
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12 comments:

  1. Maybe they remind you of death because they are possibly the most awful looking birds alive (well, that and they survive on the death of other animals). And I'm saying that as an animal lover of all kinds! But seriously, I can't even look at those birds! And they are every where here. When I'm walking my dog and we have to walk below one sitting on a wire, I don't know why, but I'm always afraid they're going to attack me. They are seriously frightening. (But I did like your thought..."Death brings life brings death brings the possibility of life again.")

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  2. The imagery in the top half of your post conjured up memories of one of my favorite (and kind of one of the most traumatic) childhood reads: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. :)

    I don't know if I ever told you that I checked out the Monastery Soup Cookbook from my library a while back after reading one of your old posts. I was suprised the library even had it. What I like about this soup is that you can also make good use of the stalk, which typically frustrates me. I don't particularly like to eat it, but I hate throwing it away/composting it. Pureeing it perfect. :) (Sometimes I freeze it for when I make vegetable broth, too...but...most of the time it gets tossed out.)

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  3. @Trinity: Oh, yes, NIMH!! I need to check that book out again. :) @bodegabliss: I know, weird ... they don't attack live animals, though ... do they?!

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  4. This is lovely Justine. Very pensive and thought-provoking post today!

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  5. Not only does your soup look amazing, but you are thoughtful and charming and a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing with me...now I want soup and bread for dinner.

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  6. I love one pot wonders :)

    I also dislike turkey vultures---they are really creepy looking, and I'm always a little uneasy when they're around...

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  7. This post reminds me of just how urban my environment is. I've always been torn between enjoying city life and craving for land and wide open spaces.
    And that soup? YUM.

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  8. Oh! I can't wait to make this! I love broccoli almost as much as I love tomato soup. I love any pureed soup, really.

    It is hard to remember that we can't have abundance without loss or loss without abundance.

    Today I was speaking to my mom about the daughter she gave away. She told me that the morning after she was born she'd ask to see her, said she wanted to keep her. They told her her daughter was already gone. But some documented papers she requested ten years ago said that the baby was in the hospital for almost a week. They had lied to her.

    I couldn't help but think, what would have happened if they hadn't lied to her. What if they had let her see her baby and she had kept her? I can't imagine her relationship with my father would have survived (evidently he did not want to keep the baby) and even if it had, would she have had me ten years later? My sister seven years after that? Probably not. While I have no idea what her life would have been like, if she had not lost her first child in that way, I do know that she wouldn't have had all she has now. Is that abundance from loss? Maybe. Maybe not.

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  9. I have never had a broccoli soup...much less made one...Love the combination with tomato. A really wholesome, light and tasty soup.

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  10. Esperanza--that's such a sad story about your mom. It's incredible how one lie probably affected yours and your sister's lives in such a profound way.

    jhl--thanks for your comment on my blog. Turkey vultures are super creepy. You transported me right to the scene you were seeing. I never would have thought of the little animals who were caught by the reaper and the scavengers who feed on them.

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  11. Wow your food looks great. I am sure am hungry looking and reading

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  12. Thanks for this great recipe. My family loved it. They want me to make it again for our re union.

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