If you all haven't picked up on it by now, I am clearly a fan of soup. I just find it to be a perfect lunchtime option coupled with a side dish, or a crunchy/ salty snack. They aren't too filling so you can function without the post lunch coma, and in most circumstances they are very healthy.
Because I make it a point to pack my lunch, I like to make dishes that can feed my stomach (and soul!) for several days. Soups fit this bill nicely because they usually get better over time so as the week passes you get deeper flavors, and on a hectic Wednesday that is a welcomed development.
I like to think I am a decent cook with a somewhat advanced pallet. However, I think the next step in my culinary growth would be learning how to build upon a basic recipe and making it my own. At present I am a follower, someday I would like to lead the ingredients to create a dish based on my ideas of flavor combinations. You know those people who can just look in a refrigerator or a pantry and pull seemingly unrelated items and make a meal? People who taste their way to an end result rather than measuring. I aspire to be that kind of cook.
Which is why Mark Bittman's article in the New York Times Magazine caught my eye. Profiling four soup types: Creamy, Brothy, Earthy and Hearty, it gives you a base for each type and teaches you two variations on each theme. The theory is, by the time you have made all twelve options you will never need a recipe again because you have learned how to riff of off one idea to feed another.
This is a perfect challenge for me seeing as I can never have enough soup on hand and I can grow as a cook in the process.
Since the thermometer still reads at a balmy 33 degrees I decided to try my hand at the Hearty category, and since I still have so many potatoes I opted for the Minestrone (pictured above left). It was every bit as simple as Bittman promised, and a great easy kitchen activity for a Wednesday evening. I will admit that I haven't eaten it yet, as I want to give it time to deepen in flavor overnight, but I did manage to sneak a few samples tastes which were light and clean.
I am already looking forward to lunch tomorrow.