“Crisper Drawer” Soup

I was going to call this recipe “Kitchen Sink Soup,” since the standard household equipment is a common way of describing anything that could be anything in the way of food. Kitchen Sink pizza, salad, pasta — we’ve heard it before. But you know what? “Kitchen sink” just doesn’t conjure very appetizing images to me. I’ll admit something’s not right with my drain these days. It’s probably clogged up with all those random foods I’ve been tossing on pizzas.

A crisper drawer full of food, on the other hand, is a much more inviting scene. And it’s one that I’ve been blessed with ever since joining a spring-to-autumn CSA. Even without the CSA stuff, it’s home to many of my favorite things, fruits like concord grapes (summer’s last) and cranberries (fall’s first); then the cooking staples like lemons and limes, onions and scallions, and carrots (great for snacking, as well as building a stock). Magenta smears of beet decorate the crisper drawer door like graffiti, and its front panel is otherwise see-through, revealing layers of slightly squashed produce bags packed one atop the other like plates of the earth’s crust on an archaeological dig. This drawer is just a goldmine. It’s the first place I turn to when I want to cook, and in the case of this soup, it was nearly the last one, too, for drumming up ingredients.

Just like the contents of a crisper drawer, there are hidden layers of vegetables within this soup, which take turns bobbing up to the surface the swirl of a spoon. Yellow, white and burgundy red carrots swim about, translucent strips of cabbage, celery and its flavorful, flat green leaves, a potato wedge, a green bean tube, and flashes of red pepper or mashed cherry tomatoes that manage to retain their bright hue. There’s a whole world crammed inside this soup, some of the inhabitants of which can no longer be seen.

But since not everyone’s crisper drawer looks the same, and everyone has their favorite foods, no one “Crisper Drawer” soup should be the same. It’s soup after all, not a science. But if you have a good blend of the below categories, it’ll make for a satisfying, well-balanced full meal. Below are a few suggestions for each. For some, you might only need to go with one (like the starches), but if you want to get the full, crisper-drawer experience, you’ll want to put a potpourri of veggies together for that category. Choose your own adventure! (And suggest some of your favorite soup-builders left out.)

red and white onions

Flavor builders:
-carrots, celery and onions (mirepoix)
-stock (chicken, vegetable, seafood, beef)
-a piece of parmesan rind
-soup bones
-tomato paste or sauce
-turnips and parsnips
-whole bay leaves

-dry beans (chickpeas, navy, black, red kidney), soaked and cooked until almost tender
-green beans, wax beans, fresh peas, fava beans
-shredded or chopped bits of meat
-sliced sausages

-rice, barley, quinoa
-pasta, dumplings, spaetzle

-radish or turnip greens

-zucchini or summer squash
-broccoli or cauliflower
-sweet corn
-chopped squash or sweet potatoes
-pre-roasted, chopped eggplant

-fresh herbs
-grated cheese

kohlrabi greens

green beans and some type of summer squash

You’ll want to add some ingredients much later than others, depending on your tolerance to sogginess. Green beans and and fresh corn I tend to add last, while dense leafy greens like collards get stewed from the start so that they’ll get tender. My recipe below might be called minestrone, if it had pasta instead of potatoes, perhaps, or if it had beans other than black. Whatever it is, it’s from what I had on hand. Happy soup-making, and hope yours turns out to be just as soothing.

Summer-Fall Transition Crisper Drawer Soup
(makes about 8 servings)

2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery with its leaves, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, chopped (substitute with a tablespoon tomato paste or cupful of fresh tomato sauce)
about 1/4 lb cabbage, coarsely sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
kernels from 1 ear of corn
1 small turnip, chopped
6 cups seafood stock (substitute any other stock)
1 lb potatoes, cubed
1 cup black beans, soaked and cooked until almost tender
1/2 cup green or wax beans, chopped
1 piece of parmesan rind
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
basil pesto for garnish (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot with the olive oil. Add the onions, carrot and celery and sweat for about 8 minutes over medium-low heat, until the onions turn translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, another couple minutes. Add the cabbage and cook until just translucent. Add the black beans, turnip, parmesan rind, bay leaves and stock. Bring just to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the beans are completely tender. Add the peppers, potatoes, green beans, corn and salt and pepper to taste. Let cook another 10-15 minutes, tasting for seasoning and adding anything else. Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind before serving and top each bowl with a slick of the optional pesto.

Cost Calculator
(for 8 servings)

2 carrots (from CSA): $0.20
1 onion (from CSA): $0.15
2 stalks celery (at $3/head): $0.25
1 red pepper (not sure where this came from): $0.50
1/2 cup green beans (CSA): $0.25
1 lb potatoes (CSA): $0.50
wedge of cabbage: (CSA): $0.30
1 ear corn: $0.75
1 turnip (CSA): $0.30
1 cup black beans (at $1.50/lb dry): $0.40
2 tomatoes (CSA): $0.50
6 cups homemade seafood stock (made who knows when from various shells and found in the freezer): $2.00
tablespoon or so homemade pesto (from CSA basil): $0.20
garlic, bay leaves, parmesan rind, olive oil, salt, pepper: $0.50

Total: $6.80 (albeit the pricing on this is highly guesstimated, due to almost everything coming from the CSA)

Health Factor
Two brownie points: For a one-pot meal, it can’t get much healthier than this. This soup has no meat, but it has plenty of protein thanks to the black beans, some green beans, and the vegetables, let’s not forget, each carry a token offering for it in smaller portion (cabbage, in particular). Choosing potatoes for the “starch” seemed a more harvest-y option, and although there may not be as much fiber than other options on that list (like barley), it’s rich with potassium as a bonus. What else? For some reason, when I slurp up this soup, piping hot, I never get the urge to overeat, like I do with so many other good foods. This happens with soup for me a lot. Does it for you?

Green Factor
Eight brownie points: It’s the last hurrah of the summer harvest, and a welcome start of the fall’s, and this soup straddles both seasons in its ingredients — all locally sourced (except for the who-knows-when-I-made-that? seafood stock).

5 Responses

  1. cantaloupe alone

    I would never have thought to use cheese rinds in my soup, thats a great one!

  2. Jennette

    Thanks for the template! I made my version this week and blogged about it today. Cheers!

  3. […] dinner!, food Last month there was a post on Not Eating Out In New York about a concoction she titled “crisper drawer soup.” Basically the idea–and this […]

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