Dirt-cheap root soups that clean up nice

celery root and appleYou know how, in the movies, when a woman needs to go incognito all of a sudden, she holes up in a dimly lit hotel bathroom and gives herself a choppy haircut with dull scissors, and somehow it comes out fabulously? And you know how you think that’s just the absolute essence of shabby chic, so romantic and inspiring, and you desperately want that haircut until the movie ends, but then you wake up the next day and go on with your regular life and your usual haircut? Well, not always, you don’t.

Once in a while – for instance, last Friday – you take that idea to a hairdresser you trust very, very much – one who works in a properly lit salon with all sorts of proper hairdressing tools – and you let her have at it with the chopping. Let me just tell you, you’ll come away pretty pleased with yourself, and you won’t mind telling you. Plus, just add a pair of big sunglasses, and you’ll get to spend all weekend peering around corners, acting like that trip to the greengrocer may be the last one you’ll ever make. Pretending to be in the movies really is tops for cheap entertainment; and who couldn’t use a little cheap entertainment these days?

Alright, alright, it’s me we’re talking about here. You’re a regular 007 with the sussing out of the secret identities despite my best efforts at disguise. Well, in the unlikely event that this whole “my haircut” thing seems, at first glance, more relevant to me than to you, and maybe even a little not-so-foodish, consider how much effort we’ve both just put into my looking effortless – me with the overthinking, and the getting of the haircut, and the retelling, and you with the reading and the indulging me. (Thanks, by the way!) The thing is, after pouring all those valuable resources into acting like we didn’t, a couple of people can end up a little off-balance. They can find themselves craving a transformation of the opposite sort, one that turns rags to riches, to invent a brand new phrase all by myself.

Perhaps they would be open to such a transformation if it came in the form of a warming meal or two that elevated humble ingredients and techniques to silky elegance in the time it takes to chop off one’s hair in a dimly lit bathroom. A girl would like to think she could make this little bit of magic with nothing more than a pair of dull scissors if it came to it; but even the most luxurious of kitchens needs only a chef’s knife, a pot and a blender to get the job done.

Easy as pie, these soups are also fancy and subtle enough by far to serve at your next dinner party. As soup, though, not as pie – the pie thing is just a brand new expression I invented all by myself. At home on a chilly evening, or for lunch, either soup could stand alone, though I don’t recommend trying to pull that one on your hungry four year old, unless you enjoying hearing “JUST soup!?” and a cacophony of foot stomping as thanks for the admittedly-not-very-hard work of making one of these soups for dinner. For the sake of raising well-adjusted children, I also don’t recommend taking the stomping as your cue to put on some sunglasses and disappear around a corner into the night, never to be seen again. But if that turns out to be just the kind of thing your wry little head can pretend about on its own time, now that it’s sitting underneath your fabulous new choppy ‘do, well, just consider it a little thank-you for your continued readership.

  • Frida Noren

    Sounds yummy, especially in this cold weather!
    How about the chicken stock? Which brand do you recommend, or do you make your own?
    I have failed to find a tasty one, with full “body” but still fairly neutral. The salty and overly seasoned ones make all my soups taste the same. Any tips?ReplyCancel

  • Hi Frida, in theory I make my own stock for lots of reasons (including your all-soups-taste-the-same thought – that’s a great way to say it) but in reality, that happens maybe once or twice a year. I don’t have any amazing secret alternatives, but here’s an official looking bullet-pointed list of the mediocre options I typically use:

    – When I’m really in the mood to care, I sometimes use Fresh Direct’s stock that they make in-house. It’s good, but at about $3/pint, it’s also borderline offensive.

    – Typically I just look for brands without additives or an aftertaste and leave it at that (highest standards, I know). I’ve found Pacific to be pretty good for everyday cooking, with the added bonus that it’s often available at BJs on the cheap. It does have hints of garlic, and, inexplicably, a little sweetness to it, so if you’re really after homemade taste, it won’t be what you’re looking for.

    – Whole Foods also has a decent house brand, which is on the lighter side in terms of flavor and body.

    – Occasionally I’ll fortify soups (and sauces) with D’Artagnan Duck and Veal Demi-Glace, which you can find in the freezer section of many of the smaller markets around here.

    If anyone else has good suggestions, I’d love to know what they are!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah

    I smell my stock cooking away as i write this…These recipes sound great!
    A great addition to a great bowl of soup, in my opinion, is a great bread. My husband’s colleague gave us “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking” that he wrote!! At this point, I have only made the “Master Recipe”, but I can tell you it is SUPER easy (and quick!) to make and tastes VERY good. Once you make the base recipe (takes me about 6 min), let it cool in the fridge, cut off a piece (makes 4 loaves), let it rest for 40min, cook it for 30 min, and you have a great fresh loaf of Artisan bread without going to the bakery and spending money! Very easy, very cheap….. They have many receipes in the book that elaborate on the master recipe, but it sticks to the “easy” aspect. The book can be found on Amazon.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah, thanks for the recommendation. Sounds like a nice approach to bread that people might actually be able to use, even if they have, say, jobs, kids, or the need to cut off all their hair and hop a flight to Berlin in the middle of the night. I’ve also noticed that bread making seems to appeal to a lot of men, which, of course, makes it all *sorts* of attractive for bread-eating women as well!ReplyCancel

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