Cooking for One: Soups to start now, finesse later.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
My favorite soups take a while: Hours of simmering lead to deep, melded flavors. But then I barely dip into that gallon-size pot for a meal or two before I tire of particular combinations and need to get the leftovers into the freezer. Then they'll taste just as familiar (sometimes in a good way, but oftentimes not) another day.
If only soups could be more like stock: a potent flavor base that can be easily adapted into myriad meals barely recognizable as coming from the same beginnings. That way, what ends up in the freezer is merely a starting point.
Of course, they can. The irony is that I clued into that latest strategy, so well suited to solo cooking, while reading the work of one of the food world's iconic crowd pleasers. Lidia Bastianich has made her name proclaiming the joys of cooking for family. She even signs off her public-television episodes with "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!": Italian for "Everyone to the table to eat!"
It is in her "Lidia's Family Table" (Knopf, 2004) that she devotes a chapter to the concept of soup bases, made from garlicky white beans, potatoes, meat or a combination. Cook them for a long time at the outset, refrigerate or freeze, then finesse them in different directions when time is of the essence. For a single cook who wearies of leftovers but needs a head start after a long workday, this is one family-oriented approach I can appreciate. After all, I need to get to the table to eat, too.
-- Joe Yonan