Does it seem to you lately as if the news is all bad and getting worse? If so, I have a suggestion for you: turn off the news and make some soup instead. You won’t change the news, but your kitchen will certainly smell amazing, inviting and comforting.
You may think that I’m just being whimsical, but I couldn’t be more serious about the importance of soup right now. Think, for a second, about how good soup feels to your entire body. Notice I didn’t say “taste”? Yes, good soup tastes delicious. But more than that, a good soup extends a feeling of comfort and warmth and wellness throughout your entire body. You can feel good soup in your fingertips.
The benefits of soup are widely known, and many have written about them. Soup provides your body with readily accessible nutrients in an easy to digest form. This is one reason why soup tastes so good when you are under the weather. In fact, this time of year, it makes sense to keep a quart or two of frozen soup around, just in case someone falls ill.
Soup is also a great way to reuse and to stretch ingredients. Broth, after all, is nothing more than goodness extracted from parts that otherwise would be thrown in the compost bin.
For me, however, soup is simply a perfect excuse to tour the Napa Famers Market, end to end. There are a dozen soup recipes for each and every ingredient in season at the market throughout the year. And this time of year particularly, with the lengthening shadows and cool nights, is ripe for soup making.
Dried beans, winter squashes, leafy green veggies, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and yams, not to mention fresh crab, smoked pork and beef are all soup candidates. If I cooked a different soup every day for a year, I couldn’t cover every ingredient available right now at the Napa Farmers Market.
There is one more reason to think about getting a pot of soup simmering away on your stovetop right now. Soup makes for good sharing, and we need every excuse we can find right now to reach out to one another and share something that feels good. Soup is eminently shareable. It’s easy to transport. Just pour into any jar or leftover deli container. It’s easy to store. You can keep it in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for even longer. And it’s easy to serve. Just reheat and pour.
Here is my soup challenge to you: Think of someone close to you with whom you are longing to sit down together and share a meal. Tour the Napa Farmer Market and find your inspiration and your ingredients. Make a soup and drop a quart off at their house with a note telling them that through this soup you are sending them your love. Eat the rest of the soup and wait for something delicious to come back in return. Sounds better than watching the news, doesn’t it?
Farmers Market Pro Tip: The Napa Farmers Market is committed to providing a safe place for locals to shop and requires face coverings for all shoppers and vendors. Come do your shopping, and then treat yourself to hot coffee or tea from one of our vendors located outside of the market. It’s “masks up” inside the market, so please enjoy any beverages and snacks after you shop.
White Bean, Kale and Mushroom Stew
This recipe is adapted from Supper at Rancho Gordo by Napa’s own Steve Sando. This simple soup has it all: aromatics, earth. mushrooms, creamy beans, vegetables. Lots of flavors, and yet it is entirely vegan. You could change that, if you like. Add broth or smoked ham. But first, try it just like this and see how much flavor can be packed into a single bowl.
1 pound white beans (cassoulet or butter beans work wonderfully)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon thyme, minced
2 cups of kale, julienned
Salt and pepper
First, cook the beans. If you have your own method, then stick with it; I’m not going to try and change anyone’s mind about how to cook beans. If you don’t know how, then start with this:
Set about two quarts of water to boil. Rinse the beans and then add them to a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a pinch of minced garlic, 1/4 cup of the diced onions and a splash of olive oil. Sauté over medium heat.
When the water boils, pour it over the beans until they are covered by about two inches. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the beans are soft, with no crunch. You can cook the beans one or more days in advance. Keep the beans refrigerated in their own broth.
In a skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes.
Put the remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the remaining garlic and onion and the diced carrot and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cooked beans and their broth, plus more water as needed to cover the beans and veggies. Bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms and kale and simmer until the kale is cooked, about 5 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve in shallow bowls. You can top with grated lemon zest, crumbled or grated cheese, or a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
WATCH NOW: HOW TO MAKE SUPER TASTY HOT CHOCOLATE BOMBS
CHECK OUT: CARTOONS OF THE YEAR, 2020
Cartoons of the year, 2020
Check out the best work of 2020 from the eight editorial cartoonists distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group.
Curtis Strohl is general manager of B Cellars and on the board of the Napa Farmers Market.
The Napa Farmers Market has felt the economic impact of COVID and wildfires, but with the support of our community, they were able to continue operations and expand their key food assistance program, CalFresh Market Match. They are now accepting contributions through the Give!Guide, a community-wide campaign benefiting non-profit organizations in Napa. Donate at https://www.candogiveguide.org/campaigns/napa-farmers-market/. The Give!Guide campaign runs through December.
Find the Napa Farmers Market at 1100 West St. (at Pearl Street), the site of the former Cinedome Theater. Hours are Tuesdays and Saturdays, 8 to 9 a.m. for seniors only (65 and older); then 9 a. m. to noon. As a California Certified Farmer’s Market, the market is considered an essential food business and will remain open during the Napa County shelter at home order. Check www.napafarmersmarket.org for updates.