Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vegetable and Hemp Soup

After several days of food debauchery, including a gut-busting visit to an all-you-can-eat establishment, the family was due for a cleanse...or at least something cleansing to eat for dinner.

The first half of my weekend was spent making a tremendously large batch of chicken stock. The fact is, I had at least half a dozen chicken backbones and other various fowl-y bits and pieces taking up room in the deep freeze. Eventually the menagerie of chicken skeletons reaches a critical mass of valuable freezer real estate, usurping the space set aside for my wife's frozen yogurt bars. It was definitely time to make stock. You can see how I make stock here. So as it went, I ended up with four litres of delicious chicken stock--a healthy, gelatine-rich elixir good for many recipes. 

As I said, I wanted to make something light and cleansing for supper. I typically make vegetable soup with a vegetable stock, for which I make a pretty mean one (recipe here).  However, I had all this wonderful chicken stock, so I made vegetable soup with chicken stock. Strictly speaking, it's not a vegetarian dish, but nevertheless doubly good in the sense that I'm practicing my 'waste-not' approach to meat eating by using every part of the chicken, also good in the sense that it is chock full of vegetables and really quite healthy. The recipe is pretty straight forward. Cut up some vegetables into small bite-sized chunks. I used summer squash, zucchini, red bell pepper and a red onion. Sweat these vegetables very gently in a bit of oil so that they soften but don't completely cook down. Then deglaze the pan with a ladle-full of your stock and then combine vegetables and stock, then season.

I suppose you're wondering about that 'hemp' in the title. Well this refers to a garnish which was inspired by a product the wife discovered in a health food store. They're called 'hemp hearts' and are basically the seeds of the hemp plant that have been hulled and dried. They are great for sprinkling on things like salad. I used them to make a sort of gremolata that I sprinkled on to the soup. I suppose it's not that common to sprinkle such a concoction on to soup, but I was envisioning soupe au pistou for which a basil pesto is drizzled into the soup. Why not do the same with a gremolata? It adds an interesting textural element.  Anyway, a fun little experiment and extremely healthy (along with pretty tasty). If you're so inclined, this is how you do it:

Hemp Gremolata

1 tbs of hemp hearts
Half a clove of garlic
1 tsp of lemon zest
1 small bunch of basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all the ingredients except the hemp hearts in a food processor and pulse until you have a gravelly texture. Then fold in the hemp hearts. Sprinkle on whatever you like. Optional: stir in a tablespoon or two of olive oil to create more of a pesto like texture.

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