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Author Notes: This amazing soup came together as an effort to use up some of the stuff left in my freezer in preparation for the coming growing season, with a dash of desperation. Spicy sausage, filling quinoa and lentils, sweet and tangy winter greens and a very rich broth make this soup as much a staple of survial as it is a warming treat on any cold day.
It was your atypical southeastern winter day. We were preparing to be pummeled by the first of two different snow events, and I was unprepared. I read the reports, I knew what the predictions were, and especially after seeing what happened even further south I knew I probably should be heeding these grave warnings of Snowpocalypse 2014.
Anyone who has experienced even the hint of a snow event here in the south knows that the worst of it is before the snow or ice begins to fall. The grocer’s becomes a vicious frenzy, resembling a pack of starving hyenas descending on a weak or injured zebra. The sun is still out and temperatures are still above freezing, but people -who aren't very courteous on the road, anyway- are driving like the world has already ended and they're the star in a Zombie movie trying to get through the horde to some "safe zone" outside of town. Schools shuttered, and states of emergency declared, all before a single cloud appeared in the sky. This chaos did not interest me.
Still, I braved the liquor store. I anticipated that even though nothing was likely to happen, the state of emergency would at the very least keep the package stores closed. On the way, considering the light traffic, I pondered a quick grocery run knowing that most of the violence would be contained to the bread and milk aisles. After the half-hour wait in the package store amongst my fellow survivors-to-be, most of them agitated, some practically foaming at the mouth, I scrapped the idea of the grocer’s.
Hours later, I sat sipping on Elijah Craig neat -my favorite drink- after dinner. I looked out the window. Three inches of snow covered the ground, and it was coming down fast. I had misjudged this, entirely. Snow would fall throughout the night, grinding our fair, rural, southern township to an absolute halt.
Fearing that I would lose power, but knowing that I could still cook on my gas-range, the next morning (snow still coming down) I started cooking. I pulled from my freezer and dry storage for the ingredients here, knowing that if I could at least get most of it to freeze up before the power went out that I could just reheat-and-eat. Should the outage have lasted longer than normal, a cooler full of snow would have kept this and other things in good shape until the lights returned. I never lost power, but nonetheless made and froze a whole mess of this stuff, and weeks later after just having it for lunch; I thought I should share the recipe.
Makes 8-10 servings
For The Broth:
- 4 quarts Turkey Stock (see recipe in my collection)
- 2 quarts Water
- 2 Cloves Garlic. Finely minced.
- 1/2 Red Onion. Finely sliced.
- Sage Infused Olive Oil. (Or Extra Virgin)
- 1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter.
- 3 Bay Leaves.
- 1 pinch Cayenne Pepper. (Optional)
For Everything Else:
- 1 pound Italian Sausage. Casings removed, roughly chopped. (Mild to spicy depending on taste.)
- 2.5 pounds Winter Greens. Chard, collards, kale, whatever is on hand. Rough chop, completely thawed and drained.
- 3 cups Quinoa. (Red, white or black, or all three)
- 3 cups Red Lentil.
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt.
- 1 teaspoon Ground White Pepper. Fresh.
- 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter.
- In cold, filtered water soak the quinoa and lentils for at least an hour. Change the water every half hour.
- Remove winter greens from freezer and break up frozen leaves by hand into bite-sized chunks. Transfer to colander. Place a clean, white (trust me: use something you are willing to bleach) over the frozen leaves and weight the colander with a glass mixing bowl full of dried beans, rocks, snow, whatever. Allow greens to drain for at least half an hour. Peel back the towel and toss the greens at least twice while draining. A lot of liquid should leave the greens, but don't throw this away. Put it in a plastic bag, press out the air and freeze it for the next time you make stock, especially vegetable stock. A lot of people add salt to the greens to help drain them, however, I'm a firm believer that salt is a preservative, not a flavoring so I rarely use it. I'll leave that decision up to you.
- Bring 2 qt water to rapid boil over high heat in a large stock pot, uncovered for five to ten minutes.
- Reduce water to a simmer, add turkey stock -likely still in frozen blocks- and heat until simmering. As in my Turkey Stock Recipe, do not allow this to boil. If any foam forms, skim it off and discard. Return to a nice simmer before adding lentils and quinoa after a thorough rinse.
- Meanwhile, in another large skillet gently heat butter and saute carrot, onion, and garlic until all are tender, but not even close to brown. Add the carrot and first, onion second and garlic and bay leaf last. This is to wake the aromatics up for the next step which makes this broth particularly savory.
- Remove from heat and toss the warm, NOT hot aromatics in the sage oil. Scoop the vegetables out of the skillet to another dish and allow to sit, stirring occasionally for at least twenty minutes. Taste, and add more sage oil for taste. Do not drain or rinse the skillet.
- In the skillet still slick with the delicious sage oil, gently heat remaining two tablespoons of butter. When hot, add sausage, and toss frequently. Just as the sausage starts to brown add the aromatics which have been tossed in the sage oil. Keep the heat low.
- Start adding the greens in batches. They will have already reduced in the colander, but will quickly fill the pan. Once all the greens have been added, toss everything together gently, give it a minute and taste for flavor. The sage should be pronounced. If not, add more sage oil or some dried or fresh. Don't worry if it seems to strong with sage, it will mellow out in the next step.
- Add everything from the pan to the simmering stock pot. Cover it, and walk away for at least an hour. Check it occasionally to give it a good stir and make sure it isn't boiling, tasting often. If the lentils and quinoa absorb too much liquid, add more turkey stock or water.
- Add ground white pepper, and any salt or other herbs such as rosemary, oregano, or even basil. When satisfied with the taste, remove from the heat and cool quickly. Portion out into freezer bags and freeze flat.
- To serve, run hot water over a frozen bag of the soup to loosen it up. When enough around the edges has melted, drop the block out of the bag into a saucepan over medium heat until hot. Serve with crusty bread.