I wasn't always a soup girl.
When comfort called, I reached for the mac n' cheese, a microwave burrito, or maybe just a good old PB&J. Soup seemed so...boring...virtuous even, hence-not for me. I needed my comfort food to come in quick and cheap packages. It makes me wonder what exactly I ate during all those new england winters in college, law school, and then the grey winter (and sometimes spring) months throughout the rest of my 20s in upstate New York. Now that I love making and eating soup, crave it on a regular basis in the winter especially, those other comfort foods pale in comparison.
It all started innocently enough. First, I was gifted a beautiful and long- coveted 5 Quart Dutch Oven. Next, I realized how easy it was to make my own stock. Before I knew it, I was browning onions, chopping celery leaves, adding plops of tomato paste here, a spoonful of pesto there. It seemed that once I got the basics down, soup could become anything that I wanted, dictated by whims or what was simply around. Harissa could be substituted for tomato paste, chickpeas for navy beans. I think more than anything else, making soup alone, without bespattered printed-off pages from Epicurious or the latest artisan cookbook, made me stop over-thinking so I could enjoy the process and as a result, care for myself in a way that didn't even occur to me in my younger years. (It doesn't hurt that most soup is incredibly forgiving and can be quickly remedied with some crusty bread and a few peels of pecorino).
The soup I'm going to tell you about today took awhile for me to come around to. When I first saw "Humble Cabbage" up on the menu board at a cafe near work, I rolled my eyes and promptly left in search of a panini or something. The name itself just did not muster lunch time allegiance. Instead, humble and cabbage in the same name conjured up images of my potato-peeling, cabbage boiling, fore-mothers squatting over a pot of watery broth in a thatched cottage. Besides, food names with virtues included are generally things I try to avoid.
BUT...I did try it. Short on time and options, I ordered a small cup for the first time a few weeks ago. I looked down and saw a few lumpy pieces of ground turkey bobbing around the cabbage strewn broth. This is not looking promising I thought. BUT BUT...the first slurp had me. The translucent cabbage balanced so nicely with the tomatoes, the turkey added substance, seasoned lightly with thyme and pepper. Before I knew it the cup was empty and I sat gazing out the window at the blowing shimmering snow wondering what took me so long to give this ugly soup a chance.
The recipe below is my recreation of the soup I had on that snowy afternoon.
1lb of ground turkey, seasoned with salt and pepper
1/2 a head of green cabbage shredded
28 oz of chopped tomatoes or to taste
A few healthy pinches of fresh or dried thyme
1 medium onion cut into half moons
Olive Oil and a pat of good butter (I like Lurpak and Kerrygold)
5-6 cups of vegetable stock (I like "Better Than Bouillon" if homemade is not happening)
- Warm some olive oil in a 5 QT Dutch Oven over medium heat
-Add the turkey, break it up with the back of a spoon and cook until brown 8-10 minutes
-Remove meat from the pot and set aside
-Add a pat of butter to the same pot and add onions, cook until softened
-Add cabbage and tomatoes, season with thyme, cook partially covered over medium heat for 5-7 minutes
-Warm stock in a separate pot
-Return meat to the pot along with the cabbage mixture and beginning ladling stock into the pot until mixture is covered
-Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30mins to allow the flavors to meld together
Serve with toasted buttered rye bread. Serves 6-8, or makes lunches for a whole week for 1, if you are like me.