The weather turned cold and windy this week, and on Tuesday night it was bone-chilling cold. The sky was high, bright and blue, and the wind rattled the palm fronds on the beach. Up here in the canyon, the hills and narrow ravines channeled the wind even more fiercely.
What better to warm us up than a bowl of soup?
One of my favorite soups is the ubiquitous Jewish deli favorite, sweet-and-sour cabbage soup. Tomato-y, full of vegetables, and with a tart piquancy, it's bracing, good, and not too rich. Variations abound - some with meat, some with raisins, some purely cabbage and others full of vegetables. It's easy to adapt to the contents of your crisper drawer.
That Tuesday night, my crisper drawer had a head of cabbage, some baby turnips, a couple of carrots, some leeks and a shriveled stalk of celery. There was also a bag of beet greens, saved from an earlier purchase and chopped - still looking fresh and good. Ready to begin?
Sweet-and-sour Cabbage and Beet Green Soup
- Cabbage - red, green, or savoy - about 1/2 a head, shredded
- Beet greens, shredded (optional)
- 1 or 2 carrots, diced or chopped small
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
- 2 - 4 baby turnips - mine were the size of ping-pong balls, so I used 4, peeled and diced or chopped
- Celery - about two stalks, chopped - or if you have a shriveled, limp, ugly stalk of celery, throw away the outer stems and finely chop the pale green heart inside, including the baby leaves.
- 1 or two slices of bacon (optional) or 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or butter
- 4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
- 1 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 - 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 - 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- Optional - shredded cooked chicken or beef
- Sour cream to garnish
- Chopped dill or parsley to garnish
Add the cabbage and wilt for about 5 minutes.
Add the broth and tomatoes, and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
Add the greens, if you're using them.
Add the vinegar and sugar. I use cider vinegar and a dark brown sugar, but you can use what you have. The proportion is roughly 2 parts sour to one part sweet, but everyone's taste is different. Some people like it really sweet. Some people like a strong piquancy while others like only a tinge. Some people add raisins for more sweetness. I've even seen some use chopped apples. You can experiment. I usually go easy at first, say 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 of sugar, then I let the soup cook down and adjust again later.
Let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes to cook down and soften the cabbage and greens, and let the flavors meld. Some people add shredded meat - this is a great soup to make if you've got some leftover pot roast or corned beef.
Serve it up with a blob of sour cream and some chopped dill to garnish. If you've used bacon, you can crumble the crisp bits on top.
It's warm and tangy and perfect to eat by the warm fireplace with just a slice of dark pumpernickel and melted cheese. It improves with age, and makes a delicious lunch with a BLT sandwich.