Saturday, October 1, 2016

Should I Tell You What the Secret Ingredient Is?

Last night as I put the finishing touches on the soup I made for supper, I began to giggle because I remembered the look on my neighbor's face when I revealed my soup's "secret ingredient" to her a few years back. 

My neighbor had been under the weather with a cold that long ago day, and I had, as I always seem to be doing, made soup.  So I brought her a container of soup along with a serving of sour cream.  She looked at me oddly.  I said that the sour cream was for plopping onto the top of the soup--take a little bit with every spoonful and it tastes lovely.  She wasn't entirely convinced but I know that some folks don't like sour cream; I told her not to worry about it.

She tried the soup.  It was a pretty reddish brown color.  She knew it was Vegetarian (it would have to be since I made it and I've been Veggie for more than 30 years).  It was warm and soothing, a tomato base with lots of vegetables and some pasta.  It was a savory flavor that she couldn't identify but she really liked it and took several more happy spoonfuls.   

Finally she asked me what exactly made the soup that unusual flavor and color.  So I told her.  She put down her spoon and stopped eating.  She said I was nuts.  And I told her that I wasn't the one who quit enjoying something simply because a flavoring didn't make sense.

What was in there? 
Cinnamon.  Lots of cinnamon.

Cooking cinnamon and tomato together was a trick I learned way before the doctor told me that becoming Vegetarian was,  for me, literally Do or Die.  I knew because my family loved Stifado--a thick Greek beef stew with onions and tomatoes and cinnamon.  It was just insanely good, and it was one of the few meat-based foods that I really missed for years after I ceased to eat meat.

When I found a Vegetarian version of Stifado in Mollie Katzen's brilliant cookbook The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, I couldn't start cooking fast enough!  It was amazing.   Her version is called Influenced Vegetable Stew but I still refer to it as Stifado.  Since then I've adapted the recipe (of course!) and I make various versions of Veggie Stifado with whatever I happen to have on hand.

And I'm glad to share my savory soup.....but I do try to be careful now not to say too much about that "secret ingredient."  After all, you never know when there's somebody who thinks that cinnamon should only be found in cookies and pies!

Last night's version of cinnamon-y soup was a bit thick with pasta but that's okay.  Every day is different and no two pots of soup are ever the same.....well, unless it came from a can of Campbell's.  My soup sure doesn't!

Life is good.
Soup is an adventure.

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