Vegetable beef soup is comfort in a bowl. (KATHY D’AGOSTINO PHOTO)
Welcome, Harpswell cooks! Here we are in the midst of Maine’s winter. We find ourselves isolated from one another as we muddle through a pandemic. My question right about now is, what will warm the soul? What will make you feel better? What will make your wallet feel better? Soup! It warms you when you are cold and cheers you when you are a bit blue or out of sorts. It’s economical, you can keep the ingredients on hand for a while, and it freezes well for future meals. Don’t feel like cooking one night? Reach into the freezer for some of that homemade soup you made earlier.
It’s February. Treat yourself. Binge-watch a series you have wanted to watch. Dive into that book you have wanted to read. Watch “Forrest Gump” or “Gone With the Wind” again, listen to music, or just sit and enjoy the beauty of Harpswell out of your window. Top it off with some homemade soup that’s good to the last drop. It’s comfort in a bowl.
VEGETABLE BEEF SOUP
Ingredients: 2 pounds stew beef, cut into bite-size pieces; 2 whole slices of bacon; 2 tablespoons olive oil; 1 large onion, chopped; 4 large carrots, chopped; 3 stalks celery, chopped; 1 large clove garlic, diced; 1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes with juice, chopped; 1 cup frozen peas; 1 cup frozen string beans; 1 cup frozen kernel corn; 4 cups shredded cabbage; 14 cups beef broth (I like Pacific Organic); 1 teaspoon marjoram; 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; salt to taste; 1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni.
In a large pot, heat oil, bacon, meat and onions. Brown and stir frequently. Add all the vegetables and stir them in. Add tomatoes, broth and seasonings. Bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat (lightly covered) for about an hour. Stir periodically.
While the soup is simmering, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and toss with 2 tablespoons of oil. Refrigerate.
When soup is completely cooled, refrigerate overnight for best flavor.
When ready to serve, fish out the bacon and toss it out. Portion out what you wish to freeze for future meals and heat up what you want to eat. Put a handful of cooked elbows in a bowl and ladle hot soup over. This way the macaroni won’t get soggy and overcooked. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and crusty bread. Bon appétit!
Going low-carb? Eliminate the corn, peas and some carrots and add more cabbage, celery and string beans. Don’t use the macaroni.
Low sodium? Use low-sodium beef broth.
Cooking at 43° North, a program of Harpswell Aging at Home, brings Harpswell residents together for cooking programs, in person and online. Through this column, the program shares favorite dishes from friends and neighbors in the community.
February’s columnist, Kathy D’Agostino, was born and raised on a farm in New Jersey. As a young adult, she experienced all the wonderful ethnic foods northern New Jersey has to offer. This background fuels her fondness for cooking to this day.
HAH always needs cooks for its Meals in a Pinch program, which provides nutritious meals to seniors in need of emergency assistance. For more information, contact Julie Moulton at 207-330-5416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.