Hodge Podge Garden Soup!

Monday, February 2, 2009

I suppose I could also title this an "Ode to Working Families." And we all face the same dilemma from time to time. You're at ye olde work desk, working hard on a project for the boss, when it occurs to you that you haven't even thought about what to have for dinner that night.

Worse yet, you forgot to take something out of the freezer before you left home for work that morning?

Does that happen to you? Yeah, us too. I suppose it happens to the best of us. As a matter of fact, it seems to happen to Venus and I on a daily basis. Perhaps it's due to the over-consumption of cheap gin, but that's another blog posting for another day.

We were presented with not only that dilemma the other night -- but a daily occurrence at the household that has become far, far, far too irritating to overlook.

Every time we open up the freezer door, a bag of frozen bell peppers falls flat on the floor. It's a reminder to both of us. Venus and I managed to salvage a great deal of last summer's bell pepper garden before the weather turned, and the end result was four, one-gallon, ziplock bags of various-colored peppers.

What is a gardener-cook to do? Oh, sure, there are recipes here and there that call for particular types of peppers. But what happens if you've got a bag of all kinds of peppers? Hot peppers with the regular bells? Is that a Tequila pepper or a Black Purple pepper? And what's that slice of red pepper? An Anaheim pepper? Regular red bell pepper?

To put it short and sweet -- we just don't know.

And then, the other night, the skies parted and I was hit with the "let's pull something out of the hat and see what happens" idea. This can be dangerous. Gastronomical nightmares have resulted from previous "Frankenstein Kitchen" experiments. But, when inspiration calls, sometimes the stomach has to follow.

The Hodge Podge Garden Soup is one such inspiration -- and this one wasn't half bad. It's not going to win many awards mind you, and probably won't show up in any gourmet cooking magazine (unless they're really hurting for ideas), but it's a good way to chop down on that supply of frozen peppers from last year's garden.

This soup is actually a marriage of three recipes, including a Southwest Chicken soup recipe from the Betty Crocker recipe book. It also calls upon my recipe for Roasted Garlic and Heirloom Tomato Salsa and a sauce recipe that I ran across not all that long ago (when I was looking for a sauce recipe oddly enough).

I know, from experience, that the roasting process will bring out a glorious taste in most peppers. The Southwest Chicken Soup -- for example -- uses two or three red bell peppers that have been roasted and blended (as did the sauce recipe). I also know, from experience, that garlic will greatly enhance any pepper's flavor.

So -- one night last week I got ambitous and pulled out a gallon-bag of frozen peppers from the freezer, dumped them into a frying plan containing a bit of oil and started frying. Frozen peppers get quite limp after defrosting and frying them was no different. In a few minutes, they were as soft as soft can be.

Meanwhile, I had started heating a pot containing four cups of water, two chicken bullion cubes and also dropped in some dried onion flakes for "effect." Why dry onions? Why not use a REAL onion? Simple. We were all out of fresh onions. And I wasn't about to rush to the store to buy something for a "Frankenstein Kitchen" experiment. So -- dried onions it was.

By the time the water and bullion cubes had started to warm -- the peppers were ready for the food processor. In went out four or five cloves of garlic first, which I chopped into itty bitty (ie: real small) pieces. After dumping the cooked peppers into the processor, I proceeded to liquify the whole thing.

I was a bit surprised by the end result. I had thought this process would result in a bright rainbow of colors. What I got was something that turned very green, with bright red bits. That's great for Christmas cookies during the Christmas season. But it's not so good in late January. But, I was determined. The testing process continued.

I dumped the pepper mixture into the rapidly heating water and boullion cubes, added some raw chicken chunks and later some shrimp and frozen vegetables. Add a little salt and pepper to taste and VOILA! You have Hodge Podge Garden Soup.

And I must admit -- this wasn't half bad -- nor did it cause any gastronomical discomfort later that night (as some pepper dishes have been known to do). In short, I would make and serve this again.

If only I had written it down.

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