You're probably the only one reading this food blog, but I had to start somewhere!
It's starting to feel like fall over here, so I thought I might give you a nice soup recipe. I actually remember making this once when we lived in GilThom, and you came over and ate, like, 3 bowls and made me feel great about my cooking.
So here's that recipe, or as close as my memory will get me:
Mushroom soup (vegan)
a handful of dried porcini mushrooms (maybe a little less than 1 ounce)
1 medium yellow onion
2 branches of celery
1 clove garlic
1 pound of button mushrooms
optional: a handful of other interesting mushrooms (oyster, chanterelle, shiitaki...these can get pricey, but a few will add a lot of flavor)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 branches of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 3 branches of parsley
generous quantities of freshly ground black pepper, sea salt
1 packet silken tofu
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the water from the heat and put the dried porcini mushrooms in the pan. Cover and let the mushrooms soak for about 1 hour.
Put on an episode of This American Life while you prepare the vegetables.
Let's deal with the leek first, as this might be a new one for you :) Cut off the roots and the dark green top, leaving just the most tender green and white parts. Slice the leek lengthwise and wash these two halves well: there's usually a lot of sand and dirt in between the layers. Pat them dry with a dishtowel. Trim the leaves off of your celery stalks, setting aside a few of them for later. Wash the celery and pat it dry. Peel the onion and the garlic cloves. Slice each garlic clove lengthwise and remove the green part from the middle if there is one. Coarsely chop the celery, leek, and onion all together. Finely chop the garlic separately.
I'm kind of lazy with fresh mushrooms: some people peel them entirely and wash them and dry them, but I usually just cut off the base if there's dirt on it and use the rest as is. If you do feel the need to wash the button mushrooms (and others if using), be sure to dry them thoroughly before proceding with the rest.
Chop the fresh mushrooms coarsely. When the porcini mushrooms have been soaking for about an hour, remove them from the water (saving this liquid), chop them finely and add them to the others.
Place the olive oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the onions, celery and leeks and stir for one minute. Turn the heat down to medium or medium low and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent. Be careful not to let them get colored: you don't want to see any brown bits. Add the garlic and the mushrooms to the pan, stirring to combine. You want to hear a quiet sizzling sound throughout all of this; if the pan has gone quiet, turn the heat up a litte; if it's really hissing loudly, turn it down. Continue to cook this mixture until the mushrooms are soft and have shrunk somewhat (about 5 to 10 minutes over medium low heat).
Pour the water in which the porcini mushrooms were soaking into the pan. Add more water (maybe 2 or 3 cups) to cover all of the vegetables entirely. Add a good amount of salt (hmm, I guess I'd start with a spoonful, and you can always taste and add more later) and some coarse grinds of peppercorns. Turn up the heat to bring the pan to a boil.
Now make the bouquet garni. With a bit of string (for example, the string from a tea bag?), tie together the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and celery leaves. Drop this little bouquet straight into the pan.
When your soup comes to a boil, cover and turn the heat down to low. Allow to simmer for at least 45 minutes. Taste now and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
You can, of course, eat this soup as is: with the little bits of vegetables in the broth. In this case, you might want to add firm tofu cut into little cubes. You can add this tofu at the same time you add the bouquet garni.
Alternatively, you can blend the soup into a sort of "cream of mushroom" (ideally with a stick blender, my favorite phallic kitchen tool). In this case, remove the soup from the heat and take out the bouquet garni before adding the silken tofu and blending everything together.
Either way, eat it with crusty whole wheat bread or homemade garlic croutons, for which I'll post the very simple recipe soon :)