Smoky roasted mushroom and white bean soup
American mythologies #3: The end is nigh. In America everybody will try to sell you something. That’s how the system works. Your waiter wants you to buy another drink, at the food store they want you to buy a lot of snacks you don’t need, at the clothing store they want you to buy more clothes than you’ll ever wear, at the big big stores they want you to buy all kinds of crap you never needed to know existed, your kids want you to buy cheese-stuffed pretzels and wrapping paper for some club or other, the nice artist next door wants you to buy his paintings, the failed novelist wants some publisher to buy her stupid novel, the pharmacists want you to believe you’ll die without their medicines, the people on the news want you to buy their lies about how everything is going to hell, so that you’ll watch more news and buy all the products their sponsors advertise. If you’re an American, chances are you, yourself, are trying to sell something to someone much of the time, whether you want to or not. All year long, but this time of year most of all, every bit of mail I get, either from the postman or my computer, every message I receive, is a frantic alert that I’m about to miss an opportunity! Time is running out! Everything ends in two days! Or ten hours! Or by the time you finish reading the message! Act now! Act now! Act now! Don’t delay or the moment will be gone. You will have missed it, and it will never ever come back.The sale will be over, and you won’t have bought the thing you never knew you needed at a slightly reduced inflated price, and you might as well just off yourself. And then you watch the news, which ignores anything of actual significance to warn you of deadly terrors that, well, they’re unlikely to touch your life, but YOU NEVER KNOW! And when you’re in a constant state of near-panic, a never-ending ferment of knotty anxiety, the last thing you want to hear is that this is your last chance! YOUR LAST CHANCE for an exclusive special offer! Beat the clock! Before midnight! Only hours to go! Limited time hot deal! TODAY ONLY!! FINAL HOURS!! FINAL HOURS!! * Your absolute very last final last chance! Until the next time, of course, because as soon as you delete that one email, or recycle that one flyer, another will appear in your mailbox, offering a different sale for the same product. And when you ignore that one another will come along. And another and another. Until it’s all just noise, the words have no meaning, time has no meaning, it’s not really passing, it’s in some strange cycle from day to day till the last syllable of the next dozen emails you open. The truth, children, is this: Time is
passing at an alarming rate. It’s running and passing, and flying by more quickly with each unfolding day. So don’t waste it buying things. Don’t waste it in stores or online shopping carts. You will never regret not buying that one thing you probably don’t need, but you might regret time you don’t spend with people you love, doing things that you love. Act now! To make something you feel good about…a picture, a story, a meal. And when you do
buy something, because you must eventually, try to buy it from somebody who, in making it, was doing something that they love. If time is running out, spend it well, it’s the most important thing you have to spend.
I told you I was going to put smoked basmati rice in everything I made from now on, and this soup is no exception! (You could make this with regular basmati rice or even white rice. It will still be smoky from the roastedness and the smoked paprika.) This is a really meaty, umami-isn soup. You could make it even more so by adding a dash of tamari, a smidgen of marmite, or a spoonful of miso paste. I didn’t think it needed that, though. It’s plenty flavorful as it is. It’s also pretty easy to make. It doesn’t take long to roast the mushrooms, and don’t be afraid to cook them till they’re quite well-browned, it will deepen the flavor. This soup will still be creamy, and it will be vegan if you leave the small bit of butter out.
Here’s Big Youth with Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Spot the sample!
Time is running and passing and passing and running, so you all better get it right this time, because there might be no next time.
* actual messages from my deleted folder!
About 20 ounces baby bella mushrooms, wiped if they’re very dirty
2 T + 2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 t fresh rosemary, chopped
3 or 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 t fresh thyme
1 can white beans
1/2 cup smoked basmati rice (or regular rice, if you can’t find it)
splash of white wine
1 t smoked paprika
pinch of nutmeg
2 T butter (Leave this out to make it vegan!)
1 t balsamic
salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425. Chop the mushrooms in a food processor till they’re quite fine, but not actually pureed. If a few pieces are larger, that’s okay. Spread the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Put about two tablespoons of olive oil on them and mix with your hands or a spatula till it seems everything is lightly covered. It might seem like an unruly pile at this point, but it will cook down. Make it into a single layer. Roast for about twenty minutes till the mushrooms have released their juices and then dried out and start to brown. Be sure to stir them from time to time.
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the other two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallot, garlic, bay leaves and herbs, and stir and cook until the garlic starts to brown, about a minute. Add the beans and rice, stir to coat, then add a splash of white wine. When the wine is reduced, add the mushrooms, spices and enough water to cover everything by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the rice is cooked, about twenty minutes.
Add the butter (if using) and balsamic, season well with salt and pepper. Purée in batches until the soup is just as smooth as you like it. Serve with plenty of freshly ground pepper on top.