When I came back from the boundary waters, I brought back a small little bag of treasures, a couple orange cap leccinum scabrum, and a single button of red capped leccinum insigne both of these are known as birch boletes. Not a lot of goodies, and some of the larger boletes turned out to have surprise infestations, bleh. Even so, years of using restaurant scraps to create elaborate meals for dishwashers and other restaurant staff under the table (a favorite activity of mine) has shown me how to create something from nothing. If my years in the kitchen have told me anything, it is that a few simple ingredients prepared well are better than a host of fancy pants crap with crazy sauces shot all over the plate any day. Basically I’m just outlining a tutorial on how you can make an elegant, refined soup out of pantry scraps, a vegetable or two, and water.
An old Italian lady told me once: “To make a delicious soup out of water Alan, that is true cooking”. She was a vile, angry old woman, but her words were true.
This recipe is based around 2 ingredients. The first is the tiny and perfect leccinum insigne button, as well as some trim from cleaning the other mushrooms which is used to infuse the stock. I could have simply fried the buttons in a pan and eaten them, but then they would be gone so fast! I wracked my brain for a day or two, paced in my pantry looking at possible dry good accompaniments, and settled on a simple vegetable soup. The second ingredient is a little used, but magical piece of scrap: the leftover rind from parmigiano reggiano cheese.
Parmigiano Reggiano/Grana Padano Rind
You can buy this sold in small chunks at exorbitantly priced grocery stores like Kowalskis and Byerlys, the cheese rind is pretty cheap though. Check with your local cheese shop too, they more than likely will hook you up with a chunk on the cheap to play with. The rind of cheeses like parmigiano reggiano and grana padano are special things. They’re almost like instant bouillon, to unlock their power, all you need is a bit of water, and some time. A bit of parm rind added to any soup or broth, will add incredible body and richness.
This is more of a basic method you could use when you want to make soup with leftover vegetables. When you start out by making a stock or broth, your soup will be that much better. On this particular day, the ingredients in the fridge were:
This is a vegetable with a subtle flavor not unlike cucumber, it’s very mild, and will take on the flavors of what it is cooked with. For a soup preparation, I cut it into small cubes to be about the same size as the wheatberries, so that everything will be able to fit on the spoon together.
This is the unopened flower of the garlic plant, along with its long, curly green stem, think of them like a garlic flavored vegetable.
These pair well with cheese, and will readily soak up a broth when cooked in one, just like broccoli. See my post on them HERE.
It is flower season, and broccoli gives some fun ones, these are from broccoli raab. I snagged a few of these from my friends garden, just a fun embellishment. The play on “broccoli and broccoli” with the milkweed raabs was fun too.
Regularly referred to as “birdseed” in my culinary circles, these can be cooked just like barley, although they retain a very pleasant tooth to them. They need thorough cooking, and soup is a great use for them. If you can’t find them at your local coop or grocery, substitute barley, or farro.
All of the things here pair well with tomato, but I didn’t want to add straight tomato paste to the broth since it would mask the simple flavor of the scaber mushroom and the parmesan. One thing you can do with letfover tomato paste is make a visually striking tomato oil, which can be the basis for a flavorful vinaigrette or marinade as it’s taste is very strong.
Birch Bolete-Parmesan Soup, with Summer Vegetables
Serves 4 people for lunch or a 1st course, to make a meal, serve alongside some crusty bread, cured meat, a piece of cheese and a salad.
For the broth
- 2 cups lightly packed trim from fresh, mature bolete or other mushrooms mushrooms.
- Skin of 1 onion
- bay leaf
- 3 qts water
- 3 oz parmigiano reggiano cheese rind
- 1/4 cup hard winter wheat berries
- 1 small kohlrabi the size of your fist, trimmed and diced into 1/8 inch cubes
- 20 or so milkweed raabs/buds
- 4 garlic scapes
- Broccoli flowers to garnish (optional)
- Tomato Oil (recipe follows)
- 2 or three birch bolete buttons abour the size of a thumb, washed, cleaned, and sliced thinly, about 1/4 inch
- Tie the ingredients for the broth in cheesecloth, and bring to a boil in a small stock pot with the wheat berries and water. When the mixture reaches a boil, turn off the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
- After an hour, remove the packet of mushrooms trim and aromatics, season the broth lightly with salt, then add the garlic scapes, kohlrabi and fresh leccinum slices and cook ten minutes.
- After the ten minutes, add the milkweed raabs and broccoli flowers, stirring to heat through. Seaon the soup to taste with salt if needed, then ladle into four bowls, garnishing with a few nice drops of the tomato oil.
Yield: 1/4 cup
- 1/8 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup flavorless oil like grapeseed
- Sprig of fresh thyme.
- Put the tomato paste and the oil in a small pan with the thyme
- Heat all the ingredients until the pan is hot and the oil bubbles lightly, then stir, turn the heat off, and let sit for an hour.
- After an hour, ladle or strain the oil off of the pan and reserve.