Playing in the Kitchen

Last night I made something new.

Okay, it was actually very old. Very, very old.

I made this recipe I found in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), which is my favorite magazine. The recipe comes from Babylonian tablets originating in ancient Mesopotamia. I’m guessing that means the recipe is at least 2,500 years old.

It is pretty simple to make. I cut up the bunch of leaks and sautéed them in olive oil with some fresh chopped garlic — about four cloves. Just for grins, I put some powdered garlic in as well. I let them cook down for about ten minutes, which is longer than the recipe in the magazine suggested, but I found after four minutes my leeks were still a little firm. I put in plenty of pepper and kosher salt.

When they had cooked down a bit, I added the cilantro and let that simmer, then I added four cups of vegetable stock. Twenty minutes of simmer, and I topped it with a generous double handful of sourdough bread cut into tiny pieces.

I serve it to my family, and they all really liked it. It was far tastier than I had envisioned. When I make it in the future, I will add an onion to the leeks when I cook them down. Carrots, I think, would be good in here too. If you want meat, chicken stock would work well, but I can see in my mind beef, making it almost like pho without the noodles.

I found the name of the stew. The Babylonians called it ‘unwinding’ to refer to what the bread does when it hits the soup — expand and get soggy. It is an interesting way to describe the action. This is a good lesson in the way the ancients used words and, how I might better understand the way I apply the word ‘unwind’ to my own actions. I unwind when I release the tension holding everything tight.

Try it, you might like this old Babylonian stew. I will eat it again.

Vegetable Soup

Over the winter I’ve been perfecting this vegetable soup recipe for our #meatlessmondays.

This is an actual picture of this vegetable soup that I made all by myself.

Start with half a red onion and four celery ribs. chop them very small. Heat them in the bottom of your soup pot with a splash or two of olive oil. I generally use my large dutch oven. Throw in a little kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. If you want, you can dash a bit of Tabasco sauce. I also add a dash or two of garlic powder. I don’t find that fresh garlic works well in this recipe, because it doesn’t always blend as easily. Many vegetable soup recipes will call for thyme and oregano as well, but I don’t like them with this soup. The flavor comes from the ingredients here, not the spices. You’ll want the fire up on high at this point.

So to summarize the base: olive oil, red onion, celery, salt, pepper, garlic and if you want a little Tabasco for punch.

Once that sweats out well,  reduce the heat on your stovetop burner to low. Start adding other delicious chopped veggies. I have found the more the merrier. There are three I always use are tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage. The tomatoes I use are stewed frozen tomatoes from my mom and dad’s garden. However, any canned tomatoes would work. I wouldn’t use fresh ones. I have put as many as six different veggies in if I have them. This is a great recipe for clearing out fresh veggies that are on the downward path toward rotting in the crisper. Other good veggies to add are green beans, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms, and cauliflower. All of them are delish. Here is some advice, though. Stay away from potatoes and corn. These things always end up as filler in these kinds of soups, but this is not a chowder. Corn brings an unsavory sweetness and potatoes bulk it up too much. Stick with the skinny fresh veggies.

Once those are in the pot, add enough broth to thicken, but not enough to cover it. Right now we just want to cook up the veggies with a little more direct heat. Bring the pot to a simmer, and let simmer for about three to five minutes. take out the toughest veggie at three minutes and see how done it is. If you are using carrots, those are a good tester. Broccoli can be tough too, so that is a good bellwether for how ready the veggies are. What we are looking for is soft enough to bite but still a little firm. Once they get to this point, add enough broth to cover the veggies completely.

Throw in a bay leaf or two. Let simmer about ten minutes, stirring three or four times. Taste the soup to see if it needs more salt or pepper or garlic. This is completely subjective.

A big question here is what kind of broth. To keep this recipe truly meatless and vegan, you’ll need to use vegetable broth. However, chicken broth brings this soup to an exceptional level of flavor. You can’t lose either way, though, unless you use water. DON’T USE WATER OR BOUILLON CUBES. Can you hear me shout that? The only water you should use in this recipe is to wash the veggies when you clean them.

For best results, after simmering the soup for ten minutes, let it set for about an hour. The next day it will taste even better. That’s just the nature of all soup and chili type foods. After an hour, it might still be hot enough, but if you need to raise the temperature.

If I am in a particularly enjoyable mood, I will use that rest time of an hour to make homemade croutons to serve with the soup. This is simple. Just take a loaf of French or garlic bread. Cut it up into blocks (whatever size you want your croutons). Splash them with olive oil, salt, and garlic then bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, or until they have that nice golden color.

Put the croutons in the bottom of your bowl and label the soup over them. Top with Parmesan cheese if that is your jam. Enjoy.


French onion soup has always been one of my favorite restaurant choices. However, I’ve never made it at home before this week. My hand was forced because Mrs. Greenbean bought about seven thousand pounds of onions at Costco, and they were stinking up the whole house. I had to cook them or toss them.

I decided it was time to make soup.

File Feb 01, 9 29 39 AM
Onions and Cheese–Perfect ingredients

I perused the interwebs for ideas, and went from there. The first thing I had to do was buy oven-to-table bowls. Wal-Mart let me down, and I shall not forget their treachery. I ended up going to the only other place in town that might have them, and that was Tuesday Morning.  They didn’t have a matching set, but I did get four, which is perfect for the Greenbeans.


  • olive oil
  • half cup butter
  • four large onions, sliced
  • a fourth cup of flour
  • forty ounces of beef broth
  • a fourth cup of red wine
  • dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
  • thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • one baguette
  • sliced provolone cheese
  • sliced Swiss cheese
  • grated Parmesan cheese


I made the soup in my favorite dutch oven, but any large stock pot would do.

I melted the butter, added the olive oil, then threw in the onions. I cooked them on medium heat on the stove top until they were were translucent and properly reduced. Then I added the flour. This carmelized them, causing some of that delicious brown to emerge. Different recipes argued for and against the flour, but it was the right choice for me.

When the flour had browned a bit and the pot was becoming dry, I added all of the beef stock. I stirred it well, then added the Worcestershire sauce. Immediately after that came the wine. I used a hearty burgundy. Then I tossed in a tablespoon or so of thyme, a little salt and pepper, stirred it well, brought the heat up until it simmered, then reduced the heat to low. I covered the pot and let it simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

[It seemed to me this part of the process can be done well in advance of mealtime, even days. Simply heat the soup up when you are ready to serve it.]

At the end of the thirty minutes, I set my oven to broil. I ladled the soup into my brand new (and thoroughly washed) oven to table bowls. I placed three ample slices of baguette on top of the soup, then covered it with a slice of swiss, a slice of provolone, and a tablespoon or so of the grated Parmesan. This is, of course, a matter of taste. The next time I make this I will likely use stronger cheeses like Gruyere or maybe even a smoked Gouda.

I placed the bowls on a cookie sheet, then put it in the broiling oven. I left them there about four minutes.  That is all it took for the cheese to brown, the soup to bubble a bit, and the aroma of deliciousness to fill my home.

I served it immediately. Enjoy.


We didn’t have our private Greenbean Thanksgiving celebration until Saturday.  This was because of travel on Thanksgiving Day to be with family we’ve not seen in over 15 years and then the day after that we celebrated at the Texas Renaissance Festival with giant turkey legs, jousting, fun costumes and questionable humor.  So Saturday I roasted the annual turkey.  That means today I have to make a decision about what to do with the turkey I have left.  To that end, I am enlisting your help.  Please respond to the first ever Greenbean opinion poll below and let me know what your preference is–turkey salad (not a green leaf salad but more like a spread), sandwiches, or soup?

I have made the poll where everyone can see the results.  Please make certain you click the “vote” button on the bottom right.