When I was growing up, the go-to meal in our home was macaroni and stewed tomatoes. When all else failed, when there was nothing else to eat, there was macaroni and tomatoes. Plain boiled elbow noodles with plenty of salt. A can of whole stewed tomatoes, sliced into chunks by a knife right in the can. A pot of simple deliciousness warm on the stove, never running out.
I don't eat macaroni and tomatoes anymore. I can never seem to capture the flavors the way my mother did. Instead, I throw together vegetables (sometimes frozen, sometimes raw) and broth. Add in some meat here, some cheese there, perhaps some rice or pasta... and a hearty meal is born.
Sausage and kale, taco, chicken noodle, rice and bean, broccoli, potato ... the flavors and combinations are endless. I love eating it, making it, sharing it with others.
And so last night, the first cool when we've had since early Spring, when funds were low and ingredients seemed sparse, I taught my daughter a lesson in making soup that warms the heart and belly while delighting the taste buds.
She stood at the stove as we pulled out what we could find: Two bags of frozen stew vegetables from the back of the freezer, a two-thirds full box of chicken broth, the last zucchini from the crisper, a half box of elbow macaroni, and the last of a bag of half-freezer-burned mini meatballs.
And then I watched as she dumped and stirred. We added water and let the heat roll. She snuck raw zucchini as a I chopped it and then she added both the zucchini and the macaroni to the pot. We added a lid and set a timer so that I could pull her away from the stove. When the timer dinged, she ran back and smiled as we taste-tested until it was just right.
The air warm with steam, we set the table with deep bowls, spoons, crusty bread, and a shaker of parmesan cheese. She supervised as I ladled.
And then we all ate until our tummies hurt.
I foresee a tradition here.