Guest Post: Stone Soup

Below is a post from a friend of mine, Lena Brook who I met through our work with Urban Sprouts.  Lena, very generously offered to share a recipe that her daughter and she worked on together and I can never say “no” to that.  Especially since Lena is a wonderful cook. One of the first few times I met her she made a persimmon and blue cheese salad for a potluck that left me thinking that I needed to get to know her better.  She is passionate about feeding her family well, improving the quality of food that others eat and food justice.  Clearly, a kindred spirit. :)

In addition to being a mom, Lena is Senior Program Associate at the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, where she works to harness the power of the California health care sector to redefine the meaning of hospital food.  She lives with her husband and two young daughters in San Francisco. In 2009, she launched the San Francisco School Food Coalition, with the mission of reforming school food programs at the San Francisco Unified School District.  We’ll have to get her to do a post on school food some time soon.

The recipe below is timely – it’s getting colder and all of us need to “de-tox” from the food disaster that was Thanksgiving.

Stone Soup by Lena Brook

The classic folk tale “Stone Soup” was a favorite of my daughter Ava’s when she was a preschooler. We read that book endlessly, yet neither of us grew tired of the story, with its wise messages of cooperation and community through the lens of sharing food.

So imagine how excited Ava was when her after-school “Cooking in the Garden” teachers decided to make “stone soup” one cool Monday afternoon in October! At pick up time, she couldn’t stop raving about how delicious the soup was, how healthy, how she loved it DESPITE the (judicious) addition of canned tomatoes (not a favorite), and how thrilling it was to share some with me. “Stone soup” was the topic of conversation all evening long and could not be laid to rest until I promised to make some at home. So we did. As luck would have it, the soup fit all of our respective criteria for a successful dinner: the girls loved how “good” it tasted and emphasized that making it was “fun!” The soup became a veritable rainbow of vegetables – that holy grail of healthy kid cooking. Add a side of bread and cheese, and you’ve got yourself an easy weekday meal.

“Stone Soup” – developed by Lena Brook and Ava Becker
adapted from “Cooking in the Garden” after-school class, Grattan Elementary School

Dice carrots, celery and onion and saute this mirepoix with olive oil in a soup pot until soft, about 10 minutes. Rough chop a variety of vegetables* and add to the base. Add a bit more olive oil for flavor, a bay leaf if you desire, about 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt, a dash of pepper and enough water to cover all of the vegetables plus an inch. Bring to a boil then reduce to a rolling simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add ½ of chopped, canned tomatoes (or more/less to taste) toward the end of cooking. Enjoy!

* This is the perfect soup to empty out the miscellaneous vegetables floating around in your crisper drawer or pantry. All you need is 1-2 of each, with the emphasis on variety and color. Suggested options include but are definitely not limited too: purple/red/white new potatoes; sweet potatoes; rutabagas; parsnips; kale; yellow/red/orange beets; corn; spinach.

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Checkout the free podcast from Barefoot Books — stories for kids, including “Stone Soup”.