Sometimes there are wet, grey days in South Florida.
Nothing like the weather making the news headlines today: Colorado, covered in its first major snow of the season or the ice storm threatening Texas.
This weather is subtle; the type that would piss the rest of the country off, folk would curse, “those guys are softies” under their breath and keep shoveling a path to the driveway. But for us South Floridians, spoiled with an excessive amount of sunshine and warmth, these are the days that make us sigh and complain, wondering, for a second, if we are living elsewhere, London or Seattle; somewhere a constant drizzle is expected.
Today is not one of those days. Today is glorious and crisp and sunny, a day I’d be best served not to complain about and rather embrace and feel thankful I live where I do. But what about those gray days? And what if such a day falls on a Saturday? What is one supposed to do with a day filled with vague, light rain in South Florida?
Okay, yes, there’s that one thing. Yes.
But what if your significant other is away, on business, again?
Mine is absent more and more these days, sucked to distant hemispheres by pressing business deals that must be closed or absent-minded manufacturing mistakes that must be corrected; all sacrifices one makes when running one’s own international, multi-global business, he’d tell me in His Professional Voice.
Which is all good and fine on sunny weekend days. On those days I’ll walk along the beach, take the kids out for some soft ice cream, or catch some rays by my pool in the backyard.
But gray and gloomy weekends are another matter all together. Gray and gloomy Saturdays are for snuggling, catching-a-movie-on-Netflix, and spilling microwave popcorn on each other’s lap. They are days of leisure studded with long naps and oblivion.
I struggle on these bleak weekends when my side of the bed is the only one slept in and there are no size 11 shoes strewn about for me to trip over. The kids are snatched by their computer’s mesmerizing glare and silence reigns, thanks to those bright blue Beats headphones I thought would make such a perfect gift for them one noisy afternoon. Now they wear those things nonstop and it’s as if they’ve disappeared entirely, save for the occasional chuckle that escapes them or a random demand for a cheese stick or yogurt. I should rejoice and skip around the house like Maria did in West Side Story, feeling pretty, but instead, I turn grumpy and gloomy and sad, feeling isolated and alone, thinking of all the bonding I could be doing with my significant other, if only he were in the same time zone.
Luckily I have a well-stocked refrigerator.
This is the antidote to all forms of depression, if you’re wondering.
Restlessness or boredom or simple nostalgia are all tempered at the stovetop.
Mushroom soup is particularly restorative. It’s smooth and rich and sophisticated yet simple. You’ll feel like Cinderella the night of the Ball.
It all starts with onions. You know me well by now, it always starts with sautéing onions in olive oil. And then you are on your way. Chop the mushrooms up fine, after having wiped them clean with a damp cloth. No need to rinse, no need to douse them in unnecessary water.
Are you a garlic kind of a guy/gal? Then mince up a clove or two and add it to the mix. See how the day begins to brighten?
Really, if you are feeling unbearably down and out, you could just end the whole thing right here.
Maybe you’d squeeze a half a lime and grind some fresh pepper and coarse sea salt and lights out. Scoop the stuff up with toast, but first sprinkle on some fresh parsley for color and bite.
This, and a fresh copy of the latest People magazine, could turn any afternoon around.
But we are persevering and sticking to our soup goal. Oh, it will be worth it. You will do the mushroom toast thing some other time.
And you are almost there, anyhow, with the soup.
A sloppy splash of Sherry and a steady drizzle of heavy whipping cream follows and then let it all simmer for a bit. Salt and pepper it to your liking.
If you have one of those fancy blenders, the ones with the massive base that looks like it could launch a space shuttle, then go for it, put all that in there and whip away.
Man, that stuff comes out beautiful: velvety smooth.
But if you don’t have it, don’t fret. Use your regular blender. Or your immersion blender. Or you know what? Leave the pieces of everything in there.
It’s your call. It’s raining after all. The in-laws aren’t coming over.
Thick, crusty bread goes well with this soup and I happened to have baked some the other day, the kind that mocks diets and begs for a healthy slather of Irish or French butter. Butter, I tell you, butter. None of this laboratory hocus pocus that is dyed yellow and promises it is something it is not. No, butter.
I will ladle this mushroom soup into a bowl and sit down at a table set for one, sipping and reading my newspaper; noshing on a slice of chewy sourdough and listening to the drops of rain falling outside, wondering what exotic street food my beloved will be sampling on the other side of the planet.
The term soulmate sounds sticky and trite until it actually kicks into gear, like now, in this melancholic moment when I will get a call and it will be him, eager to tell me the outcome of the negotiation or the transformed product design, but not before he shares in detail the tenderness of the octopus he savored in Shenzhen or the fish ball noodle soup he slurped noisily in a cramped alley of Hong Kong.
There are too many illustrious plates of grilled shrimp and steamed flounder and calves heads he must convey under the prickly fuzz of a poor connection. These are meals he, too, appreciates in solitude, hastily devoured in between appointments with men who wear oversized suits and smoke too much and speak quickly in foreign tongues.
I, in turn, will tell him about that bread I baked, how even though it didn’t rise as I wished it would, it sort of spread outwards against the pan, it is still lovely when warmed and teased with butter or a drizzle of orange blossom honey. How it goes perfectly with the soup on this wet Saturday.
We’ll chuckle during this conversation, I know. He’ll ask me to save him some soup. We are separated by oceans and time zones and obligations that have him sitting alone at a table over there and me sitting alone at our table here.
I will save him a bowl, for later. It freezes well, you see.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
- 8 oz. fresh mushrooms (use whatever kind you fancy), cleaned and sliced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups chicken stock
- ¼ cup Sherry
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat up olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.
- Add onion and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes.
- Add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
- Add mushrooms and sauté, stirring, for 5 minutes.
- Add flour and combine well, stirring regularly, for 3 minutes. This is going to help thicken your soup.
- Add stock and sherry, salt and pepper and bring to a boil (increase heat slightly.) Reduce heat to medium/low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Adjust seasoning.
- Blend, with a standing and/or immersion blender, if you want.
- Add cream.
- Serves 2-4.