Plastic Carts & Parsley

I wish I could take a class on how to be the perfect grocery shopper. This is what I think as I push those bright red plastic carts through our town’s Shop Rite – the hatred towards these plastic carts I have inherited from my mother. It would be hypocritcal to call myself a food snob (my friends back in the Bay Area surely have blackmail photos ready of my drunken grubby hands happily shoving a Sourdough Jack into my smiling mouth at 3am after begging our DD to pull through the drive-thru), but really, why the plastic carts?…and the neon yellow plastic bags? And if a store has enough coupons that you have to have a sign at every register outlining the coupon rules with underlines, and bolded, red, and italicized statements, then I think you have too many coupons. And too many people that suddenly remember they have coupons they have to fish through their purse for when it’s already time to pay. And then inevitably the coupons are for the OTHER size of that item that you don’t even really need – I mean didn’t you read the fine print? No? Ok, sure I’ll wait while you go run and get the correct item. Oh no don’t worry about the psychotic woman behind you who looks like she might set her plastic cart on fire because she can’t believe that she chooses the line where this happens every time…

But I digress…back to the grocery shopping lessons. I try to plan my recipes for the week accordingly so that I limit the amount of fresh herbs that go bad in my fridge. I wish the stores would sell those items in smaller bunches (this store actually tries to but the one I want is always sold out or half brown). I mean, hello, are you suggesting we all be feeding 3 kids at home? (the grocery store is suddenly every old lady at church). Perhaps I could just use more parsley in my cooking. Right now there is a nice big bunch of it leftover in my fridge. Don’t get too comfortable, Parsley, I’ll be reluctantly throwing you out in two and a half weeks when I finally realize that “oh, but I might need it tomorrow” won’t even matter when you are brown and sitting in dead herb juice. I imagine this every time too when I stand there staring at it, lovingly smelling it, pondering if I want to go through this again. I know how this is going to end. But I can’t help myself. Not garnishing my dish with parsely is worse than throwing most of it out. “Andy won’t judge me for it…or won’t notice it’s missing,” I think to myself. But Mama will. She would be so ashamed. I will call her after to tell her about the delicious soup I made and she’ll be able to sense it in my guilty tone – “Oh, you left out the parsely…hmmm”. I can’t disappoint my mother. Parsley goes in the cart.

The parsely is for garnishing the first item on this week’s dinner menu – a Beet and Tomato Soup with Cumin from the April 2011 issue of Food and Wine (to which I subscribe along with Bon Appetit). Our Great Lent before Easter has begun (Russian Orthodox Christian) and I am promising myself that this time around I will rely less on tofu and imitation meat products and celebrate the beauty of, well, real food. So I compiled a list of recipes from my latest magazines and posted them on Facebook for my Orthodox (and vegan) friends. I am actually quite excited about this 7 week experiment, even though I don’t understand being vegetarian or vegan – ever heard of steak? rack of lamb? blue cheese? roast chicken? Just too delicious.

The soup was relatively simple to make and ended up quite tasty. It was also the dinner that kept on feeding – I took the soup to work for lunch and ate it for about 4 more meals after that. And in case you wanted pink countertops, boiling and peeling beets is defintely the way to go! Boiling, peeling and chopping the beets is the first step. While those cool to the side, you heat up some thinly sliced shallots in the saucepan.

Add chopped tomatoes,  the beets and salt and pepper. Once the juices release a bit, you add cumin. Smells amazing! I opted for vegetable stock (vegan), put in tomato paste and let it simmer, covered, after bringing it to a boil.

Then came the part where I realized that I definitely need a bigger food processor: puree the veggies and then return them to the sauce pan to develop the flavor and heat up the soup more. My Cuisinart is teeny tiny and the puree was coming out the sides through the lid. Disastrous. But I am a messy cook and I just accept these situations as facts. And to me it wasn’t a dirty kitchen, it was a perfect excuse to shop around for new kitchen gadgets. My suggestion is to puree less of the liquid and more of just the vegetables. I don’t think mine pureed enough, and I could taste some tomato seeds.

Of course I skipped the dollop of creme fraiche, but proudly sprinkled the parsley on top. As I stood back and watched the parsley sit gloriously atop the deep magenta-ish soup I glanced quickly at the herb saver I bought over a year ago in an attempt to save the poor parsley. I’m lazy and toss the rest of the parsely in the fridge. Herb saver remains as interesting trinket on the kitchen shelf and parsley takes its rightful place in the fridge until I pull it out again to put straight in the trash.


 Benjamin Leroux’s Beet & Tomato Soup with Cumin (F&W April 2011)


    1. 1 pound medium beets
    2. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    3. 4 medium shallots, thinly sliced
    4. 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
    5. Salt and freshly ground pepper
    6. 1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus more for garnish
    7. 1 quart vegetable stock or chicken stock
    8. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    9. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
    10. 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


  1. In a large saucepan, cover the beets with water. Bring to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 1 hour; if necessary, add more water to keep the beets covered. Drain the beets and let cool slightly, then peel and coarsely chop.
  2. Wipe out the saucepan and heat the olive oil in it. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chopped beets, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes release their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the 1 teaspoon of cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable stock and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor. Rewarm the soup in the saucepan and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with dollops of crème fraîche. Sprinkle with a little cumin and the parsley and serve.


3 Responses to “Plastic Carts & Parsley”

  1. Sounds delicious! I’m hungry already (for soup) and it not even 6:30 am.

    So very difficult not to let those herbs in the fridge go to waste, especially since parsley is sold by the pound!

  2. This sounds good, Olya! I think I’ll try making it. Did you use fresh tomatoes? For soups I usually use Muir Glenn diced (fireroasted) canned tomatoes.
    By the way, you should get an immersion blender. Blend the soup right in the pot. I haven’t used a real blender for years and make a lot of soups.
    Speaking of soups, I made my favorite barley/dried porcini mushroom soup today, but alas — by mistake used Bulgur instead of barley. It was sort of coarse bulgur and I didn’t pay attention. It’s not bad, but not as good as with the barley. Talk about dinner that keeps on feeding…there’s definitely enough for lunch every day and then some.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: