One of the best ways to save money on food is having category nights like sandwiches, pasta, pizza or soup. Soup is my all time favorite because it makes a lot, is easy to use as leftovers and always makes a great lunch. You can also freeze it if you make a lot, then you'll have soup for gifts to sick neighbors and friends or for those nights when you just don' feel like making anything.
One secret--I never use boxed, canned or dried stock or boullion, in fact, I rarely even make soup stock but instead I add all the ingredients for stock into the soup--parsley, celery, onions, carrots and mushrooms.
Although mushrooms also impart color, I opt for the deep flavor that mushrooms, especially shiitake mushrooms bring to the pot. When I use mushrooms for other dishes, I save the stems, let them dry and then rehydrate them with boiling water for the soup stock.
Red potatoes often have more sweet tones than Yukon Gold, white or yellow potatoes, but use whatever potatoes you have for this soup.
Why Shiitake mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally in China for over 6,000 years; they offer immune system support and are also beneficial for cardiovascular problems. Lentinian, a compound in the mushrooms has been used as an anti-cancer drug. Shiitake are also good sources of Vitamin D2 and iron.
Can you eat too many shiitake?
Who knows, but the price is high (compared to button and crimini mushrooms) and they don't exactly go with everything on the menu, so eating a lot of mushrooms could get monotionous.
Carrots bring and earthy sweet tone to the soup. Local varieties are the best bet if you want a more flavorful sweet carrot.
Croutons add a great texture contrast. I got gluten-free foccia from NuFlours. The bakery is on Capitol Hill and they also sell at the University District Farmers Market on Saturday mornings
Split Pea Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 shallots, peeled and diced small
2 to 4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 or 2 yellow or red potatoes, diced
1 heaping cup split peas
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers, or use your favorite hot sauce to taste
4 to 5 cups water
1/2 to 1 tablespoon tamari
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic powder or pressed garlic, to taste
1 4-inch sliced of gluten-free focaccia, sliced in half
1. Pour boiling water over shiitake mushrooms. Let these sit for at least an hour before using the liquid and mushrooms.
2. Saute the shallots in the canola oil until they are lightly browned. Add garlic, celery and carrot. Stir and cook until vegetables soften. Add the potatoes, split peas, chopped marinated peppers or Mama Lil's peppers and water. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for an hour or until potatoes and peas are soft.
3. Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon tamari, stir and sprinkle chopped olives on top. Blend the garlic and olive oil and drizzle over the gluten-free focaccia. Toast until lightly browned. Cut into croutons and place on top of the soup.