Abundant Mushroom Soup

I went shopping at CostCo (with my mother) last week. Alas, I happened to be slightly hungry at the time. A person who lives alone should never shop for food at a warehouse where everything comes in “Eight Is Enough” quantities. Most of the things we bought, we split: a tub of grapes, a big container of dates. I was attracted to a thousand fairies‘ worth of mushrooms. Mum doesn’t like mushrooms so they were all mine.

With this cold cold weather, I crave hearty, earthy soups.  Below is the recipe for what I made, using the mushrooms and whatever else I had handy. It was very good with a side of simple roasted butternut squash and fennel, each of which I cut up into big quarters, slathered with olive oil and black pepper on the cut sides, and put in the oven cut side down at 400 degrees just before I started the soup.  (Total roasting time was about 1 hour, which was a bit longer than I intended just because I got so excited to eat the soup that I forgot about the oven… but everything turned out soft and delicious nonetheless.)
As for the soup, I am not a fussy cook (though I am a fussy eater) so it is simple and easy to make. Chopping the mushrooms took a while only because there were so many. Other than that, I put everything in the pot and Facebooked for a while until the soup was cooked (and the squash was roasted). I don’t like cooking with stocks and bullion; it makes no sense to me, so this soup is good and tasty with no stock necessary. If you are a stock-lover, though, you could substitute some of your stock for some of the water.
Finally, these quantities are approximate. If you cook a lot, you’ll know how to improvise and your soup will turn out delicious. If you’re wary, you can either experiment and say a little trusting prayer to the kitchen goddesses to help you, or you might prefer a real recipe.
Abundant No-Stock Mushroom Soup (Vegan)
Chop up your mushrooms. The more the merrier, really. What kind of mushrooms? Mine looked like large crimini but the package said ‘baby portabella.’  The package was about 2-3 times the size of the regular grocery store quantity.  I think any kind of mushroom or combo would be good in this simple soup.  If you’re using a dried type of mushroom, I’m assuming you know how to handle them; do the soak-in-boiled-water thing before you chop.
Dice one shallot, half a red onion, and a leek (white part only), or some combination thereof. I knew I was going to blend the soup at the end so I didn’t worry too much about the size of my chopping. If you don’t have a blender, you should chop to the size you like to eat things floating in your soup.
In a big pot or wok, heat olive oil (I used about a quarter cup) and sautee the shallot/onion/leek family until they are mellow, like your family after a round of hot toddies. (About 3-5 minutes.)  Add the mushrooms and cover with more than enough water.  If you like a creamier soup, use part water and part unsweetened soy or almond milk. If you’re the measuring type, I’d say about 1.5 times as much liquid as mushrooms. Cover and bring to a boil.
Add 3 bay leaves and generous quantities (approx 1 Tbsp each) of dried basil, sage, oregano, and black pepper. Salt to taste but go lightly on the salt because some of your liquid will boil down; you can always add more salt later.  Stir.  Simmer, uncovered. 
Go do something else for 20-30 minutes. You could, for example, do the dishes. Or instead you could blog about what you cooked yesterday.  This sets up a nice life rhythm: cook, blog about what you cooked, eat; cook, blog about what you cooked, eat. Unfortunately, eventually the dishes will assert themselves as you will have nothing left with which to cook or eat. Unless, of course, someone does it for you.
Now the soup should smell delicious and the mushrooms and spices should be nicely integrated. Turn off your heat and set up your blender.  If you have an immersion blender, go ahead and blend the soup right in the pot.  If you have a stand-up style blender, pour the soup in batches into it, blend, and return to the pot.  Either way it ends up a thick, yummy, mushroomy texture.  If you have no blender, your soup is still yummy, it’s a clear  mushroomy broth with chunks o’ mushroom.  Taste for salt and add more if you need too.
Serve by itself or with bread, or crackers, or the roasted veggies that you are NOT forgetting to take out of the oven.

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