Sunday, January 29, 2012

Simple Cabbage Soup and a Review of Anna: Heart of a Peasant for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Cabbage Soup is not a very sexy dish, but it is good, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare. The basic, inexpensive ingredients made it something that peasants and the working class could make, often with ingredients from their own farms and gardens and it could be relied on to feed a large family.

My grandparents on my fathers side immigrated to America in the early 1900s from Denmark and Sweden, so I have always been interested in the immigrant experience. When my friend and co-host at Cook The Books, Rachel of The Crispy Cook, offered to send me a copy of Anna: Heart of A Peasant to read and cook from, I immediately said yes. The fact that Rachel's talented mother, Carol Marie Davis, wrote the book about her grandmother Anna (Rachel's great-grandmother), only sweetened the offer.

Anna: Heart of a Peasant is the story of Anna Anisovich Olchick, and follows her from her birth in a small village in Byelorussia to her journey to America through Ellis Island, and her life in an immigrant Hastings-on-Hudson in New York. Anna's life wasn't easy, she faced much adversity and adventure along the way, but she was smart, stubborn and resourceful. Author Davis did a lot of research to put Anna's life on paper in this fictionalized biography, recreating her childhood and weaving in the details of folklore and culture of Anna's Russian background. It makes for a quick (about 100 pages) and involving story.

Of course food plays a big role in the Anna's life, from the blinis, pierogi, kasha and borscht served at Anna's baptism celebration, to the kitchen garden she planted at her house in America, full of concord grapes, green beans, tomatoes, garlic and herbs, and used both to feed her family and in the folk medicine she relied on to care for them. The book includes a small section of Anna's Favorite Recipes at the back of the book and the charming little illustrations contained there are one of my favorite parts. Since there seemed to be an ever-present pot of soup on the stove throughout the store, usually containing cabbage, I decided to make Anna's simple and hearty vegetarian Cabbage Soup.

Cabbage Soup
From Anna: Heart of a Peasant by Carol Marie Davis
(Makes about 8 Servings)

2-3 pounds of cabbage sliced into ½-inch strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 large onion, chopped
1 28-oz can pureed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
½ cup of brown sugar (put in 1/4 cup)
¼ cup of lemon juice (I used juice of 2 lemons)
pinch of salt & black pepper
1 bay leaf

Heat oil and sauté garlic in a large soup pot over medium fire until garlic is soft, about 2 minutes. Add onion and sauté until soft as well. Add 3 cups of water, carrots, tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, bay leaf and simmer for 10 minutes until carrots are tender. Take out the bay leaf and discard.

Mash the above mixture in a bowl until it is a coarsely blended. Return the sauce mixture to the pot, add lemon juice, cabbage strips, and 3 cups of water. Simmer until cabbage is cooked about 2 hours. Add more water to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a topping of sour cream. (or a scoop of cooked brown rice)

Notes/Results: Simple, hearty and good for a cool, rainy, slightly blustery night. I added a scoop of warm brown rice to the bowl before serving to make it a more complete dinner, although bread would be excellent too. I was a bit concerned about the 1/2 cup of brown sugar, thinking it would be too sweet for my liking, so I reduced it down to about 1/4 cup. I still found it a bit sweet, so I balanced that with more lemon juice and that worked fine. I would probably omit the brown sugar entirely when making it again. Rather than mashing the carrot, onion, tomato broth mixture and Anna likely did, I popped my immersion blender in the pot and roughly pureed the mixture. Not very peasanty--but quick and effective. The tomato and cabbage stand out in this simple soup, which definitely has a rustic, peasant-food feel to it, and is a tasty way to make the most out of some basic ingredients.

Next month at The Crispy Cook, Rachel will be rounding up all of the dishes inspired by the book from the small group bloggers who had the opportunity to review this lovely little book, so be sure to stop by and check it out.

Now let's venture into the Souper Sunday kitchen and see some more wonderful soup and a salad and sandwich too.

Elizabeth from The Law Student's Cookbook has two soups to share this week. First up is her Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup, about which she says, "Crockpots work well for this quick kind of cooking I’m looking for. Though it does take all day for the meal to cook, when it’s time for me to eat, I can eat quick. I can wake up early in the morning, throw everything in the pot, turn it on, go about my day, and come home to a house smelling delicious and dinner hot and ready. It’s like having a personal cook. Except I’m the one doing the cooking. This chicken tortilla soup was packed with flavor. It was great the first day, but even better the second."

Elizabeth also made a Fish Stew and says, "This week my kitchen teleported itself to Northern Africa. I made a fish stew, which while simple was packed with delicious, comforting flavors. I also made a flat bread. In the past, I have tried to make naan. Naan is my only experience with unleavened bread and while the naan was tasty, I just couldn’t get it right. Now, I don’t know if this Algerian flat bread is right. But it definitely was flatter than the flat bread I’ve made in the past. It also was full of flavor (thank you turmeric.) The combination of the flavors of the soup and the bread was excellent, making a wonderful pair."

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina is stirring up wonderful things in her kitchen, this hearty and aromatic Peas Soup with Ginger. This one is brightened with lemon, thickened with potatoes and topped with bacon. Graziana says, "Add a piece of ginger to winter soups, and its slightly pungent aroma will make you feel warm and happy. Serve hot with the browned bacon and a few potato cubes." Love the color!

A new face to welcome to Souper Sundays this week, Dellene from Cooking and the City blogging all the way from Melbourne, Australia, and here for the first time at Souper Sundays with a nourishing Chicken and Pasta Soup. She says, "We are having an odd summer here in Melbourne weather wise. a few days really really hot then a few cold enough to have the heating on seems to be the norm atm. I made this soup on one of the colder days ;)" Welcome Dellene!

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made an Oxtail Daikon Soup and says, "I tried Beef Brisket and Daikon Soup in a Chinese/Dim Sum restaurant months ago (again, the beef is not a want for me but a need to heal my injured elbow including bone, tendons, cartilage, muscles etc.) and inspired me on how I should cook the remaining oxtail at home. A clear broth of Oxtail and Daikon Soup it will be. It is super easy to make this soup and can be a nourishing soup for winter - replenishing iron in the body and improving blood/fluid circulation."

It's always a pleasure to have my friend Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness at Souper Sundays. This week she has a big bowl full of classic Irish Stew to share. Stephanie says, "It's not much to look at, I know. Simple, hearty stew from Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making - onions, potatoes (twice), bouquet garni, beef stock & stew meat. Hours of cooking, really great flavor (says Matt)."

Joanne of Eats Well With Others tried a Creamy Carrot and Parsnip Soup and says, "Parsnips may be the less vibrantly hued cousins of carrots, but anemic in anything other than color, they are not. While you can certainly simply roast parsnips with a hint of olive oil, salt and pepper, as you would just about any root vegetable, I love it pureed into soups. This soup in particular pairs parsnips with carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano and basil, giving it a bit of Italian flair. Topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, it is anything but anemic, whether we’re talking flavor or complexion."

Janet of The Taste Space has our only salad this week, this Roasted Beet, Orange and Brown Rice Salad with an Orange Sesame Vinaigrette and says, "Beets work well with a lot of different flavours, but they definitely pair well with orange. I really enjoyed my chilled Orange and Beet Soup with miso, dill and carrots, and thought this rice-based salad sounded great. Adapted from Appetite for Reduction, beets and brown rice (wild rice would be good, too!) are coated in a zippy Asian-inspired orange sesame vinaigrette. Freshly squeezed orange juice is key to keeping this a light, flavourful dressing. The salad is spiked with currants for additional sweetness. Pile it overtop your favourite greens for a lovely meal-sized salad."

And one lovely sandwich from Heather at girlichef, this Cheddar, Pepperoni, and Egg Quesadilla Sandwich. She says, "Other than being in a "simple" mood, I was also intrigued by the combination of ingredients in this recipe. Pepperoni...eggs...marjoram(!)...wha!? Oh, they worked like you wouldn't imagine. You might be tempted to skip the marjoram, but I don't recommend giving in to that temptation. It's those miniscule little flecks of pine-tinged green that lend so beautifully to the warm eggs and slight spice from the pepperoni."

A great variety of dishes this week! Thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!


  1. Thanks for including me in this week's round up (I know I was late).

    The warm brown rice surely made your soup a perfect one-dish meal for me.

    Have a great day!

  2. I like your cabbage soup and I loved the story of Anna!

  3. Maybe it's because I'm on the verge of getting sick but that soup looks like exactly what I want right now. Tomatoes and cabbage...that's like a vitamin C powerhouse.

  4. The Cabbage Soup looks very inviting Deb!

  5. That cabbage soup looks rich and steeped in flavor! I want a bowl :D

  6. I agree with Heather. Your cabbage soup looks incredibly rich and hearty and with the addition of the rice it reminds me of stuffed cabbage (which I love).

    Love the roundup. I'm eyeballing Heather's quesadilla sandwich.

  7. I love cabbage in soup (a trick we learned from some German immigrant neighbors when I was growing up). This looks wonderful and the book sounds intriguing.

  8. Awesome cabbage soup and what a lovely post about Anna: Heart of a Peasant. Hope we see some more recipes here inspired by your own heritage. Thank you so much Deb.

  9. Wonderful soup, especially for a day like today (or is it just Hilo?). I could use a bowl right now. And, a good review as well Deb.

  10. I am making the cabbage soup today again (third time ;). I like that it makes a nice pot and you can pair it with various things, like you did with rice. You can definitely forgo the sugar next time.


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