I know I shouldn’t complain. We were only away two weeks. Rome is not the moon. Our re-entry is hardly of astronautical proportions. I know this and yet looking outside at the cosmic white-out (and that snow’s still falling thick and fast) I can’t help feeling beleaguered, exhausted, out of sorts. It was mostly in the fifties in Rome – and plenty sunny!
And we come home to this!
I’ve turned on every light in the house to fight UV deprivation. Draped my mother’s afghan over my lap – followed promptly, of course, by Sadie the dog, never one to miss an opportunity for a super extra toasty dose of creature comfort. Oh, and before settling down here to divulge my secret remedy for nature shock (as well as for a head cold, which I also have), I rinsed a half cup of dried baby lima beans and put them in a bowl of water to soak so that I can cook up what to me is the comfort food of comfort foods, “Grandma Little’s Butter Soup”.
My beloved Grandma Little, so-called because that’s how I pronounced “Lil” when I was little, was, in fact, probably no more than 4’11” and though she is gone now, her recipes live on. Could she ever cook! If only there had been a cooking channel during her lifetime (because she could talk, too)! But readers of “Favorite Recipes from Beth Israel Sisterhood, Margate, New Jersey” (ca. 1968) might well remember her for her great “Noodle Cheese Souffle” and “Baked Chicken in Lemon Juice,” both of which relied heavily on cornflakes, the go-to topping for pre-panko foodies.
But Butter Soup was arguably what she was most famous for among her children and grandchildren. Arguably, because there was also her stuffed cabbage, not to mention her jam- and nut-filled roll cake, her cheesecake, the butter cookies shaped like stars and chickens and covered with blue sprinkles that she made every Hanukkah…
It was all irresistible – still is – but to me, Butter Soup is the most irresistible – and unlike, incidentally, any other soup recipe with butter in the title that I’ve seen on the web or off. This is essentially just a very simple vegetable soup, enriched with a butter-based roux. Very down to earth, very healthy, very Hungarian – just like Grandma herself.
GRANDMA LITTLE’S BUTTER SOUP
Soak ½ cup baby lima beans in 2 cups water (overnight or according to directions)
Put soaked beans in soup pot and add: 2 small carrots, chopped fine; 2 large stalks of celery, chopped fine; 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes; 4 cups water.
Simmer until beans are tender.
Melt over very low flame in a small pan 2 T butter. Add ½ medium onion, cut fine, and 2 T chopped parsley, and cook until vegetables soften slightly and butter is bubbly. Add 2 T flour and stir till smooth. Add mixture to boiling soup, stirring constantly.
Using the same small pan, toast 1/8 cup farfel (or pastine) over flame. Add to soup, and also add salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer soup until onion and farfel (or pastine) are well cooked.
That’s how my grandmother made the soup, as recorded by my mother. Like any good soup recipe, however, it’s amenable to improvisation. I like to substitute organic vegetable broth for part of the water – and to thin it out with more broth when it thickens after refrigeration or because I accidentally over-simmered it. Sometimes I add mushrooms. And I often make it heart-friendly by using my favorite butter substitute: Canoleo Soft Margarine (which you can read all about at http://www.sbamerica.com).
Even butter-substitute-alert Herb can’t tell the difference!