Monday, June 14, 2010

Pedaling for Soup with the Soup Peddler, and a taste of his wonderful Armenian Apricot Soup

Peddling soup for the love of it AND making money from it, too, has to be one of the best ways to spend your life - I know, I do it, at least in part: the "for the love of it" part.
But then there's David Ansel from Austin, who has one of of my favorite soup stories. His business is called The Soup Peddler, and he started out, literally, pedaling his liquid gold cargo in and around Austin, Texas, at $10 a quart, on a beat up yellow bike. He tells his heart-warming, aroma-rousing story in his off-beat, up-beat memoir,
The Soup Peddlers Slow and Difficult Soups.
A degreed software engineer, experiencing diminishing satisfaction from his job at a software development firm, David Ansel decides one day to up and quit the buzz-word culture of hip-tech, and with alarmingly little in the bank and few ideas as to what exactly he did want to do, he did just that.

The next part of his story I love:

"Finally, I had the idea that changed the course of my life. What can I do? I thought to myself.Well, I can cook alright.What can I cook? Well, I can cook soup pretty good.

So with all that financial desperation and valuable experience behind me, I sent out an email message to friends and neighbors, saying “I’ll bring you some soup next Sunday for ten bucks. Plus, I’ll bring it to you on my bike."

He goes on to tell about dragging hundreds of pounds of soup around on the hilly streets of Austin, and despite the odds, the business grew. That was 2004. Countless stories later, he's got a thriving grassroots catering business, with imaginative weekly soup offerings, and in 2005, even a book. (see above).

One of my favorite recipes from the Soup Peddler is the Armenian Apricot Soup. David Ansel features the recipe in his Fall food section, and uses dried apricots. But its June now, and apricots are very much in season, so I thought I'd give his recipe a try with fresh.

How to describe the soup?
Well, David himself does it best, and I quote from his book:

“I sat down at the computer and gave it a shot:

Dear Soupies,
This week’s soup is Armenian Apricot Soup. Now I know you all know how great Armenian soups can be, and I assure you that this one will live up to your loftiest expectations.
No good. I set my finger down on the delete key and tried again.

Dear Soupies,
This week, in your very bowl, the downy soft velvet of the apricot meets the turgid assuredness of the carrot.
Alright. One more time.

Dear Soupies,
Armenians are finally in season! We slice them extra thin so they stay tender and juicy.”

Indeed they are, and here's the soup, with quantities slightly cut down from the large kettle version in the book!

Armenian Apricot Soup

2 small onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1 tbspn. olive oil
1 tbspn. cumin
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
6 cups water
8 - 10 apricots; washed, halved, pitted and large diced
parsley and lemon for garnish

Heat the oil in heavy bottom soup pot. Add in the onions and carrots. As soon as they soften, add the cumin, cover, and continue to sweat the vegetables with the cumin, 10 minutes.

Add the lentils and water and bring to a boil. Cook 20 minutes, until the lentils are just tender. Stir in the apricots and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until the flavors are blended.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth - a few little bites of apricot won't hurt the presentation. Salt once blended - just enough to tone down the acidic in the apricots. Server immediately with a garnish of parsley and a dash of lemon.

The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups by David Ansel (Ten Speed Press, 2005)

Looking for another version?
Anya von Bremzen offers one in her nicely illustrated and funny Russian cookbook: Please to the Table.
This recipe calls for potato as a thickener and chopped tomatoes for extra flavor.

1 comment:

Jürgen said...

Wunderbar! The soup you describe seems incredible. I must try to prepare it myself when I am returned to the Schloss Wartin for August. Friendly greetings, JvM.