The Dark Days Challenge has 120+ participants from all over the U.S. doing the best we can to eat local during the winter months. Our challenge is to prepare at least one meal a week using only Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical (SOLE) ingredients, and then blog about it. Weekly recaps of the participant’s meals will be hosted by the fine folks at Not Dabbling In Normal every Sunday.
It may not have been a traditional version of either the soup or the bread, but when you make them primarily with homegrown, local, and organic ingredients it makes for a satisfying and healthy Dark Days Challenge meal.
We love our soups here in winter time, and to make them possible I like to freeze bags of soup veggies in summer when the garden is really producing. For this soup I used a bag from the freezer that included green beans, onions, zucchini and cabbage. I added a pint of chunky frozen tomatoes from our bumper 2011 crop, plus a few of our potatoes from the cellar. The base of the soup was some frozen chicken broth we made from our last roasted chicken, including some leftover chicken. I seasoned it with thyme, oregano and bay leaves from the herb garden, then I simmered the soup for an hour or so. Right before serving I stirred in some chopped spinach leaves, freshly harvested from one of the cold frames outside.
I made the dough for the focaccia bread the day before, adapting Peter Reinhart’s Whole Wheat Focaccia recipe from his Whole Grain Bread book. I used 8 ounces of my whole wheat sourdough starter to replace 4 ounces each of flour and water, and skipped adding any commercial yeast. Since the sourdough starter was the only leavening used, I let the dough rise for about 4 hours after stretching it out in the pan. Before baking, I topped the bread with some additional olive oil, plus fresh garlic, rosemary, oregano and a little coarse sea salt. Then I baked it off in a hot oven for about 25 minutes until browned on top and bottom.
The finished bread isn’t as puffy or light as a traditional focaccia, but it was great with the soup. The garlic got roasted, the herbs got crunchy and the olive oil soaked into the bread giving it a rich, full flavor. The flour for this bread was freshly ground from some local hard red winter wheat from the Rivercity Co-op.
The soup and bread made for a great meal, and I’ll bet the leftover soup tastes even better tonight!