Regulars please read this post. I have often wondered why I continue to maintain this blog after 7.5 years and 3,200+ posts. For the most part, I still enjoy it immensely, and continue to learn from readers and somehow draw energy and knowledge, though it takes a substantial amount of time to update and maintain the blog. Over the years, marketmanila.com has placed hundreds of recipes on the net, lots of information on ingredients, markets, purveyors, hotels, etc. that is now available to anyone who searches for it. There is an aspect of free public service, and I have also learned a lot in return. Readers have chimed in with a wealth of knowledge, and almost any topic or question raised can and does elicit terrific discussion. The blog has promoted Filipino food and cuisine, brought attention to hard to find ingredients, featured artisanal producers, and provided an audience for Marketman’s occasional service/plagiarism related rants (quietly a reader favorite I can tell from hits to those posts). The blog has also helped to provide over PHP3million (!) pesos in funds to marketmanila.com feeding programs, providing over 150,000 nutritionally complete meals for malnourished public school children in Manila and Cebu. It has spawned a new business, Zubuchon, that employs nearly 100 people that supports and feeds an extended family of say 500 folks. But the one thing that continues to really amaze me, is that there is a core “community” of some 10-15,000 marketmanila readers of mostly like minds (with an occasional nitwit, that’s the reality of an open net) that comes to visit the blog at least once a week, and often daily, from wherever they may be on the planet. More than 95%+ of those community members have NEVER or VERY RARELY even chimed in with a comment, and yet, I know you are there. :)
So why am I blathering on about this? Read on. The photo up top is of some wonderful LOCALLY GROWN borlotti beans. I was stunned to receive them, but even more touched by the marketmanila.com related story behind them. Regulars will be able to relate. Gejo is an organic farmer i met at a weekend market and long time marketmanila reader; if you recall, I featured his farm, and lots of his produce, we did a Jessica Soho segment together, he supplies several restaurants I have written about as well. Over the years, on the blog, he has chimed in often, and on one occasion, BettyQ, our other resident alter-ego, as she always does, graciously and generously, offered to send Gejo seeds of unusual produce for Gejo to try raising in his Silang, Cavite farm. I am out of the loop now, friends have connected on their own, off-line… Packets of wonderful seeds are collected or purchased, they mysteriously manage to cross the Pacific and are delivered to Gejo, who in turn plants them on his farm.
Some of the seeds thrive, others fail. Marketman is pleased when Gejo texts to say he has some wonderful “new” produce, courtesy of BettyQ’s seeds… so I get a handful of borlottis, a bunch of the most spectacular multi-colored swiss chard, a single fabulous deep red carrot, a few other beans I am not familiar with, and I stare at these items for a good five minutes, amazed by how they came into being and into my possession… From a virtual community, to seeds from a wonderful lady just outside Vancouver, to a transpacific transit, to a small organic farm in Silang, to a personally delivered basket of produce to our home in Manila. I don’t know about you, but I find that just simply amazing. And it’s only one of many such stories, and it is probably a big part of the reason I still maintain the blog. Thank you BettyQ, thank you Gejo, and thank you to all marketmanila.com readers who have participated in the community in some way or another.
So what to do with all this produce? How to capture the warmth of the moment with food? A hearty pot of of “BettyGejoMar” Soup, of course! Heeheehee. I am biased, of course, but let me tell you, this was a REALLY GOOD POT of soup. If I could have emailed each and every one of you a bowl we could have had a collective Marketmanila Soup Bowl… get it? :)
First, I made some broth with a ham bone that was hiding in the freezer. Ham bone, onions, carrots and celery into a soup pot and let this simmer for two hours or so. Strain and set aside. Taste for saltiness, as it can get quite salty. Into a large enameled pot, add some olive oil and saute some chopped onions, carrots, celery and fennel. Sweat them. Add lots of other vegetables, as your markets or fridge obliges… in our case, some diced potatoes, Gejo’s green beans, the borlottis, red carrots, zucchini, etc. I added in some minced serrano ham from the leftover stash, some prosciutto or ham would work as well… Added some fresh and canned tomatoes, chicken and ham broth, some canellini beans, lots of chopped herbs like thyme, a touch of rosemary, basil, italian parsley. A stray rind from a wedge of parmesan. Salt and pepper…
After simmering for almost an hour, the soup was nearly ready to serve. I added some leftover macaroni noodles (just a handful), and after a few minutes, lots of chopped swiss chard. The soup got nice and thick when the noodles absorbed the liquid, so keep an eye and have some extra broth ready in case you need to add some to the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with some olive oil and grated parmesan cheese on the side. Yum. Pasta e fagioli meets vegetable soup meets leftovers and odds and ends. Delicious. Tasted even better the next day! And yes, for this particular instance, we called it the “BettyGejoMar” soup. :)