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Winter vegetable soup a cut above the rest
A few weeks back, I wrote about foods that were named after people. I wish I could claim that Sopa Juliana was named after me, but, alas, the soup has a
history all its own dating back centuries.
Sopa Juliana is essentially a winter vegetable soup with a clear broth in which the ingredients have been julienned, or cut into matchstick-sized pieces. If you want to get obsessive and you have excellent knife skills, there are exact dimensions for a julienne cut: 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch by 1-2 inches.
More interesting for me is how this cut got its name in the first place.
Food historians noticed that the first soup of this type was made with wood sorrel, a type of oxalis, or shamrock plant. Because of the three-lobe leaf shape, another name for it was "alleluia" in celebration of the Trinity. When the soup was cooked, the thin leaves dissolved, leaving only the stems of the plant which resembled matchsticks.
As "alleluia" passed through the lexicons of many languages, it became corrupted to ‘"ulia." The French then changed it to julienne, or little Julia, and being the epicurian authority, that is now the official name for the cut.
In later years, people decided that there were tastier things to put in the soup than plant stems. However, to keep true to its history, the vege-tables were cut into the traditional shape.
The recipe below is a Spanish version of this classic soup. It’s not necessary to have the exact julienne dimensions, but the soup should not have huge cubes of vegetables.
There are a number of excellent YouTube videos online showing how to julienne the vegetables. A sharp knife and some patience are the only tools required.
1/4 pound cabbage, finely shredded
2 large carrots, cut into julienne strips
1 medium-sized turnip, cut into julienne strips
1 medium-sized onion, sliced thin
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
2 quarts water or stock
1 medium-sized potato, cut into julienne strips
1/2 cup peas
In a large pot, combine the above ingredients except for the potato and peas and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sofrito.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
2/3 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and garlic and fry until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes and parsley and continue cooking until almost all the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. Add the sofrito to the soup along with the potato and peas. Cook for 20 minutes more.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.