1-2-3 vegetable soup!

Monday, March 1, 2010

So, I know I've been MIA in the Meatless Monday world lately. When it is so wicked cold and windy outside, I just want to come in and hibernate!! I've been taking the "easy out" strategy - making a huge vat of soup on Sunday that we can then live on all week. John doesn't seem to mind (too much), and the soups are pretty tasty. This is one of the few "just go and make something, no recipe needed" areas I'm comfortable in. I just figured out that my basic Vegetable Soup follows a pretty simple system that anyone could use!

1-2-3 Vegetable Soup
Get together the following, add the base (detailed below), and you've got an awesome soup!

1. Pick one of these*:

  • Russet potatoes
  • Rice
  • Bulghur wheat
2. Pick two or more of these:
  • Leek
  • Turnip
  • Parsnip
  • Bok Choy or any of its illegitimate cousins
  • Cabbage
  • Bell Pepper
  • Greens (mustard, turnip, etc.)
  • Chard
  • Summer squash
3. Use at least three of these:
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Celery**
* I suppose you could also throw in a pasta of some type, but if you want to go that route I'd wait until the last 15 minutes or less (depending on the type of pasta). Since I like to throw it all in at once and then just let it simmer for hours, pasta typically doesn't hold up so well. Rice gets a bit "blown out" from all the cooking, but personally I just don't mind that at all. I would mind mushy pasta.

**Hint: The leafy tops and anemic middle section of the celery are PERFECT for this (don't throw them away)! Just wash and clean, chop the ends off (if they're cut and discolored), and cut out the "knuckles" between the main stem and top part.

The base:
  • Water - whatever amount looks right in correspondence to the amount of veggies you have. Note that most veggies will cook down and release some of their water, so maybe start off a bit conservative with enough to fill in between everything - you can always add more.
  • Tomato paste (from 1 tbsp to the whole little can, depending on how much soup you wind up with)*
  • A can of diced tomatoes*
  • A bay leaf
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Optional: a tablespoon of your flavor choice Better than Bouillon**
*In both cases I generally use the unflavored variety (not "Italian style," etc.), but I don't think it substantially changes the outcome if you have and want to use the flavored version.

** This is, quite frankly, the best stuff ever. Locally, Kroger only seems to carry the Chicken and Beef versions, but I've found the other varieties somewhere, either Oasis or Eats, and buy them up when I see them! P.S. Who here knew the right spelling on "bouillon" without looking it up? I mean, really, the "i" *before* the "l"?! It just doesn't make any sense at all. I would pronounce this Boo-ill-yon. Huh... But then, maybe I've been saying it wrong all along!!

So there you have it - Easy Vegetable Soup! Let me know if you try it; I'm curious to see other versions! Is there anything else you'd add as an option for any of the steps? This is my favorite thing about cooking, you can interpret and try your own ingredients. I consider the entire thing pretty flexible and open to additions; I'd love to hear about your versions!

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