This is, first and foremost, a basic vegetable soup recipe; something everyone should have in their reportoire. But, it’s also a perfect way to illustrate that everyone can cook. Accoding to my theory of food, people don’t cook for a multitude of reasons, the most popular of which are: (a) some people say they don’t like to; (b) some people say that they don’t know how to; and (c) others just say that nothing they cook tastes good. I believe that (a) cooking can be overwhelming, in which case it’s not enjoyable, but everyone should learn to like it at least a little because it’s important; and (b) anyone can heat up a pan, throw some vegetables in, and add water and salt to make a soup; and (c) there are lots of little tweaks that, if you know about them, can make help make food tastier.
Of course, there is a (d), and this applies to a majority of us I suspect, and that is that cooking can be time consuming. I have a long answer to that, which I’ll revisit at a later time, but the short answer is that with one pot of soup, which really only takes about 15 minutes of your time, you could create variations for every day of week and more. You could put it in the fridge and eat a different version everyday, or throw some of your creations in the freezer for a busy week.
The idea for this particular topic stems from an actual pot of soup, by the way, that just didn’t taste that good as it was. Instead of messing with it at the time, I put it in the fridge and added whatever I had leftover in the next few days. One day I added French lentils, brown rice, cooked potatoes, and cabbage, one day garbanzo beans and strained tomatoes, then finally I added strained tomatoes and mixed it with some leftover red lentil soup, then added noodles and a bit of parmesan for the kids – this was their favorite version.
So, here we go…feel free to double, triple, quadruple, etc. Omit, add, or substitute as you please! I use mostly fresh, seasonal vegetables, but I’ll throw in some frozen green beans or peas too.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- something oniony (1 large onion, 1-2 leeks, a bunch of scallions, and/ or shallots)
- 3 stalks celery, chopped or sliced
- 4 large carrots, chopped or sliced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 head cabbage, chopped
- 1-2 cups frozen green beans
- 1 small-medium bunch kale (or other leafy greens), chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs, optional
- 6-8 cups water, more or less (this will vary depending on types of vegetables used and preference)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Optional additions; see below
Heat a soup pot to medium and swirl with olive oil. Add oniony vegetable and cook until soft and lightly browned. Add the carrots and celery, cover pot, and cook until they have softened a bit. Make a space in the center, pour in some more olive oil, and add garlic; cook 30 seconds or so. Add cabbage and leafy greens and saute a minute or two more until they turn very green. Add water and 2 teaspoons of salt, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Taste and, keeping in mind that soup gets better over time, consider the following:
- Did you add enough salt? There is a fine line between too little and too much salt, so do add mindfully, but do add enough. The right amount brings the flavors out and melds them together perfectly, so that you are tasting the delicious ingredients of your soup. You shouldn’t actually taste the taste of salt. This is personal, of course, because we have different tolerances. If anything, err on the side of being light on salt; you can always add more individually.
- Add herbs. If you aren’t very familiar with dried herbs, choose some spice blends from the grocery store or, better yet, from a spice shop like Savory Spice. Just a few teaspoons will go a long way. If using fresh, you can add them more liberally, but add them at the end.
- Add pesto – just throw some basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and salt into a food processor or mortar and pestle and stir it into the soup. You could add some walnuts, almonds, or pine nuts too, as well as some parmesan cheese. Experiment with other types of herbs, as well.
- Add something pungent, like minced ginger, additional garlic or roasted garlic, browned onions.
- Add tomato. I am avoiding canned tomatoes because of the BPA issue, despite the fact that I love canned roasted tomatoes, but you can buy strained tomatoes in a glass jar. Be careful, your soup can become too tomatoey; just add it slowly until the broth turns a little orange when mixed though. If it is red after you have stirred it though, you’ve probably added too much, so dilute with a little water.
- Add a splash of fresh lemon juice or a good vinegar to enhance the flavors in your soup.
- Saute shiitake or other mushrooms in olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then add to the soup.
- Saute additional vegetables and add them to the soup at the end, so they stay vibrant.
- Add cooked chickpeas, French lentils, or other delicious beans
- Add cooked root vegetables for body and flavor.
- Add cooked grains, like brown rice or quinoa.
- Add cooked pasta.
- Add flavored salts, such as Herbamare or Trocamare, or smoked salt if your soup could use a smokey flavor (great with green split peas, blackeyed peas, tomatoes
- Add any leftovers that seem compatible with the flavors in your soup.