Thursday, April 26, 2012

It-Never-Tastes-the-Same-Twice Vegetable Soup

When the weather turned cool earlier in the week, I decided to cook up one last pot of soup before the hot weather  kicks in and all I can think about is salad and watermelon.  The chopping and peeling of veggies is soothing to me so I decided to make a pot of Vegetable Bean Soup or Minestrone.

Start with lots of veggies

 My Vegetable Soup has so many variations that my children called it the "It-  Never -Tastes -The -Same -Twice -Soup ."  I don't use stock or store -bought broth, so I need a few tricks to  make a rich flavorful soup that can be made in one hour.  I usually make a large pot and freeze half or, more recently, give half to my mother since she  doesn't cook anymore.

Here's how I do it.

Ready to roast the garlic

 Heat the oven to 400. Prepare about 5 cloves of garlic for roasting.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil.

Roast the veggies to bring out more flavor

Chop  about 4 carrots, 1-2 red peppers, and 1 or 2 onions , drizzle with olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet on 400 for about 15 -20 minutes. Roast the garlic at the same time.

Quickly saute the rest of the veggies

While those  veggies are roasting, quickly saute 1 zucchini, 1 potato, 1 onion,  2 or 3 stalks of celery, several cloves of garlic,  and a handful of string beans for about 3 minutes.  DO NOT OVERCOOK.

Adding the tomatoes

Turn the heat off and add  1 large can of (Red Pack) chopped tomatoes (28oz.) Add a can of water.(28oz.)
Add the roasted veggies which should just be finishing.  Add lots of oregano or basil ( not both) .
Take 1 or 2 cups of the partially cooked soup, 1 can of small white beans or cannellini beans drained, 1/4 cup of parsley,  the roasted garlic  and about 1 cup of water and blend into a puree in a blender.  Add to the soup pot along with 1 can of chickpeas(drained but not pureed) and some chopped cabbage and a dash or two of cayenne pepper flakes, bring to a boil,  lower the heat and cook for 5 or 6 minutes.
  Taste and season with salt, more black pepper and oregano or basil if needed.


Serve with grated romano cheese, parsley, a loaf of Italian bread and wine.

Secrets to getting lots of flavor without a soup stock or meat:
1)  Roasting some of the veggies especially carrots, onions, peppers and garlic adds flavor.
2)  Adding the pureed beans adds depth to the soup as does pureeing some of the veggies.
3)  Garlic, garlic, garlic!
4)  Make the soup early in the day so the flavors meld together.
5)  Don't overcook the vegetables.  Since you will be reheating it later, they will be cooked when the soup is served.

How to vary the flavor:

Vary the veggies:  I've used  eggplant, yellow summer  squash, peas, corn and spinach .   This soup can also  be called "Whatever -you -have in- the- vegetable -bin -soup!
Vary the herbs: oregano or basil or thyme and rosemary, or sometime I really shake it up and use Indian flavors like cumin, turmeric and cinnamon (leaving out the Italian cheese etc) I love using a tablespoon or two of pesto if I have it on hand to season this soup.
Use pasta instead of the potato.  Add cooked pasta just before serving.
Vary the type of beans used - Try kidney, chickpeas, black or cannellini or small white beans.
Use red or white wine in place of some of the water.

Today's Take-away -  Delicious, nutritious and made in one hour!  (and 5 minutes to load the dishwasher)

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