Carrie Minn's Soup Night Recipe

Rainy Day Vegetable Soup - Summer Version

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbls olive oil or a couple laps around the pot with the olive oil jug
  • 2 med yellow onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup green beans, chopped into 1" pieces
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 tsp Herbes de Provence OR 6 sprigs fresh thyme & 2 bay leaves
  • 2 qts chicken broth OR 2 qts vegetable broth for a vegetarian version
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans OR any other any other can of white beans you have lying around
  • 2 medium, red- or white-skinned potatoes, cubed
  • A handful of small pasta - alphabet, orzo, broken spaghetti pieces, etc.
  • 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp ground pepper or to taste
  • Piece of parmesan cheese rind, optional

Pistou, optional:

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup grated, parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 cup tomato paste, optional

Directions:

  • Before you begin, dear friend, please gather up for yourself a glass of your favorite sipping beverage, whether it be the aforementioned pinot noir or a simple cup of mint tea. (Sometimes my choice is tied directly to the noise level in our home.) Put on your favorite, calming, mood music and then, find yourself lost in the repetitive motion of your VERY SHARP knife slicing through the bounty.
  • Put your pot over low to medium heat to warm-up.
  • Prep your onions to be diced.
  • Swirl the olive oil in your pot and then, dice your onions. I find that doing these tasks in this order results in the perfect timing for heating and dicing.
  • Put your diced onion into your pot over medium-low heat. You want your onion to soften and become translucent with just a hint of caramel color but you don't want it to brown or burn. I find that this step, done correctly, is the secret to all delicious soups calling for onion.
  • Stir occasionally. Check your heat to make sure your onions are not browning too quickly.
  • While your onion is sautéing, dice up your garlic, carrots and celery.
  • Once they are prepped, pour them all into the pot, give them a stir and continue chopping your zucchini and green beans.
  • Put them into the pot.
  • Add the spices or fresh herbs, salt and pepper.Stir.
  • Chop up your potato.
  • At this point, your onions, celery and carrots should be softened and your green beans and zucchini, warmed.
  • Pour your chicken stock and tomatoes into the pot, drop in the optional piece of parmesan cheese rind and bring it all to a boil.
  • Once boiling, add your potatoes, bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer 20-25 minutes.
  • While your soup is simmering, you can decide to make the pistou or skip it. I always base my decision on how much time I have, how much energy I have remaining from my daily allotment and whether or not I have any fresh basil laying around. A nice grating of parmesan cheese over this soup does just as nicely as the pistou.

On this day, I decided to make the pistou which is just a fancy way of saying I made a type of paste that you dollop on top of your finished vegetable soup for added flavor dimension. Not having a mortal and pestle, I chopped up the basil and garlic. Then, I took the backside of a serving spoon and mashed up the two ingredients on my cutting board. I added the grated cheese to the pile and continued mashing. Then I just drizzled the olive oil on top. Stirred it all together until it was pasty and had everyone serve themselves the pistou straight from the cutting board. Why dirty another dish?

By this time, the "stomach-growling inducing" aroma filled the kitchen. I washed my blackberries. Sliced my peaches. Pulled some cheese out of the fridge to warm-up to room temperature. My buzzer went off. I added the cannellini beans and the handful of pasta and set the timer for another 10 minutes. By the time my buzzer went off again, I had laid out the bread, cheese, fruit and finagled one of the children innocently passing by the kitchen to pour a round of water for everyone. Before you knew it, we were sitting down to our meal and toasting Grandad.

Now, as with all things worth waiting for - wine, women, types of cheese, soups - this soup is delicious the first day but even better the next day and the next. As the soup ages, flavors co-mingle to give it a certain depth and complexity it lacks when it's so young. So, enjoy it for dinner tonight but appreciate the soup's deeper flavors the following days.

PS: Fish out that cheese rind after the initial cooking. I find that when left in the soup for subsequent days, the cheese flavor over-powers all of the other ingredients and therefore, tuns vegetable soup into a rather disturbing-looking cheese soup. And while you're fishing, you may want to grab the bay leaves and thyme stems. You wouldn't want to accidentally choke those down.

Yield: Enough for a family of 5, plus leftovers for lunch the next day.

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