With all my new veggies, I needed to make dinner. My boyfriend was feeling under the weather and attempting a gluten cleanse, so vegetable soup seemed to be an obvious choice.
When my sister and I were in middle and high school in Texas our dad worked in Chicago. So every Sunday we’d say goodbye to him and my mom would work to get us ready for a new week. Living on 20 acres, 10 miles from town, her job entailed a lot of 6 a.m. shuttles to cross country practice, maintaining a coop of a dozen chickens and parenting two teenagers. Seeking comfort (and probably distraction) she’d find solace in making vegetable soup (plus, it meant not wasting produce). Being typical teenagers, my sister and I would ungratefully groan at the thought of yet another vegetable soup. And yet it’s funny that now I, too, find comfort in the process and finished product.
Every batch of vegetable soup is different because you can use any combination of vegetables. The guidelines for the batches I make are adapted from my mother’s and are rooted in the steps I’ve outlined here.
Gently sautéing one chopped onion in butter and oil over medium to low heat in a stock pot gives the soup a slightly sweet start.
Once the onions were translucent (about 15 minutes) I added some roughly chopped herbs to the pot.
Starting with the vegetable that would need the longest time to cook, I added chopped carrots.
Next up: Fennel.
America’s tomato crops have earned a troubled reputation in recent years. And, in my opinion, Florida’s tomatoes are no exception. So you can imagine my glee when I met the man who grew these beauties. His farm is about a mile from Fort Lauderdale Vegetables’ garden, so they’ve partnered to provide more variety to the CSA program.
Chopping up the tomatoes, I added the chunks, juices and seeds to the pot of vegetables. Along the way, I lightly salted after each addition of vegetables to bring out the individual flavors.
A few weeks ago I made chicken broth from a whole chicken, the way Alice Waters prefers (I’ll post about this someday). So while I cleaned, chopped and cooked my veggies I’d been thawing a batch of homemade chicken stock.
Tossing in an old rind of Parmesan cheese adds a salty and slightly richer dimension to the broth. When I finish a chunk of Parmesan, I like to save the rinds in a bag in the refrigerator for dishes like these.
Once the soup came to a boil, I lowered the heat to a simmer until the vegetables were cooked and the flavors melded (about thirty minutes). Taste your soup along the way, adjusting flavor as you see fit. My broth was quite hearty so it was already in good shape. Toward the end (roughly five minutes before the soup was served), I added in two generous handfuls of spinach and a few bok choy leaves. I like to add these vegetable types at the end so that they’re slightly wilted when the soup is served. If added too early they can be overcooked. The cheese rind is added to flavor the soup, so don’t forget to toss it before you serve.
Ladling the soup into big bowls, I garnished with fresh parsley, black pepper and grated parmesan.