This time of year we tend to crave hearty, warming dishes. For many, that means meaty stews, roasts and casseroles.
But health (and waistlines) dictate that lighter fare be intermingled with these heavier meals and, to that consideration, I offer this vegetable soup framework. I say framework because it really is more about what you have and want to use up than assembling a set list of ingredients.
There is no hard fast recipe that must be followed — you can pick and mix based on what you have on hand — a potato or two, some parsnips, last night’s green beans, a can of garbanzos, a scoop of tomato paste or some leftover rice or quinoa are all fair game.
Simmer it in vegetable stock, (or chicken/beef stock if you don’t need a vegetarian dish) but you can certainly get away with water, especially if you use plenty of flavorful ingredients like onions and garlic.
This soup has the benefit of being warm and comforting while remaining vegetarian and quite healthy. It freezes well if you have surplus. Serve it with crusty bread.
Clean Out the Larder Soup
Note: If you do not have any cooked rice or grain on hand, you can either omit it or cook it separately. If cooked in the soup, the grains will absorb too much of the broth and the soup will become mush.
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
5 cups chopped vegetables — potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery, greens, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, etc.
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Generous amount of fresh ground pepper
Optional seasonings to taste: Sprinkle in some herbs and spices such as: paprika and cumin or thyme and rosemary or curry powder (but not all of these — the flavors would clash!)
7 cups cooking liquid — can be broth, water or a 50-50 mixture of crushed or pureed tomatoes and water
1 cup cooked grain or noodles (such as quinoa, rice, barley, groats, pasta)
1 15-ounce can beans (garbanzo, pinto, white, kidney, etc.) drained
In a large pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic with salt, pepper and any other seasonings you wish. Stir to coat and cook over medium until they are fragrant and starting to soften.
Add the remaining vegetables, stir again to coat, and add the cooking liquid. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until all vegetables are cooked. Add the cooked rice/grain/noodle of your choice and the beans. Cook another 10 minutes, taste for seasoning and serve.