It was 30 degrees on the Wednesday before an undoubtedly food-filled weekend. Here’s how my conversation with R went on on my way home that night:
R: What should we have for dinner?
Me: I think I want soup… [sudden inspiration] A yummy soup with lots of vegetables!
Me: And noodles! And beans!
R: Whoa… I’ll call you from the grocery store.
Questions from the grocery store included: What kind of veggies do you want? Where can I find kale? and How many types of beans did you say you wanted? hehe. He’s so good to me.
He’s also – apparently – fantastic at making soup from scratch. Without so much as a recipe, he concocted one of the greatest soups I’ve ever eaten. I could literally subsist on this soup alone. And in fact I did for most of the weekend. It had everything I could ever want in a soup. It was hearty, tasty, filling and satisfying, and healthy to boot! Here’s what it ended up including:
Onions, leeks, celery, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, pasta, corn, cannellini beans and shredded chicken.
(Personally, I would have added mushrooms, brussel sprouts and kale, but they were vetoed by the soup-maker.)
R used a couple crucial soup-making techniques that I want to share with you so you can replicate the process:
1. Start with the basic flavors. He created a base of onions, leeks and seasoning at the very beginning and it really paid off in the end.
2. Think about the cook times of your ingredients. He knew that broccoli takes a while, so that went in towards the beginning whereas the canned corn (you could use frozen too) went in at the end since it only had to be heated. This avoids mushy vegetables and helps them keep their shape.
3. Cook absorbent ingredients separately. Sure, you could cook the potatoes and noodles in with everything else, but they’ll absorb the stock. Cook these ingredients in separate pot (sorry, more dishes) until they are almost ready and then add them into the soup. That way they still absorb the flavors, but not all the stock.
The best part about soups like this is that they are so versatile. Once you’ve got the method down, you can add any ingredients you want and it just continues to grow. The more leftovers the better! Fill up some quart containers and stick ‘em in the freezer for an even colder day and you’ll have an instant dinner. As you can see, we had plenty to eat and plenty to save.
So drag out your stock pot and make some soup! What will you put in yours???
R’s Vegetable Soup with Chicken
This soup could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken and using vegetable stock. Be creative and use your favorite vegetables!
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 leek, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
4 celery stalks, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
2 qt. chicken stock
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 head fresh broccoli, cut into florets
3 large potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 C. ditalini pasta
1 can whole corn kernels, drained
1 can cannellini beans
1 C. cooked chicken, shredded
Shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish
Heat olive oil in stock pot. Saute leek, onion, salt, pepper and cumin over medium heat for 20 minutes or until translucent. Add celery and carrot and saute 10 minutes. Pour in chicken stock and add tomato paste and broccoli.
In a separate pot, cook potatoes. In another pot, cook pasta a few minutes short of the cooking instructions on the box – it will finish cooking in the soup.
When potatoes and pasta are ready, add into soup. Also add corn, chicken and beans. Cook altogether 10-15 minutes until heated through completely.
Serve with grated or shaved Parmesan over the top.