In last week’s split pea soup post, I misquoted Cynthia and promised her I’d correct it. She was talking about vegetable soup and not split pea soup with the addition of dill and sour cream (although it does sound good for split pea soup too and I’m totally trying that my next batch). Clearly I got confused in the 50+ comments that post generated over on facebook. Today is one of those grey, rainy fall days that practically begs for a pot of vegetable soup simmering on the stove all day, so I thought we’d talk vegetable soup, shall we?
My vegetable soup, just plain veggies, is never the same twice. I usually refer to my vegetable soup as ‘clean out the fridge’ soup, sometimes ‘clean out the freezer’ soup. It starts the same way, by sauteing onions ( and/or carrots, peppers, celery, garlic) in the oil (or half cup of broth) of your choice, then adding liquid such as broth, tomatoes as well as a variety of vegetables. Potatoes are good. Sweet potatoes can be a fun addition too. Beans of any sort, corn, squash, greens (kale, swiss chard, arugula, cabbage), just about any vegetable you have on hand, even leftover ones, can be thrown in the pot. Some days it’s leftover rice, others it’s barley. Or I’ll add uncooked rice and/or barley early in the simmering process and let it cook. Pasta is always a nice addition, but I like to cook it on the side and add it to the serving bowl to avoid it soaking up all the moisture in the soup and becoming soggy.
Let’s talk broth for a minute, shall we? You can use just plain water when you make a soup, as long as you add plenty of good spices and/or combine it with tomatoes. Using broth will deepen the flavor. I know there are some that swear by homemade broth, but not everyone has time nor freezer space for it. I keep dried broth powder from the natural foods store in my spice cabinet as well as a paste product in the fridge that has a much richer flavor than any bullion that I will throw in for extra richness. I’ve also found that whipping up a quick vegetable or seafood broth is quite easy, it just takes a little bit extra time. As I prep my veggies, particularly my onions, garlic, carrots, etc, I will throw the peels and ends into a pot of salted water with a bay leaf. Simmer it for about a half hour or more, strain and there you have it, quick & easy vegetable broth.
Now for the seasoning. Some days I’ll throw in some pesto from the freezer, other days chili powder or even curry. Cynthia had a batch that she had added dill to and garnished it with sour cream. We’re big fans of grated cheese on top of our soup here as well. You can use soy sauce, tamari or even miso. I spent years trying to figure out how to melt miso paste into soup without bringing it to a boil and killing off the all good bacteria in miso, when it dawned on me one day to borrow the trick cooks use in incorporating corn starch into sauces – adding broth from the soup to the miso in a small bowl or cup, stirring until combined, and then stirring it into the pot. Success every time.
Bread, of any sort, seems to be the classic soup accompaniment, because let’s face it, nothing takes the chill off a day like today better than a nice pot of soup simmering on the stove while a loaf of bread bakes in the oven. Or a batch of biscuits. Or corn muffins. Or a baguette you picked up at the store that you warm up in the oven. But really, that’s an entirely different post.