Yippee! The weekend is here. I know…you’ve been running errands all day and the last thing you feel like doing it heading into the kitchen. You could reach into the pantry for one of those vegan canned soups…but honestly, (at least in my humble opinion) I’ve never eaten one of those things and subsequently raved that I just devoured the most wonderful, delectable soup.
I have another solution for you…homemade soup, made easy!
One of my top homemade soups brings back memories of my Italian Grandma Mary. As a child, my Grandma, my mother, and a couple of my female cousins would pack up the car and head down the shore (yes, I am from New Jersey) to Wildwood Crest, where we would stay in an efficiency hotel right on the beach. Two other bonuses besides being right on the beach were that the hotel had a pool on the beach, and the room had a kitchen. When asked by Grandma what I wanted for lunch, I could be counted upon to respond with “Broccoli Soup”. It is one of the most flavorful soups you will ever eat, and literally takes about 20 minutes from starting the process to the ladling into your soup bowls. Doesn’t get any easier that this!
So, how is it made? Chop a bunch of fresh broccoli into bite-size pieces, reserving the lovely flowery tops to the side. Put the broccoli pieces in a pot that will take at least three times the amount of broccoli. Top the broccoli with water reaching 4” above the top of the broccoli. Bring to a boil, add sea salt to taste, and then lower to a simmer, cooking the broccoli until it is tender and the water has taken on a slight hint of green and the aroma is beginning to perfume the kitchen. Throw in the broccoli tops along with a small-sized pasta, such as elbows or ditalini, and cook until the pasta is al dente (toothsome, cooked but still firm). While this is happening, gently sauté several cloves of garlic with some crushed red pepper in a sauce pan, cooking until the garlic is soft but not burnt. (I’m Italian, so I use at least 6-7 cloves, but you might want to back that down a little bit. Remember, two or more people eating garlic cancel each other out.) Just when the pasta is almost done, pour the garlic mixture into the soup and finish cooking the pasta (don’t overcook the pasta because it will continue to cook during serving and eating). Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a scant amount of a really good organic cold-pressed olive oil. Eat up!
Now, the broccoli soup is a classic peasant Italian dish, and extraordinary just as it is, in all its simplicity. But, don’t feel obligated to these parameters…mix it up, add some peas or other vegetables, add rice of quinoa instead of pasta. Be creative.
Here’s one of my tricks for making any great soup. While, yes, I do compost, I also discerningly place the best vegetable peels and scraps (like carrot peels, celery ends, fennel fronds, onion skins, etc.) into a freezer bag. When I have enough, I throw them into a pot of water, add some herbs, sea salt, crushed black pepper; and cook it down to half, straining when done. You will have the most flavorful broth ever! And, a wonderful soup base. If I make a big pot, I’ll freeze some in mason jars (remember to always leave enough room for the liquid to expand in the jar as it freezes without breaking the jar in the freezer…now that just wouldn’t be good). And don’t forget to freeze some in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I pop them out and store in the freezer in a freezer bag, ever at the ready when I need just a small amount of broth.
Soups have that way of filling the entire kitchen (and sometimes home) with wonderful aromas that pull any hungry person towards the simmering pot of yumminess on the stove.
Souper Saturday meals freeze well and make great leftover for Freezer Friday.
They are amazingly versatile and can be easily refashioned. If it’s a creamy soup, you have a wonderful base for another meal, such as a baked casserole.
In the warm summer months, your vichyssoise (creamy cold potato soup), can become a warm and inviting soup when it meets the low heat of a stovetop burner. A quick and easy version is conjured up when you bake extra baked potatoes one night during the week. The leftover potatoes are easily transformed into a baked potato soup with a few added ‘extras’. Toss the soup with vegetables, herbs, and pasta, bake it; and you have a bubbling delectable casserole for another night’s dinner.
Gazpacho soup (especially made delicious using the bounty from your summer garden) one day makes an excellent base for a minestrone another day.
In the fall and winter months, what is better than roasted beets? Make a bunch of them. Puree the leftovers with some almond or cashew cream, a sprig of dill, some chickenless or vegetable broth (remember that broth you cooked up and put in the freezer?), some scallions, a splash of champagne vinegar and/or lemon, top with some vegan yogurt; and you’ve got yourself a wonderful bowl of Borscht, Russian beet soup.
Split pea soup (or any bean soup, for that matter) is a great stand alone, but need a quick an easy Hor D’oeuvres? Mix it with some vegan cream cheese in a food processor if the soup is not already mostly creamy, and you’ve got yourself a great appetizer served with some crackers and crudité.
Crusty bread or focaccia alongside any bowl of soup, and you have a satisfying and delicious meal.
In the words of Julia Child, Bon Appétit!