Hearty (and healthy) Veggie Soup
Here in DC there are tons of farmer’s markets – some smaller with just a sampling of local produce and some that are practically grocery stores. The one I like to go to is in Dupont Circle, if you are familiar with DC, and you can find almost anything you need there. I try to shop at farmer’s markets as much as possible to support the area and also because the food is noticeably better. Plus, hot chicks shop at farmer’s markets.
In the last few weeks, there has been a shift in what looks the freshest in the farmer’s market stalls. You can see that it is fall because the squash, potatoes, and squashes are looking big and awesome. So I decided it would be a perfect day to make a large pot of veggie soup. This is a great thing to do on the weekend and is incredibly easy. In fact, I would say it is almost fail proof. An added benefit is that this meal has a very cheap $/meal cost.
First thing first: you need vegetables. Lots of them. And fresh ones. If you don’t have a farmer’s market or garden of course you can get these at the grocery, but spend some time picking up the freshest you can get. If the produce section of the supermarket scares the bejesus out of you, try referring to this guide for some tips on picking fresh produce.
This is what I ended up with:
This is like a photo hunt for vegetables. Can you find:
– Butternut squash
– Potatoes (2 kinds)
– Red Onion
Ok. Here’s the actual recipe:
1) Chop all your veggies into uniform pieces. Peel the squash, potatoes, and carrots and dice into 1/2-inch cubes for the squash and potatoes.
2) Add olive oil to a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and leeks and cook for a few minutes until they soften.
3) Add the longer cooking ingredients next like the squash and potatoes. Stir together and continue to cook for a few minutes.
4) Add garlic, corn, and thyme along with enough stock and water (I used half and half mixture) to cover the ingredients. You’ll probably need about 2 quarts of liquid total.
5) Bring to a simmer, and simmer the soup, partially covered, for about 20 minutes until the squash and potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
6) Optionally, at this point, add 1/2 cup of lentils and continue to cook for 15 minutes until they are soft. Finally stir in corn and tomatoes and simmer until warm.
7) Serve with lots of crusty bread or crackers!
There is also some olive oil and homemade chicken stock in this photo which I will be using and some flour which I will not be using. I just forgot to move it. It wanted to join the party but didn’t get in the door. There is also some lentils which you cannot see because again, I’m a bad photographer.
Now for the hardest part of this veggie soup deal: chopping. Lots of chopping. I like to put “Chopping Broccoli” on repeat and just get into it. After like thirty minutes you end up with:
I tried to split up the veggies in basic order of cooking. When cooking veggies for soup it is pretty basic as far as order goes. First, you want to put cook the mirepoix ingredients. I didn’t use a “traditional” mirepoix because I’m not French and I don’t really care. I used roughly equivalent portions (probably about 1-1 1/2 cups each) of carrots, celery, onions, and leeks. I also threw in some garlic for good measure.
As far as hardware goes, traditionally you want a soup pot which is taller than it is wide, but I didn’t have one of those so I just used old faithful. I let about 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil heat up and then sauteed those stage 1 veggies for just a few minutes until they start to sweat.
Second, you will want to throw in the things that take the longest to cook. This would include things like butternut squash, potatoes, pumpkin, or anything hard. Basically, if you bite into the ingredient and it hurts, you want to through it in now. We haven’t put any liquid in this pot yet. Just let the stage 2 ingredients mix up with the stage 1 ingredients. Just for a few minutes.
Now we are going to add our liquid. I used a half chicken stock and half water mixture. You could obviously use all of either or vegetable stock if you wanted to make a vegetarian soup as opposed to veggie soup. You need enough liquid to completely cover the ingredients. I probably ended up using about 8 – 10 cups. Give your pot a quick stir and bring this stuff up to a boil. This should cook for about 20 minutes once at a boil. Scoop out a potato and give it a test bite. Should be almost cooked through. I seasoned my soup at this stage with some salt and pepper. Just the basics.
At this point I added about 1/2 cup of lentils. As with any ingredients I used here, you could leave them out. These just need to cook for about 15 minutes.
Finally, you want to put in your soft veggies so they are still slightly crisp in the final product. For me this was just corn and tomatoes. They need to cook for just a few minutes. DONE. I tasted one final time and decides to add some dry basil and just a bit more salt. This was the final product.
While this was sort of a long post, let me assure you this soup is almost impossible to break. As long as you have a basic sense of when to add ingredients you can throw in almost anything. I should also mention that while it might be a bit expensive for all of these ingredients, you will be able to feed an army. My girlfriend and I ate this for 4 dinners and 4 lunches. And I think I ate 1 gallon at each of those meals.
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