Saturday, May 24, 2008

Quick Vegetable Soup

I have always leaned toward making heavier soups or stews and felt that they should be made a day ahead to really catch the flavors. However, there are times when you get home and suddenly crave a soup that is warm and flavorful but not out of a can.

One night while at a friend's house for dinner she completely changed my outlook - she made a wonderful pureed vegetable soup in about 30 minutes. Suddenly our whole outlook for winter changed - we could have soup much more often and I no longer had to make huge pots of one type of soup to freeze it for future use.

The beauty of this recipe is that it contained vegetables that I typically keep in my fridge; onion, garlic, carrot, zucchini, broccoli and potatoes. However, you can vary it if you lack an ingredient or want to tweak the flavor. Additionally, you increase or decrease the ingredients depending how much you want to make. It does freeze and reheat well but it is so easy to make on the fly that small batches are good too.

To start, rough cut all your vegetables - they don't have to be pretty because you will be pureeing them all. (I wash the carrots, zucchini, broccoli and potatoes with vegetable wash but do not peel anything.) Use the following amounts for a vegetables will produce roughly 10 cups of soup;

  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 3 medium-sized carrots with skin
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 small head and stem of broccoli (or half a bag prewashed)
  • 5-6 medium-to-large baby potatoes with skin

In a larger, deep-sided pot heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute all the vegetables for about 5 minutes - stirring intermittently. Then add 1 quart of broth - I tend to use vegetable but chicken is also good. You want the liquid to just cover the vegetables so you might have to add another cup or so of water. Cook over medium to low heat until the carrots and potatoes are soft - about 20 minutes.

Turn off the burner and remove the pot from the stove (or to a cool burner). The fastest and least messy way to puree the soup it to use an immersion hand blender. However, if you only have a traditional blender you will have to puree in batches. I suggest using a slotted spoon to scoop out vegetables and using only a bit of your broth - this will minimize the danger of the lid of your blender "popping" off with the pressure from the heat. You might even consider letting the soup cool a bit before pureeing in a traditional blender.

When you have pureed the soup, salt and pepper to taste and add one teaspoon of dried thyme (optional but adds nice flavor). If you want the consistency to be a bit thinner simply add more broth or water. You can serve with wheat crackers and some nice mild cheese as a side. Frankly sometimes just having a bowl or two of soup with crackers and cheese is enough for us for dinner but usually I serve with oven-baked chicken thighs or a fillet of sole. If you are having a dinner party, you can simply use this as an opening course.

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