Thursday, October 31, 2013

Vegetable Soup (2)

Happy Halloween! Today's recipe isn't spooky. In fact, it's quite the opposite; it's comforting and warm and delicious.

I shared a vegetable soup recipe a year and a half ago and it was delicious so I wanted to make something similar. But every time I decide to make soup, it's a little bit different. The ingredients vary depending on what I might be craving, what ingredients are in season, what ingredients are fresh and available at the super market, what ingredients are affordable, etc. All of these factors led to the soup I'm sharing in today's post and this recipe involves kale, because I wanted it, and eggplant, because it looked delicious, and parmesan cheese rind because it was sitting there in the cheese section of the market, asking to be used, among other ingredients.
I'm sharing all of the ingredients I used but you can definitely customize this recipe. One thing I forgot to add that I had wanted to include is cannelini beans but the end result was still satisfying so no harm, no foul. Turnips, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, sweet corn, butternut squash, basil, green beans, barley, asparagus tips, artichoke hearts, fennel (bulb), broccolini, cilantro, snap peas, sweet peas, baby corn, brussels sprouts - these are just a few suggestions of other ingredients you could add to the soup.

But right now, I'm going to share how I made vegetable soup on this particular day.

Ingredients:
8 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
½ cup diced carrots
½ cup diced onions
½ cup diced celery
2 leeks, chopped
5 to 6 cloves minced garlic
1 purple eggplant, chopped
3 portabello mushrooms, chopped
3 or 4 zucchini
2 yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cayenne pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped cabbage
2 cups chopped kale
3 or 4 oz piece of parmesan cheese rind
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
½ cup ditalini pasta (or any other short cut pasta)
olive oil, salt, and pepper
+ rosemary (optional)

Start by chopping up the eggplant, mushrooms, and zucchini. Toss the veggies in olive oil, place on sheet pans, and stick it in a 400 F oven for 20 minutes. You can add a bit of rosemary to the sheet pan as well to add another layer of flavor. The rosemary doesn't even have to be treated. Just sticking it on the sheet pan is enough and it will perfume your whole kitchen and make you feel happy.
Roasting the vegetables adds another layer of flavor. It allows the vegetables to get a bit of caramelization and gives them a different texture than they would have if they were simply thrown in the pot to boil.
Meanwhile, as those three vegetables are roasting in the oven, prepare the mirepoix, which is just a fancy way of saying diced carrots, onion, and celery. These are the essentials because they add a lot of flavor and heart to the soup.
Heat up a large soup pot with a bit of olive oil. Add in the mirepoix and let the ingredients sweat over a low heat until the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery are softened.
Prepare the leeks by washing them thoroughly. Often, there's dirt and sand trapped in the leaf layers so make sure you give them a really good bath under running cold water. Chop off the fibrous dark greens and save them to add to a future stock. Cut the white bits straight down the middle and then cut into thin slices.
And then mince up some garlic.

Add the leeks and garlic to the soup pot. Add in a little salt and pepper and cook until the leeks and garlic are soft. Be stingy with the salt; you can always add more later.
Then, pour in 8 cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. I like Swanson brand vegetable broth. I mean, I don't have a strong preference for one brand but Swanson seems to be affordable and yummy. "Swim? Swammi? Slippy? Slappy? Swenson? Swanson!" Name that movie! ...Anyway, you could use just water if you don't have vegetable stock but stock adds yet another layer of flavor. And if you didn't mind making this soup non-vegetarian, you can use chicken stock for even more flavor.
Bring the soup to a boil. Add in the parmesan rind after cutting it into smaller chunks. Let the soup cook for about 10 minutes until the rind dissolves into the stock. This is a trick I learned from Alton Brown. The flavor of the cheese just adds a bit more warmth and substance to the soup.
Chop up some potatoes and add to the pot. The starch from the potatoes thicken the stock a bit and the pieces of potato themselves add heartiness.
Chop up some tomatoes and add to the pot. The tomatoes add just a little bit of acidity and freshness. My tomatoes came straight out of my garden. Yeah, this oddly warm weather we had through the beginning of October was quite kind to the tomato plant.
Chop up a cayenne pepper and mince some parsley.
Add the roasted vegetables to the pot. Once the potatoes are soft, add in the cayenne peppers, parsley, cabbage, and kale. The cayenne peppers add just the tiniest hint of heat, which I love.
And add in the pasta. Let the soup cook for another 8 to 10 minutes to let the pasta cook through.
And now it's ready to eat!
Serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley. This soup is really good. It's really chunky - lots of vegetables and pasta - so it fills you up. The cheese rind adds a lovely nutty saltiness and it gives the soup a lot of body, though, you could certainly omit if you wanted to make this soup vegan. Anyway, this soup warms you up and it's so satisfying. This is a huge batch and you could definitely halve it or quarter it if you want but what I did was to put some cooled soup into a zip-top bag and stuck it in the freezer. It'll be the perfect meal to enjoy on a lazy winter afternoon.
Here's the recipe page:

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