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Any-Veggie Soup

By Catherine Newman 

Makes: 12 (1-cup) servings or 8 (11/2-cup) servings)
Total carbohydrates: around 15 grams per 1 cup serving; around 22 grams per 1 1/2 cup serving
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Vegetable soup is a lovely thing to have for lunch, which is why this recipe is here. But the truth is that I usually make a big pot for dinner, and then we bring leftovers to work and school in our thermoses the next day (and the day after that). This is a very forgiving recipe that takes well to lots of vegetal odds and ends. (You might even call it, just to yourself, Crisper-Drawer-Clean-Out Soup.) You can use 4 cups of a single vegetable or 2 cups each of 2 kinds, or 1/3 cup each of a dozen different veggies. But I do have a few caveats here: I don’t include winter squash in the list because I feel like it, kind of, takes over if you add it. But if your family loves winter squash, then that would be a good thing, so feel free! Likewise, while I like to put green cabbage and kale in the soup, I find other veg in the cabbage family – including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower – to be a bit strong-tasting in here but don’t let me rain on your parade if those are your faves.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped, or 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and washed well, white and pale green parts sliced thin
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed or peeled and diced 

2 celery stalks, diced (if there are celery leaves inside your bunch, yank out a handful, chop them fine, and add those too)
4 cups diced or shredded vegetables – any combination of cabbage, chard, kale, spinach, summer squash, fennel, beets and beet greens, and green beans (up the amount a bit if you’re using lots of leafy greens)
1/3 cup lentils (any kind)
1 (14-ounce) can diced, crushed, or pureed tomatoes (with their juice)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (for the latter, I like Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
4 cups water
1 (15-ounce) can beans (garbanzo, pinto, black, red, or white), drained
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or sherry vinegar or lemon juice)
Olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan for garnishing

Instructions

  1. In a very large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat and sauté the onion or leek with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, stirring occasionally, while you start preparing the other vegetables.

  2. When the onion or leek is wilted and translucent, around 5-10 minutes, begin adding the other vegetables as they’re prepped, starting with the garlic, then adding them in vaguely the order listed, or else in some other order of your choosing, until they've all had a chance to be sautéed in the pot.

  3. Now add the lentils, tomatoes, and broth, along with 2 cups of the water. Raise the heat to high and bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat to low, cover the pot with the lid just barely ajar, and cook the soup, stirring occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking, for 1 hour.

  4. Taste the soup, and, if it’s woefully undersalted at this point, add some more salt. Add the remaining 2 cups of water, bring it to a vigorous boil, and stir in the beans and the vinegar. Cook another 20 minutes or so. Taste the soup for salt, and keep adding it, a little at a time, until it tastes perfect.

  5. Serve, topping each bowlful with an additional drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Or you could. . .

You’ll notice that there is no seasoning in this soup besides the soup ingredients themselves, and I love it like that. However, I sometimes do one of the following:

  • Add 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika at the end of the sautéing stage

  • Add ½ teaspoon cinnamon plus 1 teaspoon each of cumin, turmeric, and finely minced ginger at the end of the sautéing stage and use chickpeas for the beans (this approximates a Middle Eastern soup called harira)

  • Add a bay leaf for the simmering

  • Add a ½ cup of dry red wine and a pinch of thyme at the end of sautéing

  • Add a dollop of pesto to each bowl before serving

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Last year they started the WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and are currently developing Seasoned, their senior version, commissioned by the AARP. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health and happiness at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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