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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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