Vegetable based soups need a different technique to derive their flavor from the vegetables themselves rather than relying on spices or meat. The technique for a tasty VEGETABLE SOUP is remembering that sautéing brings out the full flavors of the vegetables. Dividing the vegetables into the THREE basic categories of:
- SLOW COOKING VEGGIES
- QUICK COOKING VEGGIES
- VEGGIE LEAVES and SPICES
Assures a full flavored soup where the veggies retain their firmness. I like to start my soups with a sauté of chopped onion and bell peppers. Once they are soft I add my choice of SLOW COOKING veggies: carrots, yucca, parsnips, potatoes, yams, or winter squashes. Your choice is limited only by your imagination and the content of your fridge or garden. Sauté each addition for a few minutes to bring the sugars to the surface. When using broccoli the stems should be treated like a SLOW-COOKER and leave the broccoli flower (yes folks that is what sits atop the stem, a bouquet of tiny green flower buds) to add with the soft veggies. Once the veggies start to soften I add filtered water to fill the pot, after the water comes to a boil I set it to simmer. In a separate pot with a small amount of olive oil I sauté each QUICK-COOKING VEGGIE before adding to the pot: eggplant, cut corn (cobs are added with the root veggies), summer squashes, green beans, cauliflower (Yup, it too is a whole head of compact white flowers). Once they are soft and golden around the edges I add them to the soup pot. VEGGIE LEAVES, HERBS and GARLIC should be added 1/2 an hour before the soup is done. Better yet, tear those leaves into bite sized pieces, put them in the bottom of the soup bowls, serving the soup on top so the leaves stay firm and succulent. Garnish with grated garlic, cilantro or parsley leaves or a nice ‘parmesano’ if you do dairy. Squashes are an amazing vegetable where a huge variety affords a whole range of soup possibilities. And their color adds a beautiful pizzaz: blue, purple, red, yellow, green, stripped, tan, orange and even white. Their flesh comes in stringy spaghetti like texture or firm flesh in long stick shapes, round orbs or turban caps. Both winter and summer squashes grow on vines during the hot summer in rich-fertile soil. Even their storage rates vary largely; winter squash does not grow in the winter, it is called such because it stores so well that it will feed you through the winter.
Soups are fun because all you have to decide is what basic flavor you are going for, what country you wish your palate to visit. Combine a variety of ‘sweet’ veggies with curry and turmeric to make a tasty middle eastern soup, or blend the summer veggie squashes with garbanzo beans (chick peas), basil, oregano, parsley and tomatoes for a nice Italian Minestrone. Replicate the soups of your youth or venture forth with your own creations. Soups are the easiest thing to throw together limited only by the choice of veggies in your fridge or garden.
Though mostly a bean cookbook this is one of THE BEST COOKBOOKS I have ever used. I like that it is divided by countries and ethnicity’s, with lots of varieties and wondrous spices. Every recipe I tried from this cookbook never failed to please. Try the Bean Pie and DON”T tell anyone what it is before they eat it. ENJOY!)