Hearty Vegetable Soup

final hearty vegetable soup

I have a cold and I stayed home from work on Thursday. So what do people do when they have colds and stay home from work? Well, I’m guessing your answer was not, “Make a soup recipe that takes roughly two hours of work,” but for some weird reason that is what I did (despite my lack of tasting ability right now, I thought this was a good idea).

Needless to say it wore me out (good thing I didn’t go to work today if 2 hours of light activity destroyed my energy supple, although that choice was just as much for me as to avoid getting my brand new co-worker sick). I took a three-ish hour nap after I finished eating a bowl of this soup, which is probably delicious. I hope. At the very least it’s full of nutrients that I need because I’m sick, right?

The recipe comes from my favorite cookbook of all time, the one and only The New Best Recipe from our favorite people at Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. Of course I made some edits, so just grab a copy of the cookbook for the original.

StockThe recipe calls for celeriac in the final soup (but regular celery in the modified “stock” that is the first step of the recipe). I could not find celeriac anywhere. This may be an in/out of season thing, it could have been hiding in the produce area, or perhaps I went to the wrong grocery store. I used celery instead.

This is a rather involved soup recipe. It’s not as simple as saute, pour pre-made broth, add additional ingredients, simmer, then add final ingredients (you know, easy soup?). It’s a three or four part recipe (one part being crostini, which you could skip). It starts with roasting some vegetables. Then we combine store-bought chicken or vegetable broth (or homemade if you have it or feel ambitious) with those vegetables and a handful of other ingredients. Those vegetables are strained out, then a bunch of others are added and cooked with the newly modified stock to  get the final product.

While preparing this, I suggest doing the prep work for the stock first. Get the stock started, then do the prep for the soup. There’s plenty of time to chop the second round of veggies while the first is roasting in the oven.

Soup

The original recipe calls for mushrooms. Now, I can’t say if my version without them was lacking anything as it is very difficult for me to taste much of anything right now. Do what you want, but my recipe below leaves them out.

A note about the leeks: the green parts go into the stock. The white parts go into the final product. Keep them separate.

Hearty Vegetable Soup

“Stock”

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery rip, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium garlic head, papery skin removed and top sliced off (you’ll want the bulb to hold together)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
9 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 medium leek, cleaned (see cleaning and prepping whole leeks), green parts chopped and white parts sliced crosswise and reserved
10 sprigs fresh parsley (I used Italian flat leaf)
4 sprigs fresh thyme (dried will do, but use less)
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 450 F and place rack in the middle.

Toss carrot, celery, garlic and onion in roasting pan with the olive oil, then add the tomato paste and toss again. Spread in an even layer. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remember, flavor is what we’re going here – these veggies are strained out of the stock and discarded. They don’t need to be pretty.

Combine the roasted veggies, broth, leek greens, parsley, thyme and bay leaves in a dutch oven or stock pot. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes, partially covered.

Remove the garlic head from the stock and squeeze cloves from their skins into a small bowl or mortar. Smash into a garlic paste.

Strain the stock into a container. Squeeze the vegetables to get as much liquid out as possible. Discard solids.

Crostini (you can always serve the soup with bread or croutons, if you prefer, but the crostini sucks up the broth deliciously)

8-12 1/2″ baguette slices
Olive Oil
Sea salt

I depart significantly from the NBR recipe on the crostini. Preheat the oven to 375 F

Toss the slices of bread with olive oil (bread should not be soaked, but lightly coated). Add a few pinches of salt (more or less based on preference). Spread in a layer on a baking sheet. Bake about 5 minutes on each side, 10 minutes total. Bread should be very lightly browned on the edges, crusty on the outside and slightly soft in the middle. Set aside.

Soup

12 ounces russet potatoes, cut in 1/2″ cubes
1 can petite cut diced tomatoes
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 stalks of celery, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
12 ounces of escarole (small head), chopped into 1″ pieces
2/3 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and ground black pepper

Rinse your Dutch oven or stock pot and wipe dry. Combine the garlic paste, stock, potatoes, diced tomatoes, carrots, celery and the whites of the leeks in the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a skewer. Mash some of the potatoes on the side of the pot to thicken your soup. Add the escarole and lima beans. Cook another 5-10 minutes until escarole is wilted and lima beans are heated through. Stir in the parsley and season to taste.

Serve in bowls with the crostini on top.

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