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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nutrient-Rich Vegetable Soup (or How to Make Soup Without a Recipe)

My very dearest friend has been asking me about a soup I make. It's inspired by Dr. Fuhrman and his Eat to Live approach, which I've been studying lately. I picked up some soup tips from his radio show, but there is no formal recipe. Well, I've been making soups without recipes once a week for years, but my dear friend Mrs. Shmenkman isn't exactly Julia Childs (although I believe she's made leaps and bounds since the wooden spoon in the mixer incident of '87). She's had so many questions on "just how does one do this soup, anyway?" that I've decided to share it with all of you here, along with my tips on making soup without a recipe. This gives you endless freedom, as you have no ingredients to purchase. Think of the story Stone Soup, if you will.

This particular twist on homemade vegetable soup gives a wonderful vegetable base that makes a rich broth, and since it's blended, it releases many nutrients. And there's lots of room for creativity as well, which is a plus in my kitchen as I am prone to make stuff up as I go.

Let's jump in to the soup pot, shall we?

First thing for this sort of recipe is a selection of dried beans. (Yes, Dear Shmenk, start with dried from a bag.) I like to pick a mix of whatever dried beans I have floating around in my cupboard, as I am a dried bean freak. But you can buy a nice bag of mixed beans if you choose. I usually do about two cups of dried beans, but hey, this is your recipe-less soup, so whatever blows your hair back.

Boil these beans in a pot (not the one for your soup) until they're soft. If you change the water a few times as you go, you eliminate any - ahem - gas issues. Well, okay, you cut down on them. Beans are beans, after all.

In a separate soup or stock pot (the nice big ones are great), throw in a whole, peeled but not chopped onion, possibly a leek or two (just chop in a couple chunks - and watch out for dirt. Leeks love to hold dirt), and a peeled zucchini. (Edit here if you like. Sometimes I use carrots, summer squash, etc.) Add water, about the amount you'd like your soup to turn out to be. Boil these vegetables until they're really soft. Then take a slotted spoon and transfer them to your blender, add a wee bit of the broth, add a handful or two of spinach, kale, collards, or other leafy greens, and blend until smooth. Now dump that right back into the pot.

When your beans are soft, drain the bean water and add the beans to the soup pot with your broth. Season how you like, possibly salt and pepper, some olive oil (like a glop or so), and add a few more veggies like sliced carrots, a diced onion, and whatever else is in your vegetable drawer that looks like it's gotta go. Bring to a boil, then simmer on a medium or low heat until the vegetables are soft.

The trick for really great soup is taste testing. When it's getting near the end, start checking it for salt content. And if you're trying to watch the salt, add the juice of a lemon. Or add it anyway. It really helps. Sometimes I prefer some pickle juice, but then you're really adding sodium. At the very end, when the fire is turned off, you can throw in a big handful of chopped fresh parsley and/or dill too. Taste, taste. Adjust. Serving this with a dollop of plain organic yogurt is really yummy too!

Now let's all wish Mrs. Shmenkman the best of luck in her soup-making endeavors. I think she's up to the challenge - there's a Julia Childs in there yet!

Whew! I'm worn out. Think I'll go eat a bowl of soup.


Laura said...

Love this post. I've got some wayward beans in my cupboard that need some soup!!!! I'll be trying this for sure. I love the use of the blender for the stock veggies... I'm going to link to this on Green Girl's! :)

Diane said...

Thanks for the link, Laura! Hope the soup turns out well for you.

Ugly Naked Guy said...

I have got to mark this so my wife can make it. Thanks.

Piana Nanna said...

I'd love to meet your Mrs. Shmenkman. I have someone just like her in my life.

Opal: The Raw & The Cooked said...

Excellent Post! It's delicious and nutritious.

I made a lentil soup earlier this week. Today is a perfect day to eat that.

Haley said...

I posted the recipe for Drunken Chicken, you should come on over and check it out! :-)