First place Whole Foods contest winner: Hearty, filling vegetable packed soup with white beans (+ optional chicken) to keep you warm.
The fall harvest is perfect for vegetable soup. Golden squash mingles with celery, onions and carrots. Late season tomatoes join the party. Want something more filling? That's easy. Just add rice, potatoes or in the case of this recipe, beans. Seriously, you barely need a recipe.
How to Make a Vegetable Soup Without a Recipe
- Start your vegetable soup with a base of onions, celery and carrots. Use a general ratio of half as much celery as onions, and half as much carrots as celery. As a tip, leeks are included with onions. Don't add too much carrot, as this may add more sweetness than desired.
- Choose a seasonal vegetable in your next vegetable soup to showcase against the backdrop of onions, celery and carrot. In fall, for me that means winter squash such at butternut squash.
- For a pot of soup that serves 4 people, add 4 cups of liquid. Depending on the type of vegetables, and how chunky you like your vegetable soup, add 5 - 6 cups of vegetables per 4 cups of liquid.
Ways to Boost Flavor
- Sauté or roast the vegetables to bring up their flavors. For example, in this recipe, the onions, celery and carrot are sautéed until a fond develops on the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot.
- Use water for the liquid to allow vegetables to shine. Broth, on the other hand, mutes the flavors. However, if you prefer using broth as your liquid, consider the Better Than Bouillon products. (Click on the below photo for more information.) These broth pastes last a long time in the refrigerator, and add a wonderful rich seasoning to soups. But be aware, these add salt. Therefore, don't add salt until the end.
- Acid is a great addition to most any soup, which serves as a contrasting flavor and way to brighten the soup. That can be tomatoes, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or even a dollop of sherry. It's totally your choice. Tomatoes are a great choice if you're looking for just a little acid.
- Many vegetable soups benefit from a hint of heat, such as Serrano pepper. This version, below, includes both Serrano and a condiment made from peppers, called Harissa.
Farmhouse Harvest Soup with White Beans
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large leek sliced (about 1 ¾ cups)
- 1 onion finely chopped (1 ½ cups)
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- 2 cups chopped celery 3 - 4 stalks
- 2 cups chopped butternut squash
- 1 Serrano pepper minced (1 ½ - 2 tablespoons)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
- 10 twists of freshly ground pepper
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 2 chunks of the rind of Parmesan cheese
- 3 cups cooked white beans
- 1 ½ cups roasted chicken, optional
- 5 tablespoons harissa
- 1 bunch spinach stemmed
- 4 large tomatoes a mix of red and yellow
- In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté the leek, onion, carrot, celery, squash, and pepper in the olive oil until the squash begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir the vegetables fairly often, but allow a nice fond to develop on the bottom of the pan. The term fond is typically applied to browning meat in a pan, but I'm referring here to the brown residue from the vegetables that is deposited on the bottom of the pan. This is a fantastic building block of flavor to anything, and is a key component to developing a rich vegetable flavor in this soup.
- Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Sauté another 5 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the vegetable broth and Parmesan cheese rind. This is a wonderful use for the rind, as it adds just a hint of a cheese flavor. Simmer for 10 minutes to concentrate the flavors a bit.
- Add the beans, cooked chicken, and harissa. I just buy one half of a pre-roasted chicken at the market for this, and shred the meat of one breast. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Roast the tomatoes at 425˚F and remove the peel. Coarsely chop and add to the soup along with the spinach leaves. Alternatively, the tomatoes can be dropped into boiling water for 10 seconds and then peeled.
- Using an immersible blender, whirl the soup for about 15 seconds to puree a little of the soup. Alternatively, remove 2 cups of the soup from the pot, throw it in a blender, and stir it back into the soup.
- Serve hot with a shaving of parmesan cheese on top, along with a hunk of bread slathered with butter.
If you're looking for other hearty vegetable soups, check out this Summer Vegetable Soup with Farro.