One of the things I love best about soup is its flexibility. No matter what you have in the fridge, you can probably throw it together and make a delicious soup. And you almost never have to follow the recipe perfectly. I especially like that about soup. I also like that I can make a really big pot of it, slide it into the fridge, and eat off of it for days. Then I always have a healthy snack when I need it.
This “throw it all into the pot” approach can be intimidating, however. The thought of approaching cooking this way used to paralyze me. I watched my mom do it my whole life, but I was terrified of ruining a whole pot of soup. It’s a lot of food to ruin in a single sitting, after all.
I eventually found it helpful to start with a good vegetable soup recipe (like a minestrone or garden vegetable soup), then experiment a little each time I made it. The first time, I’d follow the recipe perfectly. The next time, I’d try substituting zucchini for green beans or tomatoes for carrots. I’d do this over and over. Leeks instead of onions. Shallots instead of garlic. Edamame (which I no longer eat) instead of corn. Although small, these alterations built my confidence over time. Now, I don’t think twice about firing up the stove for soup without a recipe.
If you’d like to see how a delicious hodge-podge soup might look on paper, you can check out the “recipe” below. I prepared this last night in honor of my mother-in-law’s visit. I used a combination of vegetables from the farmers’ market and a few items from the grocery store. Since seasoning a soup can be the part most prone to error, it’s always best to use the freshest, best-tasting vegetables you can. You’ll find you need a lot less seasoning that way.
Incidentally, this particular soup is great for diabetics, hypoglycemics, or anyone suffering from Candida. Keep in mind that you can always add some beans–especially kidney, great northern, or cannellini beans–or some meat to a soup like this. Tonight, I’m going to roast a couple of chickens and add some of the leftover meat to the soup for a heartier lunch tomorrow. While I enjoy the look of this all-green and white soup, you could add tomatoes or carrots, if you desire. I would probably remove the turnips, though, if I added carrots, since both vegetables are slightly sweet. Cabbage would be another great addition.
Garden Green Vegetable Soup
2 tablespoons virgin, unrefined coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 large onion, chopped
4 leeks, white and tender green parts sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium to medium-high, then cook the onion, leeks, and garlic until soft. (I start out virtually every soup this way–sauteing garlic, onions, leeks, and/or shallots. It creates a wonderful flavor base.)
4 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets
3 cups fresh green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half
4 small to medium turnips, peeled and diced (I make them about 1/4 to 1/2 inch square)
10 stalks celery, sliced
16 cups good-quality chicken stock (vegetable stock would work too, or use beef stock if you want to add some cooked ground beef to the soup)
Add all of the above ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Once it reaches a boil, the soup should only need 15 to 30 minutes of simmering, depending on the size of your vegetable chunks.
6 cups chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
lots of freshly-ground black pepper
1 or 2 dashes cayenne pepper
sea salt, if desired
Toss in these last ingredients about 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Note: One little vegetable soup trick I really like is to cook the zucchini in some of the broth separately. When it’s tender, puree the mixture, then add it to the big pot. This adds some body to the broth. Obviously, the more zucchini you use, the thicker and creamier the broth.