When I was a teenager every once in a while my mom would make a huge pot of soup, not just any soup, but the soup for the soup diet. It’s a not half bad vegetable soup, that you eat nonstop for 7 days… so by the end it seems like a HORRIBLE soup, because anything multiple times per day for 7 days is really no bueno. In any case you’re supposed to eat other random things as prescribed in said diet (I think one day is only bananas?) and of course the soup. Doesn’t that sound super healthy and fun….NOT! Does anybody else remember this? It was really popular.
Well I must tell you, I never really did very well at eating only vegetable soup so I cannot accurately report the results of this experiment, I always washed out by day 3! In fact I never really did very well on any of those crash diets… What I have learned however is that soup is a wonderful filling, healing, delicious food, so I make a point of making a big pot every week! It’s really so nice to come home to a hot bowl of soup, and since yesterday’s soup tastes BETTER than today’s (seriously test that out it really does) I’m always happy to have leftovers!
Here is the soup I made this week, an aromatic blend of winter vegetables with beans and tucked in where its flavor is nicest, some dark leafy winter greens. (Oh green smoothies get all the press, soup with greens has been making mouths happy for centuries!!) There is a secret ingredient that pushes the soup over the top… Parmesan rinds. That’s right save the ends of the cheese and throw them in your soup for an umami explosion!!! The cheese doesn’t melt, but the cheesy flavor permeates the soup and makes the whole thing delicious! You can even buy just the rinds of the cheese at whole foods and cheese shops for this purpose… or save yours in a bag in the freezer like me. If you don’t have one, you can leave it out, but put a couple of teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce in the soup, to bring out a little of that savory flavor.
Minestra (Beans and Greens Soup)
1 Tb olive oil
2 celery stalks (especially the leafy ones they’re the best)
3 cloves of garlic
1 red bell pepper
1/2 lb red potatoes
2 lbs canned white beans (that’s 2 1 lb cans, cannellini beans are the tastiest but great northern will do)
2 quarts chicken stock or broth (homemade or no salt added if you are buying it!)
16 oz tomatoes, diced (canned or fresh)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 parmesan rind (see modification above if you don’t have this!)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 bay leaves
3 Tb fresh or 3 tsp dried rosemary
1 bunch lacinato (flat) kale, swiss chard, or spinach
Dice carrots, onion, and celery. Dice garlic finely, or press with a garlic press. Seed and dice bell pepper. Chop potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces (no need to peel) and cover with water so they don’t turn brown before you add them to the soup. Remove stem from kale or swiss chard if using and dice greens into small shreds (think coleslaw style shreds).
Put a large soup pot over medium heat, once the pan is heated add the oil, and the onions, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper and sauté stirring occasionally 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and bell pepper and sauté 2-3 more minutes.
Drain the beans, and rinse with running water. Add the beans, potatoes, stock, tomatoes, pepper flakes, remaining salt and pepper, parmesan rind, bay leaves and rosemary to the pot. Simmer over medium-medium low for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Taste the soup and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Add the kale/swiss chard/spinach and cook another 5 minutes.
I like to add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to the soup right when I serve it, make sure you don’t eat the parmesan rind or the bay leaves!! Feel free to add other vegetables you have lurking in the fridge, root vegetables, mushrooms, fennel, all delicious.
What is as comforting and warming as soup on a chilly winter day? Chicken Pot Pie of course!