Wednesday, October 21, 2009

(Mom's) Vegetable Soup

My Mom has a way with food. I'm not talking about the way everyone's Mom does, I mean she really has a feeling for food, understands seasoning, knows how to feed people... This is one of her recipes which, although distantly related to familiar dishes of the same name, is (imho) unrivaled in the one-pot-meal-in-a-bowl-comfort-plus-nutrition cooking category. Mom makes it with a beef soup bone, but I do it without (it's easier, and you won't miss the meat). My version varies from one pot to the next, but here's the basic idea.

This should go without saying, but be sure to use the best vegetables available, because their quality is what makes this soup. I find it's best to prep all the veggies first and have them at the ready before you start cooking. Amounts here are approximated based on my last batch, which was at least twice this size, but all can and should be adjusted to your preferences, of course.

1-2 tbsp canola oil
2 c onions, diced
1 c celery, diced
1 1/2 c carrot,
sliced about 1/4", in quarters, halves or small rounds
3-6 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
2 quarts water, more or less
1 c pearled (or hulled) barley
vegetable boullion (optional)
2 c rutabaga, diced 1/2"
2 c potato, diced 1/2"
3 c cabbage, chopped in 1" chunks
1/2 c turnip, diced 3/8"
1 28 oz. can tomatoes, diced or chopped, or more to taste
1 c corn, fresh or frozen
1 c green beans, fresh or frozen, cut in 1" pieces
1 tbsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried parsely
1 large bay leaf (or 2 small)
salt and pepper

I usually start by pouring the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot (min 8 quarts). Then I chop up the onion, celery (you can include some of the leaves if you like but don't overdo it...fresh local celery, in particular, can be very pungent) and carrots, and toss them in the pot while I chop up the rest. Sure, you're supposed to heat the oil before you add the vegetables, but they do okay without preheating and it's nice to have them out of the way while you fill up the rest of your counter space with all the other veggies.

Once everything's chopped up, turn the heat up to med-high and saute the onion/celery/carrot (aka mirepoix) for a minute or two, then add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes more. When the onions are soft and the carrots are not yet, add the water, bay leaf and bouillon (I might use 1 square of Rapunzel Vegan w/Salt & Herbs. Or not.), with maybe 1/2 tsp of salt and a few cranks of freshly ground or some good shakes of plain old black pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the barley and simmer until it's just soft, then add the veggies, in the following order, leaving a couple minutes in between: rutabaga, potato, cabbage, turnip.

Cook for about 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes (I add these close to last because I've been told their acids can inhibit the ability of grains and some vegetables to absorb water. I can't corroborate this with any information from the web but I can attest to it, from experience. Try adding dry rice to a tomato base and see how long it takes to cook.) Add more water and/or tomatoes as necessary to achieve desired consistency (best nice and thick) or flavor (don't overpower those mellow roots).

Let everything stew for a while. Before the rutabagas and potatoes are fully tender add the beans, followed shortly after by the corn. Stir in the parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and let stand for a short time before serving.

I think that's it. See how it goes, let me know.

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