They can be hearty and comforting on a winter day, a mélange of vegetables garnished with pasta or dried beans, an entire meal in a bowl. Or they can be a light and refined first course to an elegant dinner, highlighting one or two examples of the season’s best produce.
These soups help us add vegetables to our diets and use up all those veggie odds and ends languishing in the refrigerator. Following are some tips on making vegetable soups:
o Start with a good vegetable stock, preferably one you’ve made yourself. Typically, recipes tell you to throw rough cut vegetables, including carrots, onions and celery, into a pot with a few parsley stems, bay leaves and a sprinkling of peppercorns, add water to cover, bring to a boil, simmer for an hour or less and then strain the stock. Chicken stock also can be used with many of these recipes.
o Onions and garlic sautéed in oil are the usual foundation for vegetable soups, but after that anything goes. Soups that highlight only one or two vegetables can be varied and interesting, but kitchen sink soups also have their charms: Beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, fennel, mushrooms, parsnips, peas, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, turnips and zucchini all are fair game. Leafy greens like chard, kale or spinach also are good.
o Be judicious in adding spices so that they don’t overwhelm the taste of the vegetables. Sage and thyme pair well with wintery root vegetables, while basil is a natural compliment to summer’s tomatoes.
o Your soup will be easier to eat if the vegetables are chopped into bite sized pieces, and vegetables cut roughly the same size will cook in roughly the same time.
o Soups that feature meat may benefit from hours of unsupervised simmering, but vegetable soups rarely do. Most vegetable soups will be done in less than an hour, and many will require no more than twenty minutes of cooking. If you’re using leafly greens, add them at the end of cooking.
o A squeeze of lemon or lime juice or a dash of red wine vinegar will perk up many vegetable soups. Add salt or a pinch of pepper at the end of cooking.
o Don’t taste your soup while it is either boiling hot or ice cold — you won’t be able to judge the flavor.