Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Basic 30-Minute Vegetable Soup

Soup might be the easiest thing to get together on a busy night. Quicker and more nutritious than the fastest of fast foods... particularly if you factor in the time it takes to get to where you need to go to do the picking up. And, certainly, it's far more cost-effective.

I say this with a purpose...

With two daughters working busy schedules, in big cities, with lots of traffic to maneuver or sidewalks to travel, commutes home can be long and tiresome. These commutes often involve me (by phone), chatting about the day and, of course, what's for dinner.

Our older daughter is a bit of a planner (and typically cooks for two, which is always easier). Sundays usually involve grocery shopping and some thought to the week's menu. Our youngest has more of a go-with-the-flow approach to things. Translation: often doesn't know what might be for dinner until she peeks in her fridge or pantry. Grocery shopping is typically way down on her "to-do" list, necessitated simply by the fact that the aforementioned areas might be getting a bit thread bare. And yet, both girls appreciate and enjoy good food (and keeping money in their pockets!).

Enter this soup...

The "basic" part of this soup is that it does require some basics... ingredients that I believe should be part of a basic kitchen arsenal, no matter how bare the cupboards may be. And with these basics... dinner is easy and quick.

For fresh ingredients... carrots, celery, onion, and kale (or fresh spinach, swiss chard, whatever your particular preference might be). We happen to use kale in daily morning smoothies so we always have it readily available. Carrots, celery and onion are simply tried and true basics to starting many good soups. Plus they keep well if stored correctly. If not used quickly, carrots and celery can be cut into "sticks" and stored in an airtight container, with a little water, in the fridge. Onions keep well stored in a cool, dry place... like the pantry.

The seasonings are ones that are easy and inexpensive to stock... kosher salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, and dried italian seasoning.

And, the pantry items should be regular staples... vegetable stock, olive oil, canned beans, and canned tomatoes. Having a good little selection of these items opens up all kinds of possibilities.

This is all it takes to have a great, flavorful, nutritious, quick, and easy soup... only 15 minutes to prep and 15 minutes (maybe 20) to simmer. It can be accomplished even when you're dog tired, half asleep, with one-armed tied behind your back (or stuffed in your pockets wading through the money you saved by not heading out for the $8 bowl of weak soup at the corner market).

It can also be lunch or dinner the next day... cha-ching, cha-ching.

Basic 30-Minute Vegetable Soup
makes approximately 5 to 6 cups

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 large carrot, diced (about 1 cup)
3 large leaves curly kale, chopped, center ribs removed (about 4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 32-ounce carton vegetable stock (I used Imagine No-Chicken Broth)
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (garbanzo or kidney beans are good, too)

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add celery, onion and carrot to sauté until softened; about 5 to 8 minutes (lower heat if browning occurs). Add kale and continue to sauté until wilted; about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. stir to combine. Add tomatoes, stock and beans to veggies. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add additional salt and/or pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

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