Soup: It’s the easiest way to warm up your kitchen on a cold day and feed yourself and your family in one delicious and healthy bowl. But you don’t need a recipe to make soup — especially if you have a clutch of miscellaneous vegetables hanging out in your crisper. Nearly any vegetable can be turned into soup with a little time and effort.
If you are craving soup and you have vegetables and broth in your cupboard, you’re all set. Here’s a step-by-step guide to transforming nearly any kind of vegetable into delicious, nourishing soup.
What Kind of Vegetable? Any Kind!
Nearly any vegetable will make tasty soup, Sweet potato, zucchini, squash, turnip, tomato, celery, mushrooms, onions, leeks, cabbage, kale, chard, potatoes, rutabaga, celeriac, cauliflower, broccoli — the list goes on.
The only caveat is that you need to like the flavor of the vegetable. You can tone down turnips’ bitterness with cream or yogurt, and you can offset cabbage’s aroma with creamy white beans or tart lemon, but you can’t entirely erase the taste of a vegetable in soup, so don’t put something in that you really don’t like.
Also, nearly any texture of vegetable will work, from tender greens to hard squash, but the cooking time will change. A big pot of chard will cook down quickly, while butternut squash will need more time.
For Your Information
- The essentials are vegetables and stock, plus olive oil or butter and some salt and pepper.
- After that, all is optional. I usually add some aromatics — onion, garlic, or leeks — and some fresh herbs. You can flavor the vegetables with smoked salt or spices, like curry powder or cumin. I sometimes add a splash of wine to the stock.
- After the soup is finished there are so many other ways to jazz it up — a can of diced tomatoes, a can of white beans or chickpeas, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese or a dollop of yogurt.
Key Steps for Vegetable Soup
- Dice up the vegetables: Cut about a pound of vegetables into a medium dice — about an inch across — or smaller if you’re using a hard, dense vegetable, like potato or winter squash.
- Cook hard vegetables until softened: Sauté the chopped vegetables in a little olive oil or butter, keeping the heat to low and letting the veggies really cook and develop flavor. Brown the vegetables if you want to. After the vegetables have softened and developed some fragrance and flavor, add about 4 cups of stock, cover, and simmer. (Even water will do, in a pinch!)
- Simmer the soup until tender: Simmer for about an hour or until all the vegetables are soft. Purée the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender for a creamy soup, if you like.
Finishing and Serving Your Vegetable Soup
When you cook vegetables in stock like this, you have a choice. You can stop cooking when the vegetables are al dente and tender, and slurp up your soup as it is — chunks and all, an improvised vegetable stew.
Or you can purée the soup until creamy. This works with any kind of soup, and you’ll be surprised at how creamy a soup can be with no dairy at all. But I tend to like this best with sweet, dense vegetables like squash and sweet potato.
It’s up to you — to purée or not to purée!