the first soup + vegetable stock

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It’s chilly, tea-sipping, sweater-wearing, snuggle-all-the-time weather. No doubt we’ll get a little September heat flash soon, but right now I’m loving the coziness of these chilly days. The grey, heavy clouds and tall, swaying grasses looked so autumnal from my window on the weekend. I was ready for soup.

I had to make up some vegetable stock first, which was actually a bit exciting for me. I take huge pride in this task and have serious issues with people advising others to just throw scraps in the pot. Stock is essentially water flavoured with whatever you put into it, simmered down a bit and concentrated. Do you want your soup to taste like slightly concentrated water with the essence of… scraps? Mind you, some less-than-desirable bits are fine: onion skins, mushroom stems, something with decent flavour. But seriously, use some good stuff that you’d want to eat. Nice herbs, fresh root veggies, crisp celery, lovely alliums, you get the idea. If it’s worth doing in the first place (and it is), do it proper.

I will admit that soup-making was my nemesis for a while. I always made it too thick or too watery or too spicy and on and on. I kind of stopped working from recipes and they started turning out a lot better. I build on a general formula, work with what I have and taste as I go. I know cooking from intuition doesn’t exactly translate to… um, a recipe on a cooking blog. So! I’ve included a recipe that is full of options and really leans toward that recipe-as-a-guide thing. Hope you’ll give it a try and enjoy it with someone you like.

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tomato and white bean soup with quinoa or!
tomato and bean soup with whatever you like
serves: so many! it’s a big pot full
notes: I really take the time to cook out the tomato paste so that the raw, saltiness kind of dissipates. You should too! If you’re serving the soup right away, by all means add the finishing greens and herbs. When I freeze it or put some away for later, I usually add the greens and herbs as I’m heating up the portions to avoid icky, overcooked greens.

1 cup dry beans soaked for at least 2 hours and drained (I used navy beans)
2 tbsp grape seed oil
1 medium onion, diced (I added a small-diced shallot too)
1 rib celery, diced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme, leaves chopped fine
1 sprig rosemary, leaves chopped fine
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups halved grape tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes or 1 can of diced tomatoes etc)
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 cups diced vegetables (I used zucchini and green beans)
1/2 cup quinoa, soaked (or rice or millet or small pasta etc etc)
1/2 bunch kale, leaves removed and chopped roughly
5 sprigs of parsley, leaves chopped fine
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a big soup pot over medium. Add the onions and cook until they soften up just a bit, about 5 minutes. I kind of like to stew the onion in the oil for a while so that it gets really soft and blends right in with the soup. Add the celery and bay leaf and cook until the celery softens, another 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and rosemary. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir continuously until paste is broken up and its flavour is cooked out, about 5-7 minutes. Add the beans and tomatoes and stir to coat in the tomato paste mixture. Add about 1/2 cup of the stock and scrape the bottom of the pot to get any browned bits up. Add the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until the beans still have some bite, about 35 minutes.

Add the quinoa and stir. If you’re using rice, add it with the beans. If using pasta, add it after letting the beans cook for about 40 minutes since it doesn’t take as long as quinoa.

Add the vegetables and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. If using heartier vegetables like carrots or squash, add them sooner to allow adequate cooking time.

When the beans are a little soft (but still have some bite!), add the greens and parsley. Stir until greens are wilted a bit and serve.

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