There's something about soup that's comforting, soothing and good for your mind, body and spirit. The soup pot is a well-used accessory in our kitchen, and this Very Veggie Soup is a staple. This particular soup is also the perfect way to ease into healthy-eating mode after, say, a period of over-indulging. Granted, it isn't particularly photogenic, but have faith, it's delicious.
My sister-in-law Simona, a former restaurant cook in Italy and one of my kitchen mentors, created this recipe, and I've adapted it a bit over the years. Don't be tempted to use old, wilted or wrinkly veggies - this soup's clean, clear flavors require the freshest, best vegetables you can find.
With this in mind, and since we're at the peak of the harvest, Wes and I decided to use all local veggies this time - either from Eastern Market or our own backyard. Feel free to use whatever veggies you like best if you make this at home.
From Eastern Market: shallots, Italian red onions and cippoline onions, all from my favorite onion farmer at Eastern Market (yes, I now have an onion guy), garlic and carrot (also from the onion guy), celery and zucchini.
From our garden: Broccoli, swiss chard, basil and flat leaf parsley.
Thinly slice a big shallot, 5 red onions (they're small) and about 5 medium cippoline onions. Or, just keep it simple and slice up one big plain onion. Crush and chop four garlic cloves and thinly slice two celery stalks and two good-sized carrots. Season generously with salt, pepper and a pinched of crushed red pepper for an added kick and saute in a big soup pot or dutch oven in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. Then add a head of chopped broccoli, 2-3 chopped zucchinis and cook another 20-30 minutes. Throw in a few big handfuls of greens, such as baby spinach or swiss chard and stir.
Next, add enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover the vegetables. Homemade stock is best, it will make this soup amazing, but if you're pressed for time use the best boxed stock you can find.
Simmer until all the veggies are soft, about an hour, or even two if you have the time, stirring occasionally. Add a can of can of drained, rinsed cannellini beans and a couple of handful of chopped fresh herbs about 15 minutes before you take it off the burner. The beans give the soup a rich, velvety texture and added fiber and protein without extra fat.
Let it cool for 15-20 minutes, then puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor.
This soup is a great starter, or if you want to serve it as an entree, consider adding protein such as chopped chicken, shrimp, crab or leftover salmon fillet.
Either way, when serving, drizzle your best extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with high quality parmesan cheese for a healthy, satisfying, comforting bowl of goodness.