As I type this, it’s cloudy and the wind is whipping the young trees in our yard. Rain is on the way—finally. This kind of weather inspires me to get out my soup pot, because nothing says comfort and warmth like a delicious, steaming bowl of healthy soup—amiright??
Rather than an exact recipe, I like to use a sort of “formula” for this soup. Filled with lots of healthy veggies, greens and beans, it’s lean, easy and flexible. I can throw in whatever I have on hand in my refrigerator, pantry and garden, and there’s tons of possible ingredient combinations.
Plus, it’s simple to vary the amount of soup and the flavors depending on what you include. Start with the basic recipe: olive oil, carrots, celery, onion and broth. Then add whatever else you want. For an Italian-style soup I use chicken, cannelloni beans, potatoes and/or green beans, diced tomatoes, parsley, kale, farro or pasta, vinegar and parmesan cheese. For a Mexican flavor, use chicken, black beans, zucchini, canned tomatoes and corn, rice, parsley, chili flakes and cumin, and top with Mexican cheese. I also like a simple chicken, potato and greens combination. Feel free to use what you like to vary and embellish the formula.
Here’s the formula:
Ingredient Amount Notes
Olive oil 1-2 TBSP Basic Recipe
Mirepoix: Carrots, Celery, Onion 2 cups each, diced Basic Recipe
Broth: Chicken or Veggie Broth 2 quarts Basic Recipe
Chicken: Canned, rotisserie, leftover 1 can, 9.75 ounces Optional
Canned beans: White beans (cannelloni, 1 can, 15 ounces Choose one
navy or Great Northern); garbanzo 1 can, 15 ounces
or black beans
Canned veggies: Diced tomatoes or corn 1 can, 15 ounces Use one or both
Additional raw veggies: Green beans, 1 cup for each veggie, Use one or two
potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms cut into 1/2" pieces
A hearty grain or noodle: Barley, white 3/4 cup dry Use one type
or brown rice, farro, egg noodles, small
Seasonings: Salt, pepper, chili flakes, Salt and pepper to Optional
cumin, red or white wine vinegar taste; a pinch or two
of chili flakes or cumin;
a splash of vinegar added
at the end of cooking
Herbs: Parsley, thyme, bay leaf A generous handful of Parsley basic;
chopped parsley; two thyme, bay leaf
sprigs of thyme; one bay optional
Fresh greens: Kale, swiss chard, or cabbage 2 cups, ribs removed, Optional (but a
sliced into thin strips great way to get
your greens in!)
Cheese for serving: Grated parmesan or A sprinkle on top of Optional
some type of shredded Mexican cheese each serving
Assemble all your ingredients. Then start by warming the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the Mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions), and sauté until the veggies just begin to soften. Pour in the broth, then add the chicken or ham, canned beans and canned veggies.
Next, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Stir in any additional raw veggies, the grain/noodles and the seasonings. After the soup comes back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.
Finally, add the herbs and chopped greens. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Taste and correct the seasonings, if needed. If you have time, allow the soup to cool on the stove for a couple of hours to blend the flavors.
Reheat and serve with a sprinkling of cheese, and maybe a fruit salad and some freshly baked bread.
-For the broth, homemade is optimal, but I often use canned or boxed, and it works just fine. Also, canned, rotisserie, or even leftover grilled chicken works.
-If you happen to have a leftover rind of parmesan cheese (you can save these in the freezer), throw a three- or four-inch piece into the soup pot as it cooks. It adds nice flavor to an Italian-style soup.
-Garnish a Mexican-style soup with sliced avocado, a lime wedge and some tortilla strips for a Chicken Tortilla Soup.
-The soup tastes even better after it sits overnight. If it becomes too thick, just stir in some hot water. And it freezes beautifully.
-You can halve or double the recipe.
-While this is a great way to use up odds and ends of veggies in the refrigerator, to consider how the flavors will work together. You want a nice, balanced soup, not one where all you taste are the brussels sprouts!