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Monday, May 19, 2014

Rainy Day Soup Weather


Another beautiful day of rain, bringing all the green leaves out in their full glory. Perfect for making yet another pot of soup before warmer weather turns our thoughts to more summery menus.

As with the best of homemade soups, this recipe uses what I have on hand. I have been careful to measure what went into this batch, but you can--and must--adjust here and there to what your refrigerator and freezer contain. Even if you were to duplicate the ingredient list exactly as given, you would still have to do some tasting and adjusting of seasoning; no two batches of stock or broth are exactly the same in degree of richness and blend of seasonings. Maybe you will be using canned beans or beans that were cooked with salt, and every brand of crushed tomatoes will have its own level of salt and perhaps other seasonings.

While the version I made is not strictly vegetarian (because of the chicken stock and small amount of bacon fat), substituting vegetable broth and olive oil will allow vegans to enjoy the soup along with everyone else.

Now:  go ahead and use this recipe as an inspiration or guide, but feel free to then "fix" it to fit your day and your family.

Vegetable Soup with Mixed Beans

small amount of bacon fat or fat skimmed from the chicken stock 
2 c coarsely chopped onion (1 large or 2 medium)
1 c diced celery (about 2 ribs)
2 c carrots, sliced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 quart chicken stock
1 c finely shredded cabbage
1/4 c diced red bell pepper (may use bottled peppers)
1/4 c chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
2 c cooked "soup" beans--a mix of 10 to 17 kinds of beans, depending on the brand (mine were cooked without salt)
1 1/2 c rotini or similar size of pasta
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
1 t Italian seasoning 
2 c loosely packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped (about 4 oz)
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 T sugar (optional)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
water as needed

1.   Saute the onion, celery, and carrots in a small amount of bacon fat, chicken fat skimmed from the top of the chilled stock or a mixture of the two. Cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are barely tender.

2.  Meanwhile, combine the stock, tomatoes, cabbage, pepper, sundried tomatoes, and beans in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Stir in the onion mixture when done, and rinse the onion pan with a little water; add this to the soup. Return the soup to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

3.  Stir in the pasta, spinach, cilantro, Italian seasoning, and garlic. Continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes and taste for seasonings. Add sugar, salt, and pepper as needed, along with more Italian seasoning and water to reach desired consistency. Simmer until the rotini is just tender.

4.  Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper if desired. Reheats well and will taste even better the second day. Makes about 5 to 7 quarts soup.

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