Summer Vegetable Soup

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As much as it jars me to say it, summer is rapidly winding to a close (where did it even go?). Still, the farmer’s market in my neighborhood is only in its first couple of weeks of operation for the season. While I do not consider myself a vegetarian by any stretch of imagination, I’ve found myself gravitating more and more towards meatless recipes in general lately, and especially because there’s so much great produce this time of year.

This week is hot and steamy and gross, the kind of late-August weather that makes ice cream the only really acceptable thing to eat for dinner. Luckily I’ve been lazy enough about keeping up this blog to have things to write about that I prepared before this heat wave went full steam ahead (cue groan).

This is another recipe from good ol’ Claire Criscuolo, whose mugs of soup are among my favorite treats when I head home to New Haven.  Claire’s  soup recipes always produce enough to keep you eating the same meal for two weeks, so I halved the recipe and in the process altered the proportions of vegetables a bit. This isn’t rocket science, though, so feel free to add more of one thing or less of another if you feel so inclined. I’d also recommend prolong adding some of the vegetables till towards the end, as I’ve written here, because I find in these recipes that sometimes the veggies verge on mushy.

Check out that bounty, yo.

Check out that bounty, yo.

For those of you who are slightly averse to overly vegetable-laden foods: fear not, there’s plenty of butter in this recipe.

Summer Vegetable Soup (Adapted from Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook by Claire Criscuolo)

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 or 2 leeks, thoroughly washed and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus stems, woody part discarded, tips set aside, the rest cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 bunch celery, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 cup uncooked brown rice, or more if you want a thicker soup
  • 2 small summer squash, diced
  • Kernels from 1 or 2 ears of corn, or about 1/2 a 10-oz box of frozen kernels (that’s five oz, folks!)
  • 6 oz of fresh spinach, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Before we start, a note on leeks: Leeks can be kind of a pain, but they are really tasty–especially in soups and in potato recipes. They’re part of the onion family but don’t have the same sharpness. They look kind of like big scallions. The tricky thing about them is that the way they grow traps a lot of dirt, so unless you think that crunching on grit really enhances your dining experience, you’ve got to wash them pretty thoroughly. Chop off the roots at the bottom and the dark green tips at the ends. Separate out the layers and either swish them in a bowl of water (the grit will just fall to the bottom) or hold them under running water for a bit. Chop up the white and light-green parts.

As for the asparagus–if you just start to bend a piece, the tough, unappealing ends will snap off at just the right place.

Good? Good.

Grab the biggest pot you’ve got and melt the butter in it over low heat. (I suppose you could use a couple of turns of olive oil around the pot if you are worried about the unhealthiness of fat in its solid state, but it’s really not that much butter per bowl. By Claire’s standards my adaptation would serve three, but my sis and I were eating this for days afterward. We are ladies of healthy appetite, mind you.)   Add the shallots and leeks and cook them over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Add the onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, and parsley. Continue to cook over low heat for another 15 minutes still stirring frequently. Claire says to add the asparagus here, too, but I think it becomes unappealingly limp if you do that.

Add the water, tarragon, and bay leaf and raise the heat until you bring the mixture to a boil. Add the rice, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Go put in your laundry, check your email, take a quick shower, or watch a Golden Girls rerun. Or some combination of all the above. Just make sure you keep stirring occasionally.

The last leg: add the squash, corn, spinach, salt, pepper, and asparagus. Simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes or so, or until you give in to hunger. Taste for seasoning (see if you need more salt or pepper, or whatever else you feel like) and go for it.

I should add that I froze a bunch of what I made here. I haven’t tried it yet, so I don’t know how well it freezes, but I assume that it would do all right. Also, other vegetables would be great in this–how bout some green beans?

More soup to come. Sweltering in the meantime.

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4 Responses to “Summer Vegetable Soup”

  1. sis Says:

    i actually defrosted this and ate it last week–it tasted more chowder-ish because the potatoes dissolved. it was still quite pleasant, just a thicker consistency.

  2. Mamyte Says:

    I love the bountiful look of “Still Life on Kitchen Counter” and subliminal undergraduate imagery. You sure you’re not an artist in disguise? I’m with you: nothing better than the farmers’ markets this time of year! Cold soup for me on this steamy day!

  3. TR Says:

    You have such a way of putting it all together! I loved the ol English Pub highlight! I found the recipes to be good and quite palitable. Even for a novice such as myself, it was quite easy to follow. Bon Appetit!

  4. sis Says:

    we thought of this today at the farmer’s market and are making it (with some seasonal changes, including sweet potatoes and more root veggies) tonight!

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