Friday, January 16, 2009

Master Recipe for Minestrone Soup

Soups are the perfect food to eat if you're trying to watch your weight.  They're satisfying, easy to make, take a while to eat, are extremely versatile, and consist mostly of liquid.  Though most soup recipes begin with a sauté of aromatics - typically onion, carrot, and celery (aka mirepoix) - the fat can be bypassed by eliminating the sauté oil and just cooking the aromatics in the soup liquid itself.  This is usually what I do when I'm trying to lose weight.

Master recipes are a passion of mine and I really enjoy finding and formulating them because of the culinary versatility they offer.  Once you have a template for a dish, the possibilities open up wide.  Having master recipes for various meals means I can pretty much shop my fridge and cabinet and gather enough miscellaneous ingredients to create a wonderful meal.  Sometimes, I even hit the jackpot and end up creating something so different and tasty, it becomes part of my repertoire.  The other main thing I appreciate about master recipes is that I can select in-season produce, making the same recipe over and over through the seasons, always with different results.

This is my master recipe for "skinny" (no fat added) minestrone soup.  I've used it countless times and it never fails.  

La Vegan Loca's Master "Skinny" Minestrone Soup
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (whatever kind you like or have on hand - white, yellow, red, and bunch of green onions, several shallots, whatever)
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • 1-2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves or garlic, minced
  • about 2 cups of hard veggies (those that cook longer) like root veggies and winter squash varieties, peeled (if necessary) and rough chopped into 3/4-inch pieces - any combination adding up to approximately 2 cups will do
  • 6 cups liquid (all water, all stock, 4 cups stock + 2 cups water ... whatever you've got)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Italian, unseasoned, again ... whatever is in your cupboard)
  • about 2 cups of soft veggies and/or precooked and drained leftover or canned legumes (those that cook quickly) like corn kernels, green beans, summer squash, dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, etc. peeled (if necessary) and rough chopped 1/2 inch pieces - any combination adding up to approximately 2 cups will do
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped herbs (1/4 cup for dry, 1/2 cup for fresh) - use anything you may have that goes with your veggies (parsley is a given, basil, cilantro, sage, chives, thyme, whatever you have that makes you happy)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Throw the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and hard veggies into a soup pot and place over medium-high heat.  Stir often and when things begin to stick (and before you garlic burns), add the liquid and crushed tomatoes.
  2. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.  Cover the soup, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the veggies are a bit soft (but not totally mushy).
  3. Add soft veggies and herbs and adjust heat (if necessary) to keep the soup simmering.  Continue simmering, uncovered, another 15 minutes or so until all the veggies are tender.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as you like.  Serve and enjoy!
If you'd like to add a bit of pre-cooked pasta or rice to your soup, I suggest placing 1/4 - 1/3 of a cup of it in the bottom of your soup bowl before you ladle your soup in.  That way, when you store the leftovers, the grains won't absorb all your soup liquid.

The measurements and times for this recipe are merely suggestions from years of experience.  If it looks too wet, add more veggies.  If it looks too dry, add more liquid.  Just keep tasting it and adjusting it and you'll be fine.

I, obviously, can't offer nutritional information for this one because of all the possible ingredient choices, but rest assured this is a healthy dish that just about anyone will love.

Other additions you may consider include pesto, hot sauce, tofu, tempeh, and seitan, but I almost never feel the need to add anything.

Have fun!


The Cooking Lady said...

Oooo, I love soup. But I found a way to help you and your readers.

I had wanted to compost but was physically unable (due to surgery in the summer of 2008) But I knew I was throwing away tons of veggie scraps and I did not want to do that any longer. So I started thinking.

I had read another blog (shocker there) about some soup base. Now granted, she had a recipe to follow, but I knew if I just kept all my tid-bits and scraps from my veggies, stuck them in the freezer, I could make a great base with them.

So I did. I just kept adding bits of eggplant, stems from greens, papers of garlic and onion, bases of cabbage, ends of carrots and such forth, into a freezer bag. Once I got to 3-4 bags I emptied them into my huge stock pot (which luckily for me I had bought years ago and never put into a yard sale) and simmered away.

I added salt and peppercorns, but then drained all of that stuff out via a strainer/colander and some cheesecloth. And Viola! Soup base. We put them puppies in the freezer in any size plastic ware and take them out as we need them.

My daughter was the one who started using soup base for our stir fries, and we have never looked back. If you come to my blog, and go to the category of soup, you will see what I am talking about.

Can you tell I love soups?!

Jeni Treehugger said...

Another Soup to add to my list!
I always make stocks out of the scraps of veggies - it's an awesome way to use up scraps.

Sarena Shasteen said...

I was just trying to find a good recipe for Minestrone. I kind of gave up because there were so many that seemed to follow different rules! I like the way you wrote this recipe and it really makes me feel better about just using what I have. Your soup looks really good!