Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fall Vegetable Soup (and a little note on chicken stock)

Looking through some recipes for fall soup inspiration (and generally feeling very tired of butternut squash, pumpkin, and the like), I stumbled upon a recipe that included a number of my favorite ingredients, including kale, zucchini, and cannellini beans. I was going to come up with my own soup recipe based on my inspiration search, but this was too easy and too appetizing to pass up.

Ian is not a huge fan of kale, but he'll eat it if it's torn into tiny bits, so I was careful to include only tiny bits. He's also a fan of the tuna melt, so to soothe the sting of having to eat kale and a bunch of other vegetables, I broiled up a tuna melt. I'm not including the recipe for the sandwich since it's pretty darn self-explanatory, except I will note that to the tuna mixture I always add a splash of red wine vinegar and I prefer rye to any other bread for toasted perfection. The red wine vinegar adds a little tartness that is perfect with melted cheese.

Now before I post the recipe, I have one further caveat, and it's about something everyone can do easily, but due to the modern convenience of canned chicken broth, few ever bother to attempt. That something is chicken stock, and it's super, super easy to make, in addition to offering way more taste and nutrition than the watered down, salty versions you find in your local supermarket.

There are quite a few methods of making stock, but my favorite is the method that uses up chicken bones you might have otherwise thrown out and veggies that are nearing their toss date (including bits you normally would cut off a vegetable and throw out during prep, such as celery tops and leaves).

Here's my method for making chicken stock:

Bones of one or two cooked chickens, picked clean
3 cloves garlic
1 onion, quartered
Leftover leeks
Few stalks of celery plus leaves
2-3 carrots
Bay leaf
handful Italian parsley
water to cover
salt and pepper as needed

1. Throw all ingredients in a soup pot and cover with cold water, except salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to a simmer, add a few shakes of fresh ground pepper, and cover. Let simmer for 4-5 hours (I do my laundry, clean the house, all the usual Sunday activities).

2. After 4-5 hours, add salt to taste. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a container and refrigerate or freeze.

Note: I've never skimmed the fat off the broth, as I tend to agree with Elise of SimplyRecipes that the layer of fat is a kind of insurance against bacteria entering the container and contaminating the chicken broth. I'm a fan of healthy fats, and chicken fat might be a bit taboo these days, but it offers all the flavor you'd want in a homemade soup. I never include the layer of fat in a recipe, by the way, I just remove it when I'm ready to use the stock. You can skim the fat off if you wish.

Also, note that if you refrigerate the stock as opposed to freezing it, you'll need to boil it every third day to ensure it doesn't spoil.

Vegetable and Kale Soup

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 celery, diced
1 zucchini, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tsp dried basil, to taste
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with juices
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans or white beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock (I used chicken)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
2 cups of kale, chopped

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onion once it's warm and sauté for 2 minutes then add the minced garlic and stir constantly for 60 seconds. Add the carrot, celery, basil, diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir the soup, mixing everything together, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Simmer on medium low heat for 45-60 minutes (depending on how soft you like your veggies). Add the kale, zucchini, and white kidney beans, taste and re season if needed. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Enjoy.

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