Lean, green and supreme: a belly-warming soup for drizzly days

Stray veggies mingle in this yummy green soup. (Photos: Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)
Stray veggies mingle in this yummy green soup. (Photos: Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

Here’s a soup that loves stray veggies, those dissed broccoli stems, the last of the spinach, that forgotten zucchini.

greensoup2 I call it my Random Veggie Soup because it transforms leftover, back-of-the-fridge produce into something delicious and healthy.

The beauty of this soup is that you can customize it with your favorite seasonings and stock. Of course, stock is not a required ingredient here. If you follow the flavor-building technique described below, you can make a luscious soup using just water.

One. Start by gathering and washing your random veggies, which can include herbs, stems, celery tops, even romaine lettuce. Separate the more dense veggies (carrots, broccoli stems) from those that will cook faster (spinach, kale).

Two. Chop aromatics (such as onion, garlic, celery, pepper, ginger) to taste. Drop aromatics into warm olive oil in a soup pot. Sprinkle in salt and pepper, plus your desired seasonings. (Sometimes I reach for warm spices like smoky Spanish pimenton, turmeric, cumin and/or Jamaican curry. Other times, I prefer lighter notes like coriander, cardamom, celery seed and dill.)

Three. Sauté aromatics over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. (Tip: I add chopped broccoli stems with the aromatics, so they can soften.) Once the onion begins to turn translucent, add no more than 1 cup of water to the pot, stir and cover. This is the flavor-building stage: flavors bloom as aromatics simmer alone, then in little liquid. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the broccoli stems are slightly tender.

Four. Add greens to pot, adjust seasoning and stir. If using zucchini, add now and stir. For a touch of acidity, add two or three grape tomatoes. Once veggies are well incorporated, add another 1½ or 2 cups of water to the pot, or just enough water to cover the veggies. Simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.

Five. Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust as needed. Once veggies are tender, scoop them into a blender with a slotted spoon, adding just enough liquid to cover. Blend at high speed, adding liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency. Serve into bowls, and drizzle with good olive oil and, if desired, croutons.

greensoup10I love a smooth, velvety soup, so I use a high-powered blender at high speed. But if you like a chunkier soup, use an immersion blender.

If you crave a creamier soup, add a splash of half and half and/or a dab of butter. For a vegan version of creamy soup, add ½ cup of cannellini beans.

 

 

Minestrone for the soul: ‘Empty Bowls’ event hopes to curb local hunger

On February 14 & 15 Empty bowls will host a simple communal meal in which participants will dine on a piece of bread and soup in a beautiful handmade bowl. The event is designed to create greater awareness about hunger in Palm Beach County and to raise money for the Palm Beach County Food Bank. Participants get to keep the bowls. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
Photo: Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post

The handmade bowls are almost too pretty to fill, but they are empty to make a point about local hunger.

The folks at the Palm Beach County Food Bank will tell you one in six local residents do not know where their next meal will come from. This is why the annual Empty Bowls Palm Beach charity event has been planned for a third year.

The fundraiser, for which local potters make bowls to be filled with hearty soups made by local chefs, takes place in Palm Beach Friday, Feb. 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Episcopal Church at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, 141 S. County Rd.

Here’s how it works: You purchase a handmade bowl of your choice for $25, then peruse the fresh-made soup offerings for servings of your favorite. After you sample your choice of soups, you get to keep the bowl. All proceeds go to the Food Bank.

You can also order soup for takeout or delivery, choosing from 10 soup options (including The Colony’s mushroom-tarragon with crab, E.R. Bradley’s lobster bisque, Palm Beach Grill’s Firehouse Chili, and Testa’s minestrone). For $25, to-go orders include soup, bread, bottled water, a cookie and a ceramic bowl (optional). Takeout and delivery orders must be placed by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3. For a takeout form, email EmptyBowlsPB@bbts.org.

Last year, the soup event raised more than $64,000 for the Food Bank, with 49 local restaurants donating soup and 1027 people buying bowls.

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda