April 18, 2014

Green market Tuscan vegetable soup

Recap:  A recent event at the Socrates sculpture park green market presented an interesting challenge.  The challenge was to arrive at the green market at 8am and shop from what the farmers had that day.  Go home and create two vegan soups.  Return to the market by noon to set up and serve by 1pm.  The soups were served as lunch for people participating in a green market biking event plus a general tasting for customers at the market.  The whole day was a blast from start to finish.

The fall harvest is crazy with colors and flavors from dark leafy greens to heavy yellow and orange squash.  The green market had it all.  I scooped up some butternut squash, carrots, apples and onions.  Another farmer inspired me to purchase dark green Tuscan kale, zucchini, basil, celery and garlic.  Some canned goods and other items from kitchen pantry rounded out the ideas brewing  for the day’s soups.

9am and back home with the produce dumped out on the counter, oven cranked to 400F and two soup pots rarin’ to go.  I had two and a half hours to cook, clean and pack.  Both soups had to be strong on color and flavor without a boost from butter, cream or meats.  They also needed to be quick on prep and cook times. I spent some time staring at all the produce and gulping down my second coffee of the day.  Two soup ideas came to mind.  A roast butternut squash soup, the roasting brings out the flavor and color of the squash.  Tuscan bean soup which is a great “kitchen sink” recipe that allows for almost any veggies on hand to be tossed in.  Both are hearty and full of flavor while being completely vegetarian friendly.

Tuscan vegetable soup (vegetarian)

Serves 4-6 people

  • Good olive oil for cooking and finishing
  • 1 medium onion peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 28oz can peeled plumb tomatoes
  • 28oz water or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups Tuscan kale or regular kale
  • 1 zucchini green or yellow diced
  • 1 rib celery diced
  • 1 can Cannellini bean rinsed and drained
  • 2 dry bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

In soup pot, pour in oil to cover bottom of pan.  Saute onions to soften.  Add garlic and cook till fragrant.  Crush tomatoes by hand and add to pot along with juices.  Add all remaining ingredients.  Stir and bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer and let cook uncovered one to two hours.  The longer the better.  This dish is even better the next day.  Adjust for seasonings.

Ladle soup into big bowls.  Each bowl gets a drizzle of oil and dollop of basil oil (below).

Serve with grilled or toasted good bread slices, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.

Basil oil

Puree:

  • 4 cups fresh picked basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic peeled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese