Sometimes it’s a battle to get vegetables into people. In my case, right now I have trouble with raw veggies. My solution is an old macrobiotic secret–cook soup often. But how to simplify what is often an involved process? Sure, you can open a can of soup–but the majority of soups sold in cans or even envelopes contain things you probably don’t want. They have too much salt, sugar, or corn syrup–they have MSG or modified food starch, or contain ingredients your family can’t have, such as wheat or soy.
Homemade soup means you know what’s in it. But just a good stock can take a long time to make. Here’s a simple way to get that homemade soup without spending the entire day at it.
The key to this soup is the broth. I use Imagine Organic No-Chicken Broth. Why? Because it’s organic, gluten free, corn free, MSG-free, vegan, and it’s the only broth that is also macrobiotic in intent–no nightshades such as potatoes or peppers in it. I buy it by the case during customer appreciation days at my local Co-op. I save chicken and beef broths for soups that actually have meat in them, and prefer Pacific organic stock when I can get it–the Free Range Chicken is especially good.
The next step is, do you want beans? I’ve done a post on beans talking about secrets to cooking them. Any good cookbook will tell you how to cook beans. Recently I found that Whole Foods has a nice little free booklet called Bulk Basics.
There are slow cook bean instructions, starting with soaking overnight, and there are faster ways. You can cook tasty beans swiftly using some clever tricks, but that requires standing by while cooking. I am one of the hyperfocused–I am either writing or reading, and I always want to do two things at once, if I can do it without burning the place down. Also, I like softer beans in soup.
So–I’ve taken to soaking my beans overnight. It’s not hard to do, and it’s a way to get started on my soap the night before. Just remember to add 3-4x cool water more than beans, leave them sitting (no heat!) overnight, then drain and rinse them well. (I use a lid if the air is dry.) Add fresh cool water, 3 to 4 cups of water per cup of soaked beans.
What kind of beans? I experiment, and since I want to know what each bean tastes like, I’ve been doing one variety at a time. I’ve tried canary beans, appaloosa beans, Christmas Lima beans, great northern beans–they were all good. Some were earthy, some firmer–Christmas Limas tasted a bit like buttery chestnuts! The Christmas beans were HUGE after soaking. Great Northerns break down quickly, and thicken the soup. Experiment! (But, sad news–after soaking/cooking, the appaloosa and Christmas Limas lose most of their distinctive color.)
Set your beans to cook, with the lid ajar. I boil them for five minutes first, to try and squeeze out any remaining gas. I also skim the foam off the top–it can add bitterness to the soup. Reduce the pot to a simmer, and cook at least an hour, unless it’s a tender bean that calls for short cooking time (like azuki) or a long cooking bean like a garbanzo. Write the cooking time on the paper bag when buying beans in bulk. I cook them with a piece of kombu seaweed for mineral seasoning and softening.
While the beans cook, cut up the veggies you’ve chosen for the soup. This is a good time to indulge yourself and select things for color, texture, and even health–do you need more of that veggie group? Toss it in! Here’s what I used recently–rinse your produce well!
1 cup dried Great Northern beans, soaked as above
1, 32 oz. carton Imagine No-Chicken Broth, Organic
One large yellow onion, sliced into thin half-rings
4 small leeks, whites only, cut into ½ inch half-rings.
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
Carrots–remember they are a root veggie, so they go in early, and they shrink! I used a bundle of multi-variety carrots, plus a big fat orange one. I cut them into one inch chunks, cutting the biggest in half first.
1 zucchini squash, halved lengthwise and cut into half-inch wide crescents.
Raw garlic cloves (I used three different varieties) peeled and minced, added later
Broccoli crown, cut into bite-sized pieces, the leaves & pale yellow floret part trimmed off
A quarter wedge of a small purple cabbage, diced small
My veggie choices vary with the seasons. In summer, I used shallots, yellow squash, zucchini, leeks, white onion, mild garlic (the last 3 sautéd together in olive oil first), a small, finely diced green cabbage, and carrots.
For this winter soup, I sautéd onions and leeks in a bit of olive oil until it was tender. Then I added the broth and set the burner to low-medium–bubbling is fine, boiling is overkill. Next, add butternut squash and carrots, the root vegetables. In fifteen minutes or so, I poured in the cooked beans and bean broth. Another fifteen minutes, in went the cubes of zucchini and broccoli crown, and the minced garlic, adding them late to keep color and freshness.
Toward the end the cabbage went in. Last time I added the green cabbage early, and it helped thicken to the soup, as well as adding more flavor to the broth. This time, I was trying to keep more of the color in the leaves and not the broth. I’ve added purple cabbage early, and guess what color theory gives you?
It tasted wonderful, but looked odd. That’s the Minbari Religious Caste version.
This time I used only ¼ of a small head, very little purple leaked out, and the cabbage was still a tiny bit crunchy. I suspect it will be perfect when I heat it up.
You’ll notice I didn’t add salt. You can always add salt, but you don’t want to toss a lot of salt into beans–it makes them hard, slows the cooking process, and they don’t absorb flavor as well. I like to make this with only the broth for salt, and let people season as they will. You can add additional or different herbs to the beans–a bay leaf or epazote instead of kombu, if you like. Or the spice cumin. I like to warm up the leftovers and add some South River Miso into each cup, for a different treat. Or add some gluten-free soy sauce. This soup freezes well in wide-mouthed Ball jars. I tape sticky notes to the tops with ingredients and date written on them, so I can alternate soups and not get tired of them.
Toss on those veggies and get back to reading or writing!