Thursday, January 29, 2009

End-of-the-Month Soup

My camera battery is dead and the charger has disappeared, so the picture for this post is currently trapped on the camera. I'll upload it as soon as I can.

ETA: Woohoo! Charger recovered, battery charged, picture posted!

You may have noticed that I skipped the Salad Days post yesterday. It wasn't an oversight, and I'm not canceling the Salad Days series. In fact, I didn't do a salad entree this week for a very simple reason: we had run out of fresh greens, but we still had plenty of other ingredients on hand, and since it's the end of the month and I wanted to stick to our January budget, I decided not to buy more salad greens this week. So, no salad entree. Instead, I made a simple vegetable-bean soup. The carrots that we got at the beginning of the month from our winter CSA had gone a bit soft, so they weren't great for crunching raw, but they would work just fine in a soup. Ditto for the celery we bought a couple of weeks ago. These withering vegetables made the basis for a tasty, satisfying, and very cheap meal. I served it with some homemade focaccia - a first for me, and since I'm not fully satisfied with that recipe yet, I'm not posting it here.

End-of-the-Month Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium-size onion or 3-4 shallots
3-4 cloves garlic
3-4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 small potatoes, diced
2 cups cooked chickpeas (frozen or canned okay)
28oz can tomatoes (whole or diced)
broth, any flavor (optional)
2 teaspoons Italian herb blend
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3-5 minutes. Add potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices. Fill the now-empty tomato can with water and add the water to the pot. You can substitute stock for some or all of the water. I used some water, plus a small wedge of frozen concentrated turkey stock that I made with Thanksgiving leftovers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender.

This is just a very basic bean and veggie soup and you can easily substitute whatever you have on hand. This would be great with fresh or frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and corn, too. I used chickpeas straight from the freezer, but you could also us canned chickpeas or any other kind of bean (black, kidney, etc.).

A note on carrots: if your carrots are organic, or if you're not concerned about pesticides, don't peel them first - just scrub them well. The carrot skin has a lot of great fiber in it that gets lost when you peel. The same goes for the potatoes.

Also, a note on canned tomatoes: yesterday I said that canned vegetables aren't the best and today I'm writing up a recipe with canned tomatoes in it. What gives? Well, tomatoes are rare in that their nutritional content actually improves in the canning process. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant which is less available to us in raw tomatoes. Heat helps break down the cell walls and release more lycopene, so canned or cooked tomatoes actually offer more benefits than raw ones.

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