Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Soup

Spring is here - I think. (I hope?) I know most of us in this region have been anxiously awaiting the day when we could haul out the patio furniture and stand outside to barbeque, while the kids run around the backyard... and not be annoyed by the snow puddles we track in after. But trust me, this soup is like spring in a bowl. Who are we kidding? It's not too warm for soup... yet.

I came across this recipe by Jamie Oliver in the latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I knew I had to make it... the ingredients are fresh, and easily accessible. Plus with the air warming, and planting vegetables coming to mind - it seems like a great recipe to have in your arsenal for using up the weeks end of vegetables. I think in the magazine Jamie Oliver has called it "Garden Veg Soup".  I also have to add, that I made some minor variations to the recipe, based on what I had on hand... that is the beauty of soup... it's not finicky.

Let's get to it - the ingredients (some minor variations to the Jamie original).

1 TBSP Olive Oil
2 slices of smoked bacon, finely chopped
2 small Leeks - finely chopped
3 medium celery stalks - finely chopped
1 cup of chopped carrots (about one large carrot, or a big handful of baby carrots)
3 small shallots - finely chopped (or a medium red onion)
1 small zucchini - finely chopped
2 small cloves of garlic - finely chopped

1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 cup of cauliflower florets - chopped
1 can chickpeas - rinsed and drained

2 - 15oz cans of diced plum tomatoes
1 box of vegetable broth
1/2 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf

1/4 cup barley *
1/2 cup rice *
* Any small pasta will do - I prefer barley in my soup - so I added it in plus a little white rice.

A large handful of curly kale - washed and chopped - remove stalks. (About a cup... it's like spinach - and really cooks down.)

So here we go!
In a large stockpot splash in the olive oil and toss in the bacon and cook it slowly until it's light golden brown (hint, use scissors to cut it up nice and small... then put those bad boys in the dishwasher.) Mmmm... bacon. OK sidebar... any soup that calls for it starting in bacon is good news in my book.

Once that bacon is all golden and yummy add in the chopped leeks, celery, carrots, shallots, zucchini and garlic to that pot and let it cook down a little bit - about 15 minutes. You are not browning it, just letting it soften.

Now, look at all the veggies:

It's kind of a lot of chopping. So - here's the deal - this can be a weeknight dinner IF you cut these babies up the night before so they are ready to get tossed in once the bacon is browned. While the bacon is browning and these springy delicious veggies are cooking down you can cut up the potato and cauliflower, and open up the can of chickpeas. By the way, I used frozen cauliflower - because it was what I had.
In the spirit of fairness - lets give a minute to the less attractive part of the recipe...

I know. Woot. But they taste good - so stick them in the pot with the pretty ones. They should be bright and lovely by now.

See? Bright and lovely. Next up, open those cans of diced tomatoes and toss them right into the pot....

What the? Whole plum tomatoes? Ah crap.
Hold please...

So toss the chopped plum tomatoes into the pot and add in the vegetable broth, the oregano and the bay leaf.
But since I had to root out the mini food processor... let's think about  this. If there are any veggies your kids (or husband) give the hairy eyeball too - this would be the ticket to including them in a sneakier kind of way.

Look at that! Bring it to a boil. Now stop looking at it - put the cover on, lower the heat to a simmer... and hang out for 30mins - or until the potatoes are cooked through. Meanwhile, you can wash and chop the kale...  Toss in the barley if you are using it... barley takes a while.

Looks like tons right? It's not. You can barely see it in the soup.

So ten minutes before you are ready to eat throw in the chopped kale, and the quick rice, or the pasta... also add in additional water if the soup seems to thick to you.  I ended up adding about 2 cups of water. (You could also use more broth... your call).  Oh - and fish out the bay leaf. Season it up with some fresh black pepper and Jamie suggests you set the table with Parmesan cheese so people can add it if they like.

So good. Super healthy... Spring in a bowl. Seriously though - this would be lovely served at a baby shower or something similar. It's hearty but the freshness of it makes it a very nice light option. It's a really pretty soup.
Can soup be pretty?? Hmmm. I'm going with yes.


Kristin said...

This looks absolutely delicious!! I love these kinds of soups and I am definitely going to make this sometime this week! Thanks for sharing it.

PS Love the pictures!

Chickie said...

That sounds amazing! YUM!