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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Pantry Project: Vegetable Soup

All week we've been eating out of our freezer, and by last night we'd exhausted the leftovers, slightly amazed by how many beans and lentils were involved: Salsa Casserole, dhal, and something called "bean stew" that we couldn't remember making but turned out to be a pleasant surprise, filled with black-eyed peas and kale. 

So it was time to move on to the other frozen bags and containers: broccoli raab, peas, vegetable stock, leftover bean-cooking liquid, and parmesan rinds. That may not sound very promising, but we're experienced scavengers. We knew that our refrigerator contained aging baby carrots and celery and that our pantry held a lot of canned tomatoes, rice, and (yes) beans. It was a no-brainer: we decided to make vegetable soup. 

It's hard to go wrong making vegetable soup, but it's possible, if you add too much water or use the wrong vegetables. (Many years ago we made a giant batch using eggplant and green peppers. Don't ever try this.) But over the years we've finally gotten it down, and we make it every time we need to clean out the crisper drawer.

We hesitate to call this a recipe, because it changes every time we make it. Sometimes we use potatoes instead of rice; sometimes we use hominy instead of beans. Here's what we made last night.

Vegetable Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup chopped baby carrots
1 t. dried thyme
4 cups vegetable broth* 
2 cups bean-cooking liquid
1 parmesan rind
1 cup cooked broccoli raab, chopped roughly
1 cup frozen peas
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1/2 cup jasmine rice**
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a in a large pot or Dutch oven. Sauté the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and thyme for a few minutes, until they soften.

2. Add the liquid, parmesan rind, broccoli raab, peas, tomatoes, and kidney beans. Cook for a few minutes, then taste for seasoning. Salt and pepper as necessary.

3. Add the rice and cook until it's done (about 15 minutes). If the soup is too thick, add water or broth to thin it. Taste again for seasoning. 

4. Fish out the parmesan rind and serve, proud that you've made such delicious use of a few cheap leftovers and pantry basics.

* Usually, we just use water when making this soup, but the leftover stock and bean water really boosted the flavor. 

** Cooked rice also works well in this recipe.

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