Pun intended =)
I prepared a delicious vegetable soup some days ago, followed a dear friend's recipe closely. The verdict: Move over Panera Bread Garden Vegetable Soup, there is a better version in town!
Okay that's a little melodramatic. But interestingly, my previous versions of this soup did not include the vegetables I used this time and I could tell by the delicious broth of this soup that the vegetables made all the difference. Note that I did not use any store bought broth. Instead I used Leeks, Fennel bulb, and Bok Choy to get the flavor.
Coincidentally, I had just finished reading Chapter 8 (Vegetables and Fresh Herbs) from Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee. And here is an informative note about Leeks from that chapter:
"Leeks are the pungent underground stalk and leaves of an onion relative. The inner leaves and root end have the strongest flavor.
Cooked leeks and especially their tops exude a thick slippery fluid that gels when chilled, and can help thicken soups and stews."
It should be okay to sub leeks for the smaller spring onions commonly sold in India.
Back to the soup, mmmm!
Leek 1 , root end and green tops chopped (largish spring onions to sub leeks)
Garlic 2 cloves, roughly chopped
Carrots 2, chopped
Fennel Bulb 1, chopped (can skip if not handy)
Tomatoes 2-3, chopped
Tomato Paste 1 tablespoon, to get the red color (I did not use any)
Bok Choy 3, chopped (or any other leafy greens)
Black Beans 1/2 can, rinsed and drained (or any other precooked beans for some protein action)
Parsley few sprigs, finely chopped
Dill few sprigs, finely chopped
Water 2 cups (or broth) : add more or less depending on how thick you like your soup.
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Oil 2 teaspoons
Start with oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add chopped leeks first, saute for some time, then add garlic, carrots, fennel. After some time add the water (or broth), add salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. You can cover the pot with a lid.
Check for doneness of carrot, okay if its crunchy. Add canned/ precooked beans of choice. Add chopped Bok Choy and half Parsley. Continue cooking while adjusting the salt, pepper and water. When the soup is of desired consistency, add the remaining Parsley and Dill. Let the herbs disperse their aroma and flavor in the soup and turn off the heat.
I also added some buckwheat groats in the end for fun. The soup thickens with time because of the leek gel.
Best enjoyed on a cold day with a good book (mandatory) and crusty bread (optional)!