Italian Vegetable Soup

Another soup to cure a cold (see my post on Mexican Chicken Soup). This one is scented with garlic and full of good-for-you vegetables.

Italian Vegetable Soup BowlItalian Vegetable Soup
Serves 6-8
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ large white onion, diced (~¾ cup)
  • 1 generouscup diced carrots
  • 5-6 medium stalks celery, diced (~1 cup)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • ½ tsp. each dried basil & dried oregano
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced¼½” thick
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs – a mix of flat-leaf parsley, basil & oregano, depending on what you have
  • Fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
  • Pesto, for serving
Heat oil over medium-low heat in a deep heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. Add garlic slices. Cook for 5 more minutes; try not to let them brown. Add onion, carrot & celery. Turn up heat to medium-high & cook 5 minutes. Add broth and dried herbs. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add mushrooms & zucchini. Bring back to a boil, cover & reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes. Check vegetables for done-ness – simmer 5-10 more minutes if needed. Taste for salt & pepper and season accordingly. Add diced tomatoes, beans & fresh herbs. Bring to boil to incorporate the beans & tomatoes. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and pesto on the side.
If you really want to wow your diners, serve with homemade croutons for garnishing the soup.
Soup is, in general, a very forgiving dish to make. Using high-quality ingredients is important as is cooking each the appropriate length of time. Feel free to personalize according to your own tastes and what you have already in your kitchen.
You can substitute tortellini, rice, ditalini pasta or potatoes for the cannellini beans but you should cook them separately and then add to the soup. If you cook them directly in the soup they will absorb too much of the delicious garlic-flavored broth.
Enjoy! Let me know what your favorite soup is for cold rainy days.
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Mexican Chicken Soup

Happy February everyone! Where in the world did January go to?

I was sick with a head cold all last week (thankfully I had several posts already written & ready to go) and didn’t feel up to cooking until Friday. By then I was ready for a big, piping hot bowl of sinus-clearing soup. Even better, this Mexican Chicken soup is still delicious when you aren’t sick.

Nate's Bowl of Mexican Chicken SoupThis recipe is not a tomato- and/or chile-based tortilla soup; it is a clear golden broth with chicken, seasoned with Mexican flavorings and then served with a plethora of different mix-ins for each diner to personalize their bowl with (all the better when you have picky eaters in your family).
Frequently I have homemade chicken broth in my freezer that I will use (whenever I buy a rotisserie chicken I either make chicken broth immediately or freeze the carcass to make broth with later) but, if you don’t, just use a boxed low-sodium chicken broth. I went spelunking in my freezer and found a container of turkey broth from Thanksgiving!
Broth & Chicken
Serves 6 generously as a main course
  • 4 chicken breasts (use bone-in skin-on if you are using a purchased broth)
  • 2½ quarts chicken broth
  • 4 garlic cloves – unpeeled & smashed with the side of a knife
  • ½ large yellow or white onion, cut into large chunks
  • 6 sprigs cilantro
  • ½ tsp cumin
Raw Ingredients for BrothAdd all ingredients to a large pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, covered, skimming off the foam as needed. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Simmer broth & vegetables for an additional 30 minutes. Remove vegetables. (Optional – strain soup through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a clean pot). When cool enough to handle, pull chicken pieces off the bones, shred with your fingers and return to the soup pot. Discard chicken bones and skin, garlic, onion & cilantro. Bring soup back to a boil and taste; add salt if needed. Serve soup piping hot with tortilla strips and mix-ins. If you are serving more people add a salad or make a platter of quesadillas to go alongside.
Tortilla StripsBaked Tortilla Strips for Garnishing Soup
  • Flour tortillas
  • Spray oil
  • Coarse Kosher or sea salt
I used 5-6 of the smallest flour tortillas (“fajita” size) I can find at my local grocery. Basically I lay them put whole on my baking sheet to see approximately how many I can fit & that’s what I use.
Place one tortilla on a cutting board & lightly spritz with spray oil. Flip over & spritz the other side. Season with salt. Place second tortilla on top, spritz with spray oil & season with salt. Continue adding tortillas in this manner.
Cut the stack of tortillas crosswise in half and then lengthwise into strips. Scatter evenly across your baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 10-15 minutes. Watch closely, they go from under-cooked to perfect to burnt quickly.
Mix-InsMix-Ins (use amounts according to the taste preferences of your dinner guests)
  • Diced tomatoes (in the winter I like to use the ones labeled “ugly ripe” that I can find at my local Publix)
  • Yellow or white onion, diced
  • Coarsely chopped cilantro
  • Assorted hot sauces – we use the green Jalapeño Tabasco and the Chipotle Tabasco
  • Avocado, cubed
  • Cheese – Mexican melting or crumbling cheese (link) or Monterey Jack or Cheddar
  • Lime, cut into wedges
  • 3 cups cooked long grain rice (1 1/2 cups before cooking)
  • Crumbled dried ancho chile peppers

Pictures of a few specialty ingredients:

Ancho Chili Peppers

Ancho Chili Peppers

Mexican Specialty Cheeses

Mexican Specialty Cheeses

How I assemble my personal soup bowl:

My Bowl of Mexican Chicken Soup

My Bowl of Mexican Chicken Soup

Start with large spoonful of rice then ladle in broth & chicken. Squeeze a lime wedge over your bowl and then drop said lime wedge into your soup. Add tomatoes, onions, cilantro, cumbled ancho peppers, avocado & tortilla strips. If you are sick, have with a large glass of orange juice, otherwise a Mexican beer would be perfect. Cheers!!

Rustic Gazpacho and Avocado Toasts

I think everyone has a different recipe for gazpacho. Mine is a more rustic style soup, thick with chopped vegetables. It’s also very easy – everything is chopped in my food processor and there is no cooking or straining. When I made it last night I served it with avocado toasts.

Gazpacho
Serves 8 as a first course; serves 4-6 as part of a soup & sandwich/salad lunch

  • 2 lb. ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 English cucumber (not peeled, not seeded) or 2 regular cucumbers, peeled & seeded
  • ½ c. red onion
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 11.5-oz. cans V-8 vegetable juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ c. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
  • Mild Green Tabasco, optional

Place tomatoes in food processor; pulse until finely chopped.

Pour into a large bowl. Cut cucumber into medium chunks; place in food processor. Add red onion to food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to the bowl with tomatoes. Place green pepper into food processor; pulse until finely chopped (oops, no photo). Transfer to bowl. Add V-8, garlic, red wine vinegar & olive oil. Mix well. Season with salt & green Tabasco to taste. Chill thoroughly. Serve in chilled bowls. Offer Green Tabasco for those that want it more spicy.

Avocado Toasts
Here’s just another way to get more of that delicious fat called avocado. We’ve all heard lately how healthy it is for us but sometimes want something other than guacamole & chips. Enter avocado toasts. You need good bread – such as ciabatta or a Tuscan loaf. Slice it thickly & toast (or grill). Slice the avocado and place a slice or two on a piece of toast. Smash with the tines of a fork to cover the toast. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Yum!!