Taste of Spring Vegetable Soup

Put a little spring into your soup!

Put a little spring into your soup!

It’s a light, bright, bountiful bowl of earthy goodness! The air may be warming, but the chill of March winds still has us yearning for a bowl of soup. This one I crave and is a nice change-up from the fortifying grain and root vegetable laden winter soups.

When I was a little girl growing up in Connecticut, I remember March as the month I’d ditch the long pants, put on a pair of shorts, so I could feel the grass below while sky gazing to watch cotton ball clouds swirl by from the Atlantic winds. As I peered out the kitchen window from my little haus on the lake this morning, I saw an ominous gang of clouds ushered across the water with a forceful gust of wind. I was right back to the grass feeling the wind rush by leaving a heavy chilled blanket over me lightly scented with the rain to come.

It won’t be long now until our temps take a hopscotch jump up into the 80’s, 90’s then 100’s here in the Sonoran Desert. I’m on a mission to harvest what I can from my winter garden before it begins to bolt. At the same time, some of the spring vegetables are coming on as well. So with this glorious intersection of harvest from winter to spring, I’ve been making salads, sautés, juices and soups like this coveted one.

The vegetables have a springy crunch and their brilliant colors add vital nourishment. While the bright citrus notes lighten, the layers of flavors from the stock and herbs make it a luscious standout!

I am going to BEG you to make the vegetable stock from scratch because it is THE game changer that brings this soup from worthy to WOW. I’ve given you the best stock recipe to use below. The good news is that if you make it in advance, this soup comes together quickly. AND, you’ll have extra quarts of stock left in the freezer to make more soup. I know stock sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Once you’ve started experimenting with the difference it makes, you’ll dread having to use the store bought boxed ones ever again. While the stock is simmering you can do a multitude of things and you can’t screw it up if you forget it for an extra hour.

Here’s to the wind, the whispers of warmth, the delicate shoots pushing up, leaves unfurling and the hope that stirs within us as we welcome spring and slurp on this soup!

Taste of Spring Vegetable Soup

Serves 4

Prep time: 15 minutes (that is if you prepare the stock in advance!)
Cook time:  45 minutes

Recommend using organic, local and fresh harvested ingredients whenever possible. Support your local growers by shopping from the Farmer’s Markets in your community.

I N G R E D I E N T S

For the Spring Vegetable Soup

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or white onion

  • 1/2 cup fennel cut into thin slices

  • 4 large rainbow carrots sliced on diagonal

  • 2 large stalks of celery sliced on diagonal

  • 1/4 cup sliced leek (white part only reserved from vegetable stock recipe below), thoroughly washed and cleaned

  • 1 small zucchini diced - about 1/2 cup

  • dash of Kosher or sea salt and a few grinds of freshly cracked rainbow peppercorns

  • 6 cups of Vegetable Stock (see recipe below)

  • 2-3 cloves of roasted garlic (reserved from vegetable stock recipe below)

  • one handful of torn Tuscan kale, Swiss chard or spinach leaves

  • 1/4 cup fresh shelled garden peas

  • 4-6 small sweet basil leaves chiffonade sliced into ribbons

  • sea salt and freshly cracked rainbow pepper to taste

  • squeeze of lemon juice to finish the soup to your taste

  • fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional - I’m Sicilian it’s in the DNA :)

For the Vegetable Stock

I use a my favorite cookbook recipe from Gjelina restaurant chef Travis Lett. I make one large batch, about a gallon then freeze in quart containers. I buy mine here

  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 yellow onions quartered (remove the skin for a clearer broth)

  • 2 carrots, cut into 4-inch pieces (leave peel on)

  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 4-inch pieces

  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered with tops on

  • 1 garlic head, halved through the equator

  • 4 roma tomatoes, halved

  • 2 ounce dried shitake or you can use fresh 6 ounce package

  • 1 4-inch square piece of kombu, rinsed. (it’s ok if you don’t have this)

  • 2 leeks green parts only. Wash and clean thoroughly. (reserve white parts for use in the soup)

  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

  • 3 fresh thyme springs (I grow and use lemon or French thyme)

  • 3 dried bay leaves (I grow and use fresh leaves instead)

  • Kosher Salt to taste

I N S T R U C T I O N S

Make the Vegetable Stock

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add the onions, carrots, celery, fennel bulb with tops and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables just start to soften, about 20 minutes.

  2. Add water to cover the vegetables by about 2 inches. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Then lower the heat and bring to a mellow simmer.

  3. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, kombu, leeks, parsley, thyme and bay leaves then continue to simmer for 1 hour, adding more water as necessary to keep vegetables covered.

  4. Season with salt and remove the kombu from the pot. Continue to cook, tasting the broth every 15 minutes, until it has the desired body and flavor you like.

  5. Remove the stock from the heat and let sit, undisturbed, for about 20 minutes. Set a medium-mesh strainer over a container large enough to hold all the liquid . Remove the garlic halves and set aside then strain the stock. Discard the solids and allow the stock to cool completely. I use large cambros like this one to strain the stock into.

  6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer up to 3 months. Skim any fat from the surface before using.

Make the Spring Vegetable Soup

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, carrots, celery, zucchini and fennel. Add a good few dashes of the salt. Cook, stirring often until vegetables are tender, but not mushy. You still want a good crunch to them. About 10 minutes.

  2. Add the vegetable stock and turn up the heat. Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

  3. Squeeze the meat from two cloves from the roasted garlic head into the soup then add the garden peas. Simmer about 2 minutes until peas are tender.

  4. Then add in basil ribbons and torn leafy greens ( kale, chard, and/or spinach) and cook until wilted and they turn a vibrant green - about 30-60 seconds.

  5. Finish with a few squeezes of lemon and more salt/pepper to your taste.

  6. Ladle into bowls then top with a grate of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

  7. Hail to the Bliss in Your Belly!

Leslie HonakerComment