If a pot of homemade soup is like a large cauldron with lots of ingredients simmering for hours, think again. There is a simple formula for making vegetable soup that requires few ingredients and minimal cooking time, yet offers the same convenience that the soup is supposed to offer. You will need about a pound of fresh vegetables, three cups of water, and a blender or food processor (although a potato masher can operate). The result is two generous servings of velvety warmth or four more modest servings.
Adding personality is up to you. The basic soup can be enriched by replacing the water with broth, adding cream or coconut milk or stirring in a little olive oil, basil oil or nut oil. Lightly sautéed ginger, chilli, onion, garlic or shallots can be pureed with the vegetables. The soup can be dressed with a dash of Greek yogurt, fresh goat cheese, pesto or chilli crisp. You can add a sprinkling of croutons, capers, chives or other chopped herbs, some grated cheese, diced avocados, green onions, toasted almonds or pine nuts, sifted hard-boiled egg yolks, or crumbled bacon just before serving.
The following is the template for a simple carrot and ginger soup, as well as suggestions for some other combinations. Although fresh vegetables are the backbone of most of these soups, some canned foods, particularly black beans or cannellini beans and San Marzano tomatoes, work well as well (consider making cooked vegetables). For most soups, a splash of acid – lemon juice or a few drops of vinegar – is essential to lighten the taste.
Basic vegetable soup: carrot-ginger
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 to 4 servings
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger
1 pound carrots (about 8), peeled, sliced, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon of finely chopped carrot tops or other herbs, optional
1. Heat the oil in a 3 liter saucepan on medium heat. Add ginger and saute a few minutes until softened. Stir in the carrots. Add 3 cups of water.
2. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a brisk simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the carrots are very tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from heat and add 3 to 4 ice cubes to speed it up.
3. Puree in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and bring to a boil. Adjust the consistency by adding water or simmering longer to thicken it. Add lemon juice and season with salt. Place in warm bowls or flat soup plates, sprinkle a few herbs in the middle of the bowl and serve.
Other soup combinations:
Asparagus: When the stems are thick, peel them. Add a dash of olive oil and a shower of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Consider adding a poached egg to each serving.
Broccoli or broccolini: Use stems and florets. Season with chilli flakes, smooth out with coconut milk, sparkle with rice vinegar and save a few tiny florets for garnish.
Velvety cauliflower: You need a whole head, well cut and cut up. Add some half and heavy cream and sprinkle with capers, pistachios or sliced, toasted almonds.
Creamy tomato: Simmer the canned tomatoes with garlic, then soften with cream or season with chilli peppers or sriracha.
Lentil and sausage: Start with two-thirds of a cup of raw lentils; You will cook in about 30 minutes. Then add more water and sauteed sausage. Or start with two cups of cooked lentil scraps. A splash of red wine would be nice.
Potato and leek: It’s a classic. You may want to add some cream and let some chopped chives or salmon caviar, or both, float on the surface.
Sunchoke and Potato: This variety is more earthy than potato leeks and requires garlic in the base and Greek yogurt.
Watercress: Use the entire bundle, stems and everything, then add cream. Reserve a few small twigs for garnish so that they fall on top of the finished soup. This one is super cold.
White or black bean: A rinsed 14- to 16-ounce can of beans can briefly simmer in water with spices like garlic, chili, or onion before hitting your machine. Some pork compliments the white beans, and crumbled corn chips can put the black on.