The! Science! Of! Vegetable! Soup!
by Ari Frede!

Serves 4 medium-large servings

  • Put 8 cups of water in a pot and turn the heat on high.
  • Add 4 cubes bouillon (substitute 1 small can of tomato paste or less for 1 or 2 cubes of bouillon. Or 2 finely chopped tomatoes. But don't add any kind of tomato until the end if you plan to put beans into the soup.)
  • Add the following in this order: Beans, Herbs, Grains, Vegetables. When I say "add," I mean you can go get your can of beans, put them in, then go get your herbs, add them -- you don't have to have everything prepared ahead of time. (When the water boils, turn it down to a simmer and cover.)

Directions are for thin soup. Thick soup additions follow in brackets.

  1. Choose 1 bean [ 2 beans ]

    1 can of any kind of bean (suggestions: chick pea, white, kidney)
    1 handul of dried lentils or split peas (sort through to look for pebbles!)
    1 handful peas or chopped green beans

    NOTE: Put lentils or split peas in earlier because they will take much longer to cook. Dried beans have to be soaked overnight first.
    EXTRA NOTE: NEVER put uncooked beans into a soup that already has an acid in it, like tomatoes. They will NOT cook in an acid soup.

  2. Choose 2 herbs [ 3-4 herbs ]

    3 cloves garlic, halved
    thyme (very soup-tasting)
    dill (not usually mixed with other herbs)
    fresh parsley
    caraway seeds (great in tomato soups)
    curry powder (great in tomato soups)

  3. Choose 1 grain

    1 handful of rice (white rices: 15-20 mins; brown rices: 20-30 mins; wild rice: 50-60 mins)
    1 handful of barley (20 mins)
    1-2 handfuls of bulgur wheat (5 mins)

    NOTE: Generally, grains will take 5-15 minutes to cook. White rice & bulgur take the least amount of time. Wild rice takes almost an hour.

  4. Choose 2 vegetables [ 4 vegetables ]

    1 zucchini, yellow squash, or other squash (pumpkin, acorn, butternut, chayote)
    3 potatoes, washed, cut into dice-size pieces
    1 onion, chopped into 1/2" pieces (or white part of 2 leeks, washed)
    4 leaves green kale, chopped small, or another green (dandelion, chard, turnip, mustard)
    2 parsnips, carrots or 1 sweet potato, diced
    2 handfuls of corn (or 2 cobs, shaved)
    1 diced turnip, 1 handful of finely chopped cabbage, 1 head of broccoli, or 1/2 a head of cauliflower
    1 handful of chopped okra (choose only small ones, and throw out any that are fibrous or dry. Cut off the caps, but tails are OK)
    2 handfuls mushrooms (washed and de-stemmed, whole or smaller)

SERVE WITH: Warm bread, garlic bread, pasta, pierogi, fries or baked potato, grilled cheese sammitch, crackers, biscuits, or rice.

PARMESAN: Cut the rind off a parmesan wedge (try to get Parmesan Reggiano -- the best!), then grate or mince it into the tiniest pieces. Throw it right in the water, stirring every couple of minutes. The cheese flavor dissipates throughout the soup. Great trick for minestrone.

PASTA: Cook it ahead of time and serve it in your soup bowl. Then serve your soup on top of it. If you leave the pasta in the soup, it will get bloated and soggy. Like Americans. So weak.

GARLIC & ONIONS: Fry them first, right in the soup pot in a little oil. If you don't put the onions in and cut the garlic fine, the garlic will brown and get sticky in the oil. When it's still a light brown, add a wet ingredient next, even the water will do. The garlic will have a nutty, toasty flavor. Mmm. Or halve garlic and let it cook until soft.

PUREE: Are you high maintenance? Try taking 1-2 cups of your soup right when it's done and -pureeing it in a blender or food processor, then add it back in. You'll have a richer, thicker soup base.

WALNUTS: Walnuts work great in soup. 'Nuff said. What are you, scared?

WATER-FLAVOR RATIO: If your soup tastes weak, try adding more bouillon to it, no more than 1 cube at a time. If it tastes strong, try adding some water to it, only a cup at a time.

CREAMY SOUPS: I can't get into this here. Look at the Joy of Cooking.

A LITTLE SOUR: Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce or a generous squeeze of lemon at the very end of cooking. A little sour helps the other flavors come out and play together.

FARTY? Next time, rinse your beans really well before you add them. Or get some Beano. Or use less garlic.

DAWNY STYLE: Keep all the vegetables in there until they get overdone, nice and soft. All the flavors will meld together and make a very comfy, homey flavor throughout the soup.