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Well-Stocked Vegetable Soup

Mary Anne here. Recently I had an abundance of leftover veggies in my crisper – remnants of the Osso Bucco and Corned Beef and Cabbage I made mid-March. I had dutifully saved all scraps from these veggie-heavy feasts, so transorming the odd leek, cluster of carrots, strained tomato juice and fresh horseradish into yet another well-rounded meal was practically a no-brainer. This satisfying soup sustained me for several nights; warming me while the raw March winds howled through the cracks in my casement windows. And speaking of heat, that leftover knob of horseradish was an incredible addition to the broth adding a bit of bite without overwhelming the rich flavor. If this gnarly root isn’t in your well-stocked larder, consider tossing it into your cart during your next trip to the market. I’ve been finding all sorts of uses from spiced-up mayo to raw slices on my dinner salad, not to mention the errant Bloody Mary…

Generally, I keep homemade stock in the freezer, but recently I discovered that the “Health Food” section at my local grocer’s has boxed vegetable, beef, and chicken stock (NOT broth) on their shelves, and the sodium count is definitely lower than its canned cousin. For this feast, I loaded up on pre-made stock since it was on sale for $2.50/quart. I was short on time and it served beautifully as the base. Everything else for this potage was plucked from my fridge or pantry.

Our version of vegetable soup is quite similar to a Minestrone (and there are plenty of adaptations out there), but I opted to keep it vegetarian and skip the prosciutto and salted pork. Rather than ladling the finished product over thick slices of fresh Tuscan bread, I added whole wheat pasta to the pot, but you don’t have to be wedded to my list of ingredients. If you have any leftover kale lurking in your crisper, swap it in for the spinach. Potatoes would be a welcomed addition, as would beans, fresh green peas and diced tomatoes. There’s no wrong way to create a vegetable soup!

Psst…we have an AWESOME Le Creuset giveaway in the works. So good, we kinda hope we win. More details on Thursday.

Well-Stocked Vegetable Soup
Serves 6

3 Tablespoons olive oil – stock
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds – stock
1 small Vidalia onion, diced – stock
4 stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped – stock
1 leek, the white part and about 1-inch of the pale green leaves, (rinsed thoroughly of sand) chopped – stock
2 cloves of garlic, minced – stock
2 Tablespoons freshly grated horseradish (optional) – stock
½ cup flat parsley leaves, chopped – stock
½ lb. fresh or frozen spinach, chopped – stock
2 quarts vegetable stock – $5.00
2 cups tomato juice – stock
heel/rind of parmesan cheese (optional) – stock
½ teaspoon dried oregano – stock
1 teaspoon dried basil – stock
1 Bay leaf – stock
15 oz. can Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained – $0.99
15 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained – $0.99
6-8 oz. cooked whole-wheat pasta (Ditalini, elbow macaroni, or tiny shells work well and totally optional
¼ cup fresh horseradish, grated (optional)
grated Parmesan cheese – stock
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $6.98
Total Per Serving: $1.16

1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot. Sauté the onion, celery, leek, and carrots over medium-high flame until the onion is soft. Stir in the garlic and the 2 Tablespoons of fresh grated horseradish. Sauté an additional 5 minutes.

2. Add the spinach and chopped parsley to the vegetables and sauté over medium flame for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomato juice, vegetable stock, Parmesan rind (if you have one), basil, oregano, and Bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Cover and simmer over low flame for 40 minutes.

5. Stir in the Garbanzo and kidney beans, as well as the cooked pasta, if using. Heat through.

6. Before serving, remove the Parmesan rind and the Bay leaf. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan and fresh horseradish.