Jerry Seinfeld

Vibrant Veggie Soups for Spring

Lois Manno In the Kitchen with Chile Peppers Leave a Comment

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“You can’t eat this soup standing up, your knees buckle.”Jerry Seinfeld
– Jerry, in “The Soup Nazi”


“The guy who runs the place is a little temperamental, especially about the ordering procedure. He’s secretly referred to as the Soup Nazi.”
“Why? What happens if you don’t order right?”
“He yells and you don’t get your soup.”
– Jerry and Elaine, in “The Soup Nazi”

(Thanks to the Seinfeld Quotes site)

Now that we’re solidly into Spring, it’s time to find meals that can be made ahead and heated up after a long day of turning the dirt, planting veggies, and generally cavorting outdoors. And what better solution to the quick-meal quandry than a fantastic bowl of soup? I know what you’re thinking, “soup is for cold weather days.” Au contraire! The recipes we share here represent the best of vegetarian soups: satisfying, light and full of healthy stuff. Serve any of them with some crusty bread, a salad, and your favorite beverage for a rewarding end to your busy day of gardening. Who knows…you may even find your knees buckling with pleasure as you slurp.

Vibrant Vegetable Stock
This stock is good enough to serve as a first course consommé, in addition to using it as a basis for some of the recipes that follow. Baking or caramelizing the vegetables before adding the water gives an additional richness to the stock. If you wish, adding a 1 to 2 inch piece of kombu seaweed will also add a further depth of flavor. This stock will keep for 2 days, covered, in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen; divide it into 2- or 3-cup freezer containers. Feel free to add any vegetable trimmings from the bag in your freezer, but beware of cabbage or broccoli, whose flavors tend to dominate the stock.

Of course, to save time you can use a boxed vegetable broth for these recipes, but the end result won’t be quite the same.

4 onions, not peeled, cut into eighths
3 large ribs celery, cut into fourths
2 leeks, white part only
1 head garlic
4 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons high quality olive oil
3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped New Mexican green chiles, or more to taste
1/3 cup chopped parsley, including the stems
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil or 2 tablespoons of dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1 zucchini, peeled and sliced
3 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
3 quarts cold water
5 whole black peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the onions, celery, leeks, garlic, and carrots in a shallow pan and pour the wine over the top. Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 hours.

Heat the oil in a pot and add the caramelized vegetables and the green onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients (except the water and peppercorns) and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the cold water and the peppercorns and bring the mixture to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours. Remove the cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and salt to taste.

Yield: About 2 1/2 quarts
Heat Scale: Mild

Near-Vegan Minestrone
This minestrone is so vegetarian it’s almost vegan (except for those pesky little orzos)! Serve it with a hamburger (just kidding—make that a veggie burger) or with a side salad and some crusty bread.

2 carrots, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
4 cups Vibrant Vegetable Stock (see recipe)
2 cups tomato juice
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon New Mexican red chile powder
1/2 cup small orzo pasta
1 15-ounce can kidney beans (optional)
Finely chopped Italian parsley or fresh basil for garnish

In a large pot, sauté the onion, carrots, and zucchini in olive oil for 6 to 8 minutes, until almost soft. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the beans.

Bring the soup bring to a low simmer and cook for at least 20 minutes. Add the beans (if using) and cook for a few more minutes. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the parsley or basil.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Sopa de Ajo Estilo Rancho Aurora
(Rancho Aurora Garlic Soup)
This recipe is from Susana Trilling, who owns the Seasons of My Heart Cooking School in Oaxaca, Mexico. It uses an herb called hoja santa that has a large, fragrant leaf. Look for it in Latin markets but if unavailable, watercress is the best substitute. Serve this soup with a dark beer like Negra Modelo and cornbread.

2 heads garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large hoja santa leaf, cut into strips or 1 bunch chopped fresh watercress
6 cups Vibrant Vegetable Stock (see recipe)
2 de árbol chiles, left whole, or substitute 2 large piquíns or santaka chiles
Salt and white pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
1 bunch celery leaves, coarsely chopped
20 toasted bread cubes or croutons
20 cubes Oaxaqueño or other melting cheese such as queso blanco or Monterey Jack
Garnish: grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil in a soup pot until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the hoja santa or watercress and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the stock, chile (if using), salt, pepper, and bay leaves and simmer for a half an hour. Remove the bay leaves and chile. Add the celery leaves just before serving.

Place 5 cubes of bread and five of cheese in 4 individual soup bowls and ladle in the soup. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

Snappy Snow Pea SoupSnappy Snow Pea Soup
Here’s a soup that’s fast and easy to make. It depends almost entirely on the flavor of the fresh snow pea, one of nature’s great vegetables. Add firm Japanese silken tofu to make a complete protein soup if you like soybean products. For a complete meal, serve this before a entrée of vegetable tempura.

6 cups Vibrant Vegetable Stock (see recipe)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons minced scallion
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped watercress
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 cups snow peas cut diagonally
3 lemons, sliced thinly
Asian hot sauce, such as Sriracha, to taste

In a pan, combine the water, sugar, parsley, garlic, scallion, soy sauce, ginger, and pepper and boil for 5 minutes. Add the watercress, cilantro, and snow peas and boil 3 more minutes. Transfer the soup to bowls, add the hot sauce to taste, and float the lemon wheels for garnish.

Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Varies

Sun-Dried Tomato BisqueSun-Dried Tomato Bisque
To make tomato concassé, place fresh tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the skins, then peel them, remove as many seeds as possible, and squeeze out the juice. Then dice them as finely as possible. Serve this intensely-flavored bisque with a good red wine and sourdough bread.

8 cups sun-dried tomatoes
Water to cover
2 5-inch sprigs young sage
2 6-inch sprigs fresh rosemary
1 small bunch thyme
1 small bunch Italian parsley
1 lemon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 serrano chiles, seeds and stems removed, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups tomato concassé
Melted butter for garnish

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Turn the heat to medium. In a piece of cheesecloth, wrap the sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley together and tie to make a bouquet garni. Add it to the water. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 hours, adding water if necessary.

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and lightly sauté. Reserve.

In a small saucepan, boil together the red wine and balsamic vinegar until it is reduced to 1/8 cup. Reserve.

When the sun-dried tomato mixture is done, remove the bouquet garni and the lemon slices. Add the reserved onion-garlic mixture, the reduced liquid, and the tomato concasée. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and puree until smooth, then strain. To serve the bisque hot, add a dollop of sweet butter and swirl across the surface. To serve cold, top with a dollop of citrus créme fraiche.

Yield: 6 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Sweet Pepper Consommé
This vegetarian consommé can be substituted for vegetable stock in any recipe. The flavor of peppers dominates this powerful, spiced up broth. It is an elegant example of a first course soup that can precede any entree.

4 red bell peppers, seeds removed, quartered
4 green bell peppers, seeds removed, quartered
2 green New Mexico chiles, seeds removed, quartered
6 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 large onions, quartered
3 whole bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 whole cloves
3 large cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons salt (or less to taste)
6 quarts boiling water

In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients except the water. Pour the boiling water over the ingredients and boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from the heat and cool. Strain through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth.

Yield: About 4 ½ quarts
Heat Scale: Mild

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