This is the tree we got for our cats this year…a live cat-sized tree! The angel ornament on top is a gift from a friend and fellow cat lover who brought it back for me from her trip to Paris. The plaque at the bottom is St. Gertrude of Nivelles, the Patron Saint of Cats. The spoiled pussycats themselves are across the room eyeing the tree.
Well now. After a whole weekend of fun and frolic, great artwork and party food, and general misbehavin’, I’m exhausted and feel the need to recharge with something healthy and yet comforting for dinner. It’s time for some homemade veggie soup.
This rustic winter vegetable soup recipe is one I’ve developed over many years. The thing I love so much about it is it’s very adaptable and still darn good eating. You can add a few more potatoes if you like, a little more stock or water, more green beans, use cabbage instead of kale…no worries. But, there are some key ingredients besides the veggies themselves that make this soup so special: the fresh herbs and the dried tarragon, the nutmeg and the little bit of butter are essential to the flavor here, so don’t skimp if you can help it. This soup eats like a stew meal with some fresh crusty bread or baguette alongside, or maybe you can be just a little bad and make yourself some cheese toast like I did from a rosemary baguette and some extra sharp cheddar! Either way, dunking your bread or toast into the broth is required to reach full enjoyment potential.
And, of course, this tastes great the next day, makes a whole lot and keeps for several days in the fridge, so it’s a great way to enter the work week with something wonderfully warming on hand to have for dinner. Ahhhh, I feel like purring now.
Veddy Veggie Soup
3 leeks, trimmed of dark green parts, halved vertically, well cleaned then diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you prefer)
2 cups of water
1-28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes and their juice
2 Tablespoons of good quality tomato paste, I use concentrated
5 small white or gold potatoes and 5 small red potatoes, skin on, cleaned and cut into bite sized chunks (you can use all red, or a mix of red, white and purple, too)
3/4 lb. of fresh kale, stemmed and leaves chopped into bite sized pieces, or you can use 1/2 of a green cabbage, cored and chopped into bite sized pieces
3/4 lb. fresh green beans, string if needed, and snap into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh italian flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh shredded basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves, crumbled to release flavor
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/2 generous teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
Heat the olive oil in a large stock or soup pot over medium heat and add the leeks. Saute for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic. Saute the garlic for another 2 minutes then add the carrots. Saute until the carrots start to soften, about 3 more minutes. Add the chicken stock, the water, the tomatoes and their juices (rinse the can with a tiny bit more water and throw that in, too…waste not!), then add the tomato paste and the potatoes. Stir well to combine, bring the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the kale, green beans, parsley, basil, tarragon, black pepper, nutmeg, salt, butter and sugar and stir well. Bring back to a simmer and allow to cook until the kale, beans and potatoes are done, about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When all of the veggies are cooked through, taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a little fresh chopped parsley for garnish and some toasted bread for dunking. Makes about 8-10 servings.