It happens to all of us – we make a grocery store run, filling the cart with delicious-looking produce, intent on using it sometime during the week, then bam! – plans change, life happens and those veggies get shoved to the back of the crisper drawer where they start to shrivel and soften. Eventually they get tossed or composted and we end up feeling guilty; but very often these veggies can still be used.
Here’s a chance to let less-than-perfect vegetables strut their stuff in a pot of steaming, comforting soup. No recipe required, just follow these 5 simple steps:
Clear out the fridge and freezer, discarding any vegetables that are moldy, slimy, dried out or freezer burned. Set aside wrinkly, rubbery, sprouty or a little squishy veggies – they’re fair game. (Of course if you’re ever in doubt of whether or not a vegetable is beyond saving, throw it out. Better safe than sorry!)
Trim and discard spots that aren’t in good shape, then chop the rest into equal-sized pieces for even cooking. Keep hard, dense vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and squash separate from softer vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms and peas. You’ll need 5 or 6 cups of vegetables to make a couple quarts of soup.
Sauté the hard vegetables in oil in a soup pot. Got herbs that are on the edge? Add them! A bay leaf doesn’t hurt, and neither does a clove of garlic or minced ginger. Cook until the vegetables soften, stirring occasionally, then add the remaining vegetables and sauté for a few minutes.
Deglaze with a splash of white wine if you have it; no big deal if you don’t. Once the wine has evaporated, add Swanson® broth – chicken, beef, vegetable or a combination if you have a few varieties already open. You need enough broth to cover the vegetables. Got a rind of Parmesan cheese? It’s great for adding depth. Bring the soup to a simmer, cover and cook gently until the vegetables are tender.
Season with salt, pepper and perhaps a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to help bring flavors into balance. If you added a bay leaf, remove and discard it at this point. Purée the soup if you’d like a smooth texture or leave chunky. Toss in leftover cooked pasta or rice, canned beans, maybe some chopped up leftover chicken, beef or pork roast.
You won’t ever have the same soup twice, but that’s the fun of it! However, if you prefer to have a bit more structure when cooking soup, check out these great tasting recipes. No matter what, you can feel good about putting those forgotten-about vegetables to good use and enjoy a delectable soup at the same time. That’s the best win-win there is.