Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vegetable Soup

The farmers market continues, now extending its bounty to more varieties of squash, eggplant, and beautiful tomatoes. Being that it's a little rainy out, and there are so many things available, today sounded like a perfect day for a vegetable soup challenge! The challenge? Pick out the prettiest veggies that they have at the farmers market, including at least one item that you haven't seen there before, have not cooked, and have at it! I came away with a lovely pink tomato that looked super juicy and at the peak of its ripeness, and then a cute little yellow flying saucer squash. I also haven't bought carrots yet from the farmers market, which is basically a sin, so I picked those up, always delicious in a soup. I walked a step further, and Kimball Fruit Farms also had another few bushels of those wonderful cranberry beans you may recognize from a prior post. And now for the virgin cookery piece: they had fresh okra. How odd that I haven't cooked okra before. My mom only ever served it frozen from a bag. But they're actually very pretty... how can a star-shaped vegetable be intimidating? Alrighty, okra, into the bag you go.
There are a few other elements I had at home that would also make for a nice addition to the soup. There was a shallot, and a few garlic cloves, and about a quarter of a cabbage left over from a quick cole slaw made early last week (you can be amazed how long fresh cabbage can stay fresh). I also have chicken stock. In fact, the only reason this would only be a non-vegetarian vegetable soup, because I am using a lovely chicken stock that my bigger half had sweated over for hours a few weeks back. It can only add to a lovely flavor of some gloriously fresh veggies.
So here we go. Pretty easy actually. I de-podded all of my beans and set a separate pot of salted water on the boil. I hate it when beans get all too mushy in a soup, and by adding them to the soup separately you can easily prevent this. When boiling, I let the fresh beans tumble in the bubbling water for about 12 minutes. When no longer mealy tasting, they're done. Drain in a colander and splash with cold water to stop the cooking, until it's time to warm them up in your soup.
Next, I shredded the cabbage, peeled and chopped the tomato, peeled and cut the carrot into 1/2" rounds, diced the shallot and minced the garlic. About three tablespoons of good olive oil in a dutch oven, and let all of these items kind of sweat themselves for a while. I also added salt, pepper, and a bit of cumin at this stage.
So let's continue to make it more interesting. After about ten minutes of letting the cabbage, etc. wilt a little bit, I poured in the stock, about six cups, and set it to a simmer for about an hour. Throughout the process, I added pinches here and there of garlic salt, salt, pepper, onion powder, Johnny's Seasoning Salt, five spice powder, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. The tomato has basically melted into the deeply developing broth, glowing more gold and a little red with each passing minute.
When I felt that the broth was developed to almost its peak, I added in the okra, which I had cut into about 1/2" slices. The interweb says that if it boils for about ten to fifteen minutes it'll be done. Five minutes into the okra boiling, I added my flying saucer squash, which I had cubed up into pieces similar in size to the okra. Five minutes later, my soup is finished, and I added those little cranberry beans back into pot to warm up. Cut the heat and enjoy.
Look at you! You're so healthy, and well fed. A wonderful vegetable soup to eat off of for a few fantastic lunches. The broth is rich with the flavors of a bountiful summer. Since you took the time to simmer and taste and add seasoning, all the veggies are cooked to perfection, tender, but not mushy. Your tongue will dance with the zing of five spice, and cayenne, but not before being lulled into a calm of a round, robust, warm, nutritious soup, loaded with carrots and cabbage that have soaked in every last flavor of the broth, and sweet squash and nutty beans. The okra ain't half bad neither. Happy eating.

1/4 cabbage
1 ripe tomato
1 flying saucer squash
Approximately 7 handfuls of cranberry bean pods
Approximately 12 large okra
1 shallot
5 cloves of garlic
6 cups of chicken stock
Seasoning to your liking:
Johnny's Seasoning Salt
Cayenne Pepper
Chili Powder
Five Spice Powder

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