There’s nothing quite like being fussed over on your birthday. So it was extra wonderful to wake up to a perfect breakfast of smoked salmon omelet, toast, and cheese on the morning of my birthday. It was so nice outside that day — probably the last terrace breakfast of the year.
I’ve been so lax about posting recipes lately, but I wanted to share my favorite vegetable soup recipe. This soup can be customized to support whatever vegetables happen to be in your refrigerator, reheats really well, and is very amenable to ingredient additions throughout the week (on day two, I think I added a handful of penne and some roasted red peppers into the pot).
Simple Vegetable Soup
[Notes: I think fresh cannellini beans are out of the market at this point — I know, so sad — but I like to buy a surplus during the summer, and then keep small jars of the fresh ones frozen in the freezer. Canned or dried would be adequate, but nothing quite beats the freshness or creamy texture of the just-shelled variety. Also, I like to exclusively use my own chicken stock. I know exactly what's in it, and that makes me feel good. In my mind, I can always taste the cardboard of the boxed variety. I consider it worth the effort to always have a few litres of frozen stock ready for a soup or a risotto. And about those tomatoes: I leave the skins and seeds in because this soup is so rustic; if you're a bit more detailed-oriented feel free to peel and de-seed! But in my mind, this is the kind of soup that you don't think about. Chop things roughly, in weird sizes, throw it in the pot, stir when you feel like it. Don't think too much about it. Pretty much every ingredient here is interchangeable, and the end product will still be delicious, nourishing, and not too precious.]
1 celery stalk, diced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
2 shallots, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cannellini beans
3-5 small new potatoes, in a big dice
2 tomatoes, diced
5-7 cups chicken stock
1 t smoked paprika
1 t cumin
1 t red chili pepper flakes
2 sprigs thyme (leave on the branch, just pluck it out when the soup is ready)
2 bay leaves
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 cups packed baby spinach, rinsed
—In a large, enamel-coated cast iron pot over low-medium heat, add 2 T of olive oil and 2 T of butter. When sizzling, add shallots, carrot, and celery and stir to coat. Cook 10 minutes, or until softened but not browned.
—Add potatoes, and stir to soften slightly, 5 minutes.
—Add cannellini beans, garlic, spices, and herbs. Stir heartily. Oh, and salt and pepper, too.
—Add tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil, and immediately reduce to low simmer.
—Let simmer gently, with the lid off, for 30 minutes, or until beans and potatoes are just tender. Add water or more stock if needed.
—Turn off heat, and add the spinach. Stir to wilt.
—Serve immediately with a big squirt of lemon juice, and alongside crusty brown bread and sharp cheddar.