Sunday, January 6, 2013

"Eat a Rainbow" Vegetable Soup

This was my first weekend of this winter as a "ski widow".  Once Wayne has access to his ski house, if there is snow, he is up there most weekends.  So I use the time to rest and nest.  I clean, reorganize and get caught up on things that have been on my "to do" list for months. And of course, I cook.  Each Sunday I'll prepare something for us that will be ready when he arrives so we can eat dinner together.  The lucky guy ;) gets to come home to a warm house that smells of whatever is simmering on the stove.

So today I glamorously cleaned the oven and rearranged my spice drawer.  I am quite excited about the latter, actually.  When I first moved in I chose the top pull-out drawer in my pantry for my spices, and they were all in their upright position in a barely organized way.  Whenever I needed something I'd have to pull out the drawer and stand on my tip-toes to lift each container trying to be able to read the label on the side to find what I was looking for.  And pulling out things from the back was always a pain.  Why I lived with that situation for over 6 years, I can't explain.  But today, I moved them all down one drawer and put them all on their sides with the labels facing up (which I noted is the way my friend Shirley keeps hers; I was inspired).  So now only the really large jars for spices I buy in bulk are upright in back.  So much better!

This weekend I decided to make a soup for which I've had the recipe since grad school.  I got it from a post-doc in the lab who made it for a lab potluck.  It is surprisingly flavorful for how little seasoning is in it and that it calls for water instead of broth.  One clever aspect of it is that it includes arborio rice, the rice used to make risotto.  If you've ever made risotto, you know that the rice essentially dissolves into and thickens the broth you are gradually adding.  In this soup, it does the same thing.  By the time you eat it the rice has completely dissolved and thickened up the broth quite nicely.  The best part of this recipe though, is all the different vegetables in it.  I am calling it "Eat a Rainbow" because there is quite a spectrum here:

As likely many have heard, it is supposed to be quite healthy to eat vegetables of many different colors as they all contain different vitamins.  I love delicious AND healthy, and this soup is it.  But the other reason I wanted to call this soup "Eat a Rainbow" is because ever since I was little, I've loved rainbows and to organize things by color.  To this day, I have the blouses hanging in my closet arranged by the spectrum of the rainbow.  This time of year we have them often in the Bay Area given the weather patterns.  I sometimes see them driving up 101 to work in the morning, and it brightens the start of my day.

This recipe is really straighforward.  My one suggestion is to monitor it as it is simmering to decide whether it needs more broth.  Originally the broth looks thin as below, but as the arborio rice dissolves and it is simmering away you may feel you'd like to make sure there is enough broth.  I just add more water by the 1/2 cup.  When finished it is intended to be a dense, chunky soup without too much broth.

It is amazing how thick and flavorful this soup is despite the few seasonings added.  Some freshly ground pepper and a generous sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano is all it needs.  Delicious.  Enjoy!

Vegetable Soup
Chef unknown

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves  [the original recipe doesn't call for garlic, but it only adds flavor]
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large red-skinned potato, cut into 1-inch dice
1 yellow squash, cut into 1-inch dice
1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1-inch dice  [I omit this as I don't like the flavor and texture in this soup]
1/2 cup arborio rice
28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped  [note I do not add all the excess juice in the can to the soup]
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 stalk broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets
1/4 head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
1 rib celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup frozen peas
Grated parmigiano reggiano for garnish

Saute onion [garlic] and bell pepper in olive oil for 6 minutes.  Add carrot, potato, zucchini and squash and saute for 5 minutes.  Add rice and stir really well for awhile to coat the rice.

Add tomatoes, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and 6 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and add broccoli, cauliflower, celery and peas.  Simmer 35 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with parmigiano reggiano accompanied by a warm crusty Italian bread.

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