Some things just go well together. Like sofas, soup, and rainy Seattle days. For the last seven months, I've had some excellent soups and plenty of rainy days, but no sofa. Going without a piece of cushy furniture to sit on for that long would drive most people crazy. I didn't particularly enjoy it, but it seemed better to me than spending money on something I didn't really like. And, as you likely learned in the last post, I can be very selective. (Some people would say "picky," but that seems so negative....) I sat on dozens of sofas and looked at even more, but none of them were quite what I wanted. Too modern. Too casual. These cushions are too floppy. That one has a skirt. This went on for so long that I was beginning to wonder if I was edging in on a new record for sofa shopping. However, it all came to an end last week when a stroll through a local showroom unexpectedly yielded a sofa I actually liked -- so much that I didn't spend more than three minutes looking at it before I handed the salesman my credit card. (He seemed a bit surprised, but that's just the way it works when you know what you like.) Is this the sofa I would come up with if I had the chance to design my own? No. But it still makes me happy. And it's a heck of a lot better than the nest of pillows and blankets I was sitting on before it arrived.
The recipe for this soup comes from a cookbook Dad gave me for Christmas. It was one of my favorite presents because it wasn't on my list -- he picked it out himself after reading a review of it in the Wall Street Journal. As usual, I made a few changes to the original recipe. You won't see any kidney beans floating around in my soup because I like garbanzo beans a whole lot more, so I just doubled up on those. I also added the step about skimming off the foam because I think the foam is a little unappetizing. Have you ever heard anyone say, "I'll take some of the soup with the neon-orange foam on top. It looks great!"? Not so much.
I liked this soup. (Good thing, too, because I'm up to my eyeballs in it.) It's healthy, tastes fresh, and you can pull it together relatively easily. It's not so extraordinary that I won't try other vegetable soup recipes in the future, but it was a good place to start.
[Before you jump into this recipe, please note that it makes enough feed you, your neighbors, and 20 of their closest friends. You need a BIG pot.]
Italian Vegetable Soup with Rice
Adapted from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, diced
2 ribs celery, sliced
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 gloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce cans organic diced tomatoes
1 28-ounce can organic crushed or ground tomatoes
12 cups organic vegetable or free-range chicken stock
4 cups tomato juice
1 14.5-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 bay leaves
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium yellow squash, sliced
1/3 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 bunch fresh basil, torn into small pieces
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat a large stockpot (at least 8 quarts) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, celery, carrots, and garlic. Saute until vegetables have softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, stock, tomato juice, beans, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the zucchini, squash, and rice. Return to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Add the peas, basil, and vinegar and cook until heated through. Skim the accumulated foam off the surface of the soup, remove the bay leaves, and add salt and pepper to taste before serving.