I have to admit, I like making soup more than almost anything. Here’s the reason… a pot of soup is forgiving. You can keep tweaking it until you get it just right. I almost never follow an actual recipe when I make soup and I certainly didn’t tonight. If you are reading this thinking, “What the heck? How does Mary think this post is going to help me?” I’ll try to explain.
You just need to understand how to make soup and then you really don’t need a recipe. Broth based soups all come together basically the same way. A good veggie soup starts with vegetables (duh!) and a good stock. It can be vegetable stock, chicken stock, or beef stock – your choice.
To see how you can make your own chicken stock from scratch using leftover chicken and vegetable odds and ends, check out my friend Margretta’s excellent blog post how to make easy chicken stock. Since I am kind of lazy and usually start things at the last minute, I like to use a soup base. My favorite is Organic Better Than Bouillon.
The process for making vegetable soup is pretty darn easy. Saute the veggies, add stock, season to taste, simmer, and taste some more. Have fun! Here is a very loose recipe to guide you if you decide to make your own Vegetable Beef Soup with Farro a.k.a. Clean Out The Vegetable Bin Soup.
- Step 1 - Veggies: Look in your vegetable bin; ideal ingredients for making vegetable soup are white or yellow onions (or a shallot, which is what I used), celery, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, zucchini, parsnips, tomatoes, potatoes, parsley, and other fresh herbs like rosemary. I never make vegetable soup without onions (or shallots)! Everything else depends on what I have on-hand. This is what I used from my vegetable bin: 1 large shallot, two organic carrots, three stalks of celery, 1 carton button mushrooms, 4 small vine ripened tomatoes, ½ red pepper, curly parsley, and fresh rosemary. I also used dried oregano, salt and pepper.
- Step 2 - Beef: Check your freezer for a piece of frozen round steak - if you are going to make Vegetable Beef Soup with Farro, you're going to need some beef! My freezer had three loaves of bread, a pie crust, frozen chicken thighs, green peas and an ice pack for my shoulder, but no beef...so I bought a small beef round steak at the grocery store for this recipe.
- Step 3 - Farro: Dig through your cupboards to see if you’ve got a package of organic farro. I did! If you don’t, look for brown rice, barley, or another grain you could throw in. I used approximately ½ cup of Bluebird Grain Farms Organic Farro.
- Step 4 - Stock: Figure out what you will use for stock. This could be canned chicken, beef, mushroom or vegetable stock, your own homemade stock, bouillon cubes (not my favorite) or a soup base (I used Better Than Bouillon Organic Beef Base).
- Make the soup. The fun part!
- Here is what I did, using the ingredients I had on-hand:
- Cube up the vegetables and the beef. Heat a small amount of oil in a deep soup pan. When the oil is hot, add the beef. Saute until the beef releases it’s juices and begins to turn brown.
- Add the vegetables to the pot with the beef and stir occasionally until the vegetables begin to soften. You can add a bit more oil here if the vegetables begin to stick to the pan. NOTE: Some vegetables cook faster than others. To prevent the more tender vegetables from turning to mush, add them at the end of the saute period – veggies like zucchini, potatoes, summer squash, and cabbage. I add tomatoes and mushrooms at the beginning, because I want them to release their juices while the vegetables cook.
- Sprinkle the vegetables and beef with salt and pepper, and a little dried oregano, and then add water - twice the volume as the vegetable-beef mixture. Bring the soup to a slow boil, reduce heat and stir in a couple of teaspoons of the beef base. (Go slow here… you don’t want to add too much or it will be too salty). Taste the soup and add a little more base to get the flavor up to where you like it. NOTE: If you are using broth, omit the water and soup base!
- Bring the pot back to a slow boil and add the farro, chopped fresh parsley and chopped rosemary. Put a lid on the pot, turn down the soup to medium-low, and let the soup cook until the farro is cooked through (it will still be chewy). Taste again. Adjust the seasonings. Taste again. And adjust. And keep doing this until it tastes just right to you.
- Dish up your soup and garnish with fresh parsley and freshly ground pepper.
- Enjoy your delicious soup and the fact that your vegetable bins will now close properly.