Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tonight We're Having a Soul Satisfying Soup for Supper

Testing a recipe for risotto forced me to come up with a simple vegetable broth recipe. I hesitate to use store bought veggie broth for two good reasons: they are horribly inconsistent in flavor and they don't taste good. Some taste like caramelized onions, some like carrots that have been cooked too long and others taste like nothing at all.

My recipe for simple vegetable broth is pretty much identical to how I begin most of my soups: saute onion, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil, add water, herbs and salt and simmer about 20 minutes. It's that simple and it works just fine.

The risotto was a success (more about that in a later blog) but the bonus was even better.

Because the veggies only cooked in the broth for a short time they still had good flavor and texture, so I decided to save them and use them in soup. What a bonus! But what kind of soup, besides vegetable?

Recently a foodie friend reminded me of the convenience and versatility of black eyed peas. I don't remember the last time I cooked black eyed peas, frozen or dried. Curious I decided to pick up a bag and stash them in my freezer. Maybe they'll make a good soup?

Fresh vegetable broth simmering in my soup pot, 2 cups of precooked vegetables waiting for a home, and a bag of frozen black eyed peas looking at me was a good start. Was I creating a spin on minestrone, the classic Italian bean, pasta and vegetable soup? Could be. A box of orzo cinched the theme. Perfect. The orzo and black eyed peas take about the same length of time to cook in the broth which would give me a few minutes to come up with an interesting flavor profile for the soup.

I not sure if it was because I got the bright idea to add some chopped Kalamata olives to the pot, but I decided the flavors would profile the Greek pantry. The result: a bit of grated lemon zest, a pinch of dried oregano, and a crumbling of feta cheese on top.

Tonight we had Greek inspired Vegetable, Black Eyed Pea and Orzo Soup for supper and it was yummy.

Quick and Easy Basic Vegetable Broth

This makes a fairly large batch so freeze any unused broth in 2 cup freezer containers for later use. If you'd like to make the soup, but would rather skip the broth making, scroll to the end of the soup recipe and follow the Note for making the soup from scratch.

Cook Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 10 cups

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 stalks celery, 1/4 inch slices
2 medium carrots, 1/2 inch slices
2 leafy springs Italian parsley, including stems
12 cups water
1/2 cup diced fresh or canned tomatoes with some juices or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large broad soup pot. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion, add the onion and cook, stirring, over medium low heat until it is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, celery, carrots, and parsley and cook, stirring 2 minutes.

2. Add the water, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and pepper and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low so that the broth maintains a slow boil and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes.

3. Cool the broth. Place a strainer over a large bowl and carefully pour the broth into the strainer. Reserve the vegetables (there should be about 2 cups) for soup, if desired. Divide the broth among freezer containers, label and freeze until needed.

Vegetable, Black Eyed Pea and Orzo Soup

This easy recipe uses frozen black eyed peas and orzo to make a version of minestrone, except that it gets a Greek flavor twist with the addition of chopped Kalamata olives, dried oregano and lemon zest. Serve with a spoonful of crumbled feta floating in each bowl.

Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

6 cups Quick and Easy Basic Vegetable Broth
2 cups frozen black eyed peas
1/4 cup orzo
2 cups reserved cooked vegetables from the Quick and Easy Basic Vegetable Broth recipe
1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Combine the broth, black eyed peas and orzo in a large soup pot and heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 20 minutes or until the orzo and peas are both soft to the bite.

2. Add the reserved vegetables, olives, oregano and lemon zest and cook, over medium low heat, 10 minutes. Add black pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat until ready to serve.

3. To serve ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each with about 2 tablespoons of crumbled feta.

Note for making the soup from scratch: Cook the vegetables in the Quick and Easy Basic Vegetable Broth recipe as directed in step 1, but use only 6 cups of water. Simmer 20 minutes. Scoop the vegetables out of the broth with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the orzo and black eyed peas as in step 1 of the Vegetable Black Eyed Pea and Orzo Soup and proceed with the soup recipe as written.


  1. Glad to have stumbled upon your blog, Marie, and to hear about your latest project. You are such a good writer. Also glad to get wind of the "mystery recipe" at Rancho La Puerta - I'm on my way there in February!
    Happy holidays to you,

  2. Came upon you via a link--looks like some good stuff!
    I started making my own veggie stock a couple of years ago. I use my "clean compost" to do it. When I trim or peel carrots, potatoes, parsnips, celery, onions, greens (stems), mushrooms, winter squash guts, shelling pea shells, etc. they go into a freezer bag marked "stock bag." Periodically, I fill my soup pot with water, pasta strainer basket (which never seems useful for pasta), and empty the freezer bags into it. I simmer it for as long as I have--usually an hour or so--and then remove the basket & compost the veggie scraps. Let the stock cool, and scoop it into freezer bags in 1, 2 and 3-cup portions.

    My favorite addition is the shelling pea outsides--it sweetens the stock beautifully.