Got Vegetables? Make Soup

It can be a challenge cooking for two. When I made a big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack the other day, I had a lot of tender vegetables left over. I turned them into creamy soup in 30 minutes.

The thin slices of potatoes and tender ribbons of cabbage seemed to demand caraway, that distinctly flavored seed typically found in rye bread. I used to love ladling my mom’s sauerkraut dotted with caraway seeds over creamy chunks of boiled potatoes.

I started the soup by sauteing chopped onions and caraway seeds in hot oil. I tried a bit of the Butter Olive Oil I bought at Oh! Olive, a cute little shop in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The oil is organic with natural butter flavor, but is dairy-free and contains no animal products. I’ve discovered it’s perfect for popping corn, or drizzling over a bowl of hot popped corn. Anyway, when the onions began to turn golden brown, I dumped in all my leftover vegetables (I had quite a bit — only two of us ate a meal from that big pan of veggies), poured in a few cups of vegetable broth and let it all simmer together for about 20 minutes.

The potato slices were falling apart at that point and the green beans and carrots were very tender.

I used my immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot. Of course you could use your blender or food processor for the job. I wanted to have control over how chunky the final product would be. And then, I just stirred in about a cup of milk and seasoned to taste. A sprinkle of minced fresh parsley over the top gave it the final touch.

The soup was so satisfying. The dark caraway seeds softened during the saute and simmer and added that German-style flavor I remember from years of eating the sauerkraut and dumplings my mom used to make whenever she wanted to make my dad’s day.

Either use up some vegetables you’ve already cooked or follow the recipe below.

Turn leftover Baked Garden Vegetable Stack into Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup.

I plan to bake another big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack, just so I can have more of those vegetables to turn into soup.

Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup

First, cook the vegetables. Serve some up as part of a meal, then use the rest for soup. Here’s how to bake the vegetables:

  • Olive oil, for preparing pans
  • Yukon Gold potatoes, about 2 to 2½ pounds, peeled
  • Carrots, about 1 pound, peeled
  • Onion, 1 medium, sliced thin
  • Green Beans, 5 to 6 ounces, topped and tailed (trimmed), cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
  • Cabbage, about 4 ounces, sliced thin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare 2 shallow baking pans or baking dishes that are the same size. Two jelly roll pans (11- x 15-inch) if you are feeding a family or 2 to 4 gratin dishes if you are cooking for one or two. Lightly coat the inside of each baking pan or dish with olive oil. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife or a mandolin to slice Yukon Gold potatoes and carrots 1/8-inch thick, keeping them in separate piles.

Salt and pepper the inside bottom of one pan. Arrange about half of the Yukon Gold potato slices, shingle style, in the prepared pan, covering the bottom completely. Make another layer with all of the carrots, arranging them the same way. Sprinkle the onion slices, green beans and cabbage over the potatoes. End the stack with a layer of the remaining Yukon Golds, arranging them shingle style. Push the mixture down with your hands to pack it in to the pan tightly.

Brush olive oil over the top layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Set the other prepared pan upside down over the pan of vegetables. Wrap the pans up tight with heavy-duty aluminum foil to hold them securely together.

Bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. Carefully flip the pans over (be sure to use oven mitts) and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven. Allow the baked stack to rest for 5 minutes, then very carefully remove aluminum foil.

Lift off the top baking pan. Lay a large cutting board over the top of the baked stack and flip the stack over onto the cutting board. Carefully remove the baking pan. Slice the hot stack into squares or rectangles and serve. Refrigerate leftovers to save for soup.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 3 (approximately) cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dairy or non-dairy milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and caraway seeds. Saute until onions just begin to turn golden brown. Add all of the leftover vegetables to the pot. Add enough broth to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are falling apart and cabbage and green beans are tender.

Add milk.

Puree to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle some fresh parsley on each serving. Makes about 6 servings, depending on how many vegetables you started with.



Oktoberfest Bean with Bacon Soup (and so much more)

It’s been a busy week, with much of it being spent out of town and in the car. Two back-to-back road trips to Minneapolis gave me some new restaurant experiences, an interesting apple detour (read about that in my column next week), wonderful tastes of kolacky and potica at the Czech-Slovak festival in Highland Park and a stop at Vinaigrette to stock up with more of their olive oils and vinegars. I slipped some work in between all of the fun.

A highlight of my eating experiences in Minneapolis was dinner at Sanctuary. The chef was introducing his autumn menu that evening. My dining partner and I started with Yellow Curry, Cauliflower and Potato Cream Soup with Cilantro Oil. It was smooth and creamy with just a hint of spicy curry at the back end of each spoonful that went into my mouth. It was wonderful. I also had huge, perfectly grilled shrimp that were served with salsa verde and pineapple sour cream. The meal was the perfect prelude to a one-block walk over to the Guthrie to see “The Master Butchers Singing Club.”

I tried recreating that lovely Yellow Curry soup to serve to my friend on her birthday yesterday. It didn’t live up to the delicious soup prepared at Sanctuary, but it was good, nonetheless. I’m going to keep working on it before I share it with you.

On my return home from one of those trips this week, it was time to prepare an evening meal. I was tired and didn’t have a whole lot of time. In the refrigerator I found the same ingredients that were in German-Style One-Dish Meal from my last blog post. I decided to turn it into soup with the addition of some broth and a can of pinto beans, both in my pantry. It was a hot, satisfying soup, full of flavor.

I didn’t use a recipe. But I kept track of what I used so that I could make it again. Because I enjoyed it so much, I’m sharing it with you. But, it’s soup, remember. So a recipe isn’t all that important. Use any kind of broth you have on hand, any kind of beans, any kind of sausage — just use what you like and stick to the basic proportions in the recipe.

I’d call this soup fast food — but healthful and made in your own kitchen. Think of it as that canned bean with bacon soup that you just mix with water. But, so much more with many healthful ingredients and much less sodium.

With Oktoberfest in mind, this soup is definitely German to me.

Oktoberfest Bean with Bacon Soup (and so much more)

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 chubby cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup beer
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound sauerkraut
  • 1/2 pound smoked turkey sausage
  • 3/4 pound cooked potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • Sour cream for serving
  • Chopped parsley for serving

Fry bacon in a soup pot. When bacon is crisp, remove to paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

Add olive oil to the bacon fat in pot. Saute onions until tender. Add garlic and saute for a minute more. Add beer, broth, sauerkraut, sausage, potatoes and beans. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all the ingredients are heated through.

If you don’t have cooked potatoes on hand, cut small cubes of raw potatoes and add them to the pot with beer and broth. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Then add sauerkraut, sausage and beans and cook until those ingredients are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Crumble bacon into a bowl and mix with chopped parsley. To serve, ladle piping hot soup into bowls. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of the bacon-parsley mixture. This will make 4 large fill-you-up servings of soup.