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Vegetable Soup: The Stock Answer

February 25, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

Vegetarian soups are a challenge. Even meatless soups usually depend on chicken or beef stock for a full flavor. The obvious replacement is a vegetable stock.

Here is the one I learned in the late '70s from three-star chef Fredy Girardet at his kitchen in Crissier, Switzerland. Girardet used it to make many of the light, subtly flavored sauces that accompany his fish dishes. The stock requires little attention from the cook and can be made with any mix of vegetable odds and ends (which might otherwise end up in the garbage).

The rest of the soup formula is easy: Saute garlic and onion in a little oil to develop flavor (never worry about too much garlic in soup--it becomes sweet and mild as it simmers in the liquid), boost the flavor further with red pepper flakes and herbs, and add a little olive oil, cream or sour cream at the end. Those details make a difference in vegetarian soups.

All of these soups use vegetable stock or bouillon. The butternut bisque with spinach and the white bean soup with garlic and rosemary are thick soups while the tomato soup with fennel and fresh basil is light. All of them are low-fat unless you become overzealous with oil and cream at the end.

For this stock, you can add other vegetables that you might have on hand; the point is to pack the pot with vegetables so that they flavor the water. In summer, when tomatoes are at their best, add two tomatoes, quartered, in place of tomato paste.

VEGETABLE STOCK 4 quarts water 4 medium leeks, sliced 4 carrots, sliced 4 celery stalks, sliced 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 large bunch parsley 6 large cloves garlic, peeled, split 6 whole peppercorns 4 bay leaves 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Combine water, leeks, carrots, celery, tomato paste, parsley, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and vinegar in 8-quart pot. Gently simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours.

Strain, pressing as much liquid from vegetables as possible. Discard vegetables. (Refrigerate stock up to 5 days and freeze up to 6 months.) Makes 2 quarts.

This soup makes a great meal with a green vegetable salad and warm bread. While dried beans are always preferable, canned beans work fairly well in this soup, making the recipe a quick and easy preparation.

WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH GARLIC AND ROSEMARY 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 large cloves garlic, minced 1 medium onion, minced 4 1/2 cups cooked Great Northern beans, or 3 (15 1/2-ounce) cans, rinsed with cold water Chopped fresh rosemary 2 to 3 cups Vegetable Stock or bouillon 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar Salt Crushed hot red pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion. Saute until onion is tender, about 4 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup whole beans and puree remainder with 3 tablespoons chopped rosemary. Add pureed and whole beans to pot along with 2 cups Vegetable Stock, balsamic vinegar and salt and crushed hot pepper to taste.

Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Add more stock as needed for consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste. Warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and drizzle over hot soup. Sprinkle with additional chopped rosemary. Serve hot. Makes 6 cups, or 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 342 calories; 104 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 53 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 6.95 grams fiber.

Just a touch of cream smoothes out the flavors in this soup.

BUTTERNUT BISQUE WITH FRESH SPINACH 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 large cloves garlic, minced 1 medium onion, minced 1 medium (about 1 pound 4 ounces) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks 3 cups Vegetable Stock or bouillon 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin 2 cups young spinach leaves 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream Salt Crushed hot red pepper

Heat olive oil in 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion. Saute until onion is tender, about 4 minutes. Add squash, Vegetable Stock and cumin. Simmer, covered, until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Strain vegetable solids from liquid, reserving both. Puree solids along with spinach leaves in food processor or blender. Return puree and liquid to pot. Add whipping cream and season to taste with salt and crushed hot pepper. Heat through. Serve hot. Makes 6 cups, about 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 170 calories; 143 mg sodium; 15 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 2.62 grams fiber.

Canned tomato products give this Mediterranean-influenced soup its body and soul.

TOMATO SOUP WITH FENNEL, OLIVES AND FRESH BASIL 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 large cloves garlic, minced 1 medium onion, minced 1 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/3-inch dice 1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes in rich puree 2 1/4 cups Vegetable Stock or bouillon 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon light brown sugar 6 Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in quarters Salt Crushed hot red pepper 3 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in 3-quart non-aluminum pot. Add garlic, onion and fennel. Saute until onion is tender, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato juice, diced tomatoes and puree, stock and light brown sugar.

Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in olives. Season to taste with salt and crushed hot pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated or frozen as long as 3 months.) Serve garnished with fresh basil. Adjust seasonings to taste. Warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and drizzle over soup. Serve hot or cold. Makes 6 cups, or about 4 servings.

Each serving contains about: 179 calories; 317 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 2.20 grams fiber.

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