Does a simple soup that can make food dollars go further, boost good nutrition, and cut food waste sound good? As an added bonus, suppose it helps you maintain a healthy weight? If you’d like to give that soup a try, then check out the “No Veggie Left Behind” Soup in the Winter 2014 issue of Wegmans Menu magazine, a publication by Wegmans Food Markets and a recent blog post by Mary Ellen Burris, the company’s senior vice president of consumer affairs. More than a recipe, it’s just four steps that work with any vegetables you have on hand.
The rewards of making soup go beyond the pleasure of preparing something delicious. Got veggies in the fridge that aren’t crisp anymore? Use them in soup instead of throwing them away and score a triple win:
- Extra nutrition: Vegetable soup puts another serving of vegetables in your day - more antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber to support your family’s health.
- Extra savings: Squeezing another meal or two from vegetables you bought on your last shopping trip gives you more for your money.
- A plus for the planet: Reducing food waste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, means less food goes to landfills where it generates greenhouse gases like methane and the energy used to grow and ship the food isn’t wasted.
There’s another smart reason for starting a meal with soup, says Wegmans Nutrition and Product Labeling Manager Jane Andrews, MS, RD. “As you’re enjoying the soup, it’s taking the edge off your appetite. When you’ve finished the soup, you’re not quite as hungry. Without thinking about it, you may help yourself to smaller portions of the entrée and sides, yet leave the table with your appetite fully satisfied, and consume fewer calories overall, because soup is usually lighter in calories.”
The culinary pro who created the “No Veggie Left Behind” soup is Executive Chef John Steinhoff, whose cooking advice regularly appears in the “Ask a Chef” section of Menu magazine. He is a big believer in the power of simplicity. “Making great food easy is what we’re about at Wegmans,” Steinhoff says. “If a technique takes only a few steps, people are more likely to try it, remember it, and be successful. As I work on a new recipe or cooking instructions in the test kitchen, I’m always thinking about how to keep prep steps short and easy, while still getting the deep flavors everybody wants.”
Here’s Steinhoff’s technique for “No Veggie Left Behind” Soup:
- Start with aromatic veggies. Create a flavor base for your soup by sautéing in olive oil about 1 cup of chopped, aromatic veggies – say, a mixture of onions, carrots and celery. (A pan-ready mixture of these vegetables is sold at Wegmans as Food You Feel Good About Diced Mirepoix).
- Add other veggies. Use whatever you like or have in the fridge, including greens, squash or root veggies such as parsnips or turnips. Sauté until slightly caramelized and tender. Use about 1-1/2 or 2 pounds of chopped veggies for 64 ounces (2 quarts) of stock or broth.
- Stir in stock and simmer. Use a culinary stock such as Wegmans Beef Culinary Stock or a broth like Wegmans Organic Chicken Broth and heat through. For an extra flavor boost, stir in other flavor-makers toward the end of cooking, such as pesto or flavored oils.
- Finish, garnish and serve. Like pureed soups? Using a hand-held immersion blender is a quicker, easier way to puree soup, says Steinhoff. Just before serving, season the soup to your own taste and garnish with something that provides a visual contrast and extra flavor -- fresh herbs such as a parsley or cilantro, or a dollop of crème fraîche or plain Greek yogurt, for example.
By changing up the vegetables you put in the soup but keeping to that four-step pattern, you can make dozens of delicious combinations. For example, Kale & Mushroom Soup and Sweet Pea and Artichoke Soup are just two recipes that are made the same way.
Steinhoff has distilled those four steps from the experience of making soup as a culinary professional during the last 30 years. “You learn refinements along the way, such as sautéing veggies to caramelize them, which brings out more of the flavor and natural sweetness they have. It’s one of those touches that lifts the final result up a notch.”
During his career, Steinhoff notes, a much larger selection of international foods has become widely available in this country. “By taking advantage of flavor-makers such as pesto, or truffle oil, or miso, which are easy to find today, you can create nuanced flavors with fewer steps than you needed a generation ago.”
In his own pantry at home, Steinhoff keeps all of those flavor-boosters, and more. “I love a little spice and some kick to dishes I make. So I usually also have ponzu sauce (a blend of rice vinegar, citrus and other ingredients), chili-garlic sauce, miso, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and other ingredients I can use to bring out a meatier, more savory flavor to a dish.”
While kale is near the top of Steinhoff’s personal list of favorite veggies, he’ll use “just about anything” to make a soup that celebrates a bumper crop from the garden or from Wegmans Organic Farm.
His advice to home cooks? “Make culinary stock or broth one of your pantry staples, so you always have it handy. Look inside the vegetable bin of your fridge every week or so. You probably have a few veggies there that would make excellent additions to your next batch of soup. Go for it!”