September 1, 2009

Summer Vegetable Soup

With summer winding down, and a crisp hint of fall in the air, I'm grabbing all I can of this season's local harvest. We are fortunate to have a few farm stands down the road selling fresh picked corn, lettuces, fruit, and other greens daily. The vegetables are colorful and vibrant, which motivates me to put them to good use. All the produce used in this recipe (except for the shitake mushrooms) were purchased from local farmers. The beauty of it all, is that you use ingredients you like best. You can add sliced grilled chicken, rice, beans or pasta as well.

After shopping today, I literally chopped up the veggies I bought, simmered them all together in a pot with some chicken broth and wine, and was soon serving up a hearty soup with warm, crusty rolls. It came out pretty delicious, if I say so myself!

A quick word about onions and shallots. The appearance of shallots remind me of garlic when you clean and slice them. They are very mild in flavor, and blend in nicely when using a lot of other ingredients. I like them for this dish, because I feel red or yellow onions can overpower the green veggies. It depends on your taste, but when I've used regular onions, the soup tends to taste more like a french onion version. Like I said, it's really up to you and what you like, but give shallots a try if you haven't used them before.

Shitake mushrooms are another favorite of mine. They are mild in flavor, and cook up very tender. They are a little on the fragile side, so treat them gently when cleaning and slicing them.
Summer Vegetable Soup
(makes about 6-8 cups)
1 large bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
1 cup of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 and 1/2 cups of sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt/cracked pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch of fresh escarole, chopped
2 cups of chicken stock (or broth)
1 cup water
3/4 cup Marsala wine
1 cup fat free - half and half
6 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Wash/prep all veggies and set aside. Then coat a large, deep pan with olive oil. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and shallots. Season with salt and pepper; saute for about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped asparagus, saute 3-4 minutes more. Slowly pour in the Marsala wine. There are two different kinds of Marsala; dry and sweet. I buy the sweet version for most of my dishes. You don't need a big bottle either, a small size will last you through about 4 recipes. Let the wine cook down a bit with the veggies; then add the chicken stock (or broth) and water. When the broth is heated and simmering, add the escarole. This will cook down, similar to fresh spinach, very quickly. Stir together, and allow the escarole to wilt, simmering for about 5 minutes more. Add the sliced basil. Slowly pour in the half and half; allow to simmer 5 minutes more, or until hot. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.Ladle into bowls, and sprinkle with shredded parmesan or asiago cheese, if desired. Tastes even better warmed up for lunch tomorrow!