Perfect Back-to-School Soup

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Alas, summer has officially ended and the children have headed back to the classrooms. Even if you don’t have children, post-Labor Day always brings on a bit of nostalgia and a need for comfort food. This soup, a traditional family recipe with as many variations as there are families, is just the ticket. It is easy to make, tastes wonderful, is versatile, and truly celebrates the bounty of the local farms (which don’t recognize Labor Day as the end of summer production). You can easily add or delete any vegetable, or skip the meat for a no-fat vegetarian version.

If you like the ease of slow cooking, prepare ahead and turn on the crockpot before leaving for work and it will be all ready at dinner time. Otherwise, prepare and simmer on the stove for 1-2 hours, until the carrots and potatoes are tender. The smaller the slices, the quicker they will become tender, but for the best taste, shoot for at least one-plus hours of simmering. This recipe serves at least 10-12 people, so if you don’t eat it all the first time, refrigerate the remainder and eat it again in a few days (within 3 if using meat and within 5 if all vegetarian). The second time may taste even better!

Notes: It can also be frozen for later use, but veggies will be a bit mushy. Most ingredients for this soup are available right now at the Saratoga  Farmers’ Market.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 fingerling potatoes, washed and cubed (fingerlings were available at Pleasant Valley Farm and Gomez Veggie Ville, last week at the market and perhaps others as well), or 4-6 Peter Hooker potatoes from Sheldon Farm on Saturdays
  • 2 cups fresh green beans chopped in half (try Row and Hoe or Kokinda Farm for sweet tender varieties, or Hayner Farms and others for Italian green beans)
  • 2 small zucchini, cubed
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, cubed
  • 4 small carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cubed peeled eggplant
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (Zehr and Sons Mushroom Farm or New Minglewood Farm, both on Saturdays)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp. each of finely chopped fresh herbs (basil, flat parsley)
  • 1-2 pinches of fresh thyme
  • 4 cups freshly made tomato sauce (used canned, if you must)
  • salt and pepper to taste (especially be sure to add some pepper)
  • Optional: Add water or stock if the soup is too thick for your preference.
  • Optional: Cooked meatballs (Brookside Farm) or sausage (all market meat vendors). Or Elihu Farm mutton chorizo to add some spice with less fat.

Directions

Option 1. Slow Cook Method: Prepare all the ingredients and combine into a 5-quart slow cooker or crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Option 2. In a Hurry Method: Prepare all ingredients (To save time: this can be done within a night ahead if you store preparations air tight and refrigerate.) Combine into a 5-quart pot; bring to a low boil, then turn to simmer. Stir often and simmer at least one hour and until potatoes and carrots are tender.

Serve the soup with some tasty, hard-crust bread from West Village Market, Rock Hill Bakehouse, or Mrs. London’s.

A version of this market recipe appears in this week’s edition of Saratoga Today. Ingredients marked with an asterisk (*) are available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market.