Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back on the Wagon, with Green Soup

Soup is basically one of my favorite foods. There's sushi, of course. There is the sublime perfection of a perfect slice of pizza, all hot and cheesy and thin-crusty and foldable...anyway. But soup is so versatile and rich and delicious and healthy, and did I mention versatile?

A big part of Weight Watchers includes filling up on low-calorie, vegetable-rich soups. I am all for the pro-soup angle of Weight Watchers. I love making my own stocks, either by simmering a bunch of onions, garlic, celery and carrots for a few hours, or boiling down stock bones after roasting chickens, pork or beef chunks. I even made a broth with shrimp before that was pretty damn fantastic. Anyway, I love soup, and now that the VIP is back in Chicago, I'm going to be eating a lot more of it.

This recipe I named "Green Soup" because of 1) its color and 2)...its color. Its full of green vegetables. I'm sure you could add in vegetables of another color, like healthy carrots, potato, or tomato...but then it would just be vegetable soup and not Green Soup. This is one of those soups you can apparently eat and eat and eat, and not really make a dent in your diet plan.

Green Soup

Low-sodium vegetable stock (homemade if you have it)
Cold water
Cabbage, 1/2 head chopped (Napa or regular green)
1 Onion, rough chopped
3 Celery stalks, chopped (leave leafy green parts in the mix)
4 - 6 (or more) garlic cloves, smashed (not chopped)
1 Green bell pepper, chopped
Scallions, chopped
Green zucchini squash, sliced into thin circles
Any other green vegetable you want to add - think fresh (NOT frozen) spinach, brussel sprouts, peapods, kale, chard, bok choy, broccoli, scallions, etc.
OPTIONAL: You can add white mushrooms or tofu as well.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the chopped onion and celery and allow to cook for a few minutes until the onions are fragrant and slightly translucent.

Add the smashed garlic cloves. To smash a clove, take the clove (if its covered in paper its fine) and smash it with a blunt heavy object, like a canned good. The paper will slip off, and you'll have a bruised, smashed garlic clove. Give them good smashes to release their flavor into the soup. Stir around for a few more minutes. If the oil isn't enough to keep the mirepoix from sticking, just add a few tablespoons of water.

Now add the chopped cabbage, zucchini, and bell pepper (and any other green vegetables you have prepared). Add a few tablespoons of water if you haven't already, and cover with the lid for a few minutes to start wilting the tougher vegetables like the cabbage or the spinach.

After about 5 minutes, lift the lid and give it a stir. The vegetables should be bright green. Add a mix of 1/2 vegetable stock and 1/2 cold water to cover the vegetables, and bring the soup level up to about 1 and 1/2 inches below the rim of the pot. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, uncovered. Then once it boils, lower the heat to very low, and cover the soup. Simmer for as long as you want (but under an hour should be fine).

Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro, parsley, basil, or any other fresh herbs you may have. If you want to add herbs to the cooking soup, it might be better to use dry herbs so they reconstitute in the soup and flavor the broth (fresh herbs may lose potency if allowed to cook for too long).

For a Latin flair, add sliced roasted jalapeno and garnish with a dollop of fat-free sour cream, cilantro and a squirt of lime. Verde!

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