If you’ve been reading along on the blog, you’ll know I’ve made a commitment to lose 10 pounds by Saint Patrick’s Day when I always make a vat of potato soup and  loaves of Irish soda bread:


I’ve got a routine of exercise and cutting back on food so that I subtract 35,000 calories in 8 weeks.  (For instance, no meat 2 nights a week.)  No fancy-schmancy (as Sandy would say) diet; no gimmicks; no cash or meetings.  Just me.  My bean-counter head and my family room and the city of Saint Paul as gym. 
 
One of the things I’ve changed is that I can  have only fruit or vegetables 4 lunches per week.  No meat, no bread, no rice, etc.  I am fine with a piece of fruit each day so far and if I’m starving, I cheat a bit to add some Greek yogurt and a little of my homemade, low-fat granola. 

Today, friends, I was hungry-or at least didn’t want fruit.  By lunch, I had to have some real food.  So, I made this soup.  While hunger is the best sauce, I freely admit I adore this soup.   The Herbes de Provence I have include some fennel seed; I threw in some crushed red pepper to flavor the olive oil.  Between the two, my mouth was humming along.   I think it would qualify–or nearly– for “Zero Points Weight Watchers,” too–check with your WW teacher.

One of my life goals for 2013 is to stop wasting food–any food. Like many Americans, I haven’t been as careful as I’d like to be.  I’m sure you’ve been reading the news.  We could feed the world and would have no hungry people if we didn’t waste food is something I’ve been hearing. 

The vegetables for my soup were all sitting around the frig or kitchen counter and needed to be used. If you have different vegetables or vegetables leftover, throw them in.  Be green.  If you have broccoli or cauliflower, don‘t add them until the last couple of minutes; their strong flavors will overpower the broth.  If you want a heartier soup (and this is plenty hearty already), and have some meat, pasta, or rice you’d like in it, be my guest.  As it is, it’s vegan and gluten-free, which was exactly what I needed.

Just a note:  A more traditional Provencal vegetable soup would be made with water, the broth created from the beautiful mix of vegetables.   A pistou (pesto) would also be added without question.  (A pistou being a pounded with mortar and pestle mixture of basil, garlic, salt, and olive oil; a pesto often adds pine nuts and /or Parmesan. Some people now make it in the food processor; it’s not quite the same, but works.)  While it would add some calories, and would render the soup not-vegan if you use Parmesan cheese in the  pesto, it’s a great use for fresh basil, is lovingly scrumptious (words fail me) and will make you a convert forever.  The pistou can be served in a bowl at table and added to taste by each individual.  Unless you’re quite flush,  this is a summertime treat when the basil is overflowing the garden or farm stand and doesn’t cost $4.00 for a small pot in the grocery.

Enjoy the soup however you make it; this version is fast:

 
Quick Vegetable Soup a la Provence (Vegan and Gluten-Free)
                                                           makes about 5 quarts                  8-10 servings
 

·        1 tablespoon olive oil

·        Pinch crushed red pepper

·        4 leeks (white part only), chopped* (can sub one large chopped onion)

·        2 stalks celery, small dice

·        2 carrots, peeled, and sliced thinly

·        1 parsnip, peeled, sliced thinly and chopped

·        2 small turnips, peeled, and small dice

·        1 cup cabbage, chopped finely

·        1 small summer (yellow) squash, large dice

·        2 cloves garlic, minced

·        28-ounce can chopped tomatoes (don’t use pureed tomatoes)

·        1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence**

·        1/ 2 teaspoon  kosher salt

·        ¼ teaspoon  fresh ground black pepper

·        2 quarts vegetable stock (check to make sure your stock is gluten free if you’ve     purchased it from the store)

optional:   1/2 cup fresh basil shredded (julienne)

      — To a 6-quart heavy kettle,  add the olive oil and crushed red pepper.  Heat over medium flame for a minute or two until fragrant.   Add the leeks and celery and let cook 2-3 minutes.  Add carrots, parsnips,  turnips, and cabbage.   Stir and let cook 4-5 minutes until beginning to soften.  Add garlic; cook 1 minute. 

 

       —  Pour in tomatoes and sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper.  Stir, cover, and let come to a boil.  Add stock, stir, cover, and bring to a boil again.3  

  —  Reduce to simmer and cook until vegetables are  nearly-tender, fifteen – twenty minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve hot garnished with fresh basil or pistou, if desired.

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*I usually put the leeks (or onions, celery, cabbage, etc) in food processor as it’s so much quicker.  Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and turnips must be peeled and I prefer to chop or slice them as noted; if they’re too small, they’ll disappear and I like to both see and taste them.  Here they’re sliced/cut thinly or in small pieces to ensure they’ll cook in the same amount of time as the other vegetables.

 

**If you have no Herbes de Provence (remedy that next time you shop–well worth having), use some dried basil, thyme, marjoram, even oregano–or any combination.  Fresh parsley would be perfect, too, or in addition to the dried herbs.  I had some, but just forgot it.  Be inventive with keeping yourself fed!

Sing a new song; thanks for your support!
Alyce