Fall is the season of crisp, cool air and is characterized by the availability of a large number of vegetables.
Vegetables can be a primary ingredient in soups, a great way to face the early cold weather and eat flavored dishes.
If enriched with legumes and grains, soups are a complete dish, easy to prepare, and represent an excellent “dinner-saving” solution, allowing you to eat well and healthily.
To make a soup, you generally start with carrots, onions, and celery. Other vegetables are then added, according to one’s taste and tolerance (pumpkin, fennel, chard, escarole, or cruciferous vegetables). Vegetables add a touch of color to the soup and ensure an excellent supply of fluids, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
To give more flavor to the soup without using fat, you can include herbs and spices, prepare homemade vegetable stock cubes, or purchase them in granular form. The latter are easier to dose. However, it is essential to remember to choose the glutamate-free options.
Soups: How to prepare them
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan and sauté the chopped carrots, onions, and celery over low heat without frying them. Stir often, and add the chopped vegetables when they begin to take on color and give off a pleasing aroma. Cook a few minutes and season with a pinch of salt or one granulated stock cube.
Continue stirring the vegetables, and after about 5 minutes, add vegetable broth or water to cover the vegetables completely. You can also add herbs, such as rosemary, sage, or parsley. Cooking time varies depending on the vegetables used and your taste, but approximately 20 minutes is sufficient.
At this point, it is the right time to enrich the soup with legumes. If canned, adding them to the soup when the vegetables are almost cooked is a good idea to prevent the legumes from flaking apart.
If dried legumes are used, they can be cooked separately and then added to the soup halfway through cooking to blend the flavors.
Grains can then be added to be cooked along with the broth and vegetables if they have a quick cooking time, or to be cooked separately and then added in case of longer cooking time.
There are also commercially available options for those with less time on their hands, consisting of small bags of dried legumes and mixed grains that can be added to the vegetable soup.
To add some heat, you can finish the soup with spices to taste, such as pepper, chili pepper, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, or curry.
To ensure a complete dish, it is advisable to add a protein part then, inserting legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils, soybeans, again depending on one’s taste) and also a carbohydrate, such as rice, barley or spelt or other lesser-known but equally valuable grains because they are rich in fiber and minerals (millet, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa).
Freezing soup for future meals
It is a good idea to cook the soup in large quantities so that you have enough to freeze some. This way, you can have a healthy meal ready on those evenings when you don’t have time or don’t feel like cooking.
Cannellini, pumpkin, and escarole soup
Ingredients for 4 people
- Half a pumpkin cut into cubes;
- One head of escarole washed and cut into strips;
- One can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained;
- Unseasoned toasted whole-wheat bread (a couple of slices per person);
- Grated grana or parmesan cheese (about 4 tablespoons);
- One sliced onion;
- One clove of garlic;
- A couple of sage leaves;
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil;
- Vegetable broth or water;
- 1/2 teaspoon salt.
In a saucepan, heat oil and sauté onion, garlic and sage. Add the pumpkin a pinch of salt, and let it season.
Add a couple of spoons of vegetable broth or water until the pumpkin is covered, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the escarole cut into strips and more broth/water if needed. Stir, and add the cannellini beans when the pumpkin is almost done.
Season with raw extra virgin olive oil and some grated Parmesan cheese. Accompany the soup with slices of previously toasted whole-wheat bread.