Kaukab never made vegetable soup. Wasn’t a staple in her Lebanese home. I think I became aware of the soup in the middle or high school cafeterias, as so much of the American cuisine. It’s where I first became enamored (if food could do that) with the lettuce wedge, draped with a foreign-looking mess of pickle-dotted, flesh-colored dressing.
My college-friend, Teri–a northern West Virginian (yes, the “northern” distinction matters, particularly to the “Northerners.”) grew up knowing all about vegetable soup. Her mother and sisters (6, total) would can tomatoes at summer’s end and use them to make an array of recipes, including soup. It was at her home that I first tasted vegetable soup that wasn’t poured from a can (sorry, Campbell’s), and it tasted so good.
Teri’s soup consisted of the all-important requisite vegetable, namely cabbage. And for many years, I stuck with this standard. Along the way, I learned that other vegetables were required, if you were going to call your soup, “Vegetable.” Green beans, peas, potatoes–among them.
Then one day, after realizing that I had forgotten to buy cabbage, that I could still make the soup. It meant that I could try other vegetables, instead. I searched my freezer to see what, if any, vegetables I had that I could use to substitute. There, I found corn and spinach.
These worked well. In fact, from that point forward, I intentionally omitted the cabbage and used these two ingredients. In the last couple years, I’ve added freshly sliced zuchini to the mix.
So, for anyone who likes vegetable soup, don’t be afraid to make it your own. Here’s my recipe:
1/2lb. ground chuck
1 lg. onion, cut in half lengthwise, then each half thinly sliced lengthwise
1 med. zuchini, or 2 small ones, first sliced lengthwise, then each long slice, cut crosswise, about 1/8″ thick (just not too thick or thin)
80z. frozen corn
6 -8oz. frozen spinach
2 veg. or chicken boullion cubes (I use Knorr brand only) Do not pre-dissolve cubes with water. If you can’t find, use Kitchen Basics liquid bouillon or some other comparable one. If using liquid, reduce water by 1/2.
1- 28oz.can crushed tomatoes (I’ve also used canned peeled whole tomatoes, plum preferred, just break them up) If you can’t get a large can, use 4 small cans.
Water (use empty tomato can, and fill twice) If using small cans, fill each empty can with water.
5 – 7 shakes of Worcestershire (or about 1/4C)
1 T. dried, crushed Italian herbs
3-4 drops Tabasco
Veg. Oil (I use Canola oil)
2 – 3 T. sugar, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
First, using a large stock pot, heat pot on high, and pour just enough oil to cover the bottom. Into pot, put meat and onions. Lightly brown meat, stirring it and the onions. Once browned and onions are transluscent, add tomatoes and worstcheshire, and stir. Add water, and turn up heat to high. To that, add frozen corn and spinach and stir to loosen. Once comes up to boil, add in boullion cubes. Stir, to help dissolve. Add salt, pepper, tabasco, sugar,and Italian herbs to adjust for taste. Give it one more stir, then turn down to Med-low and cover, lid slightly tilted. Cook for about 35-40min. then add zuchini. Stir, and re-cover. (At this point, if it looks like it might need additional water, then add some–another 1C should do it) Continue cooking another 25 -30min, or until zuchini is tender, but not mushy.
Kaukab’s probably throwing up her hands, at this point. In my head, I hear her ask, “Aaah, What for you do dat!?”