It’s over 100° here in North Texas. I love the heat, but it’s so hot (with the added 80% humidity) that even I don’t want to sit outside and read after work every day anymore. I only last about 10min before I’m sweating too much for it to be enjoyable in any way. I don’t mind sweating, but a girl’s gotta draw a line somewhere! So it may seem crazy when I say soup in summer can sometimes be very refreshing! I can see your wild expression at that statement from here, but bear with me for a minute.
I think we can all agree that deep in the thick of summertime is when the appetite is somewhat abated by the aforementioned heat and humidity combination. The body longs for lighter fare and more fluids in general. Somehow a normal meal just doesn’t sit right, which is why I don’t mind soup in summer. Sure soup is generally served hot (cold soups do exist, I know), but everyone forgets just how hydrating soup is! When you eat soup, you’re getting 92% water from your meal as well as nourishing vegetables and minerals from the broth. It’s also slimming… and that’s pretty much what we’re all trying to do the first half of the year, right?
After (miraculously) talking The Mr into the idea one Sunday, I tried out Laura Bush’s Vegetable Soup recipe from her Women’s Health & Wellness initiative while her husband was in office. It’s kinda like one of those kitchen-sink recipes. It’s a cross between a stew and a soup really. It’s thick with hearty vegetables and “beefed up” with protein in the addition of pinto beans, but it’s kept light by the generous amount of vegetables. This also isn’t your ordinary Vegetable Soup. It’s heavy on southwestern flavors with the inclusion of chilies and cumin all mixed in. Finishing it with cilantro instead of parsley brightens it too. The subtle changes in flavor profile were enough to turn an ordinary vegetable soup into something a little more palate-enlivening.
This Vegetable Soup recipe was also pretty seasonally appropriate. Tomatoes, summer squash, and green beans are in such abundance right now that one can’t help but have access to the ingredients to this soup. We have a pretty generous growing season here in the South, but if you’d prefer to enjoy this in the cooler months, there are some simple swaps to be made. Persimmons can be subbed for tomatoes, dried chilies can be re-hydrated in the simmering broth and used in place of fresh, butternut squash can replace summer squash, Brussels sprouts can stand in for corn, and you can turn to kale in place of green beans.
So many restaurants nowadays are making the attempt to go beyond farm-to-table movement. There’s more of an effort being made to utilize every part of the ingredient possible to diminish waste, responsibly decrease costs associated with doing business, and practice more environmental sustainability. I can personally attest that radish greens are so good sautéed with garlic in a little oil and carrot top pesto is a thing now. All of this to say, modern restaurants (if they know what’s good for them) likely have a giant batch of bone broth simmering at any given time (from the various discarded bones and trimmings from portioning proteins) that they dip into all day for all of their dishes that call for a bit of moisture added.
It’s no surprise here that the one exception I made was that I added a dab of Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base to the cooking water because, unless I’m making my own broth, I rarely use straight water in hardly any recipe. I know I’m making vegetable soup, but I’m not simmering it for hours on end. It doesn’t make too much sense to me not to use it. Using broths in place of water just adds an extra depth of flavors. I challenge you to start doing this and taste the difference in your dishes. Do you ever wonder why your favorite restaurant’s dishes taste just that much better than yours prepared at home? It’s likely that they’re just using this subtle swap. No “copycat recipe” can teach you that.
Vegetable Soup is a tale as old as time. I’m not sure I know one person who hasn’t had it in some form or fashion at some point in their life. It is actually thought that Vegetable Soup is the predecessor to onion soup. Can you imagine a world without French Onion Soup to soothe your soul in the deepest of winter? I digress. Vegetable Soup not exactly super exciting-sounding right off the bat. It’s also typically served as a starter course prior to the main entree, but when the weather is thick, it works just as well as a main course.
We topped ours with thick-cut shreds of Tillamook Mexican 4-Cheese Blend and warm corn tortillas on the side to soak up the remaining juices at the bottom of the bowl. (Cornbread was also recommended which would also be fitting!) It was filling without being too heavy so it was just what the body needed. I felt so sated and hydrated and not miserably stuffed afterwards.
What is one of your preferred summertime dishes when the weather is just too hot for a whole big meal?
Currently Reading: Passionate Nutrition by Jennifer Adler