Summer stock: Garden bounty lands soup a starring role
When July finally heated up, it gave everything in the garden a boost. Crisp green beans and slender zucchini are heaped on farm stands and at farmers’ markets. Succulent corn and juicy tomatoes are arriving any minute, ready for their “just picked’’ signs.
Visit a farm or stand and bring home a basketful of native vegetables. Then trim, snip, and simmer them into a large pot of vegetable soup. Let the kids select their favorite vegetables (everyone likes corn, many like green beans); introduce one or two that may not have gone over well in the past (zucchini).
Restaurant chefs like to make stock from vegetable remnants. We follow that idea here, by cutting the kernels off corn cobs, then simmering the cobs in the pot so they release their sweet taste into the broth.
Start the soup with onions and slender carrots. These are called aromatics and they form the base of many soups. Cook them slowly in butter until they’re soft and sweet. Add garlic and cook it for a minute. Take care not to burn the garlic or onions because you can’t get rid of the burnt taste that flavors the whole pot.
Plum tomatoes, fresh from the garden, are superior to canned. Drop them into boiling water to release the skins, then discard the skins (they pull off easily with your fingers). Chop the flesh coarsely. It’s fine to leave the seeds in because this isn’t a delicate soup.
The remaining vegetables - chunks of zucchini, snipped green beans (get the kids to cut them with kitchen shears), corn, and a tiny pasta - go in next. If you can find alphabet pasta, the kids can spell out their names. Otherwise, use soup flakes, rice-shaped orzo, or baby shells. Ladle the soup into bowls.
You’ve just gone from farm to table. Next year, plant a few vegetables and make it a full circle.