Quick and Easy Fresh Vegetable Soup: The Trick is in the Flavor Base

recipe ingredients

With a chilly day predicted, I thought a hot soup would be a good choice, but I wondered how I could make a flavorful soup in an hour or so? I would have no time to make a separate vegetable stock and, in the spirit of our cooking demos, I did not want to go with a store bought option. What to do?

I needed to figure out how to create a strong flavor that would not dissipate once water was added to make the soup. What came to mind were two things. The first is a tip I learned from Mike Vrobel, of DadCooksDinner, that he uses to make his turkey stock: Be sure to include onion and carrot and slice them very thinly to let more of the flavor out into the liquid. The second is that tomatoes are one of the vegetarian ingredients used to add an “umami” flavor. Okay, three things, with the third being that dried herbs, when added early in the cooking process, can pack as much of, or an even better punch then their fresh counterparts.

Oh, okay, five things. Garlic (of course) and just the right amount of salt.

picture of flavor base before adding water and chopped veggies
The flavor base

The instructions are in the following recipe, but the short story is saute thinly sliced onion and carrot on low for a few minutes in olive oil, (do not brown!) raise temperature, add dried herbs, salt, and pepper, and cook for a minute or two, add thinly sliced garlic and cook until fragrant, add diced tomato, lower temperature, and cook down for 10-15 minutes. Then add water and veggies, cook for 15-20 minutes, and season with salt to taste. Here is what I did at the Market Kitchen Tent:

Quick and Easy Fresh Vegetable Soup
(serves 4)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, very thinly sliced/chopped
1 3 to 4-inch piece of a medium carrot, very thinly sliced
2 small clove garlic thinly sliced
4 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4+ tsp each salt and pepper
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 small to medium potatoes, diced
1 3″ or so chunk of daikon radish, diced (can also use two big red radishes)
15 or so green beans, in 1″ pieces
kernels from one cob of fresh corn
liquid scraped from the “de-kerneled” cob
2 cup water to start, then, if needed, add more to cover by 1/2″ or so (I used three cups)
1 tsp salt

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan, add onion and cook on low for a few minutes. Add the thinly sliced carrot and cook another few minutes, then raise the temperature to medium high and add dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook for another minute or so, add the garlic and cook until frgrant, about 30 seconds, then add tomatoes, and liquid scraped from corn cob. Lower heat and cook for at least 10 minutes or so until thickened and very fragrant.

Next, add all the rest of the veggies and the water. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, adjust seasoning if desired, and you are done!

So easy and so good! You can use whatever veggies you like, but I’d recommend keeping the flavor base the same.

You might be wondering about the daikon radish in the ingredient list. I am a big fan of this vegetable, also called ice radish. I discovered it back when I followed a macrobiotic diet and have since learned that it is very good for the soil, making it an excellent rotation crop. Unfortunately, it is not one of the more familiar vegetables, so I always like to give it some PR when I can.

picture of person with a daikon radish
This is Dave, who went to Farmer Dave’s tent and got himself his own daikon radish. 🙂

I found out that Farmer Dave’s has been offering it in their current CSA, so I requested that they send some along to Wakefield this week. And they did! Along with using it in the soup, I also offered raw slices for people to try. I am happy to say that more than just a few people headed over to Farmer Dave’s for a daikon radish when they left the Market Kitchen Tent.

Not everyone was a newbie, though. Here are some ideas for using daikon shared with me today: Slice it in rounds and serve with hummus or another dip in lieu of crackers. Julienne and include in a wrap. Or, the most fun sounding one: slice thin or spiral and serve with a strong soft cheese on dark rye bread, accompanied by a good beer.

Of course, it is great in soups or stir fries, any casserole dish, (use to complement or as a substitute for turnip, potato, or carrots) raw in a salad or veggie plate, or try it roasted, by it itself or in a veggie medley. Here is a fun recipe I am going to try this weekend: Spicy Roasted Daikon Radish French Fries.

Do a search online for daikon radish, and daikon radish recipes. You just might find out that you have a new favorite veggie.

Fresh Sweet Corn Relish: a “no cooking needed” recipe!

picture of recipe ingredients
The ingredients, with option olive that I did not use for the market demo

In honor of the summery weather and full harvest time, I made a fresh corn relish highlighting a number of veggies along with, of course, fresh corn. It was a bit hit! And, for once, I made the recipe as written. Well, almost. <grin>

Quick, easy, tasty, it can be a side dish, a dip, a topping or garnish for fish, (salmon comes to my mind) pork, or whatever strikes your fancy. Here it is, with a few notes.

2 cups fresh corn kernels from the cob (I used 4 ears) *
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup finely diced tomatoes
1/3 cup deseeded, deveined, finely diced jalapeno or other hot pepper.**
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 tablespoon dried – use the olive oil if using dried basil)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

* Click HERE  for a video showing how to get kernels off the cob without the mess!

**I used moon peppers, more commonly called Bishop’s crown peppers, from Flats Mentor Farm.

Toss together the corn kernels, finely diced red bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes, and hot pepper.

picture of fresh corn relish
Ready to eat!

Mix the vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil together in a separate bowl and then add to the veggies and toss to cover.

It is ready to eat, but you can also store, covered, in the fridge for up to 4-5 days or more, but keep an eye on the tomatoes!

samples in cups

Fun with Kale. Really! Secret SautĂ© Ingredient and a Quick “Massage”

ingredients in the saute
All the ingredients except the soy sauce!

I actually converted a few “I hate kale” folks and had a toddler coming back for 3rds! I based my sautĂ© recipe on The Sauteed Kale Recipe that Converts Kale-Haters, which has butter or ghee as the cooking oil, along with shallots, soy sauce, and Dijon mustard as the secret ingredients for success.

Since I stay vegan for our demos and with no shallots available at the time, I had to make a few adjustments. Here is the recipe I used at the market. In contrast to the recipe I put on the bulletin board during the demo, I used a medium-largish onion, doubled the amounts of soy sauce and mustard, and cooked the onions slow and low for about 25 minutes so they just started to caramelize. I knew that doing this with the onions would give a bit of a creamy texture and sweetness that, while not a substitute for what butter can bring, brought a special something beyond just a quick cook of the onions in the olive oil.

2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
1 medium to large onion
1-2 large garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. Old School Kitchen’s Maple Bourbon Mustard *
1 bunch of kale, rinsed and chopped **
water as needed
salt and black pepper, to taste
* Use whatever mustard you like
**Don’t dry the kale; the water droplets will help it steam as cooking.

Remove leaves from stems and chop the kale into small pieces.

onions in pan
I used a whole onion. Why not?

Heat the oil or fat over medium heat in a saute pan with high sides or a dutch oven.

Add the onion, lower heat, and cook slow and low for at least 20 minutes to bring out sweetness – longer if you have time to caramelize them a bit more. Bring the heat up and add the garlic, cooking briefly until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the chopped kale and stir to coat in the oil. Add the tamari or soy sauce and mustard, and stir again.

finished dish of sauteed kale

Sauté, stirring frequently, until the kale is tender, about 8-10 minutes or to how you like it. If the kale starts to stick to the pan, add a couple tablespoons of water. This will help soften the kale, and the water will cook off.

Season with salt and pepper before serving and enjoy…But wait, what was that about a massage?

Rubbed or massaged kale
Rubbed or massaged kale

To season and soften kale without cooking, simply remove the leaves from the stems and chop the leaves, add a bit of olive oil, salt (I used and would recommend kosher salt if you have it) and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then rub or “massage” with your fingers for a few minutes or more. You can use it alone as a salad green (ooo, I can taste this with walnuts and apples!) or in a salad mix, add to a stir fry, or use the rubbed leaves to make kale chips!

Lemongrass! What to do with it? For one, a Swiss Chard Sauté

picture of ingredients
The ingredients

This past week, I wanted to highlight lemongrass, a tropical grass that is also grown here in Massachusetts by our Flats Mentor Farm farmers.

The easiest way to enjoy lemongrass is to make a tea of the bulb, stalk, and/or leaves, with the latter being the choice for our Saturday morning beverage. It could not be easier: cut the dark green tops off the stalks, put them in a pot of water, bring to a boil, and then simmer or just turn off the heat (as I did) and let it steep! Delicious hot or warm, it also makes a refreshing iced tea.

pic of lemongrass tea
Lemongrass Tea!

Our main dish used lemongrass to add its essence to sautéed Swiss chard, to which I also added sweet yellow peppers. I put 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a big frying pan, added 2 tablespoons of sliced, then crushed, then finely minced lemongrass bulb, which is the bottom few inches minus the end of the bulb, which you chop off.

This was done at a low temperature – just a bit of movement in the oil, for about 20 minutes. I then added sliced sweet yellow pepper, using a whole one along with leaves from a bunch (10-12 stalks) of Swiss chard. I chopped both the chard and peppers small so they would fit into the demo cups, but you can size as desired.

Once the lemongrass had infused in the olive oil, I turned the heat up to medium high and added the pepper slices and cooked for a few minutes, then added the chard and let it cook down and long enough get soft and deep in flavor, about 10 minutes or more, turning the heat down if it looked like things might get brown.

A touch of salt finished it off, although you could certainly add seasonings to taste, as well as tofu, chicken, or another protein for a complete meal. Note: the infused oil is not lemony as is the tea, but it adds a “something extra” to the flavor base. According to many recipes sites, that “something” is what you might feel is missing if you make Thai food without using lemongrass.

The bulb and stem, and, even the leaves can be used to season, soups, stews, and curries. Just note that the stalk and leaves must be removed after cooking, as well as the bulb if not minced. Too tough to chew! If not mincing the bulb, slice and crush before using.

You can use 1 Tbsp minced lemongrass bulb for 1 tsp lemon zest, and, I discovered that lemongrass vodka is a thing, one that I intend to try. Click HERE for one way of making it.

Can’t use what you buy all at once? No fear! It freezes well. Just cut off the leaves (make tea!) and wrap the bottom 6-8 inches for later use.

To end, here is a link to a handy chart showing how to prep lemongrass:
How to Prepare Lemongrass

Watermelon, Peach, and Tomato Salad: Delectably Refreshing

The ingredients
The ingredients except for the olive oil. Melon from Farmer Dave’s, tomatoes from Kelly’s Farm, and peaches from Fay Mountain Farm.

When Farmer Jane of Farmer Dave’s said that they would have a lot of watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes, I typed those words into a search engine and voila! I discovered that Watermelon, Peach, and Tomato Salad is a “thing.” That was easy! I made a few changes from the original recipe created by Anne Byrn for The Old Mill to keep things dairy and nut-free, and left out fresh basil and mint since none of the former was available and not much of the latter. But truly, the produce shines on its own. Just add or adjust ingredients to suit your taste.

Here are the ingredients from the original recipe with my changed noted in parentheses:

6 cups seedless watermelon chunks, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cups good, ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups sliced, peeled ripe peaches
6 cups fresh arugula or your favorite salad greens (I used a bunch chopped small for sample servings)
4 tablespoons olive oil (I used 2 T)
1 1/2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar (I used 1 T)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or basil, or a combination (if desired)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (if desired)
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds (if desired or use other toppings)

bowls of watermelon and tomato, salted.
Salted and sitting for 1/2 an hour.

Place the watermelon and tomatoes in a mixing bowl and season with salt. Toss to coat, and let the fruit sit for 30 minutes. Drain well.
Fold the peaches into the watermelon and tomato mixture. To serve, spoon the fruit on top of the salad greens. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Garnish the top with chopped fresh herbs, feta cheese, and toasted almonds. NOTE: I drained again after adding the peaches, and at least once more time during the demo. Note to self – save the liquid. It will make great base for a mixed drink!

Here are some handy notes excerpted from/based on those in the original recipe:

Use fresh, ripe fruits of any color and sprinkle the watermelon and tomatoes with a little kosher salt ahead of time. It not only draws out the moisture, but it intensifies the flavor of the fruit.
Prepare ingredients separately. Once you are ready to serve, pile the watermelon, peaches, and tomatoes on top of your favorite lettuce, sprinkle with the oil, vinegar and fresh herbs, and then garnish with the feta and almonds, if using the latter two.
Don’t have feta? Use cubes of fresh mozzarella. Or use toasted pecans instead of the almonds. And if you don’t have basil or mint, use what you have – chives, dill, or parsley. There could not be a more adaptable, stunning, and easy-to-fix salad that salutes the end of summer in a big way.

sample serving of recipe

This really is a lovely recipe as written or as a basis for your own ideas or available ingredients. The stars of the recipe should be available from our farmers for at least a few more weeks, so keep this one in mind to enjoy it with the freshest of fruits and greens.