Vegetable Soup Using 3 Misunderstood Veggie Parts

posted: 04/14/15
by: Jaden Hair

We just got back from sunny 85F Mexico, and while Florida winters isn't the same as drastic snow up north or midwest, it's still pretty darn cold for my thin skin. Okay, I'm a weather wimp. To warm up, I've been making lots of soups and stews. I would have loved to call this a garden vegetable soup, but this year I really don't have that big of garden due to my travel schedule. These are all vegetables that I normally would grow -- kale, celery, carrots, tomatoes -- and I miss my garden terribly.

Today, I want to talk about several things: how to layer flavors in vegetable soup and how to use the often misunderstood, discarded broccoli stem, kale stem and parsley stems.

First up...the broccoli stems:

The sick fibrous stem often gets thrown away, but once you peel away the outer layer, the stem is milky-green, tender and crunchy. It's perfect for vegetable soup, as you get all of the nutrition and taste of broccoli without the soggy, camoflauge-green florets.

1. Take a paring knife and cut off the bottom of the stem.
2. Peel away the thick skin - it's really easy to do with a paring knife.
3. See how smooth and tender the stem is?
4. Dice for our soup.

This is kale - it's a lovely, sturdy leaf that's great baked -- Crispy Kale Chips -- and simmered in soups and stews. The kale itself isn't misunderstood, but the tough stems the are! Normally, recipes will instruct you to discard the thick stems. What I like to do is to dice them separately from the leaves. This way, the stems cook faster.

Just fold the kale leaf in half, with the stem on one end. Now just hear the leaves from the stem. Dice the stem into itty bitty pieces so that they cook faster.

Alright, now for our last misunderstood item...the parsley stem. Most cooks will pick off the leaves and discard the stems. But I think they are perfect for flavoring soups! Take a small bunch of parsley stems and tie them with kitchen twine so that they will be easy to pick out and discard once the soup is done.

To make vegetable soup and when they teach you a method that will add layers of flavor and a heartier broth. The secret is to saut? the vegetables in a little bit of olive oil to allow them to caramelize a bit, releasing their natural sugars and flavors.

1. Here I've got onions, carrots, celery, broccoli stem, tomatoes, kale stems and kale leaves. The vegetables are added to the pot at different times, so I've put them in the order that they will slide off the cutting board Into the pot.

2. The onions will saute first in the olive oil for a couple of minutes until they become soft and translucent.

3. Next is a clove garlic that has been smushed through a garlic press (I'm a garlic press lover...I know some of you aren't, but that's okay...there's therapy available for that). the garlic goes in after the onions, because the garlic burns very easily.

4. After the garlic and onion have a chance to be happy in the pot, I throw in the celery, broccoli stem, and carrots. I don't have a pic for the final vegetables - but after the vegetables get soft, I then throw in the tomatoes, kale stems and kale leaves.

1. Add about 1 1/2 quarts of water.

2. Throw in a couple of bay leaves and the parsley stems and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

3. I also like to add some beans to make the soup a meal in itself. When in a hurry, I use canned cannellini beans.

4. See how golden and rich the soup gets when you saute the vegetables first?

Jaden's Vegetable Soup Recipe

serves 4-6

If you can only fine kale leaves packaged in a bag with its leaves cut already, just use a large handful or two for the recipe. Make sure you tear the leaves away from the tough stem and mince the stem (see above)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced or smushed through garlic press
2 stems of broccoli, trimmed (see above)
1-2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large tomato, cut into chunks
3 large kale leaves, stems minced, leaves torn (see above)
1 1/2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 small bunch parsley stems, tied with kitchen twine
1 cup drained, canned beans

1. Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant.

2. Add the broccoli stem, carrots and celery. Mix well and saute for 3 minutes until the vegetables are softened.

3. Add the tomato, kale leaves and the kale stems. Pour in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drop in the bay leaves and the parsley stems. Bring to a boil and immediately turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Add in the canned beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt (to taste).

Photos by Jaden Hair