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Donna Dulfer found creative uses for the odds and ends we all find in our refrigerators. Rather than throwing them out, she suggests a terrific soup preparation.

Odds and ends soup

Basic steps:

  • Inventory the fridge and cupboard and pull out what needs to be used. It can be just vegetables or you can add beans and/or protein. Once you have assembled your ingredients, you need to determine the order in which they get added to the soup pot. Some vegetables need to cook longer than others, so they will be added first. Others require a brief period of heat; they get added at the end. Make sure you include some sort of stock (chicken, vegetable, beef, etc.), an onion and salt.
  • Decide what ethnic flavor you want in the soup. If it is Italian, grab some oregano, basil, rosemary, garlic and maybe red pepper flakes for added heat. If you are feeling more like Mexican, take out some jalapenos, cumin and chili powder. Minced fresh garlic is always a good addition.
  • Divide your vegetables into those typically sauteed (e.g., onion, celery, bell pepper, mushroom) and those that will be added once the soup is simmering (e.g., broccoli florets, carrots, zucchini slices, shredded cabbage or greens, diced sweet potatoes). Cut all your vegetables into similar sizes so they cook at the same rate. There really is no right size; the only consideration is you don’t want pieces too big to fit in your mouth. This is an incredibly forgiving soup, so don’t stress on cutting things perfectly.

Cooking:

  • Heat some oil (olive, avocado, coconut) in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegetables to be sauteed, except the garlic, into the pot. Make sure there is an onion in the mix. Season with a healthy pinch of sea salt and the dried spices you are going to use. These seasonings will be diluted once the broth gets added, so be bold and season heavily. Stirring the spices into the hot oil causes them to bloom and release their flavor. Stir occasionally. If you are using garlic, add it at the very end and cook for one minute. (You never want to add garlic too early because it may burn and that leaves an unpleasant taste in your dish.)
  • Once the vegetables have softened, it is time for the stock. The amount to use is based on how thick you like your soup. You can always add more if the soup’s consistency is too heavy, so start with two cups and go from there.
  • Bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let it simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes to infuse the broth with the flavors from the sauteed vegetables. Now it’s time for the rest of the vegetables. Some vegetables take longer to cook than others. First, add the harder vegetables, like cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and potato, and let them cook a little before adding the softer vegetables, like zucchini and cabbage. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock.
  • Let this simmer another 20 minutes, covered, until everything is cooked. While the soup is cooking, periodically check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. If you are adding any protein to the soup, wait until the very end, so it doesn’t get tough but has a chance to heat. There is nothing wrong with stirring in leftover pasta or rice, if you think it will enhance the soup.
  • The soup is ready to serve. Depending on the flavor profile, you can top the soup with shredded cheese, diced avocado or a dollop of yogurt.

This soup tastes just as good or better the next day. If you have a lot of soon-to-expire vegetables, you can make a large pot of soup and freeze it in serving size batches for days when you don’t want to cook.

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