September is prime time for the vegetable harvest. This hearty Mediterranean vegetable and bean soup is an ideal way to take advantage of overflow produce from your garden or a trip to the farmers’ market. It is also an easy and delicious way to incorporate the principles of the Mediterranean diet into your daily fare. This vegetable-rich soup recipe gets off to a flavorful start with a “sofrito,” a mixture of aromatic vegetables, garlic and herbs sautéed in olive oil. Mashed beans give this soup body and a finishing swirl of fresh basil sauce brings it to life. If you don’t want to bother making the Basil- Garlic Sauce, top each serving with a sprinkling of chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese.
1. Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, leek and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until softened and just starting to brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Meanwhile, place 3/4 cup of the beans in a small bowl. Mash with a fork. Set mashed and whole beans aside.
3. Add broth, salt and bay leaf to sofrito; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
4. Add green beans, partially cover and cook over medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, pasta, tomato, reserved tomato juices, and reserved whole and mashed beans; partially cover and cook 5 minutes. Add zucchini, partially cover and cook until pasta and vegetables are tender, 5 to 6 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf. Season with pepper. (The soup will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat on stovetop or in microwave, adding water to thin as necessary.)
5. While soup is simmering, prepare Basil-Garlic Sauce, if using.
6. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with about 1/2 Tbsp Basil-Garlic Sauce.
YIELD: 8 (1-cup) servings. PER SERVING (with homemade Basil-Garlic Sauce): Calories: 170. Total fat: 7 grams. Saturated fat: 1.5 grams. Cholesterol: 0 milligrams. Sodium: 270 milligrams. Carbohydrates: 21 grams: Fiber: 5 grams. Protein: 8 grams.
BASIL-GARLIC SAUCE (Pistou): Place 2 cups washed and dried fresh basil leaves, 2 crushed and peeled garlic cloves, and 1/8 tsp salt in food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. With the motor running, gradually add 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and 1 Tbsp water. Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and pulse until blended. (Sauce will keep, with a piece of plastic wrap placed directly on surface to prevent discoloration, for up to 2 days.) Yield: 1/4 cup. 50 calories, 4.5 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat and 100 milligrams sodium per 1 1/2-tsp serving.
TIP: Leeks harbor a fair amount of grit in-between the layers, so it is important to clean them thoroughly. Trim fuzzy root end and green stems. Use only the white and pale green portions. With a sharp knife, make several incisions in the stem end of the leek to open it up like a fan. Soak leek in a large bowl of water several minutes, then swish to dislodge dirt. Repeat until water runs clear and no trace of grit remains between layers.
TIP: To seed a tomato, cut it in half along the equator. Place a sieve over a small bowl. Holding tomato half over sieve, squeeze very gently and use your finger to remove seeds form cavities. Press on seeds in sieve to extract as much juice as possible. Add the juice you collect to the soup. Discard seeds.
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup medium onion (chopped)
- 2/3 cup medium leek (white & pale green parts only)
- 1/2 cup diced carrots
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 can (15 ounce) white beans
- 4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 ounce green beans (stem ends trimmed, cut into one inch lengths)
- 1 cup cauliflower florets (cut into 3/4 peices)
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat medium pasta shells, elbow macaroni or broken spaghetti
- 1 cup tomato fresh or canned (seeded and diced)
- 1 cup sliced zucchini