Cookie couldn’t be happier about the change in seasons. She chases the bunnies out of the backyard every time I open the back door and pulls me through the neighborhood during our recommenced evening walks. I don’t mind. Forsythia is on fire and the magnolia trees are blushing. I love this time of year.
Since our early spring weather has been mostly wonderful, I’ve been trying to embrace the rainy days that bring more green to my world. I didn’t even grumble when I ran into the grocery store during a downpour a few days ago, dodging puddles in ballet flats. Celery mission: complete.
I got to work on this homemade vegetable soup when I got home and it warmed me right up. I’m hoping the leftovers will carry us through the remaining rainy days and all the muddy paws that come with them.
I should confess that the idea for this soup recipe came from Trader Joe’s. (You know what they say about grocery shopping while hungry.) Last week, their “vegetable soup with quinoa and kale” caught my eye in the refrigerated section right as my stomach grumbled. I was initially skeptical about quinoa in soup (will it get mushy? does the flavor play nicely with the other ingredients?), but now I’m only wondering what took me so long to try it. Quinoa was meant for soup!
This homemade vegetable soup with quinoa is light but filling and packs great for lunch (it tastes even better the next day). It’s vegan unless you want to top it with Parmesan cheese, which isn’t a bad idea if you ask me. The ingredients list, while a little on the long side, includes mostly pantry items and the soup is really easy to make.
I wrote the recipe so it’s easily adapted to the cooler weather seasons, too. Winter squash would be lovely in place of the zucchini that I used. If you want more of a stew, just use a full cup of quinoa, two cups of seasonal vegetables and throw in some extra greens.
Before we get to the recipe, can we talk about my spice drawer? This thing used to be one giant, messy jumble of spices and it took me forever to find what I needed. I found these spice drawer liners on Amazon last week and they have CHANGED MY LIFE! I mean, they have made cooking a much more pleasant experience. No more spices rolling around in my rickety old drawer. Thought you might need some, too.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 to 2 cups chopped seasonal vegetables, like zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper, sweet potatoes or butternut squash
- 6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 can (28 ounce) diced tomatoes, drained
- Scant 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well in a fine mesh colander (use less for a lighter, more broth-y soup)
- 4 cups (32 ounces) vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can (15 ounces) great northern beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup or more chopped fresh kale or collard greens, tough ribs removed
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Optional garnish: freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Warm the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, seasonal vegetables and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring frequently, about 1 minute. Pour in the drained diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.
- Pour in the quinoa, broth and the water. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 2 bay leaves and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Cook for 25 minutes, then remove the lid and add the beans and the chopped greens. Continue simmering for 5 minutes or more, until the greens have softened to your liking.
- Remove the pot from heat, then remove the bay leaves. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Taste and season with more salt and pepper until the flavors really sing. (You might need up to ½ teaspoon more salt, depending on your vegetable broth and your personal preferences.) Divide into bowls and top with grated Parmesan if you’d like.
Seasonal vegetable preparation tips: If you're using dense vegetables like butternut or sweet potato for your seasonal vegetables, be sure to chop them as small as you're chopping your carrots so they cook in the same amount of time.
A note on canned tomatoes: Please make sure your tomatoes come in BPA-free cans! The acidity of the tomatoes pulls the BPA into your food. Muir Glen brand canned tomatoes are my favorite. They taste the best, they're easy to find at grocery stores and their cans are BPA free.
Slow cooker option: I haven't tried, but Sarah reports that her soup turned out well after 8 hours on low heat.
Storage suggestions: This soup keeps well in the refrigerator for about four days. It freezes and defrosts well if you want to freeze extra portions for later!