Lemony Smoked Vegetable Soup

          This soup, like Instant Ribollita and Spaghetti with Tuna, Mushrooms, and Olives, is more of a guideline than a recipe.  A suggestion of how to transform the odds and ends you already have in your kitchen into a fantastic meal, quickly and easily.  It has endless variations, myriad possibilities, all lurking within your veggie bins, waiting to be discovered.

          The genesis for this recipe (guideline) goes as follows.  Every so often, I realize that I have random and lone vegetables in the refrigerator, leftover from other preparations, as well as half-bags of frozen veggies shoved to the side of the freezer, nearly forgotten.  Whenever the realization occurs, I make a version of this soup.  Yesterday was such a day.  And given that March rains sleeted outside, while inside poor Paulo was knocked flat with the flu, a hot soup seemed the perfect concoction.  My fridge yielded an odd assortment of jewel-hued treasures.  A sweet potato, a red bell pepper, a plump zucchini, along with partial bags of frozen broccoli, spinach, and baby yellow corn.  I don’t know that I ever would have thought of putting these six items together, but each one being tasty, I figured the combination couldn’t be bad.  On to the stove went a pot of broth.  Vegetables were chopped.  A half cup of short brown rice was rescued from the very bottom of a canister.  And within about 30 minutes the soup was ready.  Hot and steaming and smokily fragrant.

            Use whatever veggies you have on hand, whatever rice, grain, or pasta, or legumes…  You get the idea.  And experiment with your favorite seasonings, adding whatever appeals to you in the moment.  I often use my most favorite, Cajun Seasoning Blend, but this time smoked paprika seemed perfect.  Open your refrigerator and see what you have.  You need never discard another veggie remnant again.

Lemony Smoked Vegetable Soup

4 lbs assorted fresh vegetables and/or frozen, thawed

8 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth or water)

1/2 cup rice (or pasta or grain)

1 large onion, chopped

2 T smoked paprika (or favorite seasoning or seasoning blend)

juice of 1 large lemon

          Peel any of the veggies that need peeling, then chop them into roughly bite-sized pieces, as needed.  Bring the broth to boil in a large pot, seasoning with 1 1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper.  If you are using a rice/pasta/grain that cooks in 20 minutes or less, add it, along with the veggies and the onion, to the broth.  Return the broth to a boil, cover the pot, turn down the heat, and merrily simmer until the carb and the veggies are tender, about 20 minutes.  (If using a rice/pasta/grain that takes longer to cook, such as brown rice or wheat berries, simmer it by itself for 20 minutes before adding the veggies, and then simmer the whole until the carb is cooked through, another 20 minutes or so).

          Stir in the paprika.  Add more salt and pepper, if needed.  Squeeze in the lemon juice and serve.




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