Soup's on to drop those holiday pounds

Tribune Content AgencyDecember 31, 2013 

Minestrone.

NOEL BARNHURST

Let’s face it. Most of us enjoy the holiday goodies a little too much. I know I try to watch it, but sometimes the cakes, cookies and carbs just get the best of me. I don’t let it bother me because, come Jan. 2, this vegetable soup is bubbling away on top of my stove. Sometimes I double this recipe so it will last a few days. I like it for lunch and dinner. I don’t feel deprived because it is so flavorful and satisfying. And, best of all, I can step on the scale a few days later and know I have conquered those extra pounds.

Diced vegetables in a fragrant broth are always delicious, but another variation is to puree the soup, which transforms it into a creamy potage. Sometimes I even divide the soup in half and serve the diced vegetables in one half of the bowl and the creamy puree in the other half – a pretty presentation. The soup becomes an entirely new experience when pureed. You can completely puree it or partially puree it, leaving some texture and color in the soup if you like. This colorful vegetable soup is simple to prepare since you need only to peel the carrots and squash. To save even more time, look for pre-peeled and cut butternut squash at your market.

To enrich the broth, I add a rind of Parmesan cheese to the soup while it is simmering. Leeks are my preference for their rich, oniony flavor. I am often asked how to clean and use a leek. If you have any questions, you can find a how-to video on my website, seriouslysimple.com.

The unusual ingredient here is the garbanzo bean, which adds an underlying earthy flavor as well as serving as a natural thickener for the puree version. Fully cooked garbanzos are added for just a few minutes before the soup is pureed to keep their flavor intact. To dress this up, consider adding a dollop of basil or sun-dried tomato pesto. Or, if you’re really being good, just garnish with fresh herbs and a light sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese.

Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” You can contact her at seriouslysimple.com.

Minestrone

Dianne Rossen Worthington notes that this soup may be prepared up to five days ahead in either version, covered and refrigerated. Reheat gently. This may also be frozen. Defrost and reheat gently.

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 leeks, light green part and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

4 zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice

1 pound peeled and cut into 1-inch dice butternut squash

1 teaspoon favorite seasoning salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes with juice

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Rind of Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or basil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

HEAT oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and saute for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Add carrots, zucchini, squash and seasoning salt. Saute for about 3 more minutes, or until mixed well and beginning to soften. Add garlic and saute another minute.

ADD tomatoes, broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add garbanzo beans and cook another 3 minutes, or until heated through. Add salt and pepper. Add parsley or basil. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove Parmesan rind. To serve, ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

VARIATION: Puree soup either completely or partially in the pot with a hand blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Return soup to the pot, if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto or basil pesto.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

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