Today Brooklyn saw the first snow of the season and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with a steaming bowl of soup. Big chunks of tender vegetables, leafy greens and tomato broth are a real treat on a cold day with a nice slice of thick crusty bread. This soup is so filling and comforting that even the staunchest carnivores won’t miss the meat. I think the cauliflower, cut nice and thick, adds a real meatiness without making it heavy.
The first time I made this soup Russell and I were trying to challenge ourselves to a three day juice cleanse. It was a few months before our wedding, and up until that point we’d been eating whatever we wanted. In the name of “health”, fitting into our suits, and looking good in photos, we decided to get the most out of our masticating juicer and do a cleanse. We didn’t prepare ourselves beforehand, and just stopped eating solid food cold turkey one morning. Long story short, it didn’t go exactly as planned. Day one was going really well until about dinner time, when we were suddenly crazed with hunger and getting irritable. In a panic, I ran to the grocery store to get something to fill our stomaches. Rather than grabbing a frozen pizza or a bag of Doritos, I decided that a healthy vegan soup would mean we could keep up with our cleanse.
I grabbed as much fresh organic produce as I could carry, along with a can of pureed tomatoes and some vegetable stock. We feasted on big bowls of hearty soup, savoring every last spoonful. That could have been the end of it, but the next morning we woke up and started our day with juice all over again. We ended up rationalizing that it still counted as a cleanse if the only meals we ate were healthy, vegan, & grain-free. We got through the three days, juicing three or four times each day and finishing it off with a small healthy meal to help us feel human.
I’m sure that the purists out there would say that we cheated, or that we didn’t complete a real cleanse, but in the end I think it was a total success. We felt amazing afterward and were inspired to eat healthier going forward. I’m sure that the small amounts of sodium and oil in the soup were not ideal for a fast, but if we hadn’t had that bowl of soup that night our cleanse would have ended then and there. Call us weak, but if that was what we needed to keep going, and we felt better afterward, it was worth it.
I’ve made this soup a few times since, and it’s still just as amazing and filling as that first night. This is a truly delicious hearty meal even when you’re not delirious with hunger. To add a little richness we couldn’t afford during our cleanse, we top our soup with some freshly shaved parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, and serve it with a thick slice of crusty whole wheat sourdough.
I think this soup is completely perfect as is, but this recipe can be used as a guideline, and is easily tweaked to fit your taste. If you don’t like kale, switch it up with chard or spinach or whatever you like, or leave the greens out completely. If you don’t like green beans, or corn, or carrots or anything else, skip it. I think the cauliflower is one of my favorite parts of this soup, but you could swap it for potatoes, or sweet potatoes, or beans, or anything else you want. The first time I made this I skipped the seasoning and used a vegetable broth. Now I usually use chicken stock and plenty of salt and pepper, but that’s totally up to you. I haven’t tried it but I think beef broth would be a really nice addition.
Chunkiest Vegetable Soup
salt & pepper to taste
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite sized chunks
1 lb green beans, cleaned and cut into 1″ pieces
2 cups frozen corn
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided
28 oz good canned tomato puree
6 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 medium head of kale, about 3/4 lbs, washed and dried
Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottom stockpot over medium high heat. Add onions, celery & carrots, season with salt and pepper, and saute until tender and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, green beans, and garlic, and continue to brown, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes more. Add corn, 2 tablespoons parsley, tomato puree, and stock and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer low for an hour, stirring every so often.
Tear or slice the spines out of your kale and tear the leaves into small rough pieces. Stir into soup and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes more. When the kale is tender, stir in the remaining parsley, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Ladle your soup into big bowls and, if desired, grate some parmesan and drizzle a little olive oil over the top, and serve with some crusty bread.