The mornings are no longer bright when I awake and sun is down at dinnertime. The windows are closed at night from the chill and the apple orchard is open. The crickets and cicadas still chirp during the day, but are quiet at night. Autumn is here. The goldenrod isn’t as vibrant, the energy starts to slow down, and the leaves are slowly starting to turn color. This is one of my favorite times of year; I turn the stove on, things slow down from the frenetic busyness of summer, and almost every Sunday afternoon you can find me in the kitchen making a batch soup for the week’s lunches.
One of my favorite lunches in the fall and winter is homemade soup. Whether it’s my own recipe or one I’m trying out, I like them warm, comforting, and nutritious. With a slice of nice bread and a piece of fruit, lunch is ready.
I consider myself incredibly lucky that there is a small house on the outskirts of town and every time I come home from the gym, I’ll stop and pay change for pears, flowers, and tomatoes. His prices are more than nominal, 50 cents for a large tomato, 25 cents for a small. And pears are a quarter too! Bouquets of flowers you’d pay $10 for at the farmer’s market are $2. While the tomatoes aren’t picture perfect, they are incredibly juicy and flavor filled when you cut into them. So the other night after yoga, I had the idea to make a late summer vegetable soup with some of these delicious, juicy tomatoes as its rich base.
I bought some miniature zucchini and yellow squashes and garlic at the farmer’s market and for some protein decided to add some garbanzo beans I had in the freezer. (Note, I’ve started to follow Mark Bittman’s suggestion whenever I cook up beans or rice—stick a container in the freezer for future use!) I really like the flavor of sweet potatoes in a tomato-based soup, so I diced half of one, but you can always leave this out or substitute another favorite vegetable. This takes less than an hour to cook, with the chopping and dicing taking most of the time!
Late Summer Vegetable Soup
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced (about a cup)
2-3 tomatoes, peeled and smashed*
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups zucchini, summer squash, or a mixture
½ sweet potato, diced
1 cups garbanzo beans
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water—less or more depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes and squash
2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
In a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until warm. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about three to four minutes. Add the carrots and cook until soft. Add the zucchini**, a little bit of salt, and cook until the veggies start to lose some of their water. Add the sweet potato and cook for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir. Add the broth. You may need more or less of the chicken broth, depending on the juiciness of your vegetables, as well as how thin or thick you want your soup. I prefer more veggies to broth, but add as much based on your own preference.
Bring to a boil, then return the soup to a light simmer for about 20 minutes or so. Add the beans and salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the burner and add the chopped basil. Ready to eat!
*Peeling tomatoes is super easy. Boil some water and core the tomato. With a knife, draw an “X” at the bottom of the tomato, and stick it in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute. When done, place it in cold, cold water, and the skin just peels right off! Cut into pieces, and I smooshed them with my hands until they were completely smashed. Easy to do if your tomatoes are really ripe!
** Please note, in hindsight, I thought some cooks might not like the zucchini cooking for so long, as it tends to become a little bit soggy. You can always add it with the tomato if you want them a little more firm.