Lately I’ve been brainstorming ways to make vegetables more appealing when you’re in a ‘veggies are for losers’ kind of mood. This is often a problem I have with clients who are going through treatment; their brain wants the veggies but their body wants the toast and the crackers.
When we don’t feel well it’s all about the comfort food. But what makes food comfortable? A bit of nostalgia, some carbs and not making it yourself, is my current definition. There’s even room for veggies sometimes.
Despite its heavily vegetabled ingredient list, this soup is soft and comfortable. All of the veggies mellow out in flavour in the cooking process and run into one another. It doesn’t taste like fennel or tomato or Swiss chard, it tastes like one of those bowls of soup that occasionally wound up in front of you as a kid, that you never thought to question. It wasn’t as exciting as mac n cheese, but you probably had two bowls (I might be alone on this one, I was an Olympic eater, but you catch my drift).
Nothing too loud is happening in that bowl, no intense spices (I didn’t even add turmeric). The kidney beans are soft and pillow-y, and the millet, once cooked will be forgettable but welcome in a pasta-like way. I only added one bunch of Swiss chard when I really wanted to add two –this is the kind of restraint I practice when cooking for someone who really wants buttered pasta…
And yet it can’t help but taste like summer because that is what is in the bowl. I even made it with water instead of veg stock because a) it’s easier and b) it makes its own veg stock. I’ve tried making it with veg stock and it was too intense, the kombu gives it the depth it needs, the rest is in the veggies themselves.
As I mentioned earlier, I do think the main trick when you feel gross is not to make the food yourself. Getting to know the ingredients intimately as they come together is how you become a better cook but not necessarily a good thing when eating is a challenge.
This is why it’s so nice to drop food off for someone who isn’t feeling their best, sometimes it will taste surprisingly good even though they never knew they felt like it. Then, sometimes it won’t but that’s when it helps if it’s something that can go into the freezer, it can be saved for next week when the taste buds will be totally different.
Instead of making this on your stove top, you could also put everything but the Swiss chard, zucchini, snap peas and lemon juice into your slow cooker the night before (in the bathroom, door closed, fan on, if you don’t want to smell it) and stir in the rest of the veggies the next morning (and you may need to add a little more water depending on how hot your slow cooker gets). It’s almost as good as someone else making it for you.
Minestrone soup is mellow and likeable, which is why, if you’re in a food-loving mood, it needs a bit of punchy homemade pesto to bring it to life (and a sprinkling of plant-based Parmesan Cheese. My version is more of a basil purée –no cheese or nuts –but tastes just as good, and totally worth taking a second to make. Feel free to replace the spinach (which keeps it green) with kale or dandelion greens, or use your fave pesto/pistou recipe. Make lots and freeze it for soup-topping occasions like this.
- 2 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- ½ medium Onion, diced
- 1 Leek, diced (and washed if dirty)
- ½ Fennel bulb (or 1 whole small one), diced
- 2 Celery ribs, diced
- 5 Garlic cloves, minced
- 6 Roma Tomatoes, diced
- ¼c Millet, soaked for 12 hours, drained and rinsed well
- ¾ c Kidney Beans, soaked for 12 hours and cooked in water with kombu until tender (or about 1 can)
- 1-2 Thai Chilis, minced (optional)
- 1 medium Zucchini, diced
- 1 bunch (6-ish leaves) Swiss chard, stems separated and diced and then greens diced
- 2c Snap Peas, chopped into around 1cm pieces
- 3 sheets of Kombu
- 5-6 cups of homemade veg stock (or just water, there will still be lots of flavour)
- Juice of one Lemon
- Sea(weed) Salt to taste
- ½ c fresh Basil
- ½ c fresh Spinach
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 1 tsp Lemon juice
- Zest of one Lemon
- Enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil for it to all come together to purée
- Sea(weed) Salt
- In a large pot on med/low with the coconut oil and a splash of water, sauté the onion, leek, fennel and celery until limp and translucent.
- Add the tomato and garlic and continue to sauté for another couple of minutes.
- Add the water (or stock), kombu, chilis, millet and kidney beans, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer.
- Season with sea(weed) salt and let simmer until the millet is puffed up and cooked.
- Turn the heat of and add the zucchini, Swiss chard and snap peas.
- Stir until they become vibrantly green and then adjust seasoning if needed, and stir in the lemon juice.
- Pour into bowls and top with pesto and vegan parmesan cheese.
- Freezes very well. So does the pesto. You can also stir all of the pesto into the pot of soup before freezing the soup.
- Blend together until smooth-ish
- Season with Sea(weed) Salt