Carol’s Anything Soup

img_3291We are a family that loves soup. We can happily eat it one, two, three, even four nights a week, and a good thing, too, as we live in a state where it is cool enough 9 months of the year to eat soup. (If June is rainy, the way it often is, make that 10 months.) Soup also pairs very well with my cooking style, which tends to be a bit improvisational at times. I am happiest when I can tinker with a dish and add a little of this and a little of that as well as make some substitutions based on what I have in my larder. Because I have been cooking for so many years, the results are at the very least edible, and sometimes they are even “pretty darned good,” to quote my Yankee husband, Clif.

Therefore, when my cousin Carol recently told me about her Anything Soup, I was extremely interested. It’s a squash-based soup made with onions and chicken broth, and from there the variations are many. Carol agreed to email me her instructions so that I could post them on this blog. Carol wrote, “In a 2 qt saucepan sauté 1 medium onion, 2 stalks of celery and 2 sliced carrots until celery and onions are softened. Add one can chicken broth, 1/2 cup cooked and mashed buttercup squash and 3/4 to 1 cup of vegetable pasta or vegetable spaghetti broken into smaller pieces. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until pasta is done. This is the base of the soup. I have changed it up by adding one or all of the following when I add the pasta. You could add any vegetable you like. Great way to use up leftovers.

2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup cooked turnip
1/2 cup black beans
leftover cooked chicken”

Yes, indeed, and in my freezer I had 2 cups of cooked squash, the last from Farmer Kev’s garden. Because I had more squash than the recipe called for, I decided to increase the other ingredients so that we would have even more soup. I liked the idea of black beans, and as I had plenty of dried beans waiting to be soaked and cooked, I decided to go with them. I also had some kielbasa—bought on sale—in the freezer, and I decided to go with that as well.

When Carol and I had talked about the soup, she had mentioned that the tomato paste gave the soup a bit of an Italian taste. Well, I thought, why not go one step further and add some oregano? And how about some garlic, too? (I wasn’t kidding when I said I like to improvise.)

Readers, the results were so good that even though I have only made it once, this is one of my favorite soups. In fact, it’s tasty enough to buy fresh squash at the supermarket especially to go in this soup, and I’m tempted to try canned squash to see how it will turn out. The soup is slightly sweet, but not too sweet. It has a rich, full flavor, and it is thick enough to be called a stew. It is smooth and nourishing, just the thing for the end of a busy day full of chores and meetings.

Thank you, Carol!