There is nothing simpler than soup for dinner, but there is something complicated about the extremely high sodium content of most prepared soups. So I make a lot of soups from scratch. The better the ingredients, the more flavorful the vegetables, the less salt you need. I rarely add more than a pinch.
One of the ingredients I toss into a lot of soups that gives them a nice backbone of flavor is the rind of hard cheeses like Parmesan. As you get down to the rind, or when the cheese becomes too hard to grate, toss the bits in a container and pop them into the freezer for soup.
Simple Navy Bean Soup (Serves 4 or 6, main or starter)
3 Tbsps. (30ml) olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small rutabaga, diced (optional)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon (1.25ml) dried oregano
1 Tbsp. (15ml) tomato paste
1 can (14 oz.) navy beans, drained
4-5 cups (1 liter + 240ml) good, rich, low-sodium broth–preferably homemade (meat or veggie)
Rind of frozen Parmesan or a thumb-sized piece of fresh cheese
Salt and black pepper
1 handful barley, farro, brown rice or other grain that cooks in about 30 minutes (optional)
In a soup pot, cook the onion, carrot, celery, rutabaga and garlic in the oil with a pinch of salt, over medium heat for about 10 minutes. If things are starting to color or burn, the heat is too high.
Add the bay leaf, red pepper flakes and oregano and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and cook another minute. Add the beans, the grain, enough broth to cover everything by about an inch, and a few grinds of black pepper. Give everything a good stir to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Simmer uncovered until the veggies are very tender and the grain is tender but firm. Remove the bay leaf and cheese rind.
I like to use an immersion blender to puree about half the soup, with some of the beans and veggies left whole for texture.
Serve hot with fresh pepper and/or fresh chopped parsley or other herbs.