When the wind picks up and the temperature goes down, my thoughts turn to soup. I wanted a soup that would be vegetarian, simple, and flavorful. But most of all, I wanted one that would use up vegetables I bought during a “fill your basket for one fixed price” sale at my local farmers market. Hearty vegetable soup with portabello mushrooms perfectly fits the bill.
The overabundance of portabello mushrooms in my refrigerator and a few potatoes sitting forlornly on the counter in my basement were testament to my inability to pass up a great sale. (OK, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have even more vegetables from that sale that didn’t make it into this soup – it was a big basket and I filled it all the way up to the top, and then some.) From there, I added an open container of vegetable broth (leftover from making my favorite cornbread stuffing balls) and the remains of a can of chopped tomatoes.
If this begins to sound like a version of Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Splendid Table “schtick” when a listener gives her random ingredients from his/her refrigerator and Lynne describes how to combine them in a single dish, it wasn’t far off. Except unlike the bizarre ingredients she normally confronts, I was determined to use only “good stuff” – vegetables, fat to cook them in, liquid with a bit of flour to thicken it, and salt and pepper.
The result was satisfying and good enough that when I asked my husband to taste it, he began with a spoonful and then took out a bowl so he could have a bigger portion. And when I mentioned that it was vegetarian, he looked surprised; the portabello mushrooms had done their job. Often described as “meaty,” they had turned the soup into a hearty one-pot meal, somewhere between a soup and a stew. Luckily he left some for me!
Hearty Vegetable Soup with Portabello Mushrooms
Servings – 4 Cost – $5-6
- 8 ounces of portabello mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- l medium-large onion halved or quartered and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3-4 cups vegetable broth, heated to almost boiling (I microwave it).
- 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes and their juice
- 3-4 white or red potatoes, diced small (about 1½ cups)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Paper towels
- Cutting board
- Large pan with high sides, preferably heavy, with lid
- Small bowl
- Cup measure (for tomatoes)
- Vegetable peeler
- Pot or microwavable glass measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Wooden or metal spatula
- Large spoon
- Wash the mushrooms by lightly dabbing them with wet paper towel or gently run small amount of water over them and dry with a paper towel. (Don’t let the mushrooms soak in water; it turns them mushy and makes browning them almost impossible.) Quarter them, or if you have a couple of larger ones, cut those in half, then each half into thirds. Stems are ok if you cut off the dirty bottoms.
- Heat the pan, then heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan. When the oil is almost smoking, add the mushrooms in a single layer with space between them. Cook for 3 minutes total on reasonably high heat – 1 minute without moving them, then turn them and cook for another minute. They should be getting brown by the end of the second minute. For the third minute, stir them occasionally. At the end, remove them to the bowl.
- Add 1 more tablespoon of oil to the pan and when it is heated, add the thinly sliced onions. Cook them for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to wilt. Add the tablespoon of butter. When it has melted, add the 2 tablespoons of flour and stir it into onions. Cook the onions for another 3-4 minutes until the flour mostly browns. Don’t be concerned if a bit sticks to the bottom of the pan, as it will come off the bottom when you stir in the hot vegetable broth.
- Add the vegetable broth slowly, stirring to combine it with the onion and flour mixture. With 3 cups of broth, the soup is more like a stew. If you plan on refrigerating the soup and reheating it, you might use 3 cups for cooking and add the fourth upon reheating so it doesn’t get absorbed into the vegetables. Once all the broth is added, bring it to a boil (just above a simmer) and add the chopped tomatoes, the cooked mushrooms, the diced potatoes, salt and several good dashes of pepper. Simmer partly covered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft.
The soup reheats well, but (see above) you may want to add more liquid. Serve with a simple salad (Eleanor’s kale and orange salad would be great) and good bread.