Last-minute red pepper soup
Since vegetables often play at least a supporting role in soups, standard soup recipes are among the easiest to veganize. There are usually just two adjustments needed: the stock (most recipes rely on chicken or beef) and something to replicate or take the place of any dairy (usually cream and butter) called for in the recipe.
We’re going to start with the instant solution first, since the name of this recipe is, after all, last-minute soup. There are several brands of vegetarian soup bases available. I usually turn to Better than Bouillon, a paste which comes in a jar and has vegetable, chicken, and beef flavors that are all vegan. BtB bases have no MSG added and 30% less sodium than other brands. Add one teaspoon of paste for each cup of water, and you are good to go.
If you have a little more time (say, an hour), you can make your own stock with minimal effort. All you have to do is throw vegetable bits and pieces in a stock pot with water, add salt and pepper and herbs, simmer for about an hour, and then strain. That’s it—you’re done! Throughout the week, I throw my vegetable scraps – onion and garlic skins, celery tops, the tips and tails of zucchini and green beans, potato peels, broccoli stems – into a ziploc bag in the fridge until I’m ready to use them. No need to peel your veggies – in fact, leaving them unpeeled will allow you to access more nutrients, which in fruits and vegetables are concentrated in the skin or just below it. Due to the high sodium in commercial stocks, making your own stock is the healthier way to go.
Instead of sauteeing your onions and garlic in butter, use olive oil. Instead of adding milk or cream, use a non-dairy alternative that you buy in the store or make yourself. Just make sure the non-dairy milk is a plain or original flavor so that your savory soup is not infused with vanilla or unusual sweet undertones. Another way to get around the cream in a cream-based soup is to forgo it altogether, substituting an equivalent amount of veggie stock. That is what I did to the following recipe, a variation of Mollie Katzen’s Cream of Red Pepper Soup, from her Still Life With Menu Cookbook. I was going to make almond milk to substitute for the cream, but given how truly last-minute it was (our guests were about to arrive), I just added in some more bouillon and water and called it a day. The result was delicious, and all bowls were licked clean.
Last-minute red pepper soup
1 T olive oil
2 cups minced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
5 medium-sliced red bell peppers, sliced
1 tablespoon flour
3 cups of stock
Saute the onions and garlic in oil, with the salt, pepper, and cumin. Once the onions are clear and soft (about 5-8 minutes), add the bell peppers. Cover, and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in the flour and cook another 5 minutes. Add stock and cook another few minutes. Puree in a blender or with a hand-mixer. Serve topped with any minced herbs (i.e. scallions, basil, cilantro) you have on hand. Serves 4-6.