Rustic Vegetable Soup
When I was a kid I used to live at the hockey arena. I'm Canadian, it's our birthright. I would wake up at the crack of dawn and slide my skates through my stick, throw it over my shoulder and start walking towards the local outdoor rink. When the rickety caged fence would open up I'd be the first one through it. I would nod at the the gate keeper like I was on my way to to work. Once inside I would skate and play until my toes threatened to fall off.
I used to spend hours upon hours honing my skills and working on my game. Most kids dream of being a firefighter or policeman but in this country everybody dreams of being in the NHL. One day my dream would be crushed but that didn't stop me from spending the better part of my youth on a sheet of ice playing with strangers who quickly became friends.
It didn't matter how cold it was or how harsh the winds were, I would be there. You could set my $2 watch by it. My toque (yes, that's what we call a hat) would cling to my ears as if my bigger brother protecting me from the weather. I didn't care about the wind chill or frost warnings. I didn't care about anything back then. I had an ace in the hole.
A big pot of soup.
I'd walk home knowing after the better part of the day knowing my mom would have a pot of soup on the stove. I'd step inside the house and immediately feel better. The aroma would hug me and warm me up. By the time my coat was off there would be a bowl of soup waiting at my spot at the table. It was instant warmth. It was perfect. My toes would uncurl and my ears would soften up.
I'll be honest, soup gets mad love in my house but vegetable soup was always like the ugly step-sister. When I was young it was all about mushroom or tomato or chicken noodle soup. The thoroughbreds of canned soup. Vegetable soup was the soup you had when the cupboards ran bare and you ran out of the good stuff. You would eat it but your mom knew you were doing so grudgingly.
It's not that way anymore. I still have a deep affection for the soups I grew up on but vegetable soup plays an important role in my house today. It's perfect this time of year, when cold takes on a new meaning. It's chunky and hearty and laced with flavour. With a couple pieces of crusty bread alongside the bowl, this is a meal by itself. And, just as importantly, when you make a big batch it holds and gains flavour so it's arguably better the next day.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, leek, carrot, celery and cook for 5 minutes to sweat them. Do not caramelize them.
- Add the paste and tomatoes and cook and stir. Add the stock, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Cook for 30 minutes. Add the pasta of your choice and cook for 8-10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to your taste and serve with a couple pieces of crusty bread. Serve 4.