Grandpa’s Garden Vegetable Soup

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My grandma did most of the cooking in my grandparent’s house.  When my grandpa did cook, he was either at the grill or could be found making his fresh garden vegetable soup.  Whenever I think of my grandpa, this soup comes to mind.  The earthiness, fresh from the garden flavors, and ginger (the secret ingredient.)  One of the things that grandpa taught me was how to layer the flavors – using the same ingredients multiple times within a dish.  That’s what he did with the ginger in this recipe.  He also taught me how to peel ginger the “right” way – by using a good old cereal spoon.  You can use a vegetable peeler for the ginger, but because the skin is so delicate and thin, the spoon takes off just enough without losing too much of the “meat” of the ginger.

Growing up, my grandpa’s garden was one that I’ll never forget.  It was about an acre in size, with over half of it growing fresh corn.  I enjoy having a small garden but mine will never compare in size – or variety – to his.  No wonder I loved it when he made this soup!

What’s not to love about this soup?  You can basically throw any fresh garden (or store bought) veggies in, and it’s going to turn out good.  This time I used tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, Yukon gold potatoes, carrots, sweet corn, onion, an Anaheim pepper, and cabbage.  Other time’s I’ve made this it’s included pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc.  Really it starts with a couple basic ingredients – tomatoes, a New Mexico style chili pepper (usually an Anaheim), an onion, and as mentioned before, ginger.  Over time I’ve adapted this recipe to include pasta and ground beef as my family loves pasta and meat in their soup.  Any type of small pasta will do and the ground beef can be left out or substituted with ground chicken, ground turkey, or even some chicken breast.

Start by peeling and chopping the carrots into bite sized pieces about ¼” thick.  Next chop an onion and dice the chili pepper.  Peel and finely mince a 2 to 3-inch knob of ginger and set aside.  To make the soup, begin by heating a cast iron or other heavy bottom pot on the stove over medium-high heat.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the pot.  Add 1½ pounds of ground beef and break apart.  While the beef is browning, add the chopped onion and diced chili pepper and cook them with the ground beef.  Add a tablespoon or two of ginger to the ground beef, onion, and chili pepper mixture.  Stir the mixture frequently and continue to break apart the ground beef.

Next add some sliced carrots and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add 6-8 small or 3-4 medium Yukon gold potatoes that have been diced.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add another tablespoon or two ginger, 2 25-ounce cans of diced tomatoes with juice, 64 ounces of low sodium chicken broth, and 2-3 cups of water.  Bring everything to a boil and cook for 15 minutes.

While waiting for the soup to come to a boil, in a saucepan bring 6 cups of water to a boil.  Cook 2 cups of pasta according to package directions.  Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside for use later when done cooking.  This is done to prevent the pasta from over cooking and becoming too mushy.

While the pasta and soup are cooking separately, slice the yellow squash and zucchini into ⅓ inch rounds (if using a larger yellow squash and/or zucchini, feel free to half or even quarter prior to cutting.)  Rough chop about 1 pound of cabbage (green works best for this recipe.)  Once the soup has cooked for 15 minutes, add the remaining ginger, yellow squash, zucchini, and corn, return to a boil, and cook for 4 minutes.  Add the chopped cabbage and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In each bowl add about ¼ cup of cooked pasta and ladle soup over it.  Serve with bread and butter or fresh baked rolls.

I may not have the garden that he did but the same basic flavors come through from my store bought fresh, frozen, and even canned vegetables.  I hope you enjoy the earthiness of this meal and can taste the love that my grandpa put into his soup as much as my family and I do!

Grandpa’s Garden Vegetable Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 10

Grandpa’s Garden Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-inch knob of ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 Anaheim chili pepper, diced
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 6-8 small or 3-4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 2 25-ounce cans diced tomatoes (no salt added) or 6-8 medium fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 64 ounces chicken broth
  • 2-3 small or 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1-2 small or 1 medium yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn or the kernels of 1 corn on the cob
  • 1 pound cabbage, rough chopped
  • 2 cups small shells pasta
  • Water
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a large cast iron, or other heavy bottom, pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add olive oil then ground beef. Begin breaking the ground beef apart with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped onion and 1-2 tablespoons of ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently and continuing to break the ground beef up. Add the diced chili pepper. Cook until the ground beef is cooked all the way through.
  2. Add the carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the diced potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add another tablespoon or two of ginger, the tomatoes, chicken broth and 2-3 cups of water, depending on how much liquid you want in your soup. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes.
  4. While the soup is coming to a boil, add 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente (still has a bit of a chew to it.)
  5. Once the soup has cooked for 15 minutes, add the remaining ginger, yellow squash, zucchini, and corn. Return to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. To serve, add about ¼ cup of pasta to a bowl, and ladle soup over the top. Stir to combine and serve.
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