In response to the "on hold", I'll attempt to make the question more clear and specific. Is there an ingredient or ingredients (or technique) that is missing from the below recipe that all or nearly all vegetable soup recipes use and might be considered fundamental? Salt was mentioned. Although it is present, it has been minimized. If that's the only real "fundamental" ingredient, then that's just the price I am paying. Another suggestion was browning the onions, which I will try. Another was adding a spice or spices that are a matter of personal taste. I'm sure I'll try that too, but more to the spirit of the question would be whether there is a spice or spices that is nearly always used in this type of tomato-y vegetable soup.
I've put together a loose vegetable soup recipe that works passably for me and is not too time-consuming every couple of weeks, but it's clearly missing something to "bring it together". Hopefully that something is not the salt that I am intentionally minimizing (for health reasons -- see end of question). I don't add any spices (unless you count the garlic) because I don't know what I'm doing and it seems they can change the soup drastically -- for example too much oregano. I'm hoping that I'm missing something fundamental and that there are some relatively objective fixes. Currently, it's basically "throw in a lot of vegetables that I like and that are convenient, and add some broth", but slightly more refined. It varies frequently, but remains close to what's below.
I hope that my request is specific enough to be appropriate.
Olive Oil, about 2 tablespoons
Onions*, Diced, about 2 Medium
Carrots*, Diced, volume about equal to onions
Celery*, Diced, volume about equal to onions
* supermarket sometimes has fresh diced mirepoix which I use for convenience
Mushrooms, Diced/Minced, 1 Box
Mushrooms, Sliced, 1 Box
Garlic*, Minced, 1 Heaping Tablespoon
* I use a store bought jar made by "Bellino" -- don't hate me
Tomatoes, Petit Cut No Salt Added, 1 Can
Tomato Salsa (mild), Fresh, 1 Box
Wine, Red, 1 "Justin Wilson" Ounce
Corn, 1 Frozen Bag
Beans (Red Kidney, Cannellini, or Soy/Edamame), Low Sodium, 1-2 Cans/Frozen Bags
Chicken Broth, Low Sodium, "enough"
Baby Spinach, Chiffonade, Half Bag to 1 Bag
In a large pot (I use a clad pot that I think is 7 quarts but is not labelled), heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add either the mushrooms first or the mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) first -- I've tried both variations. Try to get a little color on the mushrooms and sweat the onions. Note I do NOT add salt to help sweat the onions. Turn down the burner and avoid browning the onions.
Once the mix looks subjectively good, add the garlic and stir it in. Let it heat up, again without browning. Then add the tomatoes and tomato salsa. If there appears to be "enough" liquid, add the wine now. If not, add some broth and then the wine. Cover and simmer/low-boil for "a while" (10 minutes?). My idea here is to extract alcohol soluble flavors from the tomatoes.
Add corn and beans and enough broth to cover everything well. This usually nearly fills the pot. Cover and simmer/low-boil for another "while" (30 minutes?). Now mix in spinach, cover, and simmer/low-boil for another "while" (15 minutes?).
That's it. It's passable and holds me over for maybe a week, but the taste is clearly missing something. Is there a standard step/ingredient in soup-making that I am completely missing? I was planning on experimenting with adding some tomato paste with the garlic. Maybe I need some spices? I would like to keep salt to a minimum. Thanks.
Background: I'm overweight with high cholesterol and moderately high blood pressure. I'm trying to loose weight an be more healthy. Vegetable soup is a perfect fit for me. I enjoy it and don't mind eating it on a (very) regular basis, plus it's a pretty healthy and low-calorie (per unit volume) choice. Unfortunately, I'm not a natural cook and don't have lots of time to cook, and canned choices are generally sub-optimal (particularly the sodium).