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One of my newbie goals is to be able to make a kitchen sink vegetable soup that doesn't default to tomatoes and packs a punch in flavor. (Cleaning out the fridge and being healthy are nice goals too).

Assumptions & Procedure

  • Almost all the recipes I researched online called for getting translucent onions first, which I did
  • Added potatoes to this mix and tried to brown the potatoes for texture
  • Green beans and matchstick carrots went in
  • When potatoes seemed to turn a different color, I started becoming uneasy because the onions were getting very, very brown but the potatoes weren't. I panicked at this point and added water and herbs - bullion, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, 5 peppercorns and a tiny amount of rosemary as per this
  • Brought to a boil, then simmered for 5 mins
  • Added sprouts and bok choy as they are faster cooking
  • Simmered for 5 mins
  • Panicked that maybe the bok choy was not cooking, so brought to a boil then down again to a simmer
  • Ate

Outcomes & Questions

  • Herbs did not "meld" with the soup and wound up sticking to the bottom despite stirring, so I got a mouthful of marjoram at the bottom of my bowl. Why did they sink to the bottom? Should I add larger amounts of the spices for more "meld power?"
  • I never did get the texture I wanted from the potatoes. Is getting a crispy potato texture not really possible in a veg soup?
  • Green beans got very army green toward the end. Should I have just added them in with the water and spices?
  • Lastly, it had a diet-ey, cabbage-ey flavor/smell about it, which transported me to Weight Watchers meetings in the 70s/80s. How do I prevent this? I'd like a vibrant, fresh soup, not one reminiscent of a moldy, old school cafeteria.

Please let me know if there are too many questions in this post. I don't mind splitting them up but I thought it would be more for convenient for fellow newbies to find veg soup answers in one go.

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What is a kitchen sink vegetable soup? –  Peter Taylor Jul 4 at 13:44
    
It's when you use all the veg left over in your fridge. I always thought it had something to do with the phrase, "everything but the kitchen sink," though I'm not entirely sure. Reading around online & various books, it sounds like a lot of people try to do this toward the end of the week to get rid of odds and ends. It worked for me! –  user21142 Jul 6 at 11:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

To address your points in order:

  • If you only cooked your soup for ten minutes, you didn't give it enough time for the flavours to 'marry'. A gentle simmer for half an hour would give you better results. A night in the fridge to really let everything blend would be even better.

  • You will not get crispy potatoes in a soup - the liquid will see to that. The only way you will achieve a crispy potato is by cooking and sauteeing them entirely separately and adding them at the end as a kind of crouton

  • Green beans don't need much cooking at all - they should still have some bite. If you really want to keep the colour specifically, blanch them separately, plunge them into ice water, then drain and add to the soup for the final 5 minutes of cooking or heating.

  • Tomatoes help counteract this by lending some acidity and fruitiness. If you don't want to use tomatoes, try a little white wine or cider vinegar to give a bit of zing.

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Thank you for the reply (& edits!) - I will try them next soup time (end of the week). To your first answer - can I cook my soup beyond ten minutes even if it's a tiny, single-serving pot with not that many veggies in it? I was afraid I'd overcook it all. Should I even bring the soup to a boil at all, in that case? –  user21142 Jul 6 at 11:20
1  
Yes, you can still simmer it in a small pot. There is a saying: a soup boiled is a soup spoiled. And it's true. You want to just bring it up to a simmer and keep it there, don't bring it a full boil. –  ElendilTheTall Jul 6 at 12:42
    
Oh, I didn't realize that! Thank you. There are so many recipes out there saying "bring to a boil and then simmer." So they're all wrong? –  user21142 Jul 16 at 10:11
1  
Not wrong, but perhaps not clear enough. In almost all cooking, low and slow gives better results flavour-wise than hard and fast. –  ElendilTheTall Jul 16 at 10:21
1  
If you are simmering gently enough you shouldn't have that much of a problem. –  ElendilTheTall Jul 28 at 13:34

Elendil has addressed most of your specific questions, but overlooked one: why did the herbs sink to the bottom?

The simple answer is density: as a general rule, things will float in water if they're less dense than water, and sink if they're more dense. Typically fresh herbs will float, and dried herbs will sink.

To get around this you could try changing the density of the soup, but most ways of doing that will affect either the flavour or the mouthfeel. Your best bet may be a pestle and mortar. In the same way that sediment in wine will take a long time to settle, finely ground herbs will sit in suspension for a long time, and a good stir will distribute them well.

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I'll try that! They're already ground (McCormick), but I'll try another bash-up and see if I can't get them finer. Thanks! –  user21142 Jul 6 at 11:21

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