The long lonely winter of frozen vegetables and fruit raised in foreign countries is over. The farmer’s market will be open soon. And I can’t wait.
During the market season my weekly trip to that lovely space filled with local treasure and friendly farmers and vendors is my supermarket. I walk from stand to stand seeking Jersey fresh treats and looking for new foods to try.
In the first weeks of the market are lots of plants. I buy a few tomato plants, a cucumber plant or two, and a couple of pepper plants. I have little sun in my yard but I do have enough for a small garden. When I was a child we had a tiny backyard so there was no space for a vegetable garden. My father would plant tomato plants along the fence line with the rose bushes. There’s always room for a tomato plant. There are farmers who sell “patio tomatoes” that is just that, a potted tomato plant that grows on your patio (or porch). I am also making a list of fresh herbs that I will make into a kitchen herb garden located in various pots clustered out my kitchen door.
But back to the lonely winter of frozen vegetables. Actually not as bad as all that. During the market season I freeze my favorite vegetables at their peak. In November when the market ends my freezer is full of beans, corn, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli. The best thing to make with all of those vegetables is soup. Especially now when I’m trying to use up all the things I’ve saved for my winter meals.
My ninety-year-old father passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago. And the weather has been chilly, rainy. So, since the weather was bad and I was feeling a little low I went to my freezer and pulled out the ingredients for a big pot of vegetable hamburger soup. The soup went together very quickly and when my husband walked in the door the kitchen was warm and cozy and we had, with some rolls and butter and cheese, a lovely, filling, healthy meal. It was nice to sit quietly (for the first time in a long time) and enjoy our soup and conversation (and a little Radio Swiss Jazz) as the sunset.
Vegetable Hamburger Soup Recipe
Serves 8 easily.
- About 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 leek, sliced (just the white part)
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 stalk of celery, diced
- ½ to 1 pound ground beef
the following vegetables can be fresh or frozen:
- a cup of green beans
- a cup of frozen spinach
- ½ cup cranberry beans
- ½ cup lima beans
- ½ head of sliced cabbage
- ½ to 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup diced zucchini
- ¼ to 1/3 cup of soaked barley
- 1 32 ounce box chicken broth
- 4 or more cups water (or more if soup seems to need more broth)
In a large soup pot, melt about 3 tablespoons of butter. Saute in the melted butter 1 sliced leek, 2 diced carrots, 1 stalk of celery diced. Then add to the pot ½ to 1 pound of grass fed ground beef. Break it up and cook until light brown.
Next add green beans, cranberry beans, lima beans, sliced cabbage, a diced tomato, diced zucchini, frozen spinach. All of these vegetables were in my freezer. Frozen during the summer from fresh produce. None of the vegetables are cooked before being frozen.
After adding all of the vegetables and the beef pour in 32 ounces of chicken stock and four or more cups of water. Turn the burner on medium and wait for the soup to start to simmer. Then turn it lower to simmer for about four hours. While the soup is coming to a boil I soak ¼ to 1/3 cup of pearl barley for a ½ hour. Drain the barley and add it to the soup. Stir everything. That’s it!
This soup can be made in a slow cooker. Temperature low….time 6 to 8 hours.
Serve with your favorite crackers and some good sharp cheese. This soup is always just what the doctor ordered.
*All of the vegetables were purchased from farmers at the market. The meat and cheeses are purchased from Hillacres Pride.