If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, then the cafeteria in Hell is surely serving the week-old contents of my fridge’s vegetable drawer.  I meant to roast that cauliflower, really I did.  Buying a 5 lb. bag of carrots seemed like a good idea at the time.  The kids liked green beans last week, I swear.  What was I soaking those beans for?

My “that’s not compost, I’m saving it for stock” mother calls this recipe Garbage Soup.  I prefer to think of it as Frugal Soup, or maybe Last Chance Soup, or even Why Did I Buy That?! Soup.  Call it whatever you want.  Put into it whatever you have.  And pat yourself on the back for granting your otherwise-doomed veggies a little eleventh-hour salvation.

Vegetable soup with chickpeas

Inspired by Food Matters by Mark Bittman and by the contents of the fridge on any given Saturday afternoon

Yield:  About 3 1/2 quarts, serving 8-10

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, diced

2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

A few tbsp. tomato paste

2 quarts vegetable stock, chicken stock, bean-cooking liquid, water, or any combination of the above

A few chopped, canned tomatoes and their juice

About 6 cups quick-cooking vegetables (cauliflower, summer squash, green beans, cooked beans, dark leafy greens)

Handful chopped fresh parsley

Warm a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add onions, carrot, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes more.

Pour in stock or other liquid and add remaining vegetables.  Raise heat, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper as needed, stir in parsley, and serve.

Notes: If you want to use root vegetables, winter squash, or potatoes, add them to the pot with the stock and let them cook for about 10 minutes before adding the quick-cooking vegetables.

If you want to add sliced or diced mushrooms, saute them with the onions, carrots, and celery.

If you want to add frozen vegetables like peas or corn, stir them in at the end, with the parsley.

You  can use any herbs you want — mint, basil, or chives would be nice.  Sturdy or woody herbs like sage, thyme, or rosemary should be added with the garlic and tomato paste (and use no more than 1 tbsp.)

You can puree some or all of the soup before serving, if you like, and garnish with grated parmesan cheese, toasted breadcrumbs, or croutons.  Or serve with thick, toasted slices of homemade bread.