Winters in New England spell snow and Noreasters. Storm after storm plummets the region beginning as early as October and some years raging until April.
A warming soup is perfect when the wind is howling and rattling the windows and the temperature dips to frigid proportions. Soups are easy to make and healthy, primarily if you use unsalted vegetable stock, fresh vegetables, and beans. Did I mention that beans are superfoods, high in fiber, protein, and low in calories? And I add herbs to favor the rich vegetable broth.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, peeled and diced
1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 cups unsalted vegetable stock
2 (15-ounce) cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup uncooked orzo
3 cups broccoli florets
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery and sauté for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, until softened. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Add vegetable stock, beans, bay leaves, thyme, orzo, broccoli, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the soup reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes or until the orzo is al dente. (Be sure to stir the soup occasionally so that the orzo does not clump on the bottom.)
Add lemon juice and stir. Then season with salt and pepper.
Serve warm topped with a generous sprinkle of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese.