2 cups dried beans, soaked for 4 hours in cold water and drained
Broth or water
Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Starches (choose one)
1 cup long-grain rice such as basmati or jasmine
1 to 2 cups dried pasta such as macaroni, orecchiette or ziti
Fast-cooking vegetables (choose one or more)
Green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch sections
Peas, shelled, or if frozen, thawed
Fresh shell beans such as fava or lima
Kale, stems removed and leaves shredded
Swiss chard, stems cut into cubes and leaves shredded
Spinach, chopped or cut into chiffonade
Flavorful finishes (choose one or more)
Garlic, minced and then crushed with the flat side of the knife
Finely chopped fresh herbs such as mint, tarragon or parsley
Pesto or pistou
1. In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, cook one of the meats in your fat of choice along with the slow-cooking vegetables (except the beans, which, if you are using, are added along with the liquid) for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and shiny.
2. Add the liquid or broth to cover and the dried beans (if using), nestle the bouquet garni in the middle of the pot, and simmer gently, partially covered, until the vegetables and beans are almost tender, about 5 minutes with vegetables only, slightly more if using beans. Add any starch, cook until al dente, about 5 minutes, and then add whatever green vegetables you like and simmer until they are vibrant in color and crisp-tender. This makes about 3 quarts of soup.
3. Finally, decide on the finish: If you are using garlic or herbs, whisk them into the soup. If you are using pesto or pistou, whisk a bit of it into the soup and pass the rest at the table.
Each of 8 servings: 275 calories; 11 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 17 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 21 mg. cholesterol; 418 mg. sodium.