Comfort Food - Refreshed

November 28, 2012

A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square in NYC, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.

This week: Kelly nails autumn's saturated hues in her Rustic Vegetable Soup.

rustic vegetable soup
Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest

Kelly

So, as you know, I work in a grocery store. We just got through Thanksgiving. The week of Thanksgiving (again, as you probably know) is the busiest time of year in the grocery biz. I mean, it’s nuts. No matter how much shopping folks do in the weeks before for non-perishable items, everyone seems to bust through those doors right before Thanksgiving to pick up their fresh produce, baked goods, and meat. The two stores that I work in (not to brag or anything) are two of the busiest in the entire company. It’s incredible how hard everyone works during Thanksgiving around here -- it’s like the Super Bowl. Thanksgiving is game day. And it’s fun! I, for one, always feel pretty darn accomplished the day after Thanksgiving. And also plum tuckered out. The week after Thanksgiving, a kind of general relaxation comes over me, and I start to refocus myself on the things that make me feel calm, functional, and healthy: a regular sleep schedule, more frequent exercise, and simpler food. 

You may be thinking: But shouldn’t we still be hitting the sweet potato pie with whipped cream hard? There are still leftovers, after all. And after that, just curl up with a bowl of salted nuts, pour ourselves another mug of warm apple cider with caramel and bourbon and take a load off, right? Well, this is my take on it. It’s not that I’m condemning the enjoyment of leftovers, but this is a vulnerable time for me, personally, overindulgence wise. I can’t exactly get back "on track" if I extend the holiday -- the hours of TV watching, the afternoon glasses of wine, the pie for breakfast routine -- another week. But there are leftover foods that inspire me to stay plant strong. These are the things that usually get delegated to the Tupperware longer than, say, the sausage stuffing. These things are vegetables -- onion, sweet potatoes, baby spinach, and the like. Then, of course, there are the quarts of vegetable broth that went unused. And pantry items that have been there forever, namely diced tomatoes and canned beans. These are the basics. You know what these products are good in? You know what makes them shine? Soup, that's what.

Enter omnipresent Mom. My mom always makes a soup for the holidays. It's often a butternut squash soup or something equally creamy, silky, and luscious. But there always seems to be enough tasty bits and pieces afterward to make another whole soup. My dad will tell you that the week after Thanksgiving is not complete without a batch of turkey soup. Mom always makes it with a tomato broth (never clear!) and throws in tons of leftover veggies and all the pieces of turkey that wouldn’t do their best in a sandwich. It’s basically Thanksgiving all over again, but in a super-relaxed and much simpler way. This week, I'm taking a page from Mom's book and making a batch of Rustic Vegetable Soup to calm my post-craziest-work-week-of-the-year nerves.

I want to stress happily that this soup is nothing fancy. "Rustic" is generally the word chefs use to describe a dish demonstrating less refined cooking techniques, but it also nearly always means something comforting and hearty. Take an onion, a couple ribs of celery, some cabbage, a sweet potato, a handful of greens, and a few other odds and ends, and you can whip up a soup that will warm you through and through.

We’re supposed to get a little snow in the Northeast this week, so this soup and I have a date -- right after I make that snowy trek to the gym!

Rustic Vegetable Soup

Serves 4-6

1 large red onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced (1/2 inch)
1/2 small red cabbage, core removed and chopped (1 inch)
1 medium sized sweet potato, chopped (1 inch)
1/4 cup water (for deglazing)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes (liquid included)
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
5 ounces baby spinach leavs
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, drained
1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

In the NYC area? Stop by for cooking advice!

Do you need help with maintaining a healthy diet? Drop by WFM Columbus Circle or WFM Union Square to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips. I'll be preparing this soup on Friday, November 30, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at our Union Square store.

If you're not in the area, send me a direct message or add your comments or questions below.

Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Baked Stuffed Apples.

Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.

kelly dupuis

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