Spur-of-the Moment Vegetable Soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, or a combination
1 pound carrots, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 big onion(I like to use a Spanish onion), coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 to 2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed and thinly sliced (optional)
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
1 rosemary sprig (optional)
1 thyme sprig (optional)
6 cups chicken broth (plus perhaps 1 cup more, for thinning)
1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
Put a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat and add the butter and/or oil. When the butter is melted, or the oil is hot, toss in the carrots, onion, celery, and if you're using them, the garlic, ginger, rosemary, and/or thyme. Season with salt, reduce the heat to low, and give the ingredients a couple of turns to coat them with butter or oil. Cover the pot and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are very soft but not colored.
Remove the lid, pour in the chicken broth, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Toss in the potato cubes and adjust the heat so that the soup is at a simmer. Partially cover the pot and let the soup simmer gently for another 20 minutes, or until the potato can be mashed easily with a spoon.
Now you must decide if you'd like to serve the soup just as it is or if you'd like to puree it-I usually opt for the puree. In either case, do the best you can to fish out the rosemary and thyme sprigs, if you used them. If you're serving the soup in its chunky state, taste it and season as needed with salt and pepper. Or puree the soup in a blender (which will give you the silkiest texture) or food processor, or use a food mill or an immersion blender. Taste it for salt and pepper and reheat it before serving. If you find the soup a little too thick for your taste, when you're reheating it, pour in enough additional chicken broth (or water) to get the texture you like.
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