December 31, 2011: It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m having a few people over for drinks (a.k.a. loud, drunken screaming along to songs). A veggie tray from Costco makes its way to my apartment — what better way to feed the masses?

January 1, 2012: Exactly 5.6 carrots have been consumed, and now I have a giant platter of crudités lingering in my fridge.

January 3, 2012: It’s been three and a half days since the veggie tray entered my home, and little headway has been made. Visitors have snacked from it a touch, and I’ve engaged in some light grazing here and there, but clearly this veggie tray appears destined for the trash. It seems like a waste. I know these vegetables can be repurposed, but how? A few weeks ago, my friend Lynsley turned veggie tray leftovers into a triumphant quiche, but in my case, I have too many veggies for a quiche (and as luck would have it, I had JUST made a quiche. Isn’t that always the case?). My initial instincts are to make a soup or a stir-fry. I’m not a huge stir-fry guy though, and after chatting with my friends, the consensus seems to be soup.

January 4, 2012: I do something very rare. I opt to make soup sans recipe. I must rely only on my instinct. Can it be done? Results after the jump.

First things first. Since this was on the fly (and yes, I’m switching to past tense now — take a minute to pause and transition), I didn’t really take pics. To be honest, I didn’t think what I made would be blogworthy. And yet here I am… blogging. As the great Richard Marx once sang, “Should have known better.”

Anyway, I started off with a wide, heavy-bottomed pot (my dutch oven, to be specific). I drizzled in some olive oil on medium-high heat and when it was good and hot, I added one medium diced onion. I let that cook for a bit, and then I tossed in one diced (and cleaned) leek that I had leftover from the aforementioned quiche I had previously made. I sautéed the leek and onion for a while, until they were both tender. The onion became golden brown during this process, but I was cool with it. I was all “Yo, onion. You do your thing, mmkay?”

Next, I diced up three cloves of garlic and tossed it in the pot (which I had lowered down to medium because I didn’t want the onions to overcook while the leeks were becoming tender). I sautéed in the onions for about a minute or so, and then I added about a tablespoon of tomato paste and mixed it around like a caveman.

Around the time that my fear of burning garlic kicked in (maybe thirty seconds later), I poured in about five cups of homemade chicken stock (thus opening up a nice amount of real estate in my freezer), and then I added the vegetable tray junk: a whole bunch of baby carrots, about eight cherry tomatoes, a small handful of pea pods, and several little heads of broccoli (oh and a little frozen corn I wanted to use up too). I actually didn’t add all the broccoli because there was so much leftover that I thought it might turn into a broccoli soup. Memo to Coscto: ease up on the brocs, esse. It’s the least popular.

Well, I turned the heat up to medium high and brought the soup to a boil. At this point I did something a bit strange: I added about a tablespoon of dried basil (in lieu of the real thing, which I didn’t have). I immediately regretted doing this, but spoiler alert: it was fine. Oh, I also added salt and pepper.

Anyway, once the soup was at a boil, I covered it, dropped it down to low, and then let it simmer for forty minutes.

At the end of that time (which I spent productively lingering on Facebook), I turned the heat off, busted out my hand blender, and pureed the whole thing until it looked like rusty gazpacho. A quick taste-test revealed that I needed to season, STAT.

The soup needed a good helping of salt — that was for sure. I also wanted to add lemon juice for acidity, but I had no real lemons (only some fake ones that my sister-in-law had given me); so I added some dashes of white wine vinegar. I also threw in a generous amount of cumin and some honey (the seasoning followed in the footsteps of a Moroccan carrot soup I like to make). Finally, I added some ground allspice and cayenne, did some last minute calibrations of all the seasonings, and then voila! Not only had I rid the soup of its initial bland flavor, but the seasonings now had succeeded in making something totally awesome. As Ina Garten is fond of saying: there’s a real depth of flavor. So very, very good.

Next time you have a bunch of veggie leftovers, I highly suggest making this soup. Here’s my attempt to condense it into recipe form:

B-Side’s Famous Veggie Tray Soup


Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 leek, cleaned and diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tbs of tomato paste (use more if you like)
5 cups of chicken stock (or less, if you have a smaller veggie tray)
assorted vegetables (carrots, cherry tomatoes, pea pods, broccoli, etc. — whatever comes in a vegetable tray)
kosher salt
black pepper
white wine vinegar
ground cumin
ground allspice
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne


1) Drizzle about two tablespoons of olive oil in pot (enough to coat the bottom) and heat on medium heat. When hot, add the onion and then the leek. Cook until tender, turning down the heat if necessary.

2) Add diced garlic to the pot and cook for about a minute until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and mix in. When paste is incorporated, add the stock, and then all your vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. If heat had been lowered, increase to medium-high. Bring to a boil and then cover, lower heat to low, and simmer for 40 – 45 minutes.

3) Uncover soup and remove from heat. Using a hand blender (or blending in batches with a blender or a food processor or food mill), puree the soup. Then season with remaining ingredients. Depending on your stock, you may need to add a good amount of salt. Add each seasoning little by little until everything is where you prefer it. However, I find that it’s best to be generous with the cumin and the allspice.


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