I have to admit that when it comes to soup, what I really want is a big, heaping bowl of something than I can dump a pile of cheddar cheese on top of and shove into my face with lots and lots of crackers. (See, for example, Campfire Green Chile Stew and Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili.) I want my soup to be stuffed with “stuff” so that every bite is a little meal in itself. I want to eat soup that’s hearty enough for a lumberjack (a vegetarian lumberjack) who has been out working hard in the blustery cold and needs to be warmed inside and out — and full.
But because of the favoritism I’ve always lavished on the “stuff” in my soup, I think I have pretty much always overlooked the truly wondrous taste sensation that can come from broth.
Simmer 10 cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in ¾ cup of olive oil over the lowest flame you can muster without turning off your burner. About an hour later, you will have two glorious things: soft, golden-brown garlic cloves, and garlic and rosemary-infused olive oil.
Heat ¼ cup of this magically infused oil in a large saucepan. Add one thinly sliced leek and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add 7 cups of veggie broth and a little soy sauce — and this, my friends, is the beginning of a broth you shall not soon forget.
I found the recipe for Lentil, Sweet Potato and Roasted Garlic soup here. It’s from a 2006 Bon Appétit. I omitted the steak and didn’t find it lacking necessarily, but I definitely understand why it would work. Perhaps some seitan browned in the garlic oil would make a nice substitute.
I needed no cheese here. I needed no crackers. Instead we had warm freshly baked pull-apart rolls and freshly ground black pepper. The robust flavor of the broth was enough to warm the vegetarian lumberjack in me and put him into a deep, deep sleep. With a big, full belly.