Quick Recipes and Easy

Vegetable Soup a la Athens

My husband and I have had a long and pleased marriage. This year, to celebrate our 49 years together, we chose to go on a cruise. The Holland America cruise started in Venice, Italy and finished in Athens, Greece. While the food on board ship was spectacular, we also loved eating at small restaurants in various ports of call.

One of my most memorable meals was in an Athens bistro locaked in the ancient section of the city, an area packed with small shops and restaurants. I ordered a simple meal of vegetable soup, bread, and white wine. The tomato-based soup had few ingredients: celery, carrots, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and pasta. Fascinatingly, there were no onions in the soup.

I was amazed at the flavor of the soup, a flavor that exemplified the Mediterranean diet and conjured up images of Greek islands. Unlike American soups, which often have chunks of vegetables and meat in them, the vegetables were finely chopped. They had not been chopped in a food processor. A patient chef or Greek grandmother had chopped the vegetables by hand.

Athens has an ample supply of fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes. Not so, in the Midwest, where fall and winter tomatoes tend to be pale and mealy. So I started with a can of low salt tomato soup. I chopped the vegetables finely and added enough water to cook them and the pasta. Because I eat a low-salt diet I did not salt the soup, but you may salt it to taste. My soup tasted just like the Athens bistro soup. You may feel like you are in Athens when you make this recipe.

VEGETABLE SOUP A LA ATHENS

INGREDIENTS

1 10 3/4-ounce can of low salt tomato soup

6 to 7 soup cans of water

2 cloves of garlic, minced (more if you are a garlic lover)

2 ribs of celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 zucchini, finely chopped

1 large beefsteak tomato (or 3 Roma tomatoes), finely chopped

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta) or acini de pepe (peppercorns for soup) or stellini (small stars for soup)

METHOD

Combine all ingredients, except pasta, in a large soup kettle. Cook soup, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes. Add more water if the soup is too thick and right the seasoning. Serve with crusty bread or saltines and an Athens tour book. Makes 8-10 servings.

Copyright 2006 by Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelance nonfiction writer for 28 years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Before she became a health writer Hodgson was a food writer for the former “Rochester Magazine” in her home town of Rochester, MN. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD is available from amazon.com/Smiling-Through-Your-Tears-Anticipating/dp/1594579326/ref=sr_11_1/102-3102198-9393765 amazon.com. A five-star review of the book is posted on Amazon. Another review is posted on the American Hospice Foundation Website under the “School Corner” heading.



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