Summer Vegetable Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes and Arugula Hazelnut Pesto

There's just something about soup. I've written a few blog posts over the years where I've featured recipes I've concocted, and they always seem to be soups. 

This soup recipe was born out of necessity. We planted a bunch of tomato plants in our new yard this season - 21 to be exact - and we are bombarded with bowlfuls of beautiful red fruit. We've got Black Krims, Ace, Brandywine, Glacier, Supice, Sweet 100s, and a handful of others. And I've got to say, they are deeeeelicious! But, we have a lot. And there are a lot more to come. Not that I'm complaining! But, I do have to figure out what to do with them. Salsa is my usual standby, but I'm afraid that the size of this bounty takes me way beyond Pico de Gallo.

Here's our beautiful tomato "jungle", as we've coined it. It used to be very pretty and proper and fully supported. Now the supports are makeshift, and the morning glory has happily wound itself up many of the branches. We fought it at first, and then gave up, as they didn't seem to be harming the plants and were making the bees quite happy. (Actually, I just did a quick bit of research and found that these morning glories might better be called bind weed. If anyone has more info on this plant, please share! I personally think they are beautiful, even if "invasive".)

And here is a small portion of our harvest. They do look beautiful against our deep teal walls (which I will unveil in my next blog post.) So, if you have a bunch of tomatoes you aren't sure what to do with, make some soup! If you don't have any, go buy some. And if you are local and ask nicely, I might also give you some. 


Summer Vegetable Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes

For the soup:

3 Tbsp olive oil

4 carrots, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup white wine (optional)

8 cups water

4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (heirloom or other)

4 small yellow potatoes, diced

3-4 fresh thyme sprigs

 3-4 fresh marjoram sprigs

1/2 cup fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped

1/2 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced


freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil on medium heat in soup pot. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook until soft, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add white wine (if using), water, tomatoes, potatoes, thyme, and marjoram. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes, then add fennel fronds and fennel. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until potatoes and fennel are done. Fennel can be cooked al dente, if desired. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.


Arugula Hazelnut Pesto

2 garlic cloves

Juice of one lemon

3 cups arugula

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil


freshly ground pepper

Note: For this recipe you can use a food processor or a hand blender with mini-processor attachment. I prefer the low-fuss of the hand blender. It works great for small batches of pestos, salsas, dips and sauces. 

Put garlic, lemon, hazelnuts and approximately one cup of arugula in processor. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of oil. Process until blended thoroughly. Add another cup of arugula and enough oil to mix. Process until hazlenuts are coursely blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve soup with a spoonful of pesto and a garnish with a few fresh basil leaves. 

I can't stress enough how unimportant it is to follow these exact instructions. Soups especially, are meant to be modified, in my opinion. I used the vegetables I had on hand. You could add many other vegetables, and even omit some ingredients I've used. You can use more onion or less onion. You could add green beans instead of fennel. Or summer squash instead of potatoes. And the pesto could be made with walnuts and basil. Or cilantro and pine nuts. It's really about making do with the ingredients you have and not being afraid to modify a bit. You'll never know what delicious flavors you can create unless you try.

Bon appetit!

Vegan Chili Recipe

I used to love meaty chili as a kid. We'd often have a big bowl of it for dinner, using a flour tortilla as the base and topping it with grated cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Since I no longer eat meat - haven't for about 15 years now - I had to devise a way to get the same flavor and texture profile as my childhood favorite, vegan-style.

I've made vegetarian chili before. I simply followed a traditional meat-filled recipe and left out the meat. Good, but definitely not worth blogging about. That was before I had my secret ingredient: Rancho Gordo Beans.

If you haven't heard of Rancho Gordo Beans and you love beans (or even like'll probably love them after you try them) please go check them out! They are out of Napa, and provide the most wonderful product - Heirloom beans from Mexico and Central America. 

"The Rancho Gordo Story"

 provides a great read on the company's history and philosophy.

"American cuisine seems to be in a position of re-inventing itself and I'd love to include ingredients, traditions and recipes from south of the border as part of the equation. I love the concept of The Americas. I feel as if it's just as important as the European heritage many of us share." - Steve Sando, Founder of Rancho Gordo

I love that.

Ok, on to my recipe. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Chili (w/ Rancho Gordo Ayocote Morado Beans) 


1/2 lb of Ayocote Morado (Purple Runner Beans), rinsed and sorted (

BUY here


1 Tbsp olive oil

2 carrots, diced

1 onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 cups canned diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1 tsp oregano

1 Tbsp Chili powder (more for spicier, less for milder)

1  tsp Chipotle powder (more for spicier, less for milder)





Soak beans in water a large stock pot in water for approximately 2 hours (or until they double in size and soften a bit.) Make a mirepoix with the carrots, onions and celery. (This just basically means you saute the ingredients together with a little olive oil and cook until softened.) Once the beans are soaked, add the mirepoix, canned tomatoes, bay leaves and oregano to the stock pot. Turn on the heat to medium-low and simmer away for a couple of hours. You may need to add more water periodically, depending on how much water the beans were soaking in. The amount of water and the cooking time will determine how thick or thin your chili will be.

Near the end of the cooking process, add the chili powder, chipotle and salt and pepper to taste. (I stick a spoon in every once in awhile to taste the beans for doneness.) You may want to add the chili powder and chipotle in gradually to adjust for your personal spicy meter. I like things on the spicy side, so these proportions might have a bit too much bite for some of you.

Then - and this is the trick to giving the chili a more meaty texture - mash up about half the beans with a potato masher. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so, and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

Serve with warm tortillas or tortilla chips and top with fresh avocado and cilantro. (Note: photo shows cotija cheese as a topping, but this can easily be replaced with a vegan cheese or no cheese at all.)

Potato Leek Soup with Homemade Herbed Croutons

One of my favorite fall recipes is Potato Leek Soup. Easy, hearty, healthy and veggie - can't get much better than that! The original recipe came from my parents who pulled it from some food magazine, but I've made it so many times, I don't follow a recipe any more. And the Herbed Croutons are my yummy little addition. As far as I'm concerned, everything's better with croutons.

Potato Leek Soup

2 leeks

1 white onion

6-8 potatoes (I used Yellow Wax, but other varieties are fine, too.)

2 TBSP olive oil

6 cups water and/or veggie broth

salt and pepper

Herbed Croutons

stale bread

olive oil

salt and pepper

dried herbs (I used Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle and Turkish Oregano)

1) Trim, wash and chop the leeks.

2) Slice the onion.

3) Heat olive oil in stock pot.

4) Saute onion and leeks until soft, about 15-20 minutes.

5) Peel and cube potatoes.

6) Add potatoes and broth (and/or water) to onions and leeks. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are soft. About 20-25 minutes. 

7) Bust out the immersion blender. This is an amazing kitchen tool. Go buy one if you don't have one. (You can also transfer soup to a blender in batches, but it's a little trickier.)

8) Puree soup to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

For croutons...

1) Pull out your rock hard stale bread...whatever you have on hand.

2) Chop bread into cubes. (If it's really hard, you'll need a sharp Chef's knife, not a bread knife. And you may need safety goggles to protect your eyes from shooting bits of crust.)

3) Transfer bread cubes to bowl and generously coat with olive oil and/or butter. Season with salt, pepper and dried herbs. (I use whatever's on hand, but 

Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle is a really delicious blend.)

4) Toast seasoned cubes in toaster oven (or bake/broil in regular oven) for about 5 minutes. They are easy to burn, so keep your eye on them!

Perfect little croutons! I rarely buy store-bought croutons anymore because these are so tasty and easy...and they use up something that might otherwise be thrown away.

And there you have it - Potato Leek Soup with Homemade Herbed Croutons. Mmmmmmm.

I tend to make a lot of soups in the fall and winter, so maybe I'll share more recipes as the cold weather kicks in. Soups are such a wonderfully comforting food.