This hearty Italian soup appears on the menu year-round at Grand Central Bakery cafes, starring whatever seasonal vegetables come into the kitchen from local farms. Be generous with the garlicky croutons; these help flavor and thicken the soup and soak up the delicious broth.
Makes about 2 quarts, enough for 6 to 8 servings
For the soup:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or canola oil
½ large yellow onion, diced (1 cup)
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
½ bulb fennel, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ teaspoons ground fennel seeds
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
Pinch chile flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can (about 5 cups) diced canned tomatoes
7 cups water (or vegetable or chicken broth)
1 bay leaf
1 ¾ cups cooked garbanzo beans or 1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans
¾ cup shredded green cabbage
1 cup diced and peeled butternut squash
¾ cup cauliflower in bite-size pieces
1/3 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
For the croutons:
½ loaf crusty bread, such as Grand Central’s Rustic Baguette or Como, sliced ½ inch thick (day-old bread is fine).
Extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 whole garlic cloves
Shredded parmesan cheese
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high flame. Add onion, reduce heat to low and cook until very soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in celery, carrot and fennel and salt. Increase heat to medium high and sauté until soft. Add garlic, ground fennel, oregano and chile flakes and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, being careful not to let garlic burn.
Add wine and deglaze. Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf, cooked garbanzo beans, squash and cabbage.
Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until vegetables are just tender. Add cauliflower and parsley and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding additional salt and pepper as needed.
Meanwhile, make croutons: Slice bread into ½ inch slices and place on baking sheet. Brush with olive oil. Toast in 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Cut garlic cloves in half and rub bread slices with cut side.
To serve, place 1-2 croutons in a wide soup bowl. Ladle soup over croutons. Garnish with additional chopped Italian parsley, if desired, and a drizzle of good-quality extra-virgin olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
From Grand Central Bakery