How to Make Soup with Stuff You Already Have

Our Director of Rentals, Peter Eckart's, wife, Laura Fraser, is sharing her secret for the most delicious soup base! 

Soup: there’s nothing better for the immune system! The best thing about soup is that nothing has to be precise, so have no fear. Here's the best base (in my humble opinion) for making soup:

Your Base Ingredients:

  • Chicken or veg broth (depending on your orientation)
  • Beans  More on how to cook beans below.
  • Mirepoix This is a fancy name for the combination of celery, carrot, and onion that is the basis for most soups, sautéed in olive oil before you add other ingredients. The magic of mirepoix is that when you drop that word into conversation, everyone will think you’re a fabulous cook.
  • Canned diced tomatoes.

Okay, with those ingredients you can pretty much make 1000 soups. I generally start by using what is about to go bad in the fridge.

Here are the basics.

Beans: You can use canned beans, but dry beans are cheaper, don’t waste cans, and taste better. Plus you’re home anyway, so make ‘em yourself!  I like big white beans, canellini beans, corona (sorry) beans, black beans, tiger beans, garbanzos, beans of all sorts. My favorite place to buy organic beans is Purcell Mountain Farms. 

To soak: People are afraid of dried beans because you have to soak them. Soaking beans is stupidly easy: you soak them in water. The night before you cook your soup, throw about a pound of dried beans in a bowl and add water to cover by more than an inch. Leave them out and then use them the next day. Don’t freak about how long they’re in the water. They’re beans, they’re tough.

To cook beans: Rinse and drain the beans you’ve soaked. People say this gets rid of, um, farts. Then put them in a big pot and cover with at least 2” of water. Add a couple of bay leaves. If you don’t have any, look in your back yard or go on a walk; they’re everywhere in San Francisco. Add a splash of olive oil to reduce the foam. Bring to a boil and skim the foam off the top, if there is any. Then turn down and cook for about 40 minutes, more or less, depending on the bean. This means you have to occasionally drop a spoon in there and test one. The goal is firm but soft and not mushy. Once you have the beans, you can use them in other soups. Don’t throw the bean water away because it’s nutritious and adds depth to a soup.

Photo of soupThe basic soup recipe:
1. Mirepoix:
Chop up your onion, carrot, and celery (mirepoix). Heat some olive oil in a big pot and add the mirepoix. I always add some red pepper flakes to that. Don’t ask me quantities, because this isn’t a science. Maybe 2 cups total mirepoix and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, but don’t worry, you can’t mess it up. 
2. Meat:
If you’re adding meat to a soup, sauté it with the mirepoix. Pancetta or bacon always adds flavor to soups, and if you’re making chili, start with some chorizo and other ground meat, like turkey or bison meat. 
3. Liquid: Once the onions are translucent, more or less, add liquid–your chicken or veggie broth– water, and canned tomatoes. If you’ve had a roasted chicken lately, you can make your own broth by throwing the bones into a pot with some onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, and you have chicken broth.
4. Vegetables and beans:
After that, add your cooked beans, fresh vegetables, and then fresh herbs.


Stir and let simmer for a bit so all the flavors have a chance to hang out together. This process pretty much works for everything. For example: 

  • Minestrone: Mirepoix, then broth, then beans, then chopped zucchini, cabbage, green beans--whatever you have in the fridge. To add flavor to the broth, throw in a parmesan cheese rind. Add fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley, whatever) and serve topped with parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • Chili: Sauté mirepoix and then add some ground meat. I like to use chorizo for some zip and then some lean turkey so it’s not so fatty. Cook that, then throw in a couple cans of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes going bad, then throw in your cooked black or pinto beans, and season like hell with chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper. You can also try this with vegan meat substitutes.

Here’s a more thorough recipe for broccoli soup, which is super healthy and freezes well, so you can make a ton of it and have it for a long time after. You can make this vegan or not. 

Broccoli soup:

  1. Sauté mirepoix (see above) in olive oil. Don't ask me for how much, just eyeball it. One onion, two each of carrots and celery. Add some red pepper flakes. My husband Peter added bacon, because he puts bacon in everything.
  2. Now add 2-3 heads of broccoli, roughly chopped, including stems. This is all going to get mashed later, so no worries.
  3. When that seems kind of seared around the edges, add the broth, enough to cover the broccoli plus some. Bring to a boil and simmer. Cook for awhile, like how long it takes to sanitize your phone, computer, kitchen, and bathroom.
  4. When it's mushy, let it cool. Then get out the kitchen vibrator (hand blender?) and smooth it. Then add some fresh herbs. Broccoli especially likes fresh sage, rosemary, and oregano. If you want some protein, throw in some garbanzo beans. This soup freezes well so you can eat some next week.


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