Summer Vegetable Stew

The deli at our local grocery serves a wonderful vegetable soup that they discontinue for the summer, since “nobody eats soup when the weather is hot.”

Well, you know what? Yes, they do. We’ve enjoyed fresh vegetable soups for centuries in the South, and rightly so, since our gardens are the finest on the planet.

My recipe starts with two quarts diced canned tomatoes and juice. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a talented, industrious gardener who cans, and you will have their red gold in your larder. If not, Contadina will suffice. Sauté one large diced white onion with three or four diced ribs of celery and two cloves minced garlic in just enough vegetable oil to coat. Pour this into the tomato mix.To this add two cups water along with a cup or so of diced, rinsed okra; I like to add a little V-8.

Find something industrious or enlightening to do for a half-hour or until the onions and okra have surrendered to the mélange. This is a savory base for beautiful vegetable soups throughout the season. Fresh peas and beans, even green beans, should be parboiled until tender, but squash can be diced and added raw. I don’t use fresh corn at all, but that makes me an exception.

As to herbs, I’m frugal; a pinch of thyme and a smidgen of basil do just fine. Add salt and pepper with care. And yes, you can serve this warm or chilled.