Soup is a weekly thing with me and is probably my favorite thing to make. There's something cathartic about chopping all those veggies and it's equally fulfilling to know that I've used up all those leftovers, end pieces, and quickly spoiling produce items that are spending their last days in my refrigerator. This week as I surveyed my fridge and freezer, I realized that I needed to find a way to use all the ground beef I'd bought for the graduation party. I'd overestimated the amount I needed (as I nearly always do.) I also saw that I had a couple of red potatoes that had gotten left out of the potato salad. When I saw the container of mushrooms I'd scored at Kroger's yesterday ($1.49 manager's special,) I knew that I had the main ingredients for this week's soup, hamburger vegetable.
The trickiest part of making soup is mastering the blending of flavors that is to become the broth or base. The best cuts of meat and/or the freshest produce will not make up for a bland broth. In most cases beef or chicken stock is needed as the base and this soup is no exception. I used two quarts of homemade beef stock that I had in the freezer, but canned/boxed is fine too.
Hamburger Vegetable Soup
1 lb. ground beef
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced (include the leaves if you've got them)
2 carrots, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
12 oz. button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 envelope powdered onion soup mix (I used Liptons)
1 beef bouillon cube
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (browning and seasoning sauce)
3 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed
couple handfuls of frozen peas ... a cup or so
salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, brown ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper. Drain. Set aside
In a soup or stock pot heat the olive oil and add onion, celery, carrots, and green pepper. Season and saute until onion becomes translucent (6-7 minutes) Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until mushrooms lose their moisture, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over this mixture of veggies and stir to combine. Cook for a minute or two, stirring to prevent the flour from burning. Gradually add in the broth, increase heat and bring to a boil. Stir in onion soup mix, bouillon cube, thyme, Kitchen Bouquet and reserved ground beef. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add potatoes and a 1/2 tsp. of salt and boil for an additional 15 minutes, tossing in the frozen peas just at the very end.