Saffron Vegetable Soup with Quinoa

Saffron Vegetable Soup with Quinoa  is a hearty vegetarian soup packed with vegetables, chickpeas, quinoa, and plenty of saffron flavor.  This soup is anything but ordinary, and is bound to be a favorite!

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Have I got a soup for you today.  This soup….oh, is it good.  I’m not just saying that because I made it — I’m my own worst critic, you see.  But when something turns out right, I’ve got to share it.  This is the vegetable soup of your dreams right here. 🙂

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This soup has a story behind it.  I’d originally started out with the idea to share a Soup au Pistou, or French vegetable soup with pesto, based off of the first ever recipe we made at cooking school.  I remembered thinking if we ate like that every day, I’d be happy.  The food got a lot richer and more caloric naturally, but I never forgot that soup.

The soup had lots of veggies like green beans, zucchini, fresh white beans, potato, pasta, and plenty of saffron.  Not to mention a homemade pesto.  I made a batch a few weeks ago and realized I don’t really like potato and pasta in my soup too much, and decided to sub them with quinoa.  I was also out of white beans and went ahead and used chickpeas, and I was really lazy, so I just added some chopped fresh basil instead of making pesto.  This is the lazy woman’s, gluten-free, rendition of Soup au Pistou.

I’d say long story short, but it’s too late for that. 😉

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My version of the soup still has leeks, fresh green beans, zucchini, and some tomato, with plenty of saffron flavor.  The saffron is what takes this soup from ordinary to extraordinary.

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Saffron is one of my favorite things to use to make a dish extra special.  It’s expensive, at about $7-10 a bottle, but it’s worth every cent.  I bought mine at Trader Joe’s, and it contained (3) mini capsules of saffron threads.  I used one capsule full, or 2 mega-pinches to get the BIG saffron flavor that I wanted.

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Go big or go home, right? 🙂

Funny enough, right before I was ready to go ahead and make my second batch, my Cook’s Illustrated magazine came in the mail.  There was a recipe for Soup au Pistou — what are the chances? — and it addressed an “issue” I’d  noticed with my soup.  If you don’t use the cooking liquid from dried white beans like the classic recipe, you don’t get that thickness or body in your soup.  The magazine stated that by adding canned beans without rinsing them, you could add that body to your soup broth the easy way.

I added the chickpeas and their liquid, and guess what?  Those people at Cook’s Illustrated really know what they’re talking about, because it made a huge difference in my soup.  Those Cook’s Illustrated folks are brilliant…just brilliant.

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If you’re inclined to serve yours with a pesto, go on ahead and use my Lemon Pesto Sauce.  I thought this soup was just perfect with freshly chopped basil.  It added a clean, fresh flavor that didn’t detract from  the big saffron flavor I wanted.

This soup will be made time and time again, guaranteed.  You know something is special when you look forward to eating it bowl after bowl…and I’m talking about the first night.  I had two bowls and I could’ve eaten more!  Not because I wasn’t satisfied, but because I never wanted it to end.   It’s definitely the soup of my dreams. 🙂

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Saffron Vegetable Soup with Quinoa
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Saffron Vegetable Soup with Quinoa is a hearty, vegetarian soup packed with veggies, chickpeas, quinoa, and plenty of saffron flavor. This is no ordinary vegetable soup!
Author:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, chopped into ½" pieces
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped into ½" pieces
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, halved, washed, and sliced*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped into ½" pieces
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1" pieces*
  • 4-5 cups vegetable stock*
  • 2 large pinches saffron, or one capsule
  • 15 ounces chickpeas, unrinsed
  • ½ cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped into 1" pieces
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • freshly chopped basil, for serving
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery, and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the leek and garlic, and cook 2-3 more minutes or until softened. Add the zucchini and green beans, and sauté 1 minute more.
  2. Add the broth and saffron, and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and beans, and cook for 11 more minutes, or until the quinoa is completely cooked. Stir in the diced tomato and salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from heat.
  3. Serve the soup with the freshly chopped basil and enjoy!
Notes
*If you don't have leek on hand, substitute with one medium white or yellow onion and cook it with the carrots and celery.
*You may substitute the fresh green beans for frozen -- simply thaw them and add them at the end with the beans and quinoa.
*I like my soup thick, so I used 4 cups of stock. If you prefer it thinner, use 5 cups.
Recipe by Flavor the Moments.