Vegetarian Chicken Soup

A schmaltz-free version of the Jewish classic cure-all.

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Vegetarians need not feel left out. The recipe below maintains the golden hue and soothing warmth of regular chicken soup, but instead of oily schmaltz it gets its depth of flavor from long-simmered garlic and vegetables. The addition of lemongrass provides a hint of bright citrus fragrance, which adds a welcome complexity to the broth.

It is a simple-to-make alternative for the vegetarians at the table, and a satisfying start to any dairy meal. And while the chicken-free version cannot claim to have exactly the same healing powers as the original, a steamy bowl on Friday night still does wonders for the body and the soul.

Ingredients

  1. 9 cups water
  2. 1 leek, cleaned well and roughly chopped
  3. 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  4. 1 parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
  5. 2 large celery stalks (with leaves), roughly chopped
  6. 2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  7. 2 bay leaves
  8. 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  9. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  10. A handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  11. 1 stalk lemongrass, split into four small pieces
  12. 2 Tablespoons coarse kosher salt (or to taste)

Directions

In a large stockpot, heat oil and sauté onions for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, parsnip, garlic, and leeks and sauté for another 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add water and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about one hour uncovered.

After one hour, add lemongrass, parsley, and salt, and simmer for another thirty minutes. Let soup cool a bit, then strain into a large bowl using a cheesecloth or mesh strainer. If desired, add some of the vegetables back (discard the rest). Serve hot as is or with matzah balls, noodles, kreplach, etc.

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Leah Koenig is a writer and cookbook author whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, CHOW, Food Arts, Tablet, Gastronomica, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Leah writes a monthly food column for The Forward and a bimonthly column for Saveur.com called “One Ingredient, Many Ways.” She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning blog, The Jew & The Carrot, and she is a frequent contributor to MyJewishLearning.com, where her recipes are very popular, and highly praised. Her first cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen, was published by Rizzoli in 2011. The book was named one of the “Best Books of 2011? by Library Journal and The Kitchn called it “a big, beautiful book that is also down-to-earth and completely accessible.”

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