While I am not sure if this soup has Italian origins, I certainly saw enough gypsys in Italy to prove this COULD be an Italian soup. I love this soup because I can use the oddest ingredients (think all the overflow veggies you bought at the farmer’s market), use only water as a base, and still end up with a garden scented, richly flavored, summer soup.
I first read a similar recipe for gypsy soup in an old vegan cookbook (maybe Moosewood?) and of course I had to switch out the ingredients for what I had on hand, but one of the ingredients – a diced sweet potato – turned out to be a very special ingredient that I would never have thought to use for fear that sweet potato in a soup would clash with traditional Italian vegetable soup ingredients.
I am happy to report that it does not. Instead it works and tastes like any other root vegetable and is indistinguishable from a turnip, a parsnip or even a carrot. I felt so happy and relieved that I would no longer be adding to the landfill with my wasted sweet potatoes. You laugh now, but when our world looks like that of Wall-E, my sweet potatoes will be blameless.
You can, of course, adapt the vegetables to whatever you have on hand – like using zucchini, if you have it, or using white potatoes – and if I had had any greens, I would have added them also. If you don’t want your soup to be vegan (mine is because I am taking it to my daughter’s B Day party and some of her guests are vegans), you may use chicken stock, add cooked chicken or add whatever you want to add. Just keep the water proportions the same so that the intensity of the vegetable flavors isn’t lost.
4 medium ripe tomatoes or 4 canned imported plum tomatoes & 1/2 cup juice
2 tbsp mild olive oil 1 large onion, diced
3 peeled garlic cloves, pressed
2 cups diced sweet potato
1 tsp salt
1 dash of tumeric
2 dashes cayenne pepper
1 tsp mild paprika
2 tbsp finely shredded basil
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 – 2 stalks of celery from the heart or center, finely diced
1 can of chick peas, liquid included
3 cups water or stock
If using fresh tomatoes, bring a saucepan of water to boiling. Turn off the heat and dip the tomatoes in the hot water for 2 minutes. Remove and place on a plate. The skin of the tomato should come off easily. Dice up the tomatoes and set aside in a bowl.
Get all your ingredients ready before making the soup. Dice the sweet potato, the onion, the pepper, the celery and set them aside. Press the garlic cloves and set that aside. Open the can of imported plum tomatoes and remove four plum tomatoes from the can along with 1/2 cup juice. Chop up the tomatoes and place in a bowl with the juice and set aside. Open the can of chick peas and have it ready to add to the soup when needed.
Roll up a handful of basil leaves like a cigar. Cut across the “cigar” to finely shred the basil and set that aside. Shake your spices including salt and pepper into a small bowl to add to the soup when needed.
Take out a heavy dutch oven or similar pot and place on medium high heat. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil until hot and shimmering. Turn heat to medium and throw in the onion, garlic, celery and sweet potato, and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring carefully so the vegetables become coated with oil, but don’t get scorched. Add salt and sauté 5 minutes more, continuing to stir.
Then add the tomato pulp, bell pepper and chick peas with its liquid. Stir well, and then cover the soup and simmer about 10 more minutes. Test the sweet potato and don’t let it get mushy. It should still have some bite to it.
Toppings: I have used greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or toasted croutons sautéed in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. I always sprinkle this soup with lots of parmesan cheese and keep some in a bowl at the table so every bite will have some. I am a bit obsessed with it.