Basque Vegetable Soup

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Vegetable soup is the first course at Basque family style restaurants.

Nancy Zubiri, Editor

Most dinners at the traditional Basque family-style restaurants start with soup. Typically, this first course consists of a simple vegetable soup. With beans and bone broth, this soup can even serve as a main course.

Yvonne Etcheveste, former owner of the Chateau Basque in Bakersfield and my cousin, shared her version of Basque vegetable soup for my book, Travel Guide to Basque America. A recent attempt of the recipe turned out a delicious version. This soup produces a large pot of soup, so cut recipe in half if you want a bit less. Or make it, then freeze some in a couple of zip-lock bags for later.

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The Benefits of Bone Broth
Many supermarkets sell packages of marrow bones in their meat department. These add healthy fat, collagen and gelatin that give the soup a real substantial flavor that you can’t get when you just use the vegetables. Basques are traditionally meat eaters, so meat is involved in most dishes, even if it’s just for flavoring. However, bones provide more than rich flavor. The marrow that leaks into the soup offers many essential nutrients that are easier to digest. Bone broth has been found to provide trace amounts of iron, amino and fatty acids, vitamins A and K, selenium, zinc and manganese. So be sure to go the extra mile and buy the bones to make this soup extra nutritious. Beans also add some protein, so add more or less as you desire. They do make the soup more substantial.

Etcheveste’s Vegetable Soup
2 quarts of water
1 beef bone
3 tbsp. of tomato paste
1/2 of a 15-oz. can of whole tomatoes
1/2 head of cabbage
1 leek, white part only
4 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 potatoes
Salt, pepper to taste
A pinch of cayenne
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tbsp. dried thyme
1/2 can (drained) of pinto beans or more (optional)

Place the water and bone in a large pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and dice the vegetables. When the water boils, skim the foam off the top. Stir in the tomato paste until it dissolves. Partially mash the tomatoes with a fork, then add them to the pot along with the other vegetables and spices. Cover and simmer over a low heat until the vegetables are cooked. Add the beans a few minutes before you’re planning to serve, to turn it into a heartier and tastier main meal. Easy, right? And don’t forget to take the bone out before serving.

See Related Euskal Kazeta Recipe Links:

Favorite Basque Recipes

Chef Gerald Hirigoyen’s Piperade recipe from his book, “Pintxos.”

EK’s Basque bean recipes

EK’s quick and easy paella

EK’s porrusalda and other Basque soups

Tortilla de Patatas




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