Simmering summer's best vegetables can make a satisfying lunch or dinner. Adding wholesome beans completes the dish.

This week's recipe pairs tomatoes, squash, and spinach with the somewhat grainy, nutty, dense flavor of Great Northern beans, creating a super summer vegetarian soup that is loaded with flavor and nutrition.

It starts with a good foundation. Although the words broth and stock are often used interchangeably, understanding their subtle differences is useful. Both liquids are made by gently simmering meats, fish, or vegetables with herbs in water. Broth is more highly seasoned than stock, making it a good base. Stock is less seasoned, richer, and more robust, usually with a meaty flavor. The advantage of broth for this recipe is that it helps maintain its vegetarian status for those looking for nutritional variety without meat.

Roasting the vegetables caramelizes their sugars for a naturally sweet, smoky flavor. Pureeing ensures that the different flavors fully mingle. Gently layering in the beans and spinach preserves both the taste and consistency of these ingredients. The goal is create the right balance between hearty and light for the season.

No matter if you have a garden or obtain the zucchini and yellow squash from the neighborhood grocer or local famers' market, the key here is freshness. The high water content of the squashes adds flavorful liquid to the broth.

Although available year-around, they are at their peak flavor from May through August. Make sure you thoroughly wash yellow squash because they are often coated with wax to lock in the moisture, and this recipe calls for unpeeled squash (because most of the nutrients are in the skin.) Archaeologists have traced these summer jewels back several millennia, with their origins rooted in Mexico.

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Smaller than cannellinis, Great Northern beans look like baby lima beans. They are loaded with flavor and nutritional goodness and can play an integral role as part of an effective cancer prevention diet. They also add a pleasant consistency to the recipe. In addition to color, the spinach imparts its own unique taste and texture.

Served by itself or with a healthy vegetarian sandwich on crusty whole wheat bread, this recipe makes a perfect lunch or dinner that can power you through a long summer day without being too heavy. And, it makes wonderful leftovers.

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Summer Roasted Vegetable Soup

Makes 6 servings (yields 10 cups)

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into large chunks
  • 2 medium yellow squash, cut into large chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4cups vegetable broth
  • 3 large fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern white beans, drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of baby spinach

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss tomatoes, onions, zucchini, and squash in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange vegetables on sheet.
  2. Roast vegetables until brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Check them after 30 minutes to ensure they do not burn, but their color should be a deep golden brown.
  3. Peel garlic cloves and place in a blender or food processor. Add roasted tomatoes and onion. Puree until almost smooth. Transfer to large pot.
  4. Add broth, thyme and bay leaf to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat.
  5. Add beans and roasted squash to soup. Simmer 8 minutes to blend flavors.
  6. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf.
  7. Put the spinach on top of soup. Cover for about 5 minutes until spinach is wilted.
  8. Can be made a day in advance.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
160 calories
5 g total fat
0.5 g saturated fat
25 g carbohydrate
7 g protein
7 g dietary fiber
240 mg Sodium