With summer heading toward its waning stages, enjoy the best of the farmers' market or your garden by creating a tasty vegetable soup enhanced by a combination of herbs.

Brown rice is the best choice from the paddies because it hasn't been hulled and refined, retaining its fiber and nutrition and producing a slightly nutty taste. For the best leeks, look for large white bases that are not slimy, dried out or browning.

Celery, rich in vitamin K, originated in the Mediterranean and was used as a medicinal herb. The ancient Greeks called it selinon, and it's mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, which dates back to 850 BC. Available year round, the most common variety is the pale green Pascal. Purportedly, it was introduced to the United States when a Dutch immigrant arrived in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a sack of celery seeds in the 1870s. Cooking softens it and celery provides a wonderful texture to the soup.

The dill, an ingredient in many Scandinavian and German dishes, is in the same family of plants as anise, fennel, cilantro, caraway and cumin. Pungent and aromatic, it adds a decidedly refreshing taste to the mixture. The thyme contributes a somewhat lemony, earthy flavor.

Rounding it all out and providing a pleasing consistency are the bite size pieces of asparagus. These graceful spears have always been prized and Roman emperors were so fond of them that they supposedly kept a special fleet for fetching them so they could be used in their kitchens.

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This soup is easy to prepare and provides a bowlful of taste and nutrition. You might want to prepare some extra because it's great warmed up the next day as a leftover.

Summer Vegetable Soup

Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (water may be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 potato chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 tsp. dried dill
  • 1 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 3 leeks, sliced, stems removed
  • 2 green onions, sliced, including stems
  • 1 stalk of celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 10 stalks of asparagus, sliced into 1/2 to 3/4 pieces, include stems
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

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  1. Bring broth (or water) to boil in large saucepan. Add rice and simmer, covered 20 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots and herbs and cook until potato is tender, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add all other ingredients. Simmer 5 minutes or until asparagus are bright green and just tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve with a dollop of yogurt if desired.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
110 calories
0 g total fat
0 g saturated fat
24 g carbohydrate
3 g protein
4 g dietary fiber
150 mg sodium