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Get Cooking: Fresh ingredients are just the start to this soup

January 28, 2009 |  7:12 am

Today's article on making vegetable soup is our last installment in our Get Cooking series, which is all about learning some recipe basics, tossing in some kitchen staples — and then improvising.

Several readers were kind enough to share their take on some of these recipes, including Kathy Leslie, who favored the pasta and broccoli dish, and offered up this variation:

"Thought you might like to know about a variation that we've made for years — to your pan of olive oil, add about 2 oz chopped pancetta (I just use the whole package of chopped pancetta available at Trader Joe's for $2.99) and cook till it renders and browns a little....

To that, put in, one handful at a time, one bag of Trader Joe's Southern Greens mix. Turn each handful in the pan to get it coated, let it cook down and wilt a little, then keep adding to the pan till all the greens are in there, and continue to saute for about five minutes, till most of the moisture is evaporated (this will depend on the season — at certain times of the year greens are juicier than at others) but greens are still intensely green.

Salt/chili flakes to taste, then blend with your cooked pasta (we usually use penne).  Add balsamic vinegar and peccorino cheese at the table.

I put this together remembering the school lunches of my youth (in North Carolina) — when greens were on the menu, plastic squeeze bottles of vinegar were always on the table. This recaptures the "whang" of the greens and the vinegar, and I don't have to cook it all day like the cafeteria ladies did back then. 

You could, in lieu of the TJ greens, go to the store and buy, wash and tear a bunch each of collards, turnips, and mustard greens, but we're talking weeknight, right?"

— Rene Lynch