From the store to the kitchen to the table: We outline the steps that get you from something raw to something cooked using simple ingredients, free of measurements and complicated techniques. It’s recipe-free cooking for the dishes you’d like to make all the time—like the best-ever vegetable soup.

    You’ll need:

  • a vegetable peeler
  • a knife
  • a medium pot
  • a spoon
  • a ladle
  • one onion
  • two to three carrots
  • two to three garlic cloves
  • one celery stalk
  • a pound of potatoes
  • other vegetables of your choice (red pepper, cabbage, asparagus, mushrooms, fennel—different colors and textures are nice. The onion, carrots, garlic, celery, and potatoes are the only essentials, as they give the soup its base flavor and aroma)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs such as a bay leaf or a pinch of thyme (optional), dried or fresh
  • a quart of chicken or vegetable broth
  • white wine or vermouth (optional)
  • pesto (optional)


  1. Peel the onion, carrots, and garlic cloves and chop these and your other vegetables roughly the same size: medium dice.
  2. Cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of olive oil and place on the stove over medium heat.
  3. When the oil is hot, add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Next add the carrots and garlic, season with more salt and pepper, and cook two to three minutes more. Finally, add the celery, any other tough vegetables like cabbage, and the dried herbs (if using), season again with salt and pepper, and cook an additional two to three minutes. If you’re using tender vegetables like asparagus or frozen green peas, you’ll want to add them later with the broth.
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  5. (Optional step) Pour enough wine into the pot to cover the bottom. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has reduced a little. This will give your soup some acidity (and it smells good while cooking).
  6. Add the broth and potatoes. Let the soup come to a boil, then turn the heat down so the soup is barely simmering. Cook, uncovered, about 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
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  8. Check to see if the potatoes are cooked by piercing one with a fork. If the fork slides through easily, the potatoes are ready. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.
  9. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of pesto (if using).


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