Vegetable Sour Soup

A while ago, I told you about Romanians’ fascination with soup; that for us soup is an everyday affair regardless of season, and that we treat it with the utmost respect.  It’s so true!  What I omitted back then was that we have two types of soups in Romania, and that we make a clear distinction between them.  First, we have the clear soup filled with dumplings, homemade noodles or pasta.  Second, we have the sour soup, also known in Romanian as ciorbă, which is, as the name suggests, sour and tart thanks to the various souring agents used to flavor it such as lemon juice, vinegar or even sauerkraut juice.       
While home this time around, I was indisputably on a soup diet.  It wasn’t a diet per se; it was just the regular everyday Romanian custom of indulging in a bowl of soup before the main course.  And I didn’t mind it; not even a bit.  I can’t really decide whether I prefer the clear soup or the sour soup; they’re quite different and each unique and delicious in its own and delightful way.  
I’ve already shared with you grandma Vicki’s classic Chicken Ciorbă; a staple in our family and easily adaptable according to occasion.  You’ll see this sour soup made with porkfor New Year’s, or with lamb for Easter, or with chicken for an uneventful Sunday lunch.  This Vegetable Sour Soup (Vegetable Ciorbă)sprung up from my experimenting with the classic only to come up with something cleaner and less sophisticated, yet still packed with flavor.  
For me, this Vegetable Sour Soup (Vegetable Ciorbă) is one of those go-to soups or whenever-I-want-something-more-besides-the-main-course kind of soup.  I love that it’s a cinch to make; it’s light, refreshing, colorful and loaded with vegetables.  It doesn’t have meat but the tiny pasta acts like the meaty element of the dish, while the splash of vinegar spurs your taste buds.  A few sprinkles of fresh parsley are highly recommended but not mandatory.  As you can clearly see from the pictures, I didn’t use any parsley this time, but I’ll make sure to add it to my next pot of soup for that extra kick of freshness.  With or without parsley, this vegetable sour soup is simple and perfect to welcome spring! 
Vegetable Sour Soup (Vegetable Ciorbă) 
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki

Makes: 8-10 servings

·         3 Tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
·         4-5 carrots peeled and chopped
·         1 medium yellow onion, chopped
·         1 red pepper, chopped
·         1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
·         1 cup small pasta such as ditalini
·         Salt and pepper
·         1-2 Tablespoons white vinegar
·         Optional: a small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onion and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook together for about 5 minutes adding a bit of water so that the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add the red pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add the can of tomatoes and mix well.  Cook everything together for 3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add water to fill up the pan.  Season with salt.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for 25-30 minutes.  
In the meantime, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Drizzle a Tablespoon of oil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.  Drain well and keep close at hand.  
When the vegetables are cooked, season with salt to taste, and add the vinegar and bring back to a boil for 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off, add the pasta and stir well.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley on top. 
Note:  Let the soup cool completely before you put it in the fridge. 

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