Fix a bad vegetable soup
I threw a whole bunch of vegetables in the crock-pot with water and realized I had forgot to buy meat for it. I cooked it anyways and it is extremely bland. Any ideas on what I can do to fix it now? I don't want all this to go to waste...
I basically just threw a bunch of random vegetables that I picked up from the farmers market in there: 3 squash, 2 zucchini, an onion, kale, a handful of green beans, 4 servings pearl barley (I had half a bag laying around I needed to use up), 2 handfuls black beans, half a head of cabbage. I put some salt & pepper, about 6 teaspoons of chicken bouillon, garlic powder. It's a big crock-pot and I filled it to the brim with water (besides all the veggies).
Any suggestions would be great...
How *long* have you been cooking this? Is it a pot of mush, or is there still some texture to the veggies?
With such a random collection of ingredients, I'm hesitant to suggest anything lest it conflict with one of the flavors. With that in mind, add extra ingredients a little at a time to make sure it doesn't go overboard or taste jarring with something already in there.
Suggestions to improve the flavor:
- Celery salt or celery seed (preferably ground). Fresh celery is normally part of the mirepoix in veg soup, but it's probably not a good idea to add to a cooked soup, so we're adding the next best thing. It is amazing the difference celery can make.
- White wine vinegar (for acidity and a richer flavor, and pairing with the cabbage and onions)
- Dry vermouth or white wine. Some flavor compounds are more soluble in alcohol than water, so this can help bring to the front additional flavors that are already present but undetectable.
- A jigger of sherry or cooking sherry (the latter has salt, so add it before salting the soup). This is a common suggestion when serving canned soups to guests, to make the soup taste fancier.
- Rosemary, thyme, and parsley flakes/stems (adds aromatic and herbal flavors)
- Worcestershire sauce (use carefully, it's potent stuff) -- this adds umami and spiciness
- Paprika and a pinch or two of cayenne -- adds warmth and back heat, and smokiness
- Dijon mustard (use sparingly). Adds front heat and a little richness to the soup
- A little more salt and pepper
- Parmesan or parmesan rind (for the rind, plan on simmering for a long time to extract flavor). Self-explanatory here.
- Balsamic vinegar -- adds sweetness, acid, body, and umami. Use caution, it may conflict with the cabbage here.
This is the one I ended up doing. The soup wasn't necissarily "good" but it's "good enough". One day I tried adding horseradish mustard, and it was actually good...
Lemon juice is often a good alternative to vinegar for getting the pH down to a tastier range.
I just want to say the mustard and balsamic vinaigrette was a great suggestion. I too made the mistake of a bland soup and I didn't know how to fix it. This answer saved the soup. It went from being bland and probably destined to sit in the fridge for a week until I throw it out to a soup that I finished in one sitting and am excited to make again.