Hearty Vegetable Soup

2-3 cups your choice of chopped vegetables
1/2 chopped medium size white onion
1/2 tsp grated garlic
2 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato puree
3 cups water or canned stock
5-6 whole black pepper corns (for flavor only)
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper (to garnish)
1 T. fresh grated Parmesan cheese (to garnish)
Salt to taste

1. Chop vegetables into bite size pieces. Wash well.

2. Heat olive oil and saute chopped onions for 1-2 minutes until translucent but not brown. Add garlic and vegetables and tomato puree. Add stock/water and black pepper corns. Season with salt.

3. Cover and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Slightly mash with a ladle. Remove black pepper corns.

4. Transfer to soup bowls. Garnish with fresh black pepper and Parmesan cheese and serve piping hot with crusty bread.

Note: You can substitute black pepper corns with cloves, bay leaves, rosemary or an herb of your choice each time you make this soup for more variety. You can also add red kidney beans and elbow macaroni for a minestrone taste.

From Leslie Cerier's cookbook, Going Wild in the Kitchen (2005, Square One Publishers)