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Grand Central Bakery, Seattle
Chef Piper Davis
Episode: Chef's Secrets
This hearty Italian soup appears on the menu year-round at Grand Central Bakery, starring whatever seasonal vegetables come into the kitchen from local farms. At home, you can be just as flexible with ingredients. Add ribbons of kale instead of cabbage, make a summer version with zucchini and fresh basil instead of butternut squash and oregano, or dream up another combination based on whatever you have in your crisper drawer. This recipe calls for garbanzos, but white beans make a fine substitute. For a richer broth, let a Parmesan rind simmer along with the soup. Do be generous with the garlicky croutons; these help flavor and thicken the soup and soak up the delicious broth.
makes about 2 quarts, enough for 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or canola oil
1/2 large yellow onion, diced (1 cup) 
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 bulb fennel, diced or shaved
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
11/2 teaspoons ground toasted fennel seeds
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or 11/2 teaspoons dried oregano
pinch chili flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can diced canned tomatoes
7 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
13/4 cups cooked garbanzo beans or one 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup shredded green cabbage
1 cup diced and peeled butternut squash 
3/4 cup cauliflower, cut in bite-size pieces
1/3 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high flame. Add onion, reduce heat to low and cook until very soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in celery, carrot, fennel and salt. Increase heat to medium-high and sauté until soft. Add garlic, ground fennel, oregano and chili flakes and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant, being careful not to let garlic burn.
Add wine and deglaze. Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf, cooked garbanzo beans, squash and cabbage. Watch the quantity of tomatoes; this is a brothy soup with tomatoes in it, not a tomato soup.
Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until vegetables are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add cauliflower and parsley and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding additional salt and pepper as needed. Remove bay leaf.
Meanwhile, make croutons. To serve, place 1 or 2 croutons in a wide soup bowl. Ladle soup over croutons. Garnish with additional chopped Italian parsley, if desired, and a drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Garlic Croutons
1/2 loaf crusty bread, such as Grand Central’s Rustic Baguette or Como (Day-old bread is fine.) 
extra virgin olive oil
3-4 whole garlic cloves
shredded Parmesan cheese
Slice bread into 1/2-inch slices and place on baking sheet. Cut garlic cloves in half and rub bread slices with cut side. Brush with olive oil. Toast in a 375-degree oven for about 5 minutes, until tops are golden brown.