I don’t know if there’s any truth to the story that blood thins when one lives in the desert. Despite bright sun, I think it’s cold outside but I’m inside with a good book and a cuddly kid and a pot of soup on the stove. Good book + cuddly kid + soup = perfection in my book.
I love that soup can be complex or simple, light or hearty, slow cooked or quick. In the end, I typically prepare them in a very similar manner. Heat a chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil until soft, add spices. Add the other ingredients and stock, simmer and then blend. There are infinite varieties that could I write of but here are ten favorites.
1. Broccoli with green apple – This delightful combo comes via Chef Robert Engel of Russian River Vineyards.
Saute 1 small chopped onion in 2 Tbs olive oil until partially soft. Add 2 tsp curry powder and continue for 3 minutes. Chop 6 cups of broccoli flowers and stalk. Peel lower stalk if tough. Core and chop 1 green apple. Put 4 cups of stock, broccoli and apple into the pot with the onion and cook until broccoli is soft. Strain with a sieve. Return stock to the stove and put the strained ingredients into a food processor. Make a roux of 2 Tbs butter and 2 Tbs flour and cook on low for 5 minutes. Cool the roux and add it to the stock. Add the puree and 2/3 cup milk or cream.
2. Carrot with cashews – Mollie Katzen is the designer of this soup and it’s variations.
Peel, trim and cut 2 lbs. carrots into chunks. Cover with 4 cups of water and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer until tender. In a small skillet, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add 1.5 cups chopped onions and saute ’til soft. Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 Tbs. grated ginger, 1.5 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp of the following spices; cumin, ground fennel, cinnamon, allspice. Saute until well mixed and add 3 Tbs lemon juice. Puree everything in a food processor. Add one cup of toasted cashews and blend some more.
3. Turnip with greens – Deborah Madison pays homage to the lowly turnip like no one else. Even those who tell you they don’t eat them, will gobble this down.
Place 1.5 lb of sliced turnips (small ones are best) into 3 qts of boiling salted water. Cook 1 minute and drain. Melt 3 Tb butter into stock pot with 1/2 cup water. Add 2 – 3 sliced leeks (whites only), blanched turnips, 1/4 tsp thyme, 1 tsp salt. Stew, covered for 5 minutes and then add 4 cups milk. Heat without boiling until turnips are tender. Puree it in a food processor. In a separate pan melt 2 Tbs butter and add 2 cups of chopped turnip greens. Cook 5 – 10 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Add chopped greens to the top of each bowl.
4. Beans and greens – This is as easy as the title suggests. In a deep pot, heat 4 cloves minced garlic in 3 Tbs olive oil until it begins to soften. Add your favorite chopped greens and turn frequently as they wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 cups of stock and 2 cups of cooked white beans. Sprinkle parmesan on top to serve.
5. Black bean with wheatberries – Probably the most complex on my list but hearty and enjoyable.
Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in dutch oven over high heat. Add 4 cups chopped onion, 1.75 cups chopped carrots, 1 cup chopped celery and 3 cloves of minced garlic until soft. Stir in 1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries. Add 4 cups of water and 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (no oil), 2 tsp ground cumin, 4 cups cooked black beans, and 1.5 tsp adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles) and cook until wheatberries are soft. Combine 1/3 cup water with 1 Tbs tomato paste and whisk into the soup. Simmer 15 minutes longer.
6. Roasted tomato and red pepper – perfect when you don’t want it creamy.
Rub oil on 3 red bell peppers and place under broiler until blackened – turning to get all sides. Put into paper bag and let rest 15 minutes. Peel, core and chop. Heat 1 tsp olive oil. Add 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic. Cook until soft but not brown. Stir in 4 large seeded chopped tomatoes, peppers, 1.5 tsp dried thyme, 2 tsp paprika, and 1/8 tsp sugar. Cook over medium heat until tomato juice evaporates. Stir in 6 cups stock, salt and pepper, and a pinch cayenne. Bring to boiling, lower heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Strain soup, reserving broth. Place solids in food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Add puree back into broth. Melt 2 Tbs butter and stir in 1.5 Tbs flour, cook for 1 minute. Stirring slowly, add broth/vegetable mixture. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes.
7. Cauliflower and Fennel – These are my favorite vegetables. They often don’t make it to the soup pot once they’ve come from the oven.
Toss 1 head cauliflower broken into florets, 1 large chopped fennel bulb, and 6 cloves garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400º for about 25 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to a soup pot and saute in olive oil and a little butter for about 10 minutes. Add 6 cups broth and 2 chopped potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are soft. Puree. (add 1 cup cream or milk if you like)
9. Potato with Kale – This is another Deborah Madison recipe definitely on the comfort list. Heat 3 Tbs. olive oil in a soup pot and add 6 cloves of sliced garlic, 1 diced onion, 1/2 tsp of red chile flakes, 1 bay leaf and 1 tsp salt. Cook for a few minutes. Add 1 lb of diced potatoes and 1 cup of stock and cook covered for 5 minutes. Add 1 bunch kale torn from the stems. Once wilted, add 6 more cups of stock, bring to a boil and then simmer covered until the potatoes are soft. Puree 2 cups of soup in a blender and return to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and let sit for an hour before serving.
10. Gotta include Sweet Onion – For us, this is more of a summer soup but if you’re lucky enough to be able to store your sweet onions into the winter, it’s so worth it.
Heat 2 Tbs butter over medium heat. Add 7 chopped sweet onions and stir to coat with butter. Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. About halfway through, add 1/4 tsp dried thyme. Remove lid and add your choice of 1 cup milk, cream or soy and 1 cup stock. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until you get your desired thickness.
Slurp away! What are your winter favorites?