Few things are as heartwarming as a steaming bowl of good, homemade soup. At the turn of the season, the days grow short, the breeze blows crisp and clear and Mother Nature pulls out all the stops for one last blaze of brilliant leafy glory before her winter slumber. We put away our flip flops and memories of summer and shake out our favorite chunky sweaters, becoming reacquainted, as if with old and trusted friends. It’s a time of settling in.
We move through our days with a different energy. A little more focused, perhaps more purposeful, with a renewed sense of our surroundings. We are feeling the tug of an ancient memory that encourages us to cozy up our burrow for the quiet times ahead.
We begin to crave warmth. We begin to crave comfort. We begin to crave soup.
Soup is an ancient foodstuff that goes back to the discovery of fire. Hot rocks in a watertight vessel got things boiling, and anything from bark to bones would begin to make a soup. The old folk tale of “Stone Soup” relates how a stranger with a pot and a stone brings a town together in generous cooperation. Chicken soup has often been referred to as “Jewish penicillin”, with the ability to cure not only the common cold, but whatever else ails you.
Soup is a part of all cultures and culinary traditions. Whether plain, simple, straightforward and minimalist or rich, elegant, over-the-top and bursting with a bounty of ingredients, there will always be a soup that hits that perfect note. It can be a simple thing to make a soup from scratch and it is so worth your while to do so. As we start to cozy up our burrows, we should fill them with the comforting aromas of a homemade soup.
My HEARTY VEGETABLE MINESTRONE Soup is delicious, nutritious, nurturing and a perfect jumping off point for making as many variations as you can imagine. It’s an everyday, every way soup that has traditional roots and the ability to get even better the next day and even the next. My CREAMY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP elevates one of the season’s freshest ingredients and gives the dish a velvety, decadent texture without a single ounce of dairy cream. Each of these delicious offerings deserves a place on the table of your cozy burrow.
HEARTY VEGETABLE MINESTRONE
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
2-3 stalks celery, sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch sections
1 zucchini, chopped or sliced
1-2 cups kale, sliced into thin ribbons
1 15-ounce can tomatoes, crushed or diced (not puree)
Optional veggies I often add: corn, peas, okra
1 15-ounce can kidney beans or garbanzo beans
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock (may cut with water)
1 12-oz can V-8 juice (vegetable juice cocktail)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Optional garnish: basil pesto and/or grated Parmesan cheese
In a large pot, sauté onion, carrot, celery and garlic in 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent, 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. (Tip: Add only a small amount at this stage. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out!) Add green beans, zucchini and kale, sauté 5 minutes more. Add bay leaf and dried oregano, basil and red pepper flake. Add tomatoes, stock and V-8 juice. (Any additional vegetables can be added now)
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add beans and warm through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or dried seasoning if desired. Remove bay leaf. Garnish with pesto and/or Parmesan cheese and serve hot.
CREAMY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP
3-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
6-8 whole garlic cloves
2 pounds cauliflower, cut into slices (I large or 2 small heads)
4-6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water (or a combination)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Options: Freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 450°.
Place whole garlic cloves in a small square of aluminum foil, drizzle with a couple teaspoons of the olive oil, fold the foil into a small pouch to enclose the garlic and place in a 450° oven until fragrant and softened, 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice cauliflower into pieces that have at least one flat side (to facilitate browning), place on a sheet pan and toss with the remaining olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste. Place in the same oven at 450° and roast for approximately 10 minutes, until slightly golden brown in places. (Cauliflower does not need to cook through at this point.)
After roasting, remove cauliflower from the oven and place in a large pot. Add stock and/or water, ground turmeric and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender, another 10 minutes. Additional seasonings (such as curry powder) can be added at this time.
After cauliflower is tender, use an immersion blender to puree soup to desired smoothness. Add Dijon mustard and stir. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with any of the above optional garnishes and serve hot.