What's the perfect way to savor the colors and flavors of autumn?
Make some soup!!
*alphabet soup kitchen helpers jumping up and down with glee*
Several years ago, I found a wonderful recipe for vegetable soup in The Washington Post. It was a from-scratch version of the canned soup I loved as a child. Since it calls for some hearty root veggies, it's the perfect accompaniment to cooler autumn days. Simple, straightforward and unpretentious, it's back-to-the-basics nourishment that can be adapted in numerous ways with optional ingredients.
It could be my imagination, but whenever I eat this soup, I feel and think better. Vegetarians can add beans for more protein, while carnivores can opt for sausage, ham, or smoked turkey. Whatever your preference, the results are guaranteed to satisfy your creative urges as well as your hunger pangs. Perfect with some crusty bread and whipped butter. Yum!
AUTUMN GARDEN SOUP
(10 to 12 servings)
(this batch with smoked turkey, Canadian bacon and chickpeas)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups (1/2 medium head) shredded cabbage
2 medium potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold),
peeled and cut into 1/4-1 inch cubes
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
3 parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, undrained, lightly crushed
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
9 to 10 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large nonreactive pot or casserole, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently until the onions have just begun to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 45 seconds. Add the celery and carrots and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has just begun to wilt down, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, turnips, and parsnips and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices, the parsley, broth and several pinches of salt. Cover partially and bring to a gentle boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and adjust the heat so that the contents simmer gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. You may need to add more broth during the last hour of cooking if the vegetables are not completely covered and simmering; may add up to 1-1/2 cups additional broth, then bring to a simmer and continue cooking. Season the soup with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.
*This soup freezes well -- divide into individual food-safe storage containers if you wish, and store for up to 6 weeks.
**To vary the flavor, you may add any of several vegetables, cooked meats or starches during the last minutes of cooking. Do not add optional ingredients if you plan to freeze the soup; their texture and flavor would pale considerably.
Kielbasa. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 T vegetable oil. Add 1/2 pound kielbasa cut into 2-inch sections and sear until browned and warmed through. Cut, on the diagonal, into thick slices and add to the soup for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Sweet or hot sausage. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown 1/2 pound of sweet or hot link sausage. Remove from heat, add 1 cup chicken broth, cover, and return to medium heat until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cut the sausage into chunks and add to the soup for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Pasta. In a pot of salted water, boil 1/4 cup small dried pasta shapes until almost tender. Drain well and add to the soup for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Cheese. Sprinkle 1 to 2 T freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese over each bowl of soup before serving.
Cooked beans. Stir 1 cup cooked chickpeas or Great Northern white beans into the soup for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Smoked turkey. Add 1/2 pound diced smoked turkey to the soup for the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Canadian bacon. Add 1/2 pound diced fully cooked Canadian bacon to the soup for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Fennel. Trim 1 fennel bulb, discarding the fronds and any light green sections, and dice the bulb. In a skillet, saute the diced fennel in 1 T of olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the fennel to the soup for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Smoked ham. Add 1/2 pound diced smoked (fully cooked) ham to the soup for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Part Two coming next week: Autumn Garden Picture Book Soup
More soup recipes here!