Winter vegetables are tough for the home cook. They’re not as frequently used as more common vegetables, so there are fewer good recipes around. And, many take a while to cook, so they’re not very practical for typical weekday meals. For my fellow CSA subscribers, I have the answer: soup.
Save up that winter squash for a couple of weeks and then make a big pot of soup on Sunday and you’ve got a great dinner first course, a couple of thermos lunches, and maybe even a breakfast or two (soup for breakfast…yum).
There are lots of recipes out there, but they all follow the same basic formula. It works with any starchy vegetable: carrots, squash (winter or summer), peas, cauliflower…even potatoes. The idea is that you’re using the starch in the veg to give body to the soup, which mimics the texture of a cream soup without the fat.
Here’s the basic formula:
- Cook onions slowly in a covered pot with sweet butter or oil until soft but not browned (with some special spice, if you want).
- Add the vegetables and cover with chicken or vegetable stock.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are very tender.
- Puree in a blender (you can use a food processor or immersion blender, but I like the good old fashioned kind of blender).
- Return everything to the pot, thin with a bit more liquid if necessary (stock, juice, or cream) and season.
For all of these recipes, the key is seasoning. If you use low-salt canned or unsalted homemade broth, the soups will need lots of salt before they start to taste good. If you’re using conventional canned broth, they might not need any. There’s no substitute for tasting, adding a little salt and pepper, tasting again, adding a little more, etc. Just don’t be afraid: if you’re using a low-salt broth, you will need salt.
One last thought is that for sweet vegetables (butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots), I tend not to use juice or cream—stock is more than enough. For more bitter veg, (turnips or parsnips), I thin after pureeing with up to a cup of half-and-half. It’s not quite as good for you, but the dairy helps mellow the final product.