My sister came over for dinner last night (great to see you, Chris!) and took advantage of the visit to make one of my favorite autumny soups. The friend who showed me this recipe is a kindergarten teacher and she calls it “Stone Soup” and makes it with her students. Everyone brings in a vegetable, they boil them all up and make a wonderful soup for everyone to enjoy, just like the old fable.
In my case, I had a refrigerator full of a random assortment of veggies – most about to go bad – so it was the perfect opportunity. I ended up buying beets and Tuscan Kale, but everything else was from my mom’s and neighbor’s gardens or just hanging around.
|Assorted fresh fall veggies, go to your garden, the grocery store, or local farmer’s market!|
For this batch I used onions, carrots, celery, carrots, butternut squash, potatoes, cauliflower, kale, and bay leaf. I also add a little coconut milk at the end. You could add broccoli or tomatoes – even an apple or two. It really depends on what you have handy and what’s in season. You’re going to have to peel and chop all of these veggies so plan about 30 minutes of processing time. I like my soups really chunky so I chopped evreything into about 1-inch pieces.
|Onions, carrots, and celery go into a large pan with 3 tablespoons of oil and two bay leaves.|
This combination of carrots, celery and onions is sometimes called “mirepoix” or the “holy trinity”. It creates a flavor foundation for almost every soup and sauce. Heat up your large sauce pot to about medium and throw these guys in first. I like to add a couple bay leaves, 2 garlic cloves, and a large pinch of salt as well. Stir them up and cover the pot. Let them simmer for about 10 minutes until the onions are pretty well translucent. My general rule with this initial sautee is that a little extra color improves the soup so I leave them in there another 5 or so minutes until they all start to carmelize on the edges.
I like to include them because they are a little more dense than the other veg and they are pretty sweet. You can use the deep red beets, they’re color will bleed out a little and affect the color of the soup, but if you don’t care, it just fine. I used golden beets in this batch. They aren’t as sweet, but this time of year you can usually find them.
Now, the beets can be handled a couple different ways (or you can skip them all together). If you have nice large beets, I suggest peeling and chopping them the same way as everything else. Mine were little so I cooked them separately (boiled, covered for 30 mins), peeled them, then chopped them up and added them at the end.
|Boiling the golden beets. Leave the roots and 1-inch of the tops on to preserve color.|
Butternut squash is also really nice in this recipe. Prepping it is a little tricky, so I thought I’d include a picture. I cut it in half crossways, then use a peeler to take off the hard shell. You have to make a few passes with the peeler, really get all the lighter peel and any green stripey parts off – they can be difficult to chew and/or have a bitter flavor. Next slice into 1/2-inch slabs, and chop into cubes from there. The cubes take about 12 minutes to cook if you are boiling, FYI.
|Butternut squash has a sweet, soft flesh. Use acorn or even pie pumpkins if that’s all you have. Steer clear of spaghetti squash for this recipe.|
Once your mirpoix is done softening and carmelizing, add the rest of your veg (whatever you’re using. In my case it was potatoes, butternut squash, kale, cauliflower), and add enough HOT water to just cover them. Crank up the heat, put a lid on it, and bring up to a rolling boil. Once it’s boiling, set a timer for 10 minutes and pour yourself a glass of wine.
After ten minutes, check the veggies for doneness. The carrots and squash will be fine for sure, but depending on how old your potatoes are or how big your kale is, you may need a couple more minutes. At this point, you may also want to check the broth for flavor. It’s unlikely you’ll be happy with it at this point. I added half a dozen of my home made veggie stock cubes, but alternatively, you can add a couple bouillon cubes or packet of Swanson Flavor Booster (use veggie flavored if you want to keep this vegan/vegetarian). I also added about 1 teaspoon of a Spanish Rosemary salt I found at our local Roths Grocery. I was a little afraid it would weird out the flavor so I didn’t add too much. At the last minute I also added about 8 dashes of my soup secret weapon: Green Tabasco. A couple teaspoons of yellow curry would be a nice addition as well.
Once things are all cooked to perfection and the flavor is strong enough for you, add a can of coconut milk. Try not to boil it too much after you add the coconut milk, it may curdle a bit on you. Stir it up and get ready to serve it!
You may have noticed I didn’t include a suggestion for how much of anything to put in the soup. It is completely flexible. I made a HUGE batch, so I could share with our friends and throw some in the freezer (great alternative to chicken soup when cold/flu season strikes!) so I used probably twice as much as you will. Here’s the guideline: use equal amounts when you can. Once they are all chopped up, try to have as many potatoes as you have cauliflower as squash and so on. If you only have one potato, don’t sweat it. Just throw in what you have. You can also toss in a handful of pasta or quick cooking rice. It’s one of my all time favorite “fridge clearing out” recipes!
|TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: This picture is sideways. Humph.|
Once you’re done prepping, there’s a lot of compost material left over. This was my actual scrap bucket to give you an idea. It is WONDERFUL for the compost – the chickens won’t eat most of it. If you don’t keep a compost bin, you can just toss them into a pile in your garden. By spring the worms and critters will have taken care of it for you 🙂