The leaves are beginning to turn and we’ve had enough touches of cooler weather here in the Northeast that I’ve started thinking soup. I got into soup in a serious way last winter. Our middle child, G, was living with us at the time and was on a health kick that included lots of fresh fruits and veggies. So he was really interested in soup, too, particularly to pack for lunch at his job.
It was just the excuse I needed to expand my soup repertoire, which before this had mostly been potato leek soup (mighty good I might add) and the obvious vegetable. Then I discovered roasted vegetables and our soup lives changed.
I roasted cauliflower, I roasted broccoli, I roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips and carrots. I roasted just about anything I could get my hands on, added some broth and spices and every single time had a lovely, slurpable soup.
If you’ve ever been a little reluctant about experimenting with food, ie stepping outside the recipe box and adding a dash of this or a spot of that, soup is a great way to start. I don’t know what it is about roasting that makes everything taste better, but it just does. So grab your favorite vegetables and get going. I hear it’s going to be cooler and rainy this weekend…just right for some soup.
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced in half and in two-inch pieces
3 red peppers, seeded and cored, cut into slices
1 cauliflower, cut into roastable pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
chili powder to taste
3-4 cups (or so) of chicken or vegetable broth
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut up the veggies, place them in a roasting pan. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and chili powder and toss until the vegetables are well coated.
Bake for 20 minutes. Then toss and bake another 20 minutes until the vegetables are well roasted. Let them cool a bit.
Place some of the vegetables in a blender with some of the broth. Puree to your desired consistency. Do this until all the vegetables are pureed. Then add as much broth as you want to create soup of the consistency you like. Taste and add additional seasoning if necessary.
As Janet and Rachel can attest, I grew up in the mountains of Connecticut (actually to be quite honest, our house was just around the corner from their house). Surrounded by the woods, bugs and small town New England, every other home seemed to have its personal garden for summertime, home cooked, veggie goodness! My next-door neighbors were the sweetest people; I forget what the husband did, but the wife was the retired home economics teacher for the town’s high school. They maintained a garden (to me, it was a small farm… but they referred to it as a garden), and always had fresh fruits and veggies throughout the spring summer and fall!
So, I had plans. Not big plans, but fresh vegetable plans. I was going to make egg noodles with green beans, mushrooms, those little grape tomatoes (I could eat these by the cup) and fresh grated parmesan cheese. It wasn’t going to be fancy, but it was definitely going to be good and I was really looking forward to it.
And then the plague happened.
Not the real plague, but our first full-on, everybody’s-down-for-the-count family-wide illness. I thought I had been sick before, but I now know that you have NEVER been sick until you’ve had a baby (ok, not really…I’m only talking about illnesses that come and go within a week’s time). I did not know what it was like not to be able to sleep all day and all night, waking only to blow your nose or pull the tissue out from your sweatpants that somehow weaseled its way in there while you were snoring (blissfully!) through two nostrils with–yup, you guessed it–tissues stuck in them. I did not know. But I digress…
The byproduct of the arrival of the plague was a complete and utter lack of desire to make the aforementioned dinner. In fact, I can’t even remember what we ate during those days of disease. What I was left with, then, was a bunch of vegetables on the brink of turning.
As I know I’ve mentioned before, we often have portions of homemade chicken stock in our freezer. As of late, I’ve been saving our vegetable bits in a bag in the freezer to, all in the name of letting them accumulate and turning them into soup one of these days. Yesterday was just the day.
M and I thawed the stock, chopped the veggies, sauteed them and combined everything. A sprinkle of that parmesan from the dinner-that-never-was on top, a piece of toast, and I am one happy eater.
(Ok, maybe M was more into her new dinosaur booties than our kitchen project, but I can dream…)
Rachel here: For a while now, we’ve been meaning to get some other people cooking on our blog. We love the guest posts we’ve been able to feature on Food for Thought Thursdays but we’ve also been wanting to do more. Today we are excited to kick off another outlet for voices and recipes other than our own by turning over the post to a guest blogger we’re pretty sure you all already know and love: John Dezort. Though you’ve been looking at his illustrations for months now, and were recently made privy to a Food for Thought post by him, we’re excited to show you what he can do when left entirely to his own devices. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, John Dezort.
Rachel here: For this post, we decided to explore alternatives to the traditional pasta with tomato sauce. Now, this isn’t because either one of us can’t get down with some good old spaghetti. No, that’s not it at all. It’s just that it’s nice to utilize staple ingredients in less common ways from time to time and pasta is nothing if not a staple. I vividly recall the dish my mom has posted below from growing up. It’s quite tasty and this is coming from somebody who basically avoids cauliflower and broccoli like the plague. My soup recipe was the byproduct of epicurious (via the November 2004 issue of Bon Appetit) perusing and, though this was the first time I made it, it will definitely be making further appearances on the dinner table in my house. Plus, I’m thinking that this may generally be the way I make meatballs from now on since I have never had them hold up so well (and to stirring, even!) and this is a healthier approach than just cooking them in oil. Anyway, check out our recipes below and then let us know how you like your pasta. Happy eating!
Escarole Soup with Pasta and Meatballs
feeds 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter
3/4 lb. lean ground beef (according to reviews of this recipe turkey works just fine, too, for an even healthier alternative)
1 1/3 c. fresh grated parmesan (divide into 1/3 c. and 1 c. units)
1/2 c. fresh breadcrumbs from crustless french bread
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tspn. salt
1/2 tspn. fresh ground pepper
7 1/2 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 T. olive oil
2 large celery stalks (including tops), chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 c. orzo
1 small head of escarole, coarsely torn
In a medium bowl, mix together the first seven ingredients (beef through pepper). Form this mixture into 3/4 inch balls (moisten your hands to prevent sticking to the meat). Heat 1 1/2 c. of the chicken broth with the 2 T. of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and simmer until they are firm and hold their shape (roughly 5 minutes). When the meatballs are firm, remove them back to their bowl. Boil remaining liquid until reduced to a glaze. Add onion and celery and stir until they start to soften. Add the remaining 6 c. of chicken broth, the meatballs (along with any juices) and the orzo to the pot. Simmer until pasta is soft (roughly ten minutes) and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the escarole and simmer until it wilts (roughly 5 minutes). Ladle into bowls, top with remaining parmesan cheese and enjoy.
one head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
one medium onion, choppped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can of your favorite diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
about 3/4 teaspoon oregano
about 3/4 teaspoon basil
about 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound spaghetti (I prefer thin but that’s just me)
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onions. Saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add the cauliflower and saute for about 5 minutes until it’s just start to get tender. Add the tomatoes and seasonings. Let simmer for about 15 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked the way you like (I like my vegetables crunchy).
While the cauliflower mixture is simmering, fill a pot with about 4 quarts of water and salt it. When boiling, add the pasta and cook until it’s the way you like it (I prefer al dente), about 10 minutes or so.
Drain the pasta, place portions on the plate, add the cauliflower mixture, top with Parmesan and you are ready to go.