Soup. Who does not love soup? My family welcomes the fall with the reintroduction of soup. In fact, for years I've observed that just as all of our lovely garden produce comes in, I don't have the time or inclination to cook. And it occurred to me this summer that part of it is that much of my cold weather cooking goes by the wayside. We eat soup at least once a week if not twice a week from the early signs of fall until the spring. Soup, along with heavier meals - the pot pies, the beans and rice, stuffed pasta and all that - leave the menu. That's a lot to replace with peas and lettuce in June, beans, tomatoes and corn in July. But after a couple of awkward weeks, we settle into the simpler food routine. Don't worry about us, we find the groove and eat pretty well all summer long. When the nights get cool and the beach accoutrements are tucked away in the barn, however, we all get excited about soup again.
If I haven't said it before, I am super lucky to have a family who is enthusiastic about what I cook for dinner. Tonight, Jerry and Frank came down from the bath asking what smelled so good. And even though there is enthusiasm for much of my repertoire, there is a special excitement for soup. Over the years, I've developed quite the array. White bean and kale, lentil, potato leek, mushroom barley, miso, straight up veggie, minestrone, black bean, Hungarian mushroom, French onion, corn chowder, and the list goes on. I'm sure I'll blog about all of them before winter's over.
To me there are two keys to making good soup. First, saute your veggies first. If you are adding raw veggies into your broth and wondering why your soup lacks flavor or has only one note, that's why. Boiled veggies never have the depth that sauteed veggies do. Respect the cooking time of each. Add carrots first, they take the longest, then your onions, peppers, cauliflower, etc. Finish off with the greens. Season your veggies with salt and pepper before adding broth.
The second key to great soup is greens. I'm a little obsessed with greens, I admit. Now I'm not adding greens to the corn chowder or the french onion soup. Although . . . Truly, I add greens to nearly all my soups. Last night I added beet greens to the lentil soup. Chop them fine, wash them well, leave them a little wet and add them to your sauteeing veggies so they sort of braise. Spinach, chard, kale, beet greens, whatever you have, throw them in, they'll take your soup to the next level. I promise. I sauteed a bunch of greens with garlic this summer and froze them to add to soups this winter as part of my local/sustainable journey. I don't overdo though. If it were just me, I'd add handfuls, but I respect the rest of my family is not part goat as they affectionately claim I am.
Here's the recipe for lentil soup, one of the most simple soups I make, that disappeared last night.
2 Medium Carrots sliced
1 Medium to Large Onion diced
4-5 cloves garlic diced small
3 medium potatoes or five or six red, purple, white fingerlings, my new favorite, grown right in Western Mass. diced
Handful chopped greens
1 Cup French Indigo Lentils
2 Quarts warm water
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Saute carrots, onion, garlic and potatoes until al dente. Add salt and pepper. Add greens and saute for another two minutes. Add lentils and stir to coat with oil. Saute for one minute and then add water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low. Let the soup simmer until lentils are tender, not falling apart. Adjust seasonings. Serve with crusty bread and green salad.
Variation for Greek lentil soup. Omit the potatoes. Add 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar to each bowl when serving.