For cooks, the arrival of fall isn’t a sad transition to winter, but a happy time because we open our cookbooks and pull out recipes for roasts, braised meats, baked squash, and, of course, soups.
During summer’s heat, we avoid the kitchen, preferring the outdoor grill, salads, sandwiches and finger food. With the weather cooling, we happily reenter the kitchen, igniting all the burners, cranking the oven up to 350 F with abandon.
On dark, cold nights, nothing is more comforting than a warm kitchen filled with the wonderful aromas of food being prepared. Garlic and mushrooms sautéing in olive oil. Pear tarts coming out of the oven, their sweetness bubbling and reaching out to us to have a slice after dinner. And there are the soups.
As the temperature drops outdoors, we hunger to raise our internal temperature.
Staring out the window at blustery, darkening skies and steady downpours, we feel we are well protected with a hot bowl of soup in hand. Matzo ball soup, split pea with ham, French onion soup with a fat topping of toasted bread and melted cheese, mushroom-barley soup, lentil soup with browned disks of Italian sausage, oxtail soup with crispy croutons — everyone has a favorite soup they long for when they feel tired, cold and moody.
Need meat? Not really
Most carnivores enjoy their soups prepared with chicken or meat stock. But non-meat eaters learned long ago, a satisfying soup can be made entirely of vegetables. The clean flavors of freshly braised vegetables in hot broth are perfect to fight off winter’s cold embrace.
In the fall, nature’s bounty stands at the crossroads. A few summer vegetables such as tomatoes and corn are still available, even as cold winds blow across the fields and the sun descends mere hours after lunch. Those soups have a lightness, reminding us of the season just ending. But as winter forces cooks to turn their attention to root vegetables, soups become more serious, offering up more deeply layered textures.
Easy-to-Make Vegetarian Soup
To prepare an easy-to-make vegetarian soup, just sauté carrots, onions, garlic and parsley in olive oil and then simmer them in a vegetable stock. Add whatever favorites are seasonally available — corn, potatoes, broccoli, beans, zucchini, kale, turnips, mushrooms — and the result is a soup that is warm, comforting and deeply satisfying.
A cook’s tip: The soup freezes well for up to a month. That way if you come home tired and hungry, you are only a microwave moment away from a nutritious bowl of soup.
- Roughly chop the reserved carrot peelings and parsley and spinach stems. Add to a large pot with 8 cups water. Boil on a high flame 30 minutes. Pass the liquid and vegetables through a food mill. Extract as much pulp as possible and add to the broth. Should make 5 to 6 cups.
- While the vegetable stock simmers, sauté the chopped carrots, onion, garlic, parsley and corn kernels in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock and simmer on a medium-high flame for 20-25 minutes. Stir in the chopped spinach and butter and simmer another 5 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper. Serve hot. Can be topped with croutons.
Add 1 medium Yukon gold potato, washed, peeled, peels reserved, roughly chopped. Add the peels to the vegetable stockpot. Sauté the potatoes with the other vegetables.
Add 2 cups broccoli crowns, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces, to the sauté. Roughly chop the stems, add to the vegetable stockpot.
Add 1 medium tomato, washed, stem removed and roughly chopped, to the soup along with the spinach.
Instead of spinach, add 4 cups kale leaves, washed, center stem removed and roughly chopped, to the sauté. Roughly chop the stems, add to the vegetable stockpot.
Add 1 medium-sized zucchini, washed and ends removed, to the vegetable stockpot; also roughly chop and add to the sauté.
Add 2 cups brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed and thinly sliced, to the sauté.
Instead of carrots, add 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed, ends trimmed, peeled and finely chopped, to the sauté. Add the peels to the vegetable stockpot.
Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. His new book, “10 Delicious Holiday Recipes” is available from Amazon. In addition to writing about food for his own site, Men Who Like to Cook, he has contributed to Mark Bittman’s New York Times food blog, Bitten, One for the Table and Traveling Mom. He continues to develop for television but recently has taken his passion for food on the road and is now a contributor to Peter Greenberg’s travel site and the New York Daily News online.