Monday, November 8, 2010

Winter Soups, Part III - Apple and Butternut Squash Soup

This weekend at the farmers market the stands were bursting with squash of all varieties and they were going cheap. I only grew acorn squash and patty pan squash this summer, but I wish I'd grown butternut squash because it's perfect for soups. No worries - there were a ton at the market to choose from. And what better to do with them than make a hearty soup and freeze it for the cold, wintery days to come. I plan on getting a pair of cross country skis and snowshoes this winter, provided there's enough snow, and have big plans for a soup lunch outdoors. Years ago I bought a Trangia - an ultralight, outdoor stove of sorts that burns alcohol-based fuel. It is quite honestly one of the most amazing things I have ever purchased. It's small, light enough to throw in a backpack and super easy to use. I suppose I could just put the soup in a Thermos, but this is much more romantic. This Apple and Butternut Squash soup is going to be perfect on one of those cross country skiing adventures and I can't wait. I made this soup from scratch without a recipe and if I do say so myself, it is darn delicious! I hope you enjoy it too.

Apple & Butternut Squash Soup

2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
3 small onions, chopped
1 tbsp butter
4 celery sticks, diced
4 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
6 cups of chicken stock
1/4 tsp fresh ground peper
dash of nutmeg
dash of allspice
3/4-1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup apple cider
8 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped into chunks

Melt butter in large stock pot. Add celery and onion, cook until soft. Pour in 6 cups of chicken stock (or veggie). Stir.
Add spices and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add chopped butternut squash and apple. Lower heat to medium and boil for approximately 10 minutes or until squash and apple are soft. Continue to stir often. Remove from heat and puree in batches in blender. Return soup to pot and add apple cider. Add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add cooked bacon chunks and simmer for a few minutes.

Serve with mature white cheddar cheese shavings as garnish and crusty bread on the side.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Winter Soups, Part II: Potato & Leek Soup

I had this soup two nights ago and it is amazing! Perfect for those cold, wintry nights.
Locally, I can get potatoes and leeks at the farmers' market - for those of you in the area, there is a lady who sells leeks, onions, garlic and potatoes in the market. She is located just past the donut making machine and the Planet Bean coffee stand. Everything you need for this soup is available there. I also add bacon chunks to my soup to make it richer tasting. Bacon goes with anything, really. I prefer thicker bacon for soup - you can find it at one of the meat vendors at the market. If you're as lucky as I am, you have Hutterite and Mennonite connections. They truly make the greatest bacon.
This soup freezes really well, so be sure to use those plastic containers you've been saving. When you thaw and reheat it, add either stock or water to reduce its thickness. Leek & Potato soup goes well with a nice crusty bread. Enjoy!

Creamy Leek & Potato Soup

Melt in soup pot over low heat:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, or 1 tablespoon butter & 1/4 cup water
Add and cook until soft, but not brown:
8 large leeks (white part only), clean thoroughly and chopped
Stir in:
3 medium or two large potatoes (I leave the skins on and puree them into the soup)
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft. This takes about 30 minutes. Puree until smooth and return soup to pot.
Season with:
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Thin, if necessary.

If you are adding bacon, cook slightly beforehand to remove excess fat. Chop into large chunks and add to the soup after you have pureed it. If you prefer a chunkier soup, as I do, Puree only 75% of the soup, leaving the rest in big pieces. If freezing, make sure to label the type of soup and date frozen. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Winter Soups, Part I: Cream of Carrot Soup

At this time of year there are so many fall vegetables available locally that's it difficult to know what to do with them all. If you have a root cellar or cold room you could always store them away for the winter, but most people just aren't that lucky. What do I do with my extra veggies? Well, I make them into soup!

I was raised in a save-it-for-later-use kind of family, meaning we saved everything. From slightly used tin foil to old egg cartons to yogurt containers, our cupboards were full of save-it-for-later junk. I inherited this little trait from my mother, but I've toned it down a few notches. I try not to have a drawer bursting with used tin foil, but I definitely have a cupboard full of plastic yogurt containers and I strongly urge others to follow my lead. These handy little containers make the perfect vessel for freezing batches of soup. One container feeds two people.
In this next series of posts I am going to share a number of fall recipes perfect for the cold, lazy days of winter. These soups go really well with home baked crusty artisan bread and a mixed green salad - and they're healthy to boot. My first offering is one of the most delicious soups I have ever tasted and it comes from The Joy of Cooking - a cookbook that keeps on giving. I grew my own carrots this year; three varieties of organic, heirloom carrots. I even grew rainbow carrots. And I turned them all into soup!

Cream of Carrot Soup

Heat in a soup pot over medium-low heat until the butter is melted:
1/4 cup water or stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
Add and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, 5 to 10 minutes:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Stir in:
4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 pounds chopped carrots
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the carrots are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Puree until smooth. Return to the pot and stir in:
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or soy milk
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
Simmer briefly and ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with:
Chopped fresh parsley, snipped fresh dill, chives or cilantro