With so many fresh vegetables coming to market in the fall harvest season, you’re going to need a good way to use them. One of the best ways is to make soup. Soup can be frozen so you enjoy it for weeks to come, even in the cold winter weather.
Obviously, a top choice is going to be vegetable soup. There are hundreds of recipes and combinations. You can even make up your own with what you have. You can use a base of chicken or beef broth, but you can also find vegetable broth or use just plain water. Blanching or quick sautéing the vegetables first will help preserve the color and flavor.
Don’t feel constrained by conventional combinations. In addition to things like potatoes, green beans, corn, peas, carrots and celery, you can use spinach, tomatoes, beans and lots of fresh herbs. Don’t be afraid to use a little extra virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil or red wine vinegar to add even more flavor.
While I’m not a fan, beets have long been a favorite for soups, like borscht. If you like beets, you’ll probably enjoy finding a good recipe for this Russian staple.
Bean soup is a great vegetarian dish for the fall. Use fresh or dried beans if you can. Canned beans often contain too much salt. If using canned beans, be sure to rinse them thoroughly. If using dried beans, soak them in water the night before. Water should come to an inch over the beans. Check them every few hours to make sure the water level doesn’t fall below the top level of the beans.
A popular Tuscan soup is made with bread and beans. At first, it’s a brothy, hearty soup. The next day, it becomes a thick stew or porridge. Just put the leftover soup into a casserole dish and bake at 350 for about an hour until heated through and the bread starts to brown.
Pumpkin soup is a fall favorite. Baked pumpkin flesh is then added to chicken stock, onions, garlic and herbs to make a great soup. Just use the smaller, sweet pumpkins, not the field or Jack-O-Lantern type. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes also make a tasty base for fall soups.
Potato and Leek soup is a French specialty. Add cream and serve cold and you have Vichyssoise. If you have a hankering for the real thing, here’s Julia Child’s recipe.
3 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced or diced
5 leeks, trimmed, cleaned, then thinly sliced, including
the tender green part
4–6 tbsp. whipping cream
2–3 tbsp. minced fresh parsley or chives
1. Put potatoes, leeks, salt to taste, and 8 cups of water in a large saucepan over medium heat and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, 40–50 minutes.
2. Mash vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill. Correct seasoning with salt.
3. Off heat, just before serving, stir in the cream by spoonfuls. Pour soup into a tureen or soup bowls and decorate with the herbs. Add a little freshly ground white pepper, if you like.
Not a fan of leeks? They’re just another kind of onion, but okay, we can fix that. Here’s a Potato and Fennel Soup. As this cooks, the fennel breaks down and thickens the soup.
3 medium fennel bulbs
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Trim, quarter, and core fennel, then slice into medium-size pieces, reserving feathery leaves from one of the bulbs. (You will need about 2 tbsp. of fennel leaves.) Heat butter and olive oil together in a medium pot over medium-low heat. When butter has melted, add sliced fennel, shallots, and 1 cup of the stock. Cover and simmer gently until fennel is soft and translucent, about 15 minutes.
2. Increase heat to medium, add potatoes and remaining 3 cups stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until potatoes are very soft and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Gently mash the vegetables with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon until the soup is thick and chunky (but not puréed), adding a little water or additional stock if it becomes too thick. Chop the reserved fennel leaves, then stir into soup. Remove soup from heat and set aside for 5 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Ladle soup into four bowls and serve warm, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, if you like.
You can also do a plain potato soup, adding a little cheddar cheese to bring a little zip to a simple, basic soup.
How about a little international flavor? There are many Indian soups with curry, lentils, chickpeas, onions and garlic that go great with a heaping spoon of jasmine rice.
There are so many different soups that take advantage of the fall harvest produce. Be creative. Take a basic recipe and put your own spin on it. That’s how recipes are born in The Bachelor’s Kitchen.