Soup season

Every year as the weather gets cold, I start craving comfort food in a big way. And when it’s cold, comfort food to me means hot soups and stews, particularly thick ones made with lots of vegetables and beans.

Comfort food also means lots of root vegetables, especially roasted ones. I feast on potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), and beets. And I’m quick to throw in other vegetables while I’m roasting too: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes.

Starting in the Fall, I pull out all of my favorite chili recipes. I make stews in the crockpot. I make one soup after another on the stove top, most of them involving some sort of puree of beans or root vegetables to give the soup a thick, rich texture.

Although these favorite recipes come from a wide variety of different sources, one staple cookbook that I come back to every year at about this time is Nava Atlas’s Vegetarian Soups for all Seasons: A Treasury of Bountiful Low-Fat Soups and Stews. I’ve had this book for over a decade now, and I still haven’t tried every recipe in it, but I have yet to try one that I didn’t like. Sometimes I make these soups as they are described, and other times I use it for ideas as starting places for creating soups of my own. And sometimes I find comfort in just scanning through and imagining having all of these delightful pots of soup to enjoy.

As the title of the book indicates, the recipes in this cookbook are broken out by the four seasons. Each season emphasizes recipes that include seasonal produce, but it also moves toward thicker, heavier soups and stews in colder times and broth-ier, lighter soups in warmer seasons. I don’t always stick with the seasons of the year when I am selecting soups, but I find that the way they are grouped do tend to correspond to the kinds of things I crave each time of year.

Last weekend, I paired together my love of soups with my love of roasted root vegetables by creating a brand new soup from scratch (with no recipe at all!). It was a roasted cauliflower and parsnip soup with coconut milk and nutmeg. Delicious!

And right on schedule, I found myself heading to the bookshelf tonight and paging through this favorite compendium of soups yet again to pick out a few to add to my shopping list for this coming weekend. I think it’s either going to be Gingered Pumpkin-Apple Soup or Almond- Brussels Sprouts Soup. Mmmmmmm ….

What foods do you reach for in cold weather? If you are a fellow soup lover, I’d love to hear about your favorite cookbook for soups and stews!

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9 thoughts on “Soup season

  1. Oh yes this rings with me. Cold weather and soups go together and they are definitely comfort foods!! I love making soups from the various seasonal gluts on the allotment – yellow courgette soup is our favorite. Yellow courgettes, especially of the cylindrical variety, make into a soup with a glorious “gloopy” texture. A firm family favorite. And then I freeze them for the winter – lovely on a really cold day with a fabulous crusty bread. I usually make up recipes as I go along using up whatever I have left over. Recipes are for special occasions when i might push the boat out a little. Last Christmas my sons made a simply delicious chestnut soup. Don’t know where they got the recipe though.

    • Chestnut soup sounds wonderful! I’ve never learned to make small pots of soup, so I frequently freeze servings for later, as well. I am just developing enough confidence to make things without a recipe, and it’s been so freeing to discover that I can do this. (And do it well most of the time!). Thanks for the comment. I hope you enjoy your soup season this year! 🙂

    • It was actually quite easy to make. I cut up one head of cauliflower into florets and peeled and diced two large parsnips. I gave all of the veggies a quick coating in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper and spread it out on a pan in a single layer. I roasted it all in the oven at 400 degrees F until everything was tender and just starting to turn brown on the bottom (about 20 minutes or so but might vary with the size of your dice and florets). I removed it from the oven and added a little butter (a couple tablespoons or so), coconut milk (about 3 cups), and ground nutmeg (about 2 teaspoons). I blended this up with an immersion blender to give a very thick soup (almost mashed potato-like thickness – if you want it less thick, add more liquid). You could also use a regular blender or even a potato masher instead of the immersion blender if you wanted. The nutmeg and the coconut milk really brought out the slight sweetness of the parsnips for a sweet and savory treat, but regular milk would probably also work well, if you’d prefer that. I loved it!!

  2. Soup sounds so good right about now. I found in the last year or so I really enjoy cooking and experimenting with different recipes and more healthy food choices, however time has inevitably become a factor in planning meals and cooking. I would love some recommendations for soup recipes we can throw in the crock pot.

    • One of my favorite resources for finding new soups is The Soup Chick blog (http://www.soupchick.com/). Scroll down to the Recipe Category section in the right sidebar, and you will find a “Slow Cooker (Crockpot) Soups” category and a “Slow Cooker (Crockpot) Stews and Chili” category. She collects recipes from blogs all over the web, so this should give you lots to choose from. I also have the Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes from Better Homes and Gardens that has a good size section of crockpot soups and stews. I just bought a new crockpot after having been without one for several years, so I am out of touch with my old crockpot favorites. I’m looking forward to finding new ones, though. The crockpot is wonderful this time of year!

  3. Mmm…it’s whole grain pancakes with peanut butter and honey for me. Pumpkin raisin bread is a second best. Coffee with both. But then, I have a sweet tooth!

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