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At Home With a Chef: 3 Soups to Make on a Blustery Wintery Day

Written By: Chef Peggy Aoki


Soup is a great idea any time of year, but especially when the weather turns cold and blustery. Here are three soup ideas to keep you warm and well nourished in the New Year.


You can use homemade broth for these soups if you have it on hand, but store bought broth and broth concentrate is also handy to have. I look for lower sodium versions with the fewest preservatives. One brand of shelf stable broth I like is Pacific Foods, and I always keep a jar of Better Than Bouillon in my fridge to add flavor to sauces and soups.


For most of my soups, I start with a simple mixture of onions, celery and carrots called “mirepoix”. These vegetables give background flavor and texture as well as vitamins and nutrients to the soup. My rule of thumb is one onion, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery. If I’ll be pureeing the soup, I just roughly chop the mirepoix, otherwise I cut them into smaller dice.



Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is one of my all time favorites, both for its flavor and how quickly it cooks. Lentils come in a variety of colors and textures. Red and yellow lentils will cook down to a puree texture, giving you a smooth and silky textured soup. Brown, green and black (or beluga) lentils will stay more firm and visible.



Curried Soup

Curried winter squash soup is always welcome at the table, and curry goes so well with the natural sweetness of squash. Buying pre cut cubes of butternut squash makes the prep easy, but you can also branch out to other interesting winter squashes that might wind up in your CSA box, such as red kuri squash, or kabocha. When trying to cut up a whole hard squash, I like to cook it on high in the microwave for 5 or 6 minutes to soften it so that I can cut it easier. Once you cut it in half and remove the seeds, you can continue to microwave the squash halves until the flesh can be scooped out into the soup pot and avoid having to peel it.



Broccoli + Cauliflower Soup

Broccoli and cauliflower also make a delightful soup when simmered together and pureed. The cauliflower adds a creamy texture and the broccoli gives a nice green color and flavor. You can save the stems of broccoli and the interior heart of the cauliflower for this soup if you want, or buy bags of the prepared cut vegetables. Adding a slice of toasted baguette and a handful of sharp cheddar cheese on top just before serving is delicious. I also like to crumble parmesan crisps to add some texture to this soup.



 

The Recipes


These recipes will make 2 or 3 quarts of soup at once– I like to have extra on hand for quick lunches or snacks. If you save a few plastic deli containers from take out, they work perfectly for easy storage.


Simple Lentil Soup


2 cups lentils

3 tablespoons oil or ghee

1 onion

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

2 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

8 cups (2 quarts) vegetable or chicken broth


Cut the onion, carrots, and celery into ½ inch or smaller pieces. Warm the oil or ghee in a large soup pot and add the cut vegetables. Allow them to cook over medium heat until they begin to soften and brown a little. Mince or press the garlic and add it to the pot. Add all of the seasonings, the lentils and all of the broth. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and cooked. Taste for seasoning, adjust with more salt, pepper or a squeeze of lemon juice if desired. Serve as is, or puree the soup if you’d like. You can add other vegetables you might have on hand as well: mushrooms, fennel, torn kale or spinach would all be delicious.



 


Curried Winter Squash Soup


1 large winter squash (butternut, kuri, kabocha or pumpkin)

3 tablespoons oil or ghee

1 onion

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

2 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon thyme

1 tablespoon curry powder (I like SB Japanese style)

8 cups (or more, depending on the size of the squash) vegetable or chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Peel and dice the squash, or roast or microwave it until soft and scoop out the flesh. Cut the onion, carrot and celery into large dice. Place the oil or ghee in a large soup pot over medium heat and add the cut vegetables and whole garlic cloves. Allow them to cook over medium heat until they begin to soften and brown a little. Add all of the seasonings, stirring well and allowing the curry powder to toast a little. Cover the vegetables with the broth and simmer for 30 minutes or until everything is soft and well cooked. Pick out the bay leaves. Use a blender (I like to use a hand blender for soups, it’s safer with the hot liquid) to puree all of the ingredients. Add more broth as desired to get the texture of soup you’d like. Taste for seasoning and adjust. This soup is delicious as is, but is also great with toasted pumpkin seeds and a little sour cream dollop on top at serving time.



 


Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup


1 pound broccoli (whole or stems)

1 pound cauliflower (whole or stems and hearts)

3 tablespoons butter or ghee

1 onion

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

2 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon white pepper (black can be substituted)

8 cups vegetable or chicken broth

Optional: croutons, crostini or toasted breadcrumbs, grated cheddar cheese for toppings)


Roughly cut the onion, carrot and celery. In a large soup pot, warm the butter over medium heat and add the cut vegetables to the pot. Allow them to cook until softened and aromatic. Chunk up the broccoli and cauliflower and add it to the pot, along with the seasonings. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes until everything is soft. A tip- don’t cover this soup, the broccoli will turn brown-green if it gets too hot. Remove the bay leaves and puree the soup with a blender (I like to use a hand blender when working with hot liquids). Adjust the seasoning as desired, and add more broth if desired. Serve as is, or with toasty bread or crackers on top and a small handful of grated cheddar.


All of these soups are endlessly adaptable, and a great way to use ingredients you may already have on hand. Learn more about soup making, or any kitchen topic you’d like to know more about in a Build Your Own Menu online cooking class at Fēst. Our Chef Instructors are looking forward to spending time with you in your kitchen!







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