Frost is on the pumpkin, the days are crisp and cold, and darkness comes ever earlier. Chilly winds call us to get out the fleeces and woolens of our winter wardrobe. Mugs of hot tea and steaming cider replace iced tea and cool fruit punch.
The season’s fresh vegetables—golden squashes, colorful root vegetables and tough winter greens—combine to make soups and stews bursting with fall colors and fine flavors. There’s nothing like a hot, comforting bowl of soup to take the chill off. During this earthy season, soups blend vegetables, meat and grains into hearty, healthy suppers. These magnificent potages showcase autumn’s harvest. They are great fare for family suppers and fall and winter festivities.
Soups have been with us for over 12,000 years and are part of almost every culture. The practice of cooking meat and vegetables in hot water dates to prehistoric times and is one of man’s oldest culinary inventions.
Because soup is nutritious and easy to digest, it has been used as a remedy for illness for thousands of years. Our grandmothers knew the benefits of soup as good medicine: it hydrates, provides warmth to a feverish, chilled body, and offers easily absorbed nutrients. Steam from the hot liquid relieves sinus pressure, acting as a natural decongestant, and warm soup creates mucus that soothes the throat.
Modern medical research is validating what our grandmothers have always known: when you’re sick with cold or flu, eat soup. While the specific ingredients that make soup an effective cold remedy have not been identified, scientists believe a combination of ingredients is responsible for soup’s curative powers.
Soup is simple to prepare, filling, nutritious and relatively inexpensive. While it does simmer awhile on the stovetop, it doesn’t require constant attention. You can use any vegetable and meat scraps you have on hand, add seasonings, and create a delicious concoction. Trying to eat more vegetables? Soups are a great way to incorporate a variety of vegetables into your meals.
So as the days grow short and cold, warm up with a bowl of piping hot soup from the season’s best vegetables.
Autumn Root Vegetable Chicken Soup
Bony scraps from chicken (1-3 cups bones and meat)
4-6 cups water
1 bay leaf
2-3 grains allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 carrot, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 parsnips, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 kohlrabi, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 leeks, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 potatoes, cubed
2 cups fresh washed and chopped fall greens (like collards or kale)
Cook chicken in water with salt and spices about 30 minutes at a simmer. Remove any bones and chop the chicken. Add vegetables and cook 20-30 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Pumpkin and Apple Bisque
1 Tablespoon butter or oil
1 stalk celery
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
2-3 cups pureed pumpkin (or winter squash)
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
Maple syrup or honey (to taste, 1-2 Tablespoons)
1 cup plain yogurt, sour cream or combination
Walnuts (about 1/3 cup) and additional parsley for garnish
Directions: In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Peel and dice the onions, add to pot, sprinkle with salt, and cook about 5 minutes. While onions are cooking, wash and slice celery and add. Next, wash and shred the carrot and add. Add the wine and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Peel, core and dice the apples. Cook about 10 more minutes, until apples are tender. Remove from heat and stir in pureed pumpkin or squash (see note).
Blend (an emulsion blender works best; you can also pour mixture into food processor or blender). Stir in the parsley. Taste and add seasonings (honey, maple syrup, salt and pepper). Heat, stirring occasionally, until piping hot. Fold in yogurt or sour cream. Garnish with chopped nuts and additional parsley and serve. Serves 3.
Note: To cook a 2-pound whole pumpkin (or a squash), cut it into quarters. Remove pulp and seeds. Place pumpkin in roasting pan. Add 1 cup water or broth. Roast pumpkin, covered, at 325 degrees until tender, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from shell and puree. Canned pumpkin is more dense than fresh, so you may want to add slightly less broth to the fresh.