I almost drove off the road, so distracted was I by torrents of golden leaves swirling and twisting in the balmy skies above me. It was a glorious, warm day last Thursday and the finale of a prolific season at the farmers’ market in the town next door.
Although the weather was warm that day, I had soup on my mind when I snagged a small haul of the last of the yellow tomatoes. The squash was calling to me, too. On the last day of this market, it was do or die.
I could not let the day go to waste, so I headed to the woods for a quick walk. Every tree stood in an electric yellow pool of leaves. Psychedelic oranges and reds glared against the dusty, fading bronzes of brush and fallen leaves. I did not want to leave, but the end of the day was closing in.
I seem to have a dreamy relationship with shopping. I am very energetic in the market and think of all sorts of uses for my purchases, but by the time I get home I have run out of steam and have no idea what to make for supper. Does this ever happen to you? I teeter on the edge of calling for a pizza, which would make Man of the House very happy. I resist; I have my principles.
So what can you do with a lot of stray vegetables, the ones you had so many good intentions for last week?
Potage, mes amis, Potage, c’est la réponse!!
Ça c’est quoi? you may ask. It is a thick mélange of vegetables in a soup that is usually pureed. Julia has her potage Parmentier (leek and potato); there is the potage Crécy (carrots and potatoes) and then there is le seat of the pants potage chez moi. Or, what’s in my fridge that I can throw together and end up with something really delicious?
I will give you my non-recipe. It starts with the basic foundation vegetables: carrots, celery and onions. On top of that you need a theme. It could be the odd squash and root vegetables that are hanging around, or some cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli. Just not ALL the vegetables you want to get rid of at the same time. Remember, this is theme cooking. You would not be pairing your trés chic little black dress with a pair of Converses if you were trying to impress, would you? (Well, maybe if you wanted to make some kind of statement, but you can’t do that in cooking without weird and inedible consequences.) Potatoes are almost always a bonne idée, because they are neutral. So think it through before throwing stuff in the pot.
The tomatoes could wait a few days, because I needed to deal with half a butternut squash, one speckled acorn squash and another small, bright orange pumpkin-looking squash. I decided to roast them in the oven, since I am too damn lazy to peel and seed squash unless absolutely necessary. And what the heck, the other vegetables could go into the oven too. Here’s the general gist:
Harvest vegetable soup
Makes about 6 generous servings (and freezes nicely)
1 onion, quartered
2 large carrots, quartered lengthwise (unpeeled)
2 stalks celery, halved
6 small parsnips, trimmed but not peeled
1 white turnip, peeled and cut in large chunks
A little olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 acorn squash, halved
1/2 small butternut squash
1 ambercup squash (looks like a small pumpkin), halved
3 tablespoons butter
1 bosc pear, cut in 1/4-inch cubes, for garnish
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Spread the onion, carrots, celery, parsnips and turnip on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash on the baking sheet with the cut side down. Use a second baking sheet if there is not enough room. Roast the vegetables until just tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
3. When cool enough to handle, cut the large veggies in 1-inch chunks. Scrape out and discard the seeds from the squash. Scoop out the pulp and discard the skin.
4. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot. Add the vegetables and squash to the pot and cook them for a minute or two in the butter. Add enough water to barely cover them. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, decrease the heat to a simmer, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper.
5. Puree the vegetables in a food processor. Do not make the mixture too smooth. I had a mishap with a squash soup that I pureed in the blender. It turned out like baby food. Trust me, it was not very appealing. The soup should have nice little flecks of all the vegetables, so that when you taste a spoonful you get tiny hits of parsnip or turnip or carrots. Thin with water as necessary.
6. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the pear cubes and cook until the butter browns and the pears have colored slightly. Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the pears.