If you have been reading along these nearly six years (Oh my!), you’ve come to expect the winter posts to feature at least a few recipes that rely on stored and frozen vegetables and meat. These are the lean months of the year, when gardens are dormant and grocery store produce is both expensive and mostly bland. But with a little pre-season planning, some veggie prep in the fall and a selection of seasonal recipes, winter meals can be full of flavor and green-sourced ingredients.
This beautiful pureed soup is a case in point. With stores of hard sweet carrots from my crisper, a sturdy vermillion squash called Potimarron from the pantry shelf and rusty shallots snatched from my basement storage cart, orange becomes the new green! Steaming bowls of antioxidant power and beneficial beta keratin will warm us up and keep us healthy on cold winter afternoons and evenings.
A couple of points to make about this hearty, vegan soup before we begin…
- Please note that your whole spice blend can be anything you want; mine is just a suggestion. You will, however, want to use some whole spices so you can lightly toast and crush them for enhanced flavor.
- You can use any large squash or pumpkin for this soup. Potimarron is a super sweet squash that does not produce a lot of extra liquid, perfect for your favorite recipes, savory or sweet. I recommend washing, seeding, then roasting at 375 degrees until very, very soft. Puree the flesh and drain in a paper towel-lined colander overnight for the best consistency.
- Shallots are my favorite for this soup, but a large yellow onion works just as well.
- I begin using up all my frozen garlic scapes from the previous spring every January because my garlic bulbs will be running low. Scapes are great for soups and sautés, but if you don’t have them, use garlic cloves. For this soup, you can substitute four large cloves garlic, but you will add them in with the base, not the initial sauté. Garlic scapes will give you a chunkier puree, so keep that in mind as you contemplate the desired texture for this soup. And, be sure to check out soup variations after the recipe. One big pot of this soup can give you several slightly different but delicious meals.
- Whole spice blend for toasting: I chose one teaspoon Penzeys four-pepper blend, one teaspoon allspice, one tablespoon cumin seed, one tablespoon coriander.
- One-quarter cup olive oil
- One cup chopped shallots
- One-half cup chopped garlic scapes
- Four to five large carrots, scrubbed but not peeled, chopped
- Two tablespoons coconut spread (Use Earth Balance Original Coconut Spread for best results.)
- One-half teaspoon ground turmeric
- Two to three tablespoons freshly grated ginger
- The zest from one or two large oranges
- Two cups squash puree (You can freeze any leftover squash puree.)
- Four cups vegetable stock
- Two whole cloves
- Two tablespoons miso (I prefer white miso here; plus, it’s gluten free.)
- One-quarter cup fresh lemon juice
- Two to three tablespoons chopped seaweed (I always reach for Dulse.)
- One large sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stem and chopped fine
- Coarse sea salt to taste
- To begin, prepare the whole spices by placing them in a dry cast iron skillet and heating until you can smell their fragrance. Give the skillet a few shakes or stir the spices around frequently to avoid burning. Once they are done, remove the skillet from heat and crush the spices in a mortar and pestle or a small coffee grinder—not too fine, though. Set aside.
- Next, sauté the shallots, garlic scapes and carrots in the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add a good sprinkle of salt here. This step takes about 20 minutes, enough to get the vegetables tender and shiny. Stir occasionally.
- When the vegetables are where you want them, create a little well in the center of your pot. Turn the heat up and add all at once the coconut spread, all the crushed spices, turmeric, ginger and orange zest. Allow this to bloom a couple minutes as you stir it around. Then reduce heat back to medium and stir until everything is combined. You’ve just created what a boxed soup would call a flavor packet! But yours is much, much better.
- Next stir in the squash puree, followed by the vegetable stock and another good sprinkle of salt. Toss in the cloves—remembering you need to fish the cloves out later before you puree.
- Bring up to almost a boil and then reduce the heat to low, half covering the pot with a lid. At this point you want to allow the soup to develop all its flavor, giving it the occasional stir. It is best left to itself to develop its own personality for a couple of hours. Just check in and stir so it doesn’t stick or cook too hard.
- While the soup finishes up, put the lemon juice, miso, rosemary and chopped up seaweed in a bowl and allow this mixture to sit for up to an hour. Just as the spices grounded the flavor of your soup, this little mixture will brighten it at the end.
- At about two hours, taste your soup liquid to make sure you are on point with salt. When you are satisfied, remove from heat. And, remove those cloves! Then you can either use an emulsion blender or a standard jar blender to puree. I love the convenience of the emulsion (or hand) blender, but my jar blender seems to create a smoother soup, so...choice point.
- For the final touch, whisk in the lemon juice mixture.
Once you've added the lemon juice mixture, the soup is ready to be served, but I think it benefits greatly from being made ahead and allowed to “marry” its intense flavors. This means you can make it up to two days before you want to serve it. A convenience perhaps, with one note of caution: miso deteriorates in nutritional value when heated, so it will diminish in nutritional value with reheating. That said, its flavor will hold up just fine. I just advise a delicate touch when reheating.
This is an intensely flavorful soup that is dependent on those critical steps to create the base at the beginning and give it a lift at the end–worth repeating.
The earthy intensity of the soup also allows you to get creative with additions that change the profile and extend the quantity of the soup without diluting the flavor. So check out these tested variations:
How I turned one pot of soup into dinner for several nights…
This pot of soup will serve at least six hungry people if all you do is take it off the stove and ladle it into bowls. The flavor is rich and earthy, and, of course, it will reflect your choice of spices. I decided that since it was so intense, it could be creatively creamed out in several interesting ways.
- I added whole-milk Greek yogurt for a tangy lift, about one cup per three cups of soup. A little extra lemon zest on top made it pop.
- I added the top cream from a can of coconut milk and about a cup of leftover coconut rice to another three cups that added not just creamy richness but new texture. Not to mention I turned three servings of soup into six! Like magic.
- Finally, I let Don take the reins and he added….bacon. Whatcha gonna do? But, given the sweet and spicy flavor of this soup, the salty bacon crumbles were probably delicious…Don thought so.
Looking for other dishes to fill these lean cold months? There is Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup, Three Sisters Cassoulet, Classic French Onion, French Country Lentil, and a vegetable soup that is in season all seasons…just to get you thinking. And making do, too, because these are the months when creativity in the kitchen used to literally save people. We need to get back to that thinking–realizing that everything we do and eat matters. Instead of running out to the store…saunter on over to the pantry and deep freeze. Then dig through those cookbooks for seasonal ideas…and then…it’s up to you and your creativity. Let us know what warms your heart and tummy on cold winter days.