Saturday, October 21, 2017

Humble Soup, The Comfort Food of Fall

butternut squash soup

“naplesSoup is as old as the history of cooking, likely advancing with the concurrent advancements in ancient pottery being able to hold hot liquid. Soup, including the evolution from broth into stew, pottage, even porridge, became a default meal because of the flexibility and the inherent understanding of its health benefits, especially for the ill.

As it grew in popularity it was never restricted to any economic class or region, and was perfectly suited to adaptation, accommodating for any local and regional ingredients. It was the first menu item of public places that would become restaurants. Consommé and Broth were served in 16th century Paris. Today, soups are both hot and cold, vegetable, fruit, grain or meat based, thick or thin, sweet or savory and almost always, locally inspired.

Examples of such diversity include traditional Chinese Miso, New England clam chowder, French onion, Thai Tom Ka, American Vichyssoise (named after the Chef’s hometown in France, but created here, in NYC), Indian coconut curry, Russian Borscht, Greek Avgolemono and the Japanese dessert soup red bean. Modern day adventures in cooking have brought along soups such as blueberry wine, chilled cucumber and lemon, strawberry basil, peaches and cream, avocado mushroom, Bloody Mary, and the list goes on.

Here in the U.S., immigrants have made a significant impact on what soups we consume. For instance, German immigrants made potato soup popular, starting in Pennsylvania, a French refuge in Boston became known as the “Soup Prince,” shared his talents, and then came canned and dried editions. Then began the severe decline in the nutritional value of soup, and in nearly equal proportion, an increase in consumption.

Let us return to our roots, back in the kitchen, where soup is most often simple, with accessible and affordable ingredients, very flexible to any adjustments you’d like to make and it’s difficult (as a vegan, anyway) to make it unhealthy. With the tremendous selection that fall harvest offers for soup bases, soups are the perfect, hearty, go-to for busy families that are seeking both comfort and nourishment.

Fall tends to have us staying closer to home, nesting to get ready for the winter and craving warm, fulfilling home-style meals. Soup du jour, a loaf of crusty old world bread, a really great olive oil like PJ Kabos and a great bottle of wine will round out this perfect fall evening. From my kitchen to yours, I hope you enjoy!

Roasted Carrot Soup

Serves 4-6

Prep 15

Cook 110

10 medium carrots, trim top, scrub and rough-cut into 2 inch chunks

2 medium yellow onions, trimmed and quartered.

2 large tomatoes, core top and quarter.

2 cloves garlic

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt (I use grey salt with herbs, it’s a grey salt with a few French herbs- see resources)

1 teaspoon smoked pepper (if you don’t have this, use regular pepper and add a tiny splash of liquid smoke, or use smoked salt instead of the above)

2 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon chives, finely minced (optional)

1 teaspoon parsley, finely minced (optional)


Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place carrots, onions, tomatoes and garlic into a large, shallow roaster. Generously drizzle with olive oil and dust with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, for 40 minutes, turning the vegetables several times during the roasting. (Just for the record, I’ve pulled this out when done, left on the counter to run an errand, and it was eaten in its entirety by the time I got home… so note to self to try at the end of this step and use it as a separate “side” recipe.)

Remove from the oven and transfer all contents of roaster into a medium stockpot. Add 2 cups vegetable broth and bay leaves and simmer for 30 minutes or until the carrots are really soft. Remove bay leaves and puree in batches (pour puree into a large mixing bowl for this part) until all contents of the pot are pureed. Pour puree back into original stockpot and adjust seasonings to suit your taste and add more broth if you’d like it thinner.

Garnish with finely chopped chives or parsley

Alternate Ideas*

You can replace part or all of the carrots with Parsnips for a wonderful alternative and you can add sweet potatoes as well, or white potatoes if using parsnips.  Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Serving suggestion:

Serve with a crusty French bread and a side of sautéed spinach with garlic and lemon.

Classic Potato Leek

Serves 6-8

Prep 15

Cook 40

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup vegan butter

3 leeks, cleaned and sliced through light green

6 cups diced potatoes, Yukon gold preferably

6 cups vegetable broth

1 cup vegan sour cream (I use tofutti, some brands have a very strange after taste that shows up in cooking, I know that tofutti works well here, no guarantees on other brands.

1 cup plain soymilk.

In a large pot, sauté leeks in the olive oil and butter over medium-high.  Add diced potatoes, sauté for 5 minutes.  Add vegetable broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender.  Add sour cream and soy milk, then blend with an immersion blender until creamy, but chunks still remain.  Add salt and pepper to taste, top with chopped parsley or fresh chives to garnish.

Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6

Prep 30 minutes

Cook 35 minutes

chopped butternut squash1 whole butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

¾ cup sliced baby Bella mushrooms

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon sage, ground

2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups water

1 not-chick’n bouillon cube (by Edward & Sons or just use vegetable)

5 ounce silken organic tofu

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the squash in two, width-wise at the waist, so you have two vertical sections that stand flat on a cutting board. With a serious knife, manually trim skin off from top to bottom. Once clean, cut up squash (scrapping out seeds and reserving) into 1″ cubes. Place cubes in large mixing bowl and drizzle olive oil over and toss to coat.  Place cubes on a cookie sheet and roast 20-25 minutes until fork-tender and the edges are brown.

While squash is roasting, in a heavy larger soup pot heat olive oil and sauté onion and garlic until translucent, add mushrooms and sauté until the water lets down. Add, bay leaves, sage, cannellini beans, water, bouillon cube and tofu. Cover and simmer until squash is ready, then add squash to soup base, stir well. Remove bay leaves. In small batches (about 2-3 cups) add to blender and puree until well blended (be sure you have a tight lid and hold it on with a towel on top of the lid- some always manages to spit out for some reason and its HOT!). Or use an immersion blender, and if you don’t have one, get one! Huge time saver! Pour pureed soup into the mixing bowl used to toss the squash in oil. Continue until all soup is pureed. Return soup to cooking pot, season to taste. Spoon into bowls for serving and sprinkle with roasted squash seeds, toasted onion, vegan parmesan, or a dollop of vegan sour cream swirled.

Cheater options* Many editions of squash, including pumpkin, are available in canned editions, pureed and also in the freezer section either cubed or pureed. Just be sure it’s unseasoned and no pumpkin pie filling!

Alternate Ideas*

-Any “squash,” including pumpkin (although pumpkin can land as a bit bitter if they are bigger), can be substituted here, with Acorn being the most similar in flavor.

-Other white beans can be substituted here if you’re out of Cannellini.

-Other mushrooms can be substituted as well. Button mushrooms do not have a terribly distinctive flavor, so that’s a quick easy and less expensive trade. Shitakes have a stronger earthy/meaty flavor that is noticeable and is a very powerful healing food! Shitakes are very much worth the effort of becoming familiar with. If adding shitakes, be sure you remove the stems before adding as they remain tough… save them, however, for future vegetable broth making.

-Other root vegetables can be added for variation.  Have a stray carrot leftover, throw it in to the roasting batch.

The roasted squash component of this recipe is a fantastic stand-alone side for many fall/winter meals. Just add finely chopped rosemary or your other favorite herbs and sprinkle them, and a dash of salt, to the squash before cooking.

Grandma Kathy’s Chili

Serves 6-8

Prep 10

Cook 30

This is a ridiculously simple and even more satisfying bean chili. You can literally make the whole thing in 15 minutes, though I prefer to let the flavors meld longer.

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion, diced

3 cloves garlic (or 3 teaspoons minced)

3 15.5 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 28 oz. large cans diced tomatoes (organic)

3/4 cup water or broth

2 tablespoons chili powder or chili con carne powder

2 bay leaves

3 whole black cardamom pods (do not sub green cardamom, just leave out If you can’t find them)

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

In large soup pot, add olive oil, onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is translucent. Add all remaining ingredients, bring to simmer for 30 minutes uncovered, season to taste. Remove bay leaves and cardamom pods before serving.

Spoon into bowls, top with your favorite shredded vegan cheddar, chopped chives and crusty toast points or crackers to crumble on top.

Alternate ideas*

-For a meatier more traditional chili, sauté a package of vegan beefish crumbles and add to chili (add after onion is translucent, brown crumbles, then add remaining ingredients).

-Enrich with black, garbanzo, cannellini beans, quinoa, fresh corn, jalapeno, sweet peppers, celery, etc. Start with roughly 1 cup first, and sauté if needed. –Add extra herbs, such as oregano, black pepper, lemon, even cinnamon!

Fall is abundant with produce options perfect for a wide variety of soups, feel free to experiment as it’s hard to go wrong… except with salt- its very easy to go wrong with salt. *Bon appétit!

Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company and Host of Life with Moxie Radio, Saturday’s at 1pm on 98.9 WGUF in Southwest Florida. You can reach her at

Passionate Living by Design, That’s Life with Moxie

Cover image:

Squash image:

Leek image:

Carrot image: pinterest

Chili image:

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