roots like carrot, beet, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga, ginger, fresh turmeric
celery, fennel, celeriac (celery root)
onion, leek, shallot, garlic
potato, sweet potato
fresh or frozen peas or corn
peppers of any kind
winter squashes, like butternut and pumpkin
greens like kale, chard, mustard, spinach, collards, cress, etc.
brassicas like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, etc.
Make It Your Own Cooking Liquid Choices
vegetable, mushroom, chicken or beef stock, or
coconut milk +water
Choose Your Own Aromatics Adventure
fresh or dried herbs of your choice
Thai curry paste or curry spice blends, such as Madras or Ras el Hanout
Gather, clean and roughly chop a bunch of vegetables from your bin. This is a great time to use up those that have been languishing. Your soup can be all one vegetable, a triad (corn, poblanos, and potato is amazing!) or a mélange like this winter white soup made from cauliflower, leek, celeriac, celery, and potato in the form of leftover mashers. Use your imagination and what you have on hand. There are no rules. (Except, purple veggies tend to turn an unappetizing gray when cooked this way. You may want to avoid purple carrots and cabbage.) Quantity doesn't matter; you're going to be working in loose ratios. If you use a lot of vegetables, you will make a bigger pot of soup. It is as simple as that.
Plop your prepped veggies into a pot and give them a brief sauté in your favorite cooking oil or fat. Add salt as you are sautéing, and grind in some black or white pepper too. Layering in seasoning makes finished dishes so much better than waiting until the end. Vegetables demand salt, so give them what they want!What size pan? If you have a small amount of vegetables, a three-quart saucepan may be just right. If you are aiming to feed a crowd or to have leftovers for lunches, think in terms of a six or eight quart, or even larger, stockpot. Give yourself some headspace if you'll be blending right in the pot, see below.How much fat do you want to add? Good question! Don't be shy. Fats are highly maligned yet essential. Fats are what make your vegetable-based soup filling and satisfying. And here is the big secret for this soup: It is a fair amount of fat that gives your blended soup a creamy texture, mouthfeel, and look. To get more specific, make sure that the bottom of your pan is well-coated with your choice of oil or fat. An eighth-inch or so will be great. You can always add more for flavor or creaminess later.How long, and at what heat? Sauté the veggies over medium heat until they are beginning to soften. Since you are using a deep pot, they will actually steam as much as sauté. This is perfect, as steaming begins to break down the cell walls, and the veggies will begin to sweat. Keep at this, stirring occasionally, until they are just beginning to become tender. This will be 10 minutes or so for a small pan; up to 20 minutes for a large one.
Barely cover the vegetables with your choice of cooking liquid, cover, and simmer. Add liquid to just come to the top of the vegetables. If in doubt, use a little lessâ€“ you will adjust the thickness of your soup later. Here are some good choices for cooking liquid:Water (So many recipes like this call for stock. Nothing wrong with that, but I love the pure vegetable flavor to shine out. I use water 90% of the time when Iâ€™m making these pureed soups, and reserve precious stock for other types of soups and stews.)Stock (see above.)A can of coconut milk, long with enough water to just cover the vegetables is especially good with winter squashes and a spoonful of Thai curry paste, garam masala, or madras curry powder.A little wine, red or white, in addition to one of the above.With certain vegetable choices, tomato juice will work, too.
Simmer, stirring every five minutes or so, until the vegetables are fully tender and a fork can be somewhat easily inserted. If Iâ€™m using hard vegetables like turnips, parsnips, and celeriac I give this up to 30 minutes, less time for the tender ones.
Blend the vegetables with an immersion blender (my favorite) or in a blender or food processor until completely smooth and no lumps remain. You are looking for a consistency slightly thicker than heavy cream. Add more of your cooking liquid or water in small amounts until it gets there. Without enough liquid, you will have difficulty getting your soup smooth and lumpless. On the other hand, if your soup seems too thin let it continue to simmer and reduce at medium-low heat, stirring very often. The pureed soup spews bubbles all over your stovetop as it heats, so stir ever one minute or so until it thickens up.Now is a good time to taste for salt and pepper and make adjustments. Plate up your soup while it is hot, and garnish With the following drizzle.
Choose Your Own Adventure Drizzle
While your vegetables are sauteding and simmering, in a small saucepan pour 1/4 cup EVOO. Add your choice of fresh herbs. My favorites are:thymerosemarybasiltarragondillAdd some citrus strips or grated zest. Lemon, orange, and lime all are great, depending on the vegetables you use. The citrus adds a bright lift to the finished dish.
On very low heat and stirring occasionally, let this gently steep while the soup is coming together. Right before serving, strain it, reserving pieces of zest and any whole herbs that look pretty as a garnish.
If the drizzle is not your style, try garnishing with a bit of chopped fresh herb and a swirl of olive oil.Enjoy experimenting with various vegetables, herbs, oils, and toppings. Trust your intuition!