Monday, October 31, 2011

The Soup Project: Autumn Harvest Soup

I'd been thinking about an autumn harvest soup ever since the weather turned cold. This is the kind of soup Tom likes too--thick and chunky with lots of vegetables and just the right seasonings. It's also a good way to use up a pumpkin since many CSAs include them this time of year.

The market is shifting to a winter focus now. Not only are the vegetables changing, but farmers are leaving and new farm and food vendors have been arriving to fill their spaces. One of the farms leaving is Rent's Due Ranch where I got quite a bit of produce for this soup.

I'll miss the vibrant produce, JoanE's cheerful smile and her great produce displays. This week she had purple and golden cauliflower, as well as Romanesco and corn. Maybe it's the damp and rainy weather, but I chose golden cauliflower. Golden cauliflower is like a little piece of sun on a cloudy day.

I created Autumn Harvest Soup for my first book. In 2003, it was was before the U-District Market continued through the winter, and I had signed up for Willie Green's Winter CSA. We got our weekly vegetable boxes delivered in a church parking lot behind Dick's Drive In in Wallingford.

Michaele Blakeley of Growing Things had arranged this little market with the church pastor. Michaele sold eggs and at that time, it was really had to find local eggs. She also sold vegetables and soap. Donna, the mushroom lady sold mushrooms was also there and I think there was a baker, too. John Huschle of Nature's Last Stand delivered CSA boxes across the street.

Anyway, one week, I created this vegetable soup using a sugar pie pumpkin. We'd already eaten a boatload of pumpkin bread and I couldn't take one more bite. Neither one of us is a pumpkin pie fan and I had to think of some way to get Tom to eat the pumpkin. Sometimes you have to think up creative ways to get people to eat squash and pumpkin. I learned to be sneaky with vegetables from a CSA box. That's part of the fun and the challenge of a CSA. You can use a whole little pumpkin in this soup and your guests may never suspect it's there, because as the soup simmers, the pumpkin melts away into the background.

Buy or harvest a small sugar pie pumpkin for this and you'll end up with about 2 cups of cooked pumpkin. That's the perfect amount.

I'm a lazy cook and I like to take the easy route in recipes, so instead of sawing through a pumpkin or winter squash, I usually just poke holes in the skin and bake the pumpkin or squash whole. Just a medium temperature, the same as you'd bake cookies or potatoes. It takes about an hour. I take the seeds out when it's done.

My Cooking Assistant hasn't figured out how to get into the pumpkin. But give him a few minutes alone with it, and you'll be sorry you left, because he works quickly once he knows you've turned your back and forgotten about "his" interest. I bet a dog choking down the last bite of stolen food is how we got the saying "wolfed it down." Finn would rather choke it down than let you take it away.

He did give it a few licks, but I took the skin off and he'll get that with dinner tonight.

This "Autumn Harvest Soup" recipe is also in my second book The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.

This is how the recipe looked in my first book. I like to use that book for cooking because the pages flop open perfectly. The printing is big enough so I don't need to use glasses.

Besides pumpkin, I used golden cauliflower, a few peppers from River Farm, and carrots from Rent's Due Ranch. I like the sweetness of white cauliflower the best, but golden and purple cauliflowers are fun to use in recipes where you want some vibrant colors. Look close and you'll see someone has his nose in the top picture, too.

I added more produce and I toasted fennel for this version, otherwise it's mostly the same. The toasted fennel has a more intense flavor than untoasted. Buy the seeds from a bulk bin. Then roast the seeds in a medium oven (350F.) for 5 to 7 minutes. Don't let the seeds burn. Crush them in a mortar with a pestle. Fennel pairs well with tomatoes.

Autumn Harvest Soup (Revisited)
(Serves 6-8)

1 small sugar pie pumpkin
2 tablespoons canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion (any size), peeled and diced
1 hot pepper, seeded and minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 small fennel bulb, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 rutabaga or turnip, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 1/2 cups cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons dry basil
1/2 cup French lentils, rinsed
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted whole or diced tomatoes
4 cups water
Corn scraped from 1 ear of corn, about 1 cup
About 1 cup coconut milk to thin
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Poke holes in the pumpkin with a fork. Place it on a small baking sheet and bake at 350F. until tender, about 1 hour. The pumpkin should be very soft. Let cool before cutting it open and removing the seeds.

2. While the pumpkin bakes, heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil and onion. Cover and sweat the onion until soft.

3. Add the peppers, fennel, celery, carrots and rutabaga. Stir and cook until the peppers are soft. Blend in the potatoes, cauliflower, garlic, fennel, basil, French lentils, tomatoes and water.
Add the pumpkin and mix into the soup. Cover and simmer for at least 1 hour or until vegetables are tender and lentils are soft. The pumpkin should be blended into the background, so you don't really see it in the soup.

4. Stir in the corn and add coconut milk to thin. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.

I found this goofy headband with blond hair extensions at the dollar store.

I think Finn likes his new look.

Happy Halloween!


Debbie @ Easy Natural Food said...

What a great name for a soup! But don't Americans call it Fall? I'm not American so I've always called in Autumn....but I've become so used to Fall :)

Hope to see you at Sunday Night Soup Night again!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hi Debbie--that's funny, I go either way with autumn and fall. I think autumn sounds more formal and better in titles, fall maybe better when talking. Thanks for reminding me about Sunday--I look forward to posting there, Tom said this was my best soup yet.

Miz Helen said...

I just love your Autumn Harvest Soup, what am I talking about, I love all of your soups, they are just awesome! Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you are having a great week and come back soon!
Miz Helen

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Love your full plate Thursdays Helen, thanks for the invite!

Debbie @ Easy Natural Food said...

Well whether its autumn or fall, this is such a perfect soup and I'm adding it to my list of soups to make on Sundays :)
Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with Sunday Night Soup Night. I'll be hosting weekly through fall and winter, so I'd love to see you again with your next soup/stock/chowder recipe!