The wonderful thing about most delicious soup recipes is that you can use them as a jumping off point to create yet more delicious soups. Simply take the basic idea and go about making it your own, tinkering and improvising to suit your taste--and the ingredients you have on hand. It is difficult to make a lousy soup--and a snap to create a delectable new favorite.
Back in September I wrote about a recipe that I created several years ago to celebrate (and help use up) the late summer harvest of sweet red peppers, summer squash, and onions in the garden (or at the farmer's maket, as your case may be). It was called Simple Summer Harvest Soup, and as soon as I posted it, readers began offering all sorts of interesting ideas and variations. I myself admitted that this was the first time I had swirled a spoonful of fresh basil pesto into a bowl of it. (Was it a hit? Well, I ate the entire rest of the pot with pesto mixed into it, if that's any indication. And no, I haven't forgotten that I promised I would post my personal pesto recipe, and I apologize for the delay. Knowing how my own version of "farmgirl time" works, I am figuring it should be up by the time Clare and her fellow Southern Hemisphere foodies are harvesting the first basil from their gardens.) Click here to read the original Simple Summer Harvest Soup post.
Cookiecrumb suggested adding some spices to give it an exotic Moroccan flavor, and the idea of charring and peeling the sweet red peppers was offered up more than once. A couple people wondered how a vegetarian version would taste, and a few days later, Emily came back with this news:
"This soup is wonderful! I made it last night using Imagine brand vegetable stock, and just finished devouring some for lunch. It was a bowl of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day in the ol' cubicle."
Alanna at the amazing A Veggie Venture wrote about this version she created a few weeks ago after being unable to resist 25-cent sweet red peppers at the farmer's market. Her intriguing recipe includes zucchini and adobo and was declared "a winner!"
Then two days ago, she wrote a fabulous post all about homemade light vegetable stock which includes a yummy sounding recipe that makes 22 cups as well as several helpful hints. If you've ever thought about making your own vegetable stock, click here to give this one a try (and please let me--and Alanna--know how it came out). I hope to make a batch of it soon myself.
In the meantime, last week things went full circle, and I ended up making a desperation variation of my beloved Summer Harvest Soup. I still find it hard to believe, but for the first time in about ten years (and after much determined arctic digging) I was forced to declare that my enormous chest freezers were absolutely chicken stockless. Once I got over the initial shock, I immediately set about making things right, but I only ended up with 6 cups of chicken stock. This was plenty for one recipe, but not for the double recipe I was hoping to make in order to use up all of the onions and lemon squash and red peppers glaring at me from every flat surface in the kitchen.
Vegetables on the brink of becoming overripe can scare a cook into trying almost anything, and so I went ahead and made a double batch, but with only 6 cups of chicken stock. It was absolutely fabulous. Thicker than the summer version, of course, but not at all sludgy or heavy. Thick in a perfect autumn appetite kind of way. A warm bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of garden chives made a lovely light lunch. Paired with a crunchy, melty grilled cheese sandwich made with Oatmeal Toasting Bread (bread recipe to be posted someday, I promise), it was a scrumptious cool weather supper. Here, then, is my amended recipe.
Farmgirl's Simple Summer Harvest Soup--The Autumn Version
4 to 6 Tablespoons good olive oil
4 Large yellow or white onions (at least 2 pounds), chopped
6 to 8 Sweet red peppers, bell or other shaped (at least 2 pounds), seeded & chopped
6 to 8 Yellow summer squash, such as crookneck or lemon (at least 2 pounds), cut into quartered slices
6 cups (48 ounces) Homemade chicken stock (or high quality storebought)
Chopped chives, sour cream, cottage cheese, pesto, chopped tomatoes, croutons, or whatever your heart desires
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the chopped onions, peppers, and squash. Let cook for at least 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure to cover the vegetables with the oil.* Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer with the lid cracked, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Using a blender or stick blender, carefully puree the soup to desired consistency.
I honestly do not know how I survived so long without my KitchenAid Immersion Hand Blender. It is amazing (and so easy to clean). It turned this
in less than ten seconds. And that was on medium speed. This might very well have been the best $50.00 I ever spent in the kitchen.
Salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot, garnished as desired. Makes over 3 quarts. This soup tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge. It also freezes well.
*Note: You can skip this step, and your soup will still taste wonderful. Just toss all the ingredients into the pot (without the olive oil), bring to a boil, and follow the rest of the instructions.
It is definitely open season on soups, and I look forward to sharing two of my cold weather favorites with you in the coming weeks: Garlic Lover's White Bean Soup and Hearty Lentil Soup With Smoked Sausage (don't knock lentil soups until you've tried this one). Both were big hits when I made them for a cooking class I taught called Cozy Breads & Soups.
As always, your comments, suggestions, questions, soup success stories (and tales of failures), are welcome. And since we know we won't survive the coming months without it, let's all give three hearty cheers for soup!
© Copyright 2005 FarmgirlFare.com, the tummy warming foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.