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5 Easy Soup Recipes for Fall

Now, as the days are growing shorter and the temperature is steadily dipping downward, is theTree perfect time to round out your soup repertoire. To give you even plenty of options, we turned to best-selling cookbook author Mollie Katzen, best known for her groundbreaking classics Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Here are her handpicked favorite easy, healthy soup recipes for fall, including two from her recent book Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen (HarperStudio, October 2009).

#1: Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

This is an easy soup recipe with some familiar autumn ingredients, but the taste might not be what you expect…no cinnamon here! Roasting the squash in cubes, rather than in large pieces, and doing so at a high temperature, allows more squash surface area to acquire a deep, exposed-to-the-heat flavor that gives this soup surprising depth. A few prep tips:

• You’ll need to roast the squash well in advance. This can be done several days ahead, if you store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring the squash to room temperature before adding it in.

• The possible additions of lemon and sugar at the end are due to the unpredictability of squash flavor. (You never know how naturally sweet—or not—a squash will be until it’s cooked and you get to taste it.)

Ingredients:

2 medium butternut squash (about 4 pounds)

2 Tablespoons butter

1½ cups minced yellow onion

1½ teaspoons salt

2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

½ teaspoon dried sage

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

4 cups water

Up to 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, as needed

Up to 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, as needed

Makes 6 servings

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking tray with foil and spray it generously with nonstick spray.

2. Peel the squash with a sturdy vegetable peeler, and then very carefully, and with a good, sharp knife, cut the squash in half, lengthwise. (Safest technique: Insert the point of the knife first, and use a gentle sawing motion to initiate the cutting.) Use scissors to cut the strands around the seeds, and then scrape them off with a spoon. Then cut the squash into 1-inch pieces. (The shape and uniformity—or lack thereof—will not matter, as the pieces will be pureed.)

3. Arrange the squash in a single layer on the prepared tray, and roast in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the squash pieces are fork-tender and turning golden around the edges. Shake the pan a few times during the roasting to keep the pieces from sticking. Remove from the oven, and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.

5. Add the apple slices, along with the sage and thyme, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are very tender.

6. Add the roasted squash and the water. Bring to a boil then turn the heat all the way down to the lowest possible setting. Cover, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

7. Remove the pot from the heat, uncover, and let it sit until the soup cools down to a comfortable temperature. (You want to avoid pureeing anything that’s too hot.)

8. Using a stand blender (in batches) or an immersion blender, purée the mixture until smooth.

9. Time for the taste test: If the soup tastes good, you’re there. If it is at all too sweet, add some or all of the lemon juice. If it’s tarter than you’d like, add brown sugar to taste.

10. Reheat gently over medium-low heat, being careful not to let the soup cook or boil. Serve hot—plain, or topped with:

• A dab of sour cream, plain yogurt, or crème fraiche

• A sprinkling of minced fresh apple

• A scattering of pomegranate seeds

• A drizzle of pomegranate molasses

• Sprigs of fresh thyme, if available

#2: Corn Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Try this simple, yet unusual soup for the deep flavor of shiitake mushrooms. The dried mushrooms can be soaked a day or two ahead, and the preparations thereafter are quick and simple.

Ingredients:

4 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms

5 cups boiling water

6 cups corn (scraped from 6 ears of fresh corn, or frozen)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1 teaspoon soy sauce (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ teaspoon dark sesame oil

2 Tablespoons dry sherry

Minced chives or scallion greens for the top

Makes about 4 servings

Directions:

1. Briefly rinse the dried mushrooms to clean them, and place them in a large bowl. Add the boiling water, cover with a plate, and let stand at least 1 hour. Drain well, reserving both the mushrooms and the liquid.

2. Strain the soaking water from the mushrooms through a fine sieve into a soup pot. Begin heating this broth over medium heat.

3. Remove and discard the stems from the soaked mushrooms, then mince the mushrooms and set them aside.

4. Add all the remaining ingredients to the soup pot except the reserved mushrooms and the chives or scallion greens. Heat just to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

5. Purée until smooth, either directly in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Return to the kettle and adjust the seasonings. (For a smoother texture you can strain the purée through a fine sieve.)

6. Adjust the seasonings, and reheat if necessary. Serve hot, topped with minced mushrooms and chives or scallion greens.

#3: North African Red Lentil Soup

As easy soup recipes go, this one has just a few ingredients and is quick to make, but tastes like the result of a long and complex cooking process. Part of the secret is cooking the lentils first, so you really taste their full flavor in every spoonful. Look for red lentils in the bulk section of the market, near the brown lentils. (They’re orange, really, not red, and turn a deep golden yellow when cooked.) Add a salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, and maybe some crumbled feta, and a wedge or two of toasted pita, and you’ve got yourself a seriously rib-sticking dinner.

Ingredients:

2 cups red lentils

8 cups water

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1½ cups)

1 large carrot, diced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1½ teaspoons salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Lime wedges for garnish

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Directions:

1. Combine the lentils and water in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil then turn the heat all the way down to the lowest possible setting. Partially cover, and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are completely soft.

2. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, carrot, cumin, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the onion is translucent or lightly caramelized and the carrots are tender.

3. Transfer the onion mixture and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt to the cooked lentils. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat all the way down to the lowest possible setting, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the flavors are well blended. Grind in a generous amount of black pepper (about 10 or more turns), and stir to blend. Serve hot with a lime wedge on the side.

Extras:

• Drizzle some high-quality olive oil onto each serving.

• Sprinkle some lightly toasted whole cumin seeds (up to 2 teaspoons) onto each serving, or mixed them into the soup just before serving.

• Brown a spicy lamb or chicken sausage or two in a skillet while the soup simmers. Slice and stir into the finished soup.

• Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream, yogurt, or crème fraîche, along with a sprig of flat-leaf parsley or cilantro.

#4: Cream of Red Pepper Soup

With an indescribable shade of creamy red-orange, this is a beautiful, rich-tasting soup that is quite easy to prepare; it’s likely to become one of your favorite healthy soup recipes.. You can do steps one through four up to several days ahead. Then bring the soup to room temperature (or a little warmer) before pureeing it with the milk. Also, be sure the milk is at least as warm as room temperature. Attention to these details will prevent curdling.

Ingredients:

1 to 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (or 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil)

2 cups minced onion

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cumin

5 medium red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

2½ cups milk (soy okay) at room temperature or warmer

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

OPTIONAL: Sour cream (thinned by whisking slightly), to dollop on top

Torn cilantro leaves, for garnish

Makes 4 to 5 servings

Directions:

1. Melt the butter and/or heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and swirl to coat the pan.

2. Add the onion and garlic, and the cumin; cook over low heat, stirring, for 5 minutes.

3. Add the bell peppers and salt; stir well. Cover, and continue to cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Gradually sprinkle in the flour. Cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes or so. Remove from heat.

5. Puree the vegetable mix in a blender, bit by bit, with the milk. Pour the pureed soup back into the soup pot. You may wish to strain the soup to get a smoother texture.

6. Heat very gently (do not boil), and add black pepper to taste. Serve topped with sour cream and/or torn cilantro leaves, if desired.

#5: Gingered Carrot Soup

Serve this as a thick sauce over rice for a simple supper. It also goes well with samosas and raita.

Ingredients:

2 pounds carrots

4 cups water

1 Tablespoon butter or oil

1½ cups chopped onion

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon each of cumin, ground fennel, cinnamon, allspice, and dried mint

3–4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup lightly toasted cashews

OPTIONAL: Buttermilk, to drizzle on top

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Directions:

1. Peel and trim carrots, and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Place in a medium-large saucepan with the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer until very tender (about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the carrot pieces).

2. Meanwhile, heat the butter or oil in a small skillet. Add onions, and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, salt, and spices. Turn heat to low, and continue to sauté for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until everything is well mingled and the onions are very soft. Stir in lemon juice.

3. Use a food processor or blender to puree everything together (including the toasted cashews). You will need to do this in several batches. Transfer the puree to a pot and heat gently just before serving. If desired, serve with a small pitcher of buttermilk for individual drizzlings.


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