The leaves have fallen and scattered, the temperatures are considerably cooler, the trees have turned barren ... you know what that means! It's soup season, so queue up your favorite cozy comfort movies and blankets so you can hunker down and enjoy some cold weather bliss. Let's celebrate that, shall we?
No matter if you're chomping at the bit to ravenously enjoy some Campbell's or you're hype to try your hand at some homemade soup, there is nothing more appealing and comforting than a gigantic bowl of soup, whether that be creamy soup, noodle soup, a thin broth with a melody of vegetables and so on and so forth.
When it comes to the realm of pureed soups, though, they are deceptively simple. They also generally come together quite quickly. If you're ever thought "I'd love some butternut squash soup, but alas, I am unable to cook this challenging dish at home," then let me tell you that you are mistaken.
Truthfully, if you have some basics on hand in your pantry or refrigerator, as well as a host of root vegetables (or even seasonal fruit), you're already to go. Beet-pear soup? Pumpkin-apple soup? Radish soup with turnip "chips"? The world is your oyster ... literally? Add oysters to your soup, too, if you'd like.
Here's a breakdown of the standard inclusions for creamy, pureed soups, as well as ideas for toppings, garnishes and the like. I also included a "template" of a recipe which might work best, so just swap in whatever you have on hand and you should have a terrific, silky soup within an hour or so.
Happy fall, y'all!
By the way, there is a thin line between a soup and a puree. Most purees can be thinned out with a bit of liquid and voila, you have a soup! Also keep that in mind when you have a slew of root vegetables on hand and are unsure how to use them. A parsnip may be a great option for either, while something like a beet may not be. A puree is a great means of anchoring a protein (a bed of puree underneath a seared chicken breast, for example), but it also works very well in conjunction with soup: a fennel-leek soup with a kabocha squash puree drizzled over top. Experiment with these varying consistencies and see what you're able to come up with!
Pick your vegetable base: Butternut squash, other squashes (kabocha, acorn, pattypan, spaghetti, delicata, turban, hubbard, etc.), pumpkin, sweet potato, yam, sunchoke/Jerusalem artichoke, turnip, parsnip, celery root, rutabaga, beets, radishes, jicama, water chestnut, fennel, potatoes, carrot, yucca, alliums (onion, leek, shallot, etc.) garlic, daikon, cassava, taro, burdock root, arrowroot or kohlrabi
Pick your liquid: Chicken broth or stock, beef broth or stock, vegetable broth or stock, Parmesan broth (it's a legitimately outrageous broth but it's nearly impossible to find in-stores), white or red wine, water, dairy and non-dairy products (milk, heavy cream, half-and-half, nondairy milks, etc.)
Pick your miscellaneous stir-ins or mix-ins — or — your creamy topping element: Creme fraiche, greek yogurt, plain yogurt, white miso paste, red miso paste, beans and bean purees, hummus, tahini, toum, buttermilk or Parmesan rinds.
Pick your crispy elements: Rendered pork products, nuts of any shape and size, fried leeks or shallots, seeds or toasted grains, braised and crisped proteins
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Note: when making any sort of squash soup, you can never go wrong with using the toasted or roasted seeds as a final garnish or topping.
Pick your soft elements: Noodles or pastas, boiled vegetables, broken-down rice (think congee), poached chicken, cabbage, greens, gnocchi, dumplings, little meatballs alla Italian Wedding Soup, etc.
Pick your drizzles, sauces or oils: Pesto, chermoula, chimichurri, basil oil, brown butter, soubise, fish sauce or Worcestershire
Pick your miscellaneous toppings: Cheeses — grated, crumbled, shredded, from feta to cheddar to ricotta salata — fresh or dried herbs, popcorn or toasted rice
1. Sturdy a heavy cutting board by placing a dampened paper towel underneath. With a sharp, heavy knife, get to work on your root (or non-root) vegetables. In most instances, you want to carefully peel the vegetable, depending on the skin thickness: a simple peeler for lighter tasks (peeling a parsnip), while you'll probably need to carefully peel something like a rutabaga with your knife, turning it gradually as you work your way around, slicing off skin without removing too much of the actual vegetable. From there, remove any greens, scoop out cores or seeds and then cut into evenly sized cubes. This is also when you'd want to work on any other prep work, such as mincing garlic, slicing shallots to fry later, toasting nuts in the oven or poaching chicken to later pull.
2. In a large pot, combine your chopped vegetable cubes, any additional inclusions (i.e whole garlic cloves) and the liquid of your choosing. You want the liquid to cover the cubes, ensuring they're all submerged and will cook evenly. Place over medium-high heat and cover, checking periodically, until all cubes are fork-tender. Some root vegetables will take quite some time (i.e potatoes or beets), while others will cook up incredibly quickly (i.e radishes). Don't forget to salt your water, but if you're using salted stock or broth, be mindful of the amount of sodium.
3. Once all vegetables are softened and tender, carefully use a slotted spoon to transfer all cooked vegetables to a high-powdered blender, food processor or Vitamix. My method usually involves securing the lid, slowly turning on the machine at the lowest setting and then gradually increasing it, allowing the machine to make quick work of the softened vegetables. From there, open the little lid and slowly and carefully add the cooking liquid, until the pureed mixture is at the consistency you'd like. This is where tastes will dictate your soup: uber-thick or as thin as can be. It's entirely up to you.
Note: you don't have to puree! If you're into a super-chunky soup, run with it. Most root vegetables will start to break down in some capacity, so you can even opt for a potato masher type moment in place of a smooth, silky puree.
4. Carefully, return the puree to back to the same pot you cooked it in. From here, you can incorporate stirred-in additions (poached chicken, sliced water chestnuts, noodles of any sort, parboiled potatoes, rice, etc.), elements to enrich (milk, cream, nondairy half-and-half), cheeses that you'd like to melt into the soup, or flavor additions (roasted garlic puree, sauces or purees, miso). Re-season again after adding any of these elements, ensuring that the flavor is perfectly balanced.
5. Serve your soup in multiple, warmed bowls, saving some room for your myriad garnishes. Don't skimp! I find that a soup that has a creamy drizzle, a crispy element and maybe even a sharp or acidic note are the best kinds of soups. Think about a baked potato soup or a chili; they're often topped with cheeses, sour cream, scallions and bacon. Don't find that you need to streamline your garnish experience — unless you think a minimalist soup is more up your alley.
As always, it's your kitchen! I'm just hoping to guide you to a flavorful moment in which you can sit down to watch your favorite movie while you're cuddled under the blanket holding your bowl of homemade soup and you think to yourself, "Hm, I did a good job with this. I'm proud of myself." There may be nothing better than that.
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