A Fail-Safe Template for Winter Soups

image via http://thesensitiveepicure.blogspot.com/2011/12/roasted-butternut-squash-soup.html
image via http://thesensitiveepicure.blogspot.com/2011/12/roasted-butternut-squash-soup.html

On damp, cold days, when spring seems so far out of reach, a bowl of brightly colored, silky-smooth vegetable soup can work wonders. It's also great on those nights when you have no idea what to make for dinner,  or when you need a simple starter for a fancy, multi-course meal.

Part of the appeal and comfort of blended soups lies in their forgiving nature. You can use just about any vegetables you have on hand, sprinkling in spices, herbs, and other aromatics at will. If it ends up too salty, you can add water, stock, or milk to correct the flavoring. Too thin? Stir in some yogurt, heavy cream, or coconut milk. Too thick? Loosen it up with more water or stock. All you need are some vegetables, basic seasonings, water or stock, a big soup pot, and an immersion or regular blender.

Follow the steps below, and let the experimentation begin!

carrots
carrots

Recipe Template: Blended Winter Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, lard, bacon fat, etc.)
  • 1 allium (onion, shallot*, or leek), diced
  • 5 to 6 cups diced or cubed winter vegetables (carrot, butternut squash, pumpkin, cauliflower, turnip, rutabaga, celeriac, parsnip, potato**, etc.)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon aromatics (garlic, ginger, garam masala, Chinese 5-spice powder, ground cumin, dried herbs, chopped fresh herbs, etc.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
  • 4 cups water or low-sodium stock (or a mix of both)
  • Milk, cream, yogurt, or coconut milk (optional)
  • Lemon or lime wedges (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the fat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat, then add your chopped allium of choice and let it cook for a few minutes until it's soft and translucent.
  2. Add the other vegetables to the pot, stir well, and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes to soften them a little and meld the flavors. Toss in your aromatics, along with the salt and pepper, and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour in the wine (if using) and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, then add the water or stock. (There should be enough liquid to cover the vegetables by 1 to 2 inches.
  4. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender. (If the liquid looks like it's evaporating too fast, just add some more.)
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and puree it with an immersion blender or regular blender.
  6. If it's too thick for your liking, add more water or stock. If you like it creamier, stir in some milk, cream, yogurt, or coconut milk. For an added kick of flavor, squeeze in some lime or lemon juice.
  7. Enjoy!

*If shallot is your allium of choice, use 2 large ones

**Potatoes are great if you like a thicker soup. However, don't use more than one, as too much potato can give the finished soup a gluey texture.