* As part of our ongoing Stretch Gardening series, we have invited some of our favorite garden bloggers to contribute to the Garden Club. This week we feature Rhonda Fleming Hayes, of TheGardenBuzz.com, who stretches her garden by preparing delicious, nutritious vegetable soups for the table and the freezer.*
Long after many folks have given up on the garden, you’ll find me in a parka bent over my beds still digging for treasure. As soon as the temps start to slip I start thinking about comfort food, so I’m all about fall veggies.
My fingers might be cold but my basket spills over with freshly dug carrots, beets, turnips, leeks, kale, and a winter squash or two, not to mention a few hardy herbs still hanging on. Did you know that a touch of frost actually improves the taste of many vegetables?
I love to find ways to savor and save the fruits of my labor for a snowy day, whether it’s canning, drying, pickling or pesto-making. However, one of my favorite and easiest methods of preserving the harvest is using these fall veggies in delicious, creamy (no cream added, mind you) soups that will fill you up without filling you out. Then I freeze portions so I can enjoy a tummy-warming bit of my garden all winter long.
Soup making is deceptively simple. I rely on an easy formula that works for just about any vegetable combination. With such a forgiving food you’ll soon feel confident in adding your own touches, riffing on flavors like a real restaurant chef going garden to table.
(Note: Chop all veggies and fruits into small pieces around ½ inch so they cook quickly and uniformly.)
Butternut Apple Soup: One squash (around 4 cups), 1 medium onion, 2 medium-size apples, 4 C. chicken or vegetable broth and ¼ t. nutmeg or cinnamon
Potato Leek Soup (shown at top): 3-4 thinly sliced leeks (around 4 cups), no onion needed, 2 medium-size potatoes, 4 C. chicken or vegetable broth and a few sprigs of parsley.
Spiced Carrot Soup (shown above): One bunch carrots (around 4 cups), 1 medium-size onion, 4 C. chicken or vegetable broth, 1 medium-size potato or parsnip, 1 T. grated orange zest and ½ t. ground cloves or cumin
Other combos to try:
Turnips, pears, thyme
Kale, potatoes, chives
Beets, potatoes, dill
Parsnips, potatoes, parsley
Sweat your vegetables, a process that softens veggies and mingles flavors. Heat 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil (Can’t decide? Go half and half) in a Dutch oven with medium heat. Add chopped veggies (and fruits if using), stir to coat them with the oil or butter, cover with lid and gently cook with low heat. Stir occasionally for 8-10 minutes.
Pour chicken broth or vegetable broth over veggies, add herb sprigs now if using, raise heat and bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat, simmering mixture for 20-30 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool just a bit.
Ladle 1/3 mixture into blender at a time. Make sure top is fastened well. Just in case, place a kitchen towel over top of blender while you whizz the hot liquid. Puree until very smooth and reserve in a large bowl or Pyrex pitcher. You can salt, pepper and season to taste at this point. If freezing the whole batch, save the step of returning soup to the pot, and pour soup directly into individual freezer containers. If serving immediately, return soup to pot, season to taste and gently reheat before serving.
Be creative! Try herbs, cheese cubes, crumbled bacon, croutons, ham bits, dollops of yogurt or sour cream: the list goes on. Play with your soup.
Images courtesy of Rhonda Fleming Hayes