Down East 2013 ©
It was my friend Hope’s idea. A way to brighten the long winter nights and make them just a bit more delicious. She called it: “Seasonal Second Sunday Soup Swap Supper at Six.” Aside from the clever alliteration, she proposed getting together a small group of people who love to cook. The idea was that everyone would simmer up a huge pot of their favorite soup, we’d have a little party, enjoy the soups, and then everyone goes home with the leftovers to fill their refrigerator (or freezer).
There were ten soup lovers at the party. In they came — snow boots, big steaming pots of soup, bags filled with salads and bread, bottles of beer and wine. We hadn’t spoken before the event to coordinate but, as potlucks so often do, it all worked out perfectly. We had five distinct soups, no repeats. After a few glasses of wine we decided to go around the room and “introduce” each of our soups. I know it sounds kind of silly, but it seemed like if the evening was about soup, the least we could do was give them the spotlight.
There were lots of jokes: “Hello, my name is Amy and I’m a soupaholic. Today I made a pureed butternut squash soup with lots of garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon.” As we went around the room I quickly noticed the men standing by silently. Each soup had been made by one of the women in the group. Why didn’t any of the men cook?
These were not 1950s husbands and dads, the sort of Mad Men-like characters who are helpless in the kitchen. I knew these men and I knew most of them could cook. And yet it had been assumed that the women would be the ones responsible for the soup.
There was an Italian sausage soup with zucchini and tomato sprinkled with grated Parmesan, a New Mexican-style green chile with beans and pork, the pureed squash soup, and a white bean and escarole soup. My contribution was a roasted winter vegetable soup with a parsley pesto and crusty croutes.
Each pot also contained a story. “My mother made this soup almost every week when we were growing up. It was a childhood favorite.” “I used garlic, pumpkin, leeks, and onions from our garden.” “I used squash from Hannaford’s!” (Big laugh!) “This was my first time cooking soup without a recipe! I hope it went well!” Everyone grabbed a bowl and a spoon and started eating. We sipped a bit of each soup, feeling the warmth that comes from gathering good friends on a cold January evening. There was a raw fennel, parsley, clementine, and pomegranate salad and also one made with raw chopped kale, radicchio, apples, and pecans. The baguettes were warm from the oven. It was a perfect Sunday supper.
And at some point my husband, aware of the sexism (or was it “reverse sexism”) involved with the women doing all the work and the men simply enjoying it, suggested that when we reassembled in a month, with the men doing the cooking. There was grumbling from a few of the men (“Uh, you definitely don’t want me to do that,” said one guy whose wife is famous for her culinary skills.) But others liked the idea. “Yea”, they grunted, like guys who had just signed up for a sports team. “We can cook. We can make soup.” There were more jokes about taking a month off from work to stay home and hone their soup-making skills, but mostly I think they all saw it as a challenge. My husband joked that he would make the most macho soup of all, oyster chowder made with Rocky Mountain Oysters (a.k.a. bull’s testicles), but that idea was quickly nixed. “They are not local ingredients,” I joked right back at him. And then it was decided that the category would be expanded to soups and stews — stews sounding just slightly more masculine. I started calling one of the guys “Stew” just to keep the silliness going.
Hope’s Second Sunday Soup vision was a spectacular success. We had a great time but, maybe even better, I now have two soups in my freezer waiting for the next big snow storm, and three soups in my refrigerator for lunch and dinner over the next few days.
I had some bean and escarole soup for breakfast this morning and then segued to the pork chile for lunch. One of the women called to tell me that her husband had already started researching recipes. The heat is on. Can’t wait until next month to see what the men come up with!
The Rules of a Soup Party:
· Invite a group of friends who love to cook.
· Everyone makes enough soup to have a small bowl on the night of the party and then bring some home. Generally, we doubled our favorite recipes.
· Ask everyone to bring plastic or glass containers to bring home their collection of leftover soups.
· Ask someone to make a salad and desserts.
· Everyone brings a bottle of something they would like to drink.
· Bring a copy of your recipe, if you like.
Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup
This was my offering. Cubes of winter vegetables – parsnips, winter squash, celery root, carrots, onion, shallots, leeks, and garlic — are roasted at high heat until just tender, golden brown, and caramelized and then tossed with a splash of white wine and some good broth. The roasted vegetables are then added to a pot of homemade (or canned) chicken or vegetable stock. The soup takes less than an hour from start to finish, but the resulting flavor is startlingly complex.
Serve the soup with Winter Parsley Pesto (see below) and thin slices of toasted crusty bread.
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
One 2-pound butternut squash, or any type of winter squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 stalks celery, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium celery root (about 1 ¼ pounds), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
3 leeks, halved lengthwise, and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into ½-inch size cubes
2 shallots, quartered
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
6 cups canned low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, or homemade chicken broth (page 00)
1 bay leaf
¾ cup dry white wine
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the parsnips, carrots, squash, celery, celery root, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and olive oil together in a large very shallow roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Raise the heat to 450 degrees and roast for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the broth in a large pot with the bay leaf and bring to a boil over high heat.
Remove the vegetables from the oven and deglaze the pan with the wine, using a spatula to loosen any bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Pour the vegetables and the liquid from the bottom of the pan into the pot with the simmering broth. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, partially covered. Serve piping hot with the pesto and croutes.
Winter Parsley Pesto
A vibrant green pesto, made with parsley instead of basil, and ideal for winter when fresh herbs are scarce. This pesto may be made several hours ahead of time. Serve with Roasted Vegetable Soup, on toast, with stews, or smothered on a cheese sandwich. Try tossing it with pasta, grilled or sautéed shrimp, or using it to coat a chicken breast or fish fillet. The pesto will keep, covered and refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen for several months.
1 packed cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a food processor or blender, whirl the parsley and garlic with some salt and pepper until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add the oil making sure not to over-process the pesto; it should still be a little chunky. Remove to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Season to taste.
Makes about ¾ cup.
· Add 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pine nuts with the parsley.
· Add ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves.
· Add 1 teaspoon of any of the following ground dried spices -- cumin, curry, coriander, or cardamom.
· Try grated Romano, Manchego, or any other hard cheese instead of the Parmesan.
Hope’s Italian Sausage Zucchini Soup
(Originally from Hope’s mother, Carol, who found the recipe many decades ago in food section of The Springfield Republican.)
1 pound turkey sausage or Italian sausage, half sweet and half spicy
Two (28 ounce) cans tomatoes
Salt to taste
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (marjoram, thyme, basil and oregano)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon basil
2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 cups celery, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 green peppers, chopped
2 cups water
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Squeeze sausage out of its casing and place in a hot soup pot. Brown, stirring occasionally Drain off any fat. Add onions, garlic, undrained tomatoes, salt to taste, seasonings, oregano, sugar, basil; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add zucchini, celery, and green peppers and 2 cups of water. Simmer until tender. Serve hot sprinkled with grated Parmesan. Serves 6.
Galen ‘s Escarole and White Bean Soup
(Originally from Healthy Living Magazine and provided by the American Diabetes Association)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 T. flour
4 cups low-fat, reduced sodium chicken broth (I used our turkey stock)
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15 oz.) can cannelini or other white beans (I used Great Northern, soaked overnight and cooked until soft)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary (I used 1 T. fresh plus 1 tsp. fresh thyme)
2 cups washed and chopped escarole
Salt & Pepper to taste
In a large saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery and sauté for 6 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the broth, tomatoes, beans, herbs, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add the escarole and cook for 5 minutes longer until the escarole wilts. Season with salt and pepper.
Amy’s Acorn Squash Soup
This is a rich, well-spiced pureed soup of acorn squash. You could easily substitute pumpkin or any other type of winter squash.
8 large acorn squash
3 potatoes, peeled
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
6 to 8 cloves of garlic
About ½ to 1 teaspoon of the following spice: ground cinnamon, ground ginger, salt, pepper, lemon juice, nutmeg and thyme
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth or 4 chicken bouillon cubes softened in 4 cups warm or boiling water
1 to 3 cups water, milk and half and half, or a combination of all three to reach the desired
Preheat the oven to 375. Bake the squash until soft, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel. Discard the peel and set aside the squash meat.
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until soft. Drain.
In a large skillet heat the butter over low heat. Add the onions and garlic cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes.
Working in batches, place the squash, potatoes, onions, garlic, spices and enough water (and/or cream) to create a thick but pourable consistency.
Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, adding more salt, pepper or spices as needed. Serves 10 to 12.