I’ve started the year on this “clean eating” thing during January. And happily, it very closely resembles the way I usually eat. I’ve cut out caffeine and alcohol and cut down very seriously on the gluten. And my real goal was to cut out all sugar, but I just can’t do it. Still, I’ve cut out desserts and when I come home from work I have a spinach and date smoothie instead of a couple spoonfuls of ice cream. That’s an improvement.
You can ask Steve and he’ll tell you I am not a fan of soup for dinner. I don’t know why. I guess it means I’m not a fan of soup in general. I’d rather have an omelette or pancakes than soup for dinner. It’s definitely about flavor. I’ve had enough watery homemade chicken soup to last me a lifetime. It’s fine. I usually just stick with stews.
But last night I was looking for a soup recipe. I wanted one using squash and beans, but also, the squash was no longer in chunks– I had thawed 4 cups of “cool old squash” and it was pretty much “puree” with a little “texture.”
I couldn’t find anything that looked good online, so I built a soup myself. Or maybe it was a stew.
I started with a mirepoix. Again, I apologize to Michael Pollan, whose book I still haven’t been able to finish; he’s right about flavor coming out of the 15-minute sautee of onion/carrot/celery to start.
Another key to flavor is tomatoes in the broth. So after I sautéed the sliced garlic about 30 seconds, I poured in a jar of cherry tomatoes. I wish you could have smelled those tomatoes– pure summer. My secret ingredient is a couple tablespoons of roasted sweet peppers (why do no soup recipes call for this?), and I put in a teaspoon of hot chili pepper sauce.
A major driver of this dish was the fact that I’d soaked the last two cups of dried beans and needed to use them. So into the mix went a carton of chicken broth and the beans. A half hour later, I stirred in the squash. This would have been a good time to serve it, but before serving I stuck the immersion blender in there and further “creamed” it. It still had whole beans and a few pieces of carrot and squash, so not smooth. But definitely delicious.
I know you can make soup of anything, but I wonder why most soup recipes in cookbooks and online are so, well, boring! I think the soup world needs the equivalent of a dry and wet zing. Just like this blogger recommends for jam. Peppers are zing! Oddly, celery is zing, too! Tomatoes are zing. Vinegar is also zing– put a dash of that in a soup at the end. If it’s an Asian soup, don’t forget the fish sauce. Zing!
Potatoes, squash, and beans, even greens, even chicken, need help. Let’s get some zing!
Squash and Bean Soup
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped or diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups winter squash, cubed
1 quart tomatoes (small can, diced or whole broken up)
1 quart chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3-4 cups beans (canned or dry beans soaked overnight or, potatoes, why not?)
2 Tbs roasted red peppers, chopped
1 Tbs hot chili paste/sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs vinegar (optional, if you want an extra zing)
Sautee the onion, celery and carrots for 10-15 minutes, not browning them. Add garlic and swirl for 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf and beans and simmer for 30 minutes, until soft. If your squash isn’t cooked already, add that at this point, too. If your squash is already cooked, add it after 30 minutes, along with the red peppers, chili paste/sauce.
Add the cooked squash, if using, and simmer for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree, but leave some beans/potatoes and squash for texture. Taste for salt and pepper.