I come from a long line of soup people. I grew up dining from sturdy (if mismatched) bowls of homemade chicken noodle, beef and barley (with extra celery), and a lamb and kidney bean soup that entered my mother’s culinary toolbox when a neighbor brought it over as a post-baby offering in 1979 (that baby was me).
There was a time when my people were soup professionals, feeding gallons of borscht to Philadelphians from our Russian restaurant. Members of the city orchestra would come to our dining room after their evening performances, to replenish themselves on the stews my great-grandmother simmered each day. When she was first married, the only thing my grandmother knew how to make was the stewed turkey-leg soup that her Auntie Tunkel would serve over boiled rice on frigid days. If times were tight, only a single leg would float in the pot, each diner getting only a few shards of meat in their dish. I grew up eating a version of that same soup, only ours contained plenty of melted onion and at least one meaty drumstick per diner. Auntie would have been dumbstruck by our abundance.
Now that the cooler days of fall have arrived, my home soup operation is in full swing. I fill my blue soup pot every week with whatever vegetables are in most need of attention and eat a bowl a day for either lunch or dinner. It’s Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup that I’m particularly excited about at the moment. A beauty of a soup, it’s got a lovely buttery yellow color and is most attractively flecked with black pepper, grated nutmeg, and the caramelized bits from oven-roasted onion.
Though it sounds fancy, this soup is really basic, use-what-you-have cooking. Just an hour before we planned to eat, I halved all the vegetables, laid them out on a greased baking sheet, and let the heat of a 400-degree oven work its magic for 30 minutes. When the veg were tender, I peeled away the skins and mashed the flesh into a quart of chicken stock (vegetable stock or water would do as well). Puréed with an immersion blender (the most reliable friend of a home soup maker); seasoned with pepper, nutmeg, and sea salt; and smoothed out with a scant half cup of light cream (barely more than a few drops per bowl), dinner was served in less than 60 minutes. -Marisa McClellan on Culinate.
Yield: 2 quarts
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 acorn squash (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
2 medium-sized white sweet potatoes (see Parting Shots)
1 small yellow onion
1 quart chicken stock
2 teaspoons sea salt (start with just 1 teaspoon if using regular table salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 to 5 turns of a pepper grinder
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin or acorn-squash seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Grease a large, rimmed sheet pan with the olive oil; set aside.
Cut the acorn squash in half so that you have two pieces that mirror one another.
Scrape out the seeds and stringy bits, saving the seeds for toasting.
Place the squash cut-side down on the sheet pan, rubbing them around a bit so the sides in contact with the pan get nicely oiled.
Wash and dry the sweet potatoes.
Cut them in half lengthwise and place on the sheet pan, making sure that they are sufficiently oiled so that they won’t stick.
Trim and peel the onion and slice it into quarters; place those on the sheet pan as well.
Put the pan in the oven and roast the vegetables for 30 to 35 minutes, until everything is fork-tender and there are some caramelized bits on the onions.
When the roasted vegetables are cool enough to handle, scrape the squash and sweet-potato flesh out into a soup pot (a capacity of 4 to 5 quarts is the right size for this job).
Chop the onion a bit and add it to the pot.
Pour the chicken stock over the vegetables and stir to break up the pieces.
Bring the soup to a simmer.
Add salt, nutmeg, and pepper.
Using an immersion blender, purée the soup right in the pan (if you don’t have one, a blender, food processor, or food mill will also do the job), taking extra care that the pieces of onion are broken down.
Add the cream and taste.
Adjust the spices if necessary.
Serve garnished with toasted seeds or with a slice of whole-grain bread.
Source and Marisa McClellan, from the Marisa McClellan Collection, featured "Dinner Guest" on Culinate (www.culinate.com); posted by LuAnn for KRT.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated soup maker who lives in Philadelphia. She shares her many canning projects (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars.