Monday, December 7, 2009

Hearty vegetable soup = a great way to clear out the vegetable drawer

Since moving last July, I do not yet have a fully functioning veggie garden. In response, I am splitting a winter CSA (community supported agriculture) share with some friends. The farm we bought a share from is Jubilee Farm in Carnation, WA. It is a good thing we are sharing it, because each week we receive a HUGE box of produce. I find myself struggling to keep up with the vegetable drawer. One sure fire way to use up my veggies before receiving the next huge box is to make soup. Winter soups are hearty and delicious, and can be made with just about any veggies you like. Since I am mostly receiving root veggies from my CSA box, my soups have been heavy on those ingredients lately.
I made a soup from the following ingredients today:
leeks, celeriac, potatoes, celery, carrots, thyme, rainbow chard, farfalle (bow tie pasta), chicken broth, water, sea salt, butter.
Some of these are ingredients that I did not grow up with, and have only learned about since college.

Celeriac, also called celery root, is the really ugly root in the photo above. It is in fact the root of a celery plant, although they are different varieties, one bred for the stalk, and the other for the root. Celeriac has a flavor a lot like celery, but a texture very similar to a potato. This makes it a great veggie to use in purees, mashes, and to thicken soups with.

Leeks are the long scallion-looking things in the photo above. They have a delicate onion flavor, and can be minced and sauteed similarly to onions. Only use the white and light green parts of a leek. Also, be sure to cut in half length-wise, as I have done in the photo, to be able to clean well between the layers. Leeks always seem to trap a lot of soil between the layers... not something you want in your food.

Rainbow chard is a delicious and beautiful dark green leafy vegetable. The leaves are too thick and tough to eat raw, and should be cooked similarly to spinach to be enjoyed to their fullest. The colorful center rib is very tough and stringy in mature leaves, and should be removed prior to cooking.

I made my soup by first sauteing the leeks and fresh thyme in some butter and salt for a few minutes. Then I added the potatoes, celery, minced celeriac and coarsely diced carrots. I let it all saute and brown for a bit. Then I added chicken broth and water (50/50 by volume) to cover. When the potatoes were tender I added a bit of farfalle pasta and then some chopped chard at the very end. Before eating, I grated some parmesan cheese over the soup.

Other things that would be good in the soup:
Any other grains that you may have (rice, quinoa, barley, etc...), beans like lentils, garbanzo, and cannellinis, onions, garlic, tomatoes, kale, parsnips, parsley, oregano, or just about anything else you may have in your veggie bin.

Root veggies!

Winter is the time to celebrate root vegetables. My CSA boxes, from Jubilee farm, are now full of root vegetables with perhaps a squash and some winter greens here and there. Potatoes, celeriac, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, and beets are main staples on our dinner table these days. I find that soups, mashes, purees, and roasts are the best ways to enjoy many of these hearty and nutritious veggies.
Here is an example of a recent meal: Roast chicken breasts with potato and turnip mash, and roasted carrots.

Root vegetable mash: I used a combination of potatoes, turnips, and leeks, but parsnips and celeriac would also work beautifully on their own or combined with any of the other root veggies.
This is how to make the mash I made:
Chop and thoroughly clean leeks. Saute leeks in olive oil with salt and pepper, until tender and beginning to brown, then remove from heat. Peel and coarsely dice your root veggies. Cover with salted water, and bring to a gentle boil. Once tender, drain the veggies and return to pot. Add a couple tablespoons of butter, little warm milk, and your sauteed leeks. Mash with a potato masher. Adjust consistency by adding more or less milk. For a smooth puree, rather than a mash, first process your veggies through a food mill or potato ricer, before adding dairy.

Roasted chicken breats: season your bone-in, skin on chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper, and any herbs you like (I used a combination of sage and thyme).
roast at 375 deg. F for approximately 40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers between 160 and 165 deg. F. Tent chicken with foil, and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Roasted carrots:
I like to prepare 2-3 carrots per person. Peel and coarsely dice your carrots (1 inch pieces). Season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan and roast along side your chicken (375 deg. F) for 30 minutes, or until the carrots are tender and caramelized. If you like your carrots even sweeter, feel free to coat with a teaspoon or so of maple syrup when the come out of the oven, or in the last 10 minutes of roasting.

Use any left overs to make chicken noodle soup the next day.