Spring in the Northwest can be slow to arrive. The daphne is blooming, both flowers and weeds are starting to sprout, but it is still a bit cold to spend the day lounging on foredeck. The boat needs a wash, systems need to be checked, and a work party on the boat is in order. Why not make a batch of soup, go down to the boat, get your chores done, and invite some friends for dinner after the work is done? It could be icy, pouring rain, bright and cold, hailing, warm and 70 degrees, a wind storm…who knows?
Northwesterners don’t let the weather stop us. The tough part is making the decision to ski or work on the boat. Yet, it is sure nice to have the boat ready for that sudden, warm, spring day!
Soups are great. They are delicious and warming, whether they are light and delicate or hardy and soul soothing. The soup is the meal, all you need to buy is a nice big loaf of bread and something yummy for dessert! Depending on the type of soup you decide to make, select a delicious bottle of red to enjoy with the meal. When guests arrive, have a nice bottle of bubbles ready with a wedge of cheese, crackers, and olives. The soup can be done in advance and simmering on the stove, or you could tote a crock pot down and use that to warm the soup.
Once you decide to make soup, make a large batch to enjoy for future meals. I love soup for breakfast with a poached egg on top, or I grab one of my frozen tubs of soup and take it for lunch at work. It is a quick and delicious meal. Most soups can easily be reheated and served quickly and are great if you are out of time or under the weather. My favorite soup is a minestrone- style soup with beans added for a little protein hit.
When you start making soup, plan on making two types in one session. The base ingredients and methods are essentially the same. It is a one-pot job, so select a soup pot with a heavy bottom, something you might use for pasta or stew, and sweat your vegetables in layers to develop the flavors. Season at the beginning, middle, and end right before you are ready to serve. If you like your soup lightly seasoned, then put salt and pepper on the table. Select a nice chicken or vegetable stock for your soup. There are some great products on the market, but if you buy stock, always buy the low sodium so you can control the salt content. As a final note, do not overcook the soup to mush unless it is a puree soup — there will be a lot of flavor lost in overcooking.
Enjoy your evening with friends, and maybe go out at the end of the pier and say a prayer to the weather gods for a gentle spring transition. Enjoy!
In a large soup pot, sauté the celery, carrot, and onion in olive oil on medium heat. Once the vegetables are soft, add the garlic and cook until it starts to color. Then add the zucchini and tomatoes and sauté, occasionally stirring, for 10 minutes. Then add the kale, beans, parsley, and seasoning. Allow to cook for another 10 minutes, then cook the chicken stock and simmer on low for 40 minutes to an hour or until beans are done. If using green beans, add them now and cook for 10 minutes.
Once soup is ready, the final step is to add the dry rice and simmer until the rice is al dente. Serve immediately with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a spoonful of pesto (recipe below) on top.
Classic Basil Pesto
Add the basil, some of oil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese to a food processor. Then add olive oil to smooth, season with salt and pepper.
French Onion Soup
Heat large soup/pasta pot. Add oil and butter, and sauté onions until a dark golden brown. Season with salt. Deglaze with brandy and wine, cooking until onions are dark (not burnt). Add remaining stocks, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring broth to a simmer and reduce by a third. Fill onion soup in ceramic crocks or soup bowls. Top with one slice of toast and 1/4 cup of cheese and bake under broiler until golden brown (toast recipe below). Serve immediately.
Gourmet Cheese Toast
Potato Leek Soup
Heat olive oil and butter in a medium stockpot. Add celery, leeks, shallots, and garlic; cook on medium-low heat until very soft, about 45 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Do not brown. Add potatoes, stock, and reserved bouquet garni (recipe below). Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until potatoes are very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and discard.
Working in batches, pass half of the soup through a food mill, fitted with a medium disk, into a large saucepan OR use an immersion blender. Add remaining chunky soup. Place the saucepan on medium-low heat to warm soup. Slowly stir in milk and cream, and season with salt and pepper.
BOUQUET GARNI: Wrap bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth. Then tie with a piece of kitchen twine and set aside.
Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup
Begin by roasting or sautéing the cauliflower (you could also use leftovers from last night!). Then heat two teaspoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until both the carrots and onion are brown, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the turmeric and Thai curry paste, cook for 1 more minute. Deglaze the pan with a splash of the stock, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove the dark bits.
Add the remaining stock and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer. Put the cauliflower into the pot (reserve a few small pieces for garnish, if you’d like). Using an immersion blender (or working in small batches using a regular blender) blend the soup until it is very smooth. Add the coconut milk and season to taste with sea salt. Serve the soup garnished with the reserved cauliflower florets and garnishes.