One of my off-season joys is making an easy meal that tastes as though it took time and effort to create. Soup is among the easiest—and I’m not talking poured out of a can.
Sure, there can be a lot of time-consuming dicing and mincing for freshly made soup. By planning ahead, I eliminate nearly all of that effort at mealtime. I also ensure the produce carries all the flavor my garden can generate; with a little extra effort at harvest time, there’s no need to buy a mealy tomato or flavorless broccoli.
This week, I offer you two soup recipes that I can make on a moment’s notice because their ingredients are staples in my house in winter. They’re staples because during harvest, I dry-store potatoes, dry-store or freeze onions and garlic, dehydrate smoked chilies and herbs, and freeze cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and Vegetable Stock. Hopefully this list of links and the recipes that follow will inspire you to take similar steps as you grow or buy local food in the next few months.
Spanish Potato–Garlic Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup frozen, chopped or thinly sliced, grilled onion (about 6 ounces)
1 head Roasted Garlic
1 teaspoon home-smoked, dried, ground chili or sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound potatoes (about 2-1/2 cups when thinly sliced)
1 pound frozen cherry or larger tomatoes (about 2–3 cups)
5-1/2 cups defrosted Vegetable Stock or water
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Start with the base: Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium heat, and then add the frozen onions. Squeeze each clove of roasted garlic from its skin and into the pot; stir to disperse. Sprinkle in the paprika and thyme. Add the potato slices, tossing to mix; the potatoes act as both main ingredient and thickener. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring, until the onions are defrosted and the potatoes begin to cook.
Add the liquid ingredients: the tomatoes and stock. Save any remaining stock from the freezer container for your next soup (see below). Bring the soup to just below a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the potato slices split when pierced with a fork.
Break up the potatoes slightly with a large spoon, or use an immersion blender to puree the soup if you want a smoother texture. Stir in the wine and salt and pepper to taste; simmer for another 5 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Turn off the heat and let the soup stand, covered, for another 10 minutes before ladling into bowls. Serves 6–8.
Tips & Tricks
- This recipe is intended to get you thinking about storing local produce to use out of season, but don’t let that stop you from trying it with fresh ingredients. Potatoes and onions are readily available year-round, but choose a can of diced tomatoes over fresh ones out of season; they’ll taste far better.
- If you don’t have homemade stock in your freezer, I advise sticking with water rather than subbing a highly salted commercial stock. If you do want to buy your soup stock, be sure to read the label closely; salt is just one of many excessive items that tend to fill the ingredient list.
- If you’re using fresh ingredients, you can simply sauté the onions and garlic in the pot before adding the other flavors. Keep the heat on medium-low, and add the garlic after the onions have started to color to avoid burning.
- Although the potatoes give you plenty of starch, I can never resist serving this soup with hunks of Sourdough Cabin Bread.
Twice as Tasty
Last summer, I played with several ways of storing garlic. Although I love to roast whole bulbs, by spring my stored heads want to either mold or sprout. I dehydrated individual cloves and pickled some; the former are fine in soups, and the latter are great for munching and in drinks.
One technique I was skeptical of and have grown to love is freezing: Mince the garlic in a food processor, mix 1 part garlic with 2 parts olive oil, scoop it into ice-cube trays, and stick it in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the cubes and add them to a zip-close freezer bag for long-term storage. When cooking, simply pull a cube from the freezer and throw it into the warming sauté pan or soup pot. So easy, and far more food safe than storing garlic in oil in the fridge.
Italian Broccoli–Pasta Soup
1 cup frozen, chopped, grilled onion (about 6 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon home-smoked, dried, crumbled chili or sweet smoked paprika
4 anchovy fillets, minced
8 ounces frozen whole cherry tomatoes (about 1-1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons white wine (optional)
5 cups defrosted Vegetable Stock or water
salt and pepper to taste
10 ounces frozen broccoli florets (about 3-1/2 cups)
1 cup orecchiette or other medium pasta
grated Romano for serving
Start with the base: Turn the heat to low under a stockpot and add the frozen garlic cube and onions, allowing them to melt slightly in the pot. Raise the heat to medium, add the chili and anchovies, and cook 3–5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the garlic and onions have entirely defrosted.
Add the liquid ingredients: frozen tomatoes, white wine, and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook another 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have defrosted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the main ingredient, the frozen broccoli, and continue cooking until the soup returns to a simmer.
Add the pasta, which acts as both a primary ingredient and a thickener, and simmer 7–8 minutes or longer if indicated on the packaging. Once the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat, cover, and let the soup sit 5 minutes. Serve with grated Romano. Serves 6–8.
Tips & Tricks
- As with Spanish Potato–Garlic Soup, you can make this soup with fresh ingredients and canned tomatoes until you have a chance to grow and store your own produce. Cherry tomatoes can be grown almost anywhere, even in an upright or hanging pot on a sunny apartment deck, and are incredibly easy to freeze; consider trying out your green thumb with them this year.
- Vegetarians can skip the anchovy fillets, but they do add a bit of salty tang to the soup that’s a challenge to replicate. A splash of soy sauce instead of ground salt may help to imitate their umami. If you turned your chilies into Home-Smoked Chili Paste instead of drying them completely, substitute the paste for the crumbled pepper to taste.
- The stored ingredients make this one of the quickest soups to pull together from scratch. But even if you’re chopping fresh garlic, onion, and broccoli and adding to the cooking times to soften them appropriately, you can have this on the table in about 30 minutes—just as fast as 30-Minute Cherry Tomato Soup.