Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

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Does anyone else have post Christmas restlessness?

The big holiday is over. The Christmas tree is pathetically dry, and all the Christmas cookies that are left are the ones we didn’t want to eat sooner because they had less frosting. I certainly feel a little bit criminal still drinking out of glasses with reindeer on them. (I am, however, still wearing the same fleece Christmas sweater, simply because it has done an excellent job helping me maintaining homeostasis thus far this season.)

I am ready for routine to come back. I feel pleasantly full from the holidays this year, and will shed no tear or sigh to see the tree gone, the Christmas lights down and away, and the two eggnog cartons out of the fridge. Christmas clutter and chaos and time tampering be gone! I want progress and the lapping but enjoyable pattern of life to return.

Yet so many people don’t want the holidays to end.  (And perhaps that’s really why New Years is celebrated in such a revolutionary nature.) That week long gap between Christmas and New Years is truly an odd one. It is as if the holidays are supposed to be over, but then New Years postponed the wrapping up process. Why wait until New Years to return to regular life or make some big life change? Is reality all that bad that we have to stay in this dream state until a certain day dictates that it is time for normalcy? Doesn’t that say something about our lives?

I don’t understand society sometimes. Why do we just drag everything out, or feel that the start of a new year is the appropriate time to change one thread that is knitted into our life? I might just be privileged, or crazy, or obnoxiously optimistic but I think we all have the ability to improve our lives, pursue our passions, and make our reality worth returning to any day of the year.

Although I am still going to stay in my fleece sweatpants and cozies for as long as I can, I am making headway towards returning to my norm. I am soaking grains and making bread. I am making lists and plans and then crossing satisfying lines through them. I am enjoying the lack of leftover foods abundance in the fridge. I am milling around the kitchen – which never ceased during the holidays – but am flooded with the desire to create and move.

This recipe was born out of my wanting for a hearty bowl of soup. And it certainly is a pish posh, though the result of many roasted things resulted in something velvety, complex, and a rewarding use of a morning. I especially like the fact that it requires close proximity to a warm oven and stove top.  Feel free to use this as a mere guide to whatever kind of soup you want to make. It can even be simple validation that jerusalem artichokes pair quite nicely with squash in soup. It works, I promise.

So maybe, and maybe hopefully, this soup will be inspiration to get up a do. Get up and make some things, use your hands, use some neglected vegetables, nourish yourself and your family and your friends. Slide back into the rhythm of a life that makes you happy. Today. Tomorrow. And Everyday.

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R E C I P E

1 medium butternut squash

1 medium kabocha squash

1 lb jerusalem artichokes

1 large leek

6 cups vegetable broth *

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp harissa spice or cayenne

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the kabocha squash into 4 wedges and scrape out the seeds. Place the wedges on a baking sheet. Rub the inner flesh with olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Then peel (save the peels!) and scrape out the seeds of the butternut squash. Cut the squash into pieces roughly the same size as that of the kabocha – so that they roast evenly. Coat the butternut squash hunks in olive oil, salt and pepper, and add them to the baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour.

Scrub the jerusalem artichokes well. Peel them (save the peels!) and toss them with olive oil. Then take the leek, remove any excess dirt, place on a second baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Spread the jerusalem artichokes out onto the second baking sheet and put the sheet in the oven. Roast for about 35 minutes – they should be done about the same time as the squash.

Meanwhile, make a quick vegetable broth. Cut up an onion, one or two carrots, and a celery rib. Heat some olive oil in a large stock pot and cook the vegetables on medium-high heat until the onions have softened. Add the saved peels from the squash and the artichoke to the pot. Then add 1 tsp peppercorns1 bundle of herbs (I used rosemary, sage, and thyme), 2 small parmesan rinds1 garlic clove, and 8 cups of water. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for another 25 minutes. Then, strain the stock, discarding the vegetables, and set the stock aside.

Once the squash is cooked, and can be easily pierced by a fork, remove from the oven. The jerusalem artichokes are done when they have turned golden brown. Remove them from the oven as well. Let the roasted vegetables sit until they are cool enough to handle. Then, either scrape the squash, jerusalem artichokes, and the leek into a large enameled soup pot or deep bowl and grab your immersion blender. Puree the vegetables, adding as much stock as necessary to reach a desired consistency. (I used all of my stock.) Then add the cream, spices, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yields: 6 servings

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