As we round into month four without a kitchen, I find myself longing for soup. There’s a chill in the New England morning air, and the afternoon sun’s warmth dissipates quickly. Dinnertime would definitely be best greeted with a piping hot bowl of liquid health. I suppose I could use the slow cooker; it’s served us well for other meals during this nomadic cooking time, most recently for an adaptation of al pastor tacos with Icelandic lamb (yes, meat too can be seasonal!)
But my favorite soups come together best on the stovetop, with layers of flavor added over time. Luckily, last weekend we got away to my parents’ house, where both the oven and the range were open for play. Using the best of two seasons – end of summer, slightly bruised tomatoes and fall’s first deep-green, acorn squash – I assembled a soup that satisfied all of my cravings.
For meals like this, the CSA box always serves as my foundation. A few round, red field tomatoes not cooked last week, supplemented by some bumpy (but sure to be delicious) plum tomatoes from Edgartown’s Morning Glory Farm would add both depth and tang. And the squash, of course, a perfect fall-flavored based. Add some boy choy for crunch, and to round out the color-nutrient continuum, and we were in good shape.
With its thick, ridged skin, acorn squash is typically halved (or quartered) and roasted, not cubed and simmered into broth. However, having soup on the brain, I was sure I could adapt the cooking to my objectives. I sliced the squash into beautiful star rings, coated them with olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin, and roasted them for about 30 minutes.
Once the squash was roasted and softened, it was easy enough to peel and cube it. I added these to onions and garlic I had been sauteeing in a heavy-bottomed soup pan. To further draw in autumn flavors, I added some apple cider with the vegetable broth. The cider wasn’t part of my original plan, but it happened to be available, having been previously rejected by my son in that frequent kid move of demanding food in the store then almost immediately declaring one’s vehement dislike of it. (Or is that just my kids?!?) After 15-20 minutes of simmering, I carefully used the immersion blender to create a smooth squash base.
Tomatoes were diced, then added, and cooked slowly until they began to melt into the squash broth. Boy choy stems got cooked another 5-10 minutes, not too much, so they retained a bit of a crunch for textural contrast.
Finally, I stirred in the chopped boy choy leaves just before serving, so they would wilt in the heat but not lose their brilliant dark green color.
My kids are big fans of pasta with anything, so while the soup was marrying its flavors, I cooked up half a box of elbow macaroni. I ladled soup into each bowl, added a scoop of cooked pasta, then dusted with grated pecorino romano.
Fall has landed, gentle and soothing.