Joy to the world, soup season is back! Served with bread, fruit, and cheese, soups are my favorite dinners–both for cooking and eating. Bonus: most (i.e. my) children like soup. And this: you might get a few good lunches out of the leftovers. Also: the price is right. Also: you can make soup well in advance, and come home from the cross-country meet/soccer game/football practice to dive into dinner and feel cozy, even if your legs are still muddy. Also: these dinners make your house smell fantastic.
I realize I’m kind of advanced in my motherhood journey to be excited about my kids eating vegetables–they’re 11 and 9. Shouldn’t they be eating everything by now, without the glib commentary? Yet I still feel hugely relieved when I see vegetation going into their bodies. That’s why I am evangelical about these soups. These are the two soups I’ll be making all season long.
For our family, these recipes serve a mixed-age group of 4 for dinner and 2 for lunch the next day.
GARDEN (OR CANNED WITHOUT JUDGMENT) TOMATO SOUP
Chop very finely three shallots, a handful each of parsley and basil leaves, and three fat cloves of garlic. In a heavy soup pot or dutch oven, warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook the finely chopped vegetables in the oil with 1-2 tsp. oregano and rosemary (use a larger amount if your oregano and rosemary are fresh). Add salt and pepper—start with 1 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. You can add more later.
Once the shallots are soft and translucent (that’ll be after about 5 minutes), add 1/4c tomato paste and stir until blended and lump-free. Add 1/3 c vermouth, a 28 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes OR 2 pounds of hacked up tomatoes from your garden, and 3 1/2 cups of vegetable stock (or water with Rapunzel bouillon, Better than Bouillon Un-Chicken, or whatever quick stock substitute you like.) Bring this to a moderate simmer.
Pop on the pot’s lid and turn the heat way down. Cook for about 20 minutes or transfer to a slow cooker and cook for a few hours or all day on the low setting. At some point before eating, purÃ©e the soup with an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Decorate with parsley. Pretty!
Note: do not bother making this soup without vermouth.
ROASTED BROCCOLI SOUP FOR CHILDREN WHO HATE VEGETABLES
In a 450-degree oven, roast the bejeebers out of two sheet pans of olive-oil drizzled chopped broccoli and shallots (leeks or onions work too). The vegetables will become dark brown in spots. The broccoli florets might get crispy. That’s good.
Transfer the roasted mess to a big soup pot. Add water to cover and Better than Bouillon Un-Chicken, approximately one glob. (Or use some other bouillon, or use vegetable stock instead.) Simmer until soft and purÃ©e with an immersion blender. A few remaining broccoli lumps are kind of nice. After the soup is the consistency you like, throw in 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese. It will melt. Stir, but don’t purÃ©e or things could get gloopy. Add salt to taste.
Note: this soup is not pretty. Light a candle.
In terms of bread, with either of these soups, something crusty is best. I pretty much always make the Jim Lahey bread. This couldn’t be simpler, but does require some advance planning. And while your house won’t smell as fantastic if you buy a loaf of bread, even a cruddy old baguette from an unfashionable grocery store will do. If you live near a good bakery, well, lucky you.
For the fruit, I recommend a Mutsu apple–they’re often as big as a baby doll’s head, so one will suffice—sliced to order at the table for that warm, communal feeling humans get from carving up some single thing to share.
For the cheese, I like a glob of chevre in the tomato soup or a wedge of sharp cheddar on the side. The broccoli soup is already way cheesy, but it’s nice to have some grated cheddar to plop on top.