Roasted tomato vegetable soup

Our weather is cooling a bit, putting a hint of autumn in the air. And soup is beginning to sound good. Even though the weather is changing, tomatoes are still ripening and I know that after the night temperatures drop into the forties, the flavor starts deteriorating quickly. So, to use the ones that are ripe now, I made a roasted vegetable soup for dinner.  

Nothing fancy, just roasted vegetables pureed with cooked red lentils for some extra texture and fiber. It’s pretty fast and can be prepped well ahead of time when you have an hour for the roasting. You can add whatever vegetables are available – eggplant, summer squash, winter squash, okra, sweet potatoes. 

Red lentils are quick-cooking and packed with nutrients

Roasted tomato vegetable soup (for two)

6-7 tomatoes, any variety

2 cloves garlic

½ cup chopped carrots

2 sweet peppers

½ c. red lentils

1 good-sized sprig of basil

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and put them in a roasting pan. Smash the garlic cloves and add to the pan. Add the carrots to the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and roast 45 minutes at 375. Cool.

Cut the peppers in half, seed and flatten them. Put in another roasting pan and roast for about half an hour in the same oven. When the peppers are tender and the skins beginning to blacken, remove them from the oven and put in a bowl with a plate over it to let them steam further. Peel when cool. 

Cover the lentils with water and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. Cool.

Add everything to the blender with the basil and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a hint of sugar or agave syrup. 

You can make this creamy by adding sour cream, yogurt or ricotta; make it Spanish by adding cumin and chile. Sriracha makes it spicy-sweet. And garlic croutons add another dimension.

Roasted yellow and red tomatoes

Roasted or grilled vegetables with pasta or grain

Roasted vegetables with farro

Something happens when you roast or grill vegetables. Even though we don’t think of vegetables as being sweet, they do have sugars and when roasted, these sugars caramelize and take them from delicious to divine. It’s easy to do, fairly quick, and can provide a myriad of tastes to eat alone or add to other dishes.

Combining them with creamy pasta is my go-to when I have dribs and drabs of vegetables coming in from the garden. It seems every time I go out to the garden, I come in with a basket of small zucchini, an eggplant, a pepper or two. This is a great way to use them together.

Just about any sturdy vegetable can easily be roasted to make an entirely different taste than when fresh. Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, beets and even garlic. Once they are roasted, chop and add to a pasta of your choice, season with parmesan or other cheese.

To roast, preheat oven to 375. Drizzle a broiler or jelly roll pan with olive oil. Cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Toss with olive oil and herbs of choice. Spread out on pan and roast until tender when pierced with a fork. Carrots, beets and parsnips will take a little longer than summer squash or broccoli so plan accordingly, adding the softer vegetables mid-way through roasting. Or roast seperately.

Roasted broccoli with breadcrumbs

Roasted Broccoli and Carrots with Grain or Pasta

1 c. broccoli florets
½ pkg. baby carrots
3 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ small onion, sliced
½ c. cooked farro, quinoa, rice, bulgur or millet. Or pasta.
1 t. balsamic vinegar
¼ c. parmesan cheese
¼ c. toasted pecans, pepitas or sunflower seeds

Directions

Preheat oven to 375. In a sided roasting pan (broiler pan works well), add the carrots and drizzle with 1 t. olive oil. Roast until a fork inserts with ease, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, salt generously and put aside in a bowl. Add broccoli to pan, drizzle with 1 T. olive oil and roast until crisp-tender, about 30 minutes. Salt and add to carrots.

Add the last tablespoon olive oil to a saute pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Coarsely chop the vegetables and put in a large bowl. Add the onions, garlic and grain or pasta to the vegetables, sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and parmesan. Top with nuts or seeds and serve warm or at room temperature. Use your imagination to add other ingredients like pine nuts, roasted peppers, sauteed mushrooms, etc.

Bulgur with roasted vegetables and feta
                                                                            ©Kate Jerome 2019

Triage or Rescue Cooking

So what do you do when you have too many vegetables? Whether you have a CSA membership that provides a box every week with more than you can possibly eat. Or your garden is providing a plethora of tasty produce that is inundating your fridge. Or friends offer extras from their own gardens. How do you avoid wasting?

My answer is to roast! Whenever I have loads of extra chard, mushrooms, leeks, onions, zucchini and eggplant, instead of succumbing to feeling overwhelmed, I toss them all into a roasting pan.

Red and yellow tomatoes, onions and garlic

Make delicious soup

It is amazing how combining roasted vegetables of all types with plenty of onions and garlic turns them into savory creations. I like to roast until everything is quite soft and then purée with a little stock if necessary. Freeze the pureed vegetables to use later as a soup base or pasta sauce. Or, to make a hearty one-dish meal immediately, add some evaporated or coconut milk, chopped sauteed vegetables of choice, cooked beans and/or cooked grains or pasta. A great result of this process is that the sauce never quite tastes the same.

A sauce made of mostly tomatoes is great for traditional pasta sauce. Sauce with spicy chiles added makes a good base for chili.

It’s easy to adjust seasonings according to your tastes. Add basil and oregano for an Italian twist; add cumin and chili powder for Mexican; add marjoram, a hint of cayenne and basil for Mediterranean.

Here’s a recipe, but be prepared to change and adapt according to whatever vegetables you have on hand.

Tomato Glut Sauce

Film a large roasting pan with olive oil and cut up about six pounds of tomatoes – this is a great time to use those that have blemishes or splits because you can simply cut that part away. Chop and add one or two cups of whatever vegetables are coming in at the time such as onions, carrots, zucchini and Swiss chard.

If you plan to use a food mill, you don’t have to take out tomato cores. If you plan to use a food processor, core the tomatoes before cooking. You can also blanch and peel and/or seed the tomatoes if that’s your taste. Throw in several cloves of garlic, some sprigs of fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley. Splash with balsamic vinegar and roast for about an hour. The sauce will cook down and lose a good bit of moisture, and the vegetables will start to caramelize. Run through a food mill, salt and pepper to taste, and use immediately or freeze.

Or to be more specific:

6 lbs. tomatoes, cored and quartered (if you don’t have tomatoes, you can use canned pureed tomatoes)
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped carrots
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped celery
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped onion
9 cloves garlic, chopped
6 T balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 ½ T fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley
1 ½ t. salt
1 T. pepper

Roast 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Process briefly to leave slightly chunky, freeze. Makes 2 quarts. You can use any combination of vegetables and herbs – each batch of sauce comes out a little different.

Roots!

Purple Haze carrots

It seems that when we are sequestered indoors, our bodies yearn for warmth, both internally and externally. We naturally crave those earthy flavors of root vegetables such as carrots, beets, parsnips and even rutabagas. So, plan a visit to the winter farmers’ market or raid your own root cellar for any combination of delectable root vegetables. Cook up your roots into a rich soup (with the added sweetness of a butternut squash), dish up a bowl, cut a slice of rustic bread, and pull your chair up next to the fire.

Start planting roots crops

It’s time to start planting root crops. They are perhaps the easiest of vegetables to grow. Cool season crops, they bracket the garden season or can be planted multiple times for yield all season long. You can put the seeds into the garden as early as possible. The seeds will not be harmed even by heavy frost, so as soon as the thaw starts, get them out there. If your garden is prepared, you can even cast the seeds on the snow to get the earliest start as soon as they hit the soil.

Purple Haze carrots

Don’t forget fall planting

At the other end of the season, start planning the fall crop in July. Carrots and beets go in around the middle of the month, turnips the first week.

Easy to grow

Root crops grow well in any spot in the garden that receives six to eight hours of sun. The most critical element to healthy growth is preparing the soil deeply to have good tilth, with nothing to impede the growth of the roots. We’ve all seen carrots with forked roots – this usually is due to the tender root hitting something it cannot grow through so it moves off at an angle. The soil should be of average fertility and the plants should be mulched to keep the soil moisture even.

Chioggia beets

Plant frequently

Planting every two or three weeks will keep you in carrots and beets all season. My favorite beet is Chioggia, an Italian beet that is creamy white or pink with dark rings. The best feature is that these beets will stay tender all season, not becoming woody as some beets do when left in the ground.

Spiralized Chioggia beets

And now for the soup: 

Winter Root Vegetable Soup

Root vegetable soup

You really can use any combination of vegetables. Vary the flavors with different combinations and add herbs to give you further nuances of flavor. This soup is creamy, savory and slightly sweet, an amazing comfort on a cold winter evening. 

Use one cup of vegetables for each serving. This recipe serves  6-8 although you can cut it half easily. It also freezes well. 

Beets, carrots and parsnips ready for roasting

6-8 cups root vegetables (any combination of carrot, beet, parsnip, rutabaga, turnip, salsify, celery root, sweet potato, butternut squash) cut into ½ inch pieces

2 cloves garlic

¼ c. olive oil

1-2 t. salt as needed

¼ – ½ t. fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

1 small sweet onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

½ t. dried or 1 T. fresh herbs of choice – basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a low-sided broiler or jellyroll pan, place vegetables and drizzle with about two tablespoons of olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until all vegetables are tender when pierced. Sprinkle with salt immediately upon removing from the oven. 

Roasted vegetables ready to puree

While vegetables are roasting, in a large pot over medium heat, saute onions and celery in the remaining olive oil, stirring until the onions are translucent. Add pepper, herbs and stock. Bring to a simmer. Stir in roasted vegetables and heat through. Puree with an immersion blender or in small batches in a food processor or blender. If soup is too thick, thin with water, more broth, or creamy it up with half and half or coconut milk. 

Ladle into bowls, grate fresh pepper on top and drizzle with fruity olive oil. Serve with crusty, rustic bread and a crisp cabbage salad.