Column: What’s in Your CSA box?
This month, I’d like to talk about soups. I know I’ve talked about stew before — the heartier, thicker older brother of soup — but now I’d like to give soups their due.
Recently, I have been craving soup more and more. I think that the key to soup as a meal is making sure that it’s interesting, hits a few tastes and has good accompaniments. January is a good time for soup, both because the chilly temperatures call for a hot meal, and because most of the vegetables that can still be found fresh locally lend themselves to being simmered in broth. When I make soup, I rarely use a recipe. More often than not, I need something quick, and what’s in the kitchen is what I have to work with. So instead, I just follow a few basic steps.
When making soup, I usually start by sautéing some garlic and onions in oil in the bottom of the pot. Doing this helps to add more depth to the soup. After they look nice and tender, I’ll add the broth or water with bouillon. (If I have the time during the summer, I’ll make pots of vegetable stock with the ends and bits of veggies I have, and freeze it for the winter. It’s great use for the carrot tops and potato skins from your CSA box.) Then it’s a matter of adding what I have around, and what seems good to me that night.
Root veggies — still prolific at farmers markets this time of year — are great additions, and usually make up the majority of my soup. Because they’re in season, they lend better flavor to the soup. I also often add some greens for variety and texture. The ones available now, kale, Asian greens and mache, are hardy by nature; they’d have to be, to make it in these temperatures. It follows that they do great cooked in hot soup. Some herbs and a can of beans for protein top it off.
Now comes my real secret. After I’ve made my soup and served it, I keep a couple things handy to add a little spice. I’ve found that a small glug of apple cider vinegar is a great addition to lentil or any other bean soup. Sauerkraut and kimchi — the spicier relative to sauerkraut — on top add extra flavor and good texture, for those of you who share my opinion that soup doesn’t always have enough of that. They can often be found at farmers markets or you can make your own with a local cabbage.
Catherine McCosker is the farm and CSA manager at The Well School in Peterborough.