If someone asked me, "Do you like soup?" my answer would probably be a meh-ish, noncommittal shrug. (I don't know why someone would ask me...Read More
Persian-Spiced Winter Vegetable Soup
A few thoughts on soup…
1. I’m still on my soup-for-breakfast kick and since it’s lasted more than 18 months, I don’t think it can be called a “kick” anymore. It’s now a “thing.” That’s an important distinction.
2. I’ve become a bone broth-making machine, and using bone broth in soups and stews not only improves the flavor immensely, it also means they’re loaded with nutrients. I encourage you to get in the habit of making your own broth when you can, and I’ll be sharing my bone broth method soon. I just need to make one more batch to make sure it’s right.
3. A bowl of soup is a really excellent way to sneak more vegetables into your day. I load up my plate with veggies, and then I’m, like, “Bonus! There are extra veggies in my soup!” and I feel all smug and accomplished for the rest of the day. I’ve also been known to sip on a mug of Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup while I make my main meal because I’m notorious for waiting to long to start cooking. (There! The ugly secret is out! Sometimes I’m a procrastinator.)
4. One of the ways to make soup more fun is top top it with garnishes. I’ve yet to eat a bowl of soup that wasn’t improved by dropping a 1/2 teaspoon of ghee and some freshly-ground pepper on top, but you can get more exotic and fancy, if the spirit moves you. I’ve listed lots of garnish ideas for this soup below. One of them is inspired by a soup we ate in Prague during one of the most unusual meals I’ve ever eaten. We dined at La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, a Michelin-starred restaurant that’s widely acknowledged as the best restaurant in the Czech Republic. Between us friends, it was a little fussy and pretentious for me. The wait staff was wonderfully attentive and the food was both creative and delicious, but they all took themselves so seriously. I think food is fun; they, clearly, see food as Art. They’re correct in their assessment of their food; it was artistic and beautiful and challenging. But would it kill them to enjoy it, too? We certainly did! We ate little, perfectly round, roasted potatoes rolled in ash (to imitate the old-fashioned way of cooking potatoes in the ashes of a fire). Another course was garlicky, plump escargot. Our favorite was a satiny smooth pumpkin soup that was listed on the menu as served with “pork cracklins.” You know I love a crispy pork rind, so I was all about it. But those sneaky chefs at La Degustation tricked us in the best way possible. The “pork cracklins” appeared in the form of whipped cream infused with the flavor of bacon. We stirred the rich, bacon-y cream into the pumpkin soup and nearly passed out from the heaven of it all. So… I recommend you try the Coconut Whipped Cream garnish listed below sometime; it might change your life.
Thoughts on this recipe…
This soup is assertively spiced, so prepare your tastebuds. The sweetness of the butternut squash and tomato paste are amped up with exotic spices, and just a few potatoes give it a velvety texture. The paprika+cumin+cinnamon packs a little bit of a punch, and you can adjust the heat by changing the amount of Aleppo pepper you use. I love spicy foods for breakfast, but not everyone does, so you’ve been warned.
Because this soup has a tomato base, it will taste even better on Day 2 and 3 than it does on Day 1, so you might want to plan ahead. I’ve also noticed that the spices mellow out over time, becoming less sharp and more warm. (Food writing is so weird.) This recipe makes a fairly large batch, and you can freeze/defrost this soup well, so don’t be afraid of the quantity.
Persian-Spiced Winter Vegetable Soup
Serves 10-12 | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 90 minutes | Whole30 compliant
2 tablespoons ghee or other cooking fat
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into 1-inch cubes
2 medium onions, coarsely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground paprika
1/2 to 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes), depending on how spicy you like your life
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
6 cups broth (any flavor)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 small clove garlic
2 tablespoons shelled pistachios
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add fat and allow it to melt, then toss in the butternut squash, onions, garlic, and potatoes. Stir to coat the veggies with the fat and cook, without browning, until the vegetables are beginning to soften and look golden, about 20-30 minutes. You don’t want anything to get brown, so keep an eye on the heat. This is not one of my “crank it up and let it go” recipes. This smells wonderful, so enjoy!
Add the cumin, paprika, Aleppo pepper, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper to the pot. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add the broth to the pot and stir to combine, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Simmer, covered, until squash is tender when poked with a fork, about 20-30 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, prepare the pistachio-parsley pesto. Purée all the ingredients — with a blender, food processor, or stick blender — until very smooth. Set aside. (See below for additional, delicious garnishes.)
When the soup is done, purée it carefully with a stick blender, blender, or food processor; work in batches, if necessary. When it’s smooth, taste and adjust seasonings. You can add water or broth, 1/4 cup at a time, if it’s too thick. Serve in a pretty bowl and top with your favorite garnishes.
Tasty Garnish Ideas
This soup is delicious just the way it is, but if you add a garnish or two, it turns into something really special. Just add a touch of any or all (!) of these on top. In the photo above, I used Pistachio-Parsley Pesto and Onion-Raisin Relish, but all of the options listed here are delicious and 100% guaranteed to fight food boredom.
Onion-Raisin Relish: Stir-fry half of a onion in 1 tablespoon cooking fat with 1-2 tablespoons raisins until the raisins are soft, and the onion is browned and crisp.
Whipped Coconut Cream: Refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight; Thai Kitchen works really well. When the coconut milk is cold, flip the can upside down and open the bottom with a can opener. Pour off any liquid that’s separated and scoop the thickened coconut milk into the bowl of mixer. Whip on your mixer’s highest setting until the milk is fluffy and has taken on the texture of whipped cream, about 5-7 minutes. (This would be really nice sprinkled with crushed pistachios.)
Herbs: Minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or both with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil or a dollop of ghee.
Meat (to make it a meal): Browned ground lamb seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic; or roasted/grilled chicken.
Eggs: A perfect fried egg cooked in ghee — or a few chopped hard-boiled eggs.
Coconut: Caramelized Coconut Chips
These are all great any time of day, are 100% paleo, and are Whole30 approved. Grab a spoon!