Roasted root vegetable soup
A few weeks ago, mid-April, we had snow on Friday--nothing that accumulated, just big, wet, sloppy flakes that were nevertheless beautiful. Perfect soup weather. The next day was bright with sunshine, a balmy breeze and temperatures edging to the upper 60s. Colorado weather is nothing if not predictably unpredictable.
What is predictable around here? This soup can be, for one thing. With its base of hearty roasted root vegetables, it's a comforting concoction that may not seem to be seasonal to spring, but is rather evergreen. More so, it complements temperamental spring weather and soothes those hints of coming colds from waves of chill. It's fairly hands-off, especially if you can take advantage of an immersion blender, and it's easy to customize--which is wonderful, because as we discovered when enjoying it for the second time, Chef F has a decided dislike for it when there is a distinct altered flavor that comes from one additional parsnip. Go ahead and play with what's in the fridge--butternut squash, zucchini, turnip. As long as the tomatoes, red pepper, and sweet potato are in there, you're pretty much good to go. With both sweet and savory notes, this plant-based creamy soup doubles easily as pasta sauce.
This past weekend, I thought about our recent snowy days, and this soup, despite toasty temps serving as somewhat smug reminder of just how short-lived spring can be. Dave was out for a long bike ride, and Chef F and I piled a bunch of stuffies and some food into backpacks and rode down the street to a local park for a "tea party" picnic. We threw his soft frisbee, clambered over the climbing frame, and chased each other around the grass and wood chips. At regular intervals, we'd flop onto towels laid out on the grass, eat watermelon, and look up at the clouds. It was one of those Christopher Robin and Pooh kind of mornings, simple and sweet and unforgettable in their playful poignancy.
During one of those breaks, we looked up and could have sworn it was snowing. If it weren't for the cheery cottony cumulus clouds--if the clear blue sky had been washed out white or gray--you could have convinced me that all the gently floating dandelion tufts were snowflakes. Chef F marveled. I marveled. I also focused on swallowing a triggered allergic response, quite literally. This is actually a good soup day, too, I thought, thinking allergies. As if he read my thoughts, Felix brought up soup, but not in the same way.
"Mommy, 'voice' Big Monk," Chef F commanded. "Say, how did Felix get so strong and fast?" I did as I was told, as I tend to do with my sometimes bossy sweetheart, and was rewarded with a loving lecture directed at Big Monk, longtime bud. "I'm fast and strong because I eat lots of vegetables," F said. "If you want to grow strong, you have to eat lots of vegetables, Big Monk. You have to exercise. And...you have to eat. Soup."
The impact of that final statement was not lost on me. It was awfully revealing. First of all, my heart is full with the knowledge that, for now, my little boy takes on board and is proud of the connections between vegetables, healthy eating habits, and healthy growth. Second, I will give my self a tender little pat on the back over the fact that Chef F, who has shared in cooking regularly since he was about ten months old, knows that good things go into our soups. Another thing, clearly our dear boy does not actually like soup all that much. Yet he is willing to eat it, because it is good for him. In some cases, like this one (or miso or tomato), he will ask for it and I daresay truly enjoy it.
And finally--though it isn't quite in line with the other conclusions--it certainly isn't lost on me how lucky I am to still share in the odd tea party, engaging so openly with each other and with stuffies. The opportunities are numbered, I am too aware. Precious days. Soup for the soul indeed.
Roasted root vegetable soup
- 2 red peppers
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 large parsnip
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- good shake of Italian herb blend (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups water
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Chop the peppers, carrots, and parsnip and place on a prepared baking sheet. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes, turning midway.
- Heat a large stock pot coated with cooking spray to medium. Add garlic, onion and seasonings and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes, until garlic begins to brown on edges.
- Add roasted vegetables, stock and water. Simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and puree in batches or with an immersion blender. Add chickpeas and stir to heat through.