Monday, November 4, 2013

12 Weeks of Winter Squash: Autumn Vegetable Soup with Sausage and Green Lentils

I'm not the biggest fan of cold weather, but one thing I always look forward to as autumn and winter approach is soup season. In conjunction with that, I also love the time of year when winter squash is prevalent. In celebration of this joyful season, I'm taking part in a food blog phenomenon in honor of these lovely veggies: 12 Weeks of Winter Squash.

For the next 12 weeks, participants of various blogs will be sharing some of their favorite recipes using a variety of winter squashes. We will be linking up our recipes every Monday at the bottom of our posts. Anyone is welcome to join and link up their favorite winter squash recipes. I'm not sure yet if I will be participating weekly or just occasionally, but either way it's sure to be a delicious season for winter squash!

My first recipe for 12 Weeks of Winter Squash actually does not use winter squash as the main ingredient. It's one of many ingredients in this deliciously complex soup. I have to say straight off that I have been drooling over this recipe since early this summer when I received a review copy of Flour, Too. I was waiting for fall so I could have an excuse to make this incredible soup.

At first glance, the laundry list of ingredients can seem daunting. You will definitely have to hit up the grocery store or farmers' market for this one. It features a variety of vegetables including butternut squash (my winter squash of choice for the week), carrot, parsnip, turnip, potato, leek, and more. It also includes a beautiful blend of spices that really elevates this otherwise humble soup.

I used turkey sausage instead of pork sausage just to lighten it up a bit. The soup is considerably healthy once you make that adjustment (I calculated about 214 calories and 4 grams of fat for each of 8 servings). Any changes I made to the recipe are noted in italics next to the original ingredients. My soup resulted in more than the 3 1/2 quarts that the recipe is supposed to yield. I'd estimate it was more like 4 1/2 quarts and would heartily serve 8 to 10 people.

This soup is easily one of the best soups I've ever made. Hands down. Between the myriad of colorful vegetables and the intensely seasoned broth, it's truly an outstanding example of why autumn is one of my favorite seasons. It took several months before I could whip together this gorgeous soup, but I can honestly say it was worth the wait. I already made another pot as soon as the first one finished!

Please check out the other contributions for the first week of 12 Weeks of Winter Squash below!

Autumn Vegetable Soup with Sausage and Green Lentils
Makes about 3 1/2 quarts / Serves 6 to 8 (realistically I'd say it could serve 8 to 10--mine probably made about 4 1/2 quarts)
(From Flour, Too)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz/225 g sweet Italian sausage (I used sweet turkey sausage)
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a red onion)
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1 tablespoon
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, finely chopped or ground (I omitted this)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (I used Madras curry powder)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large leek, white and tender green parts, well rinsed and chopped
7 or 8 button mushrooms, wiped clean and halved (I used cremini mushrooms)
1 small turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used almost 1/2 a small butternut squash)
2 quarts vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
1 cup/130 g canned "no salt added" crushed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup/135 g green lentils, rinsed
2 cups/85 g packed chopped winter greens, such as escarole, kale, or Swiss chard

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven (I used my 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven and it was the perfect size), heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Split the casing on each sausage, break up the meat into large pieces, and add the pieces to the pot. Stir with a wooden spoon, breaking up the meat into smaller pieces, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meat is mostly cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery to the stockpot and stir over medium-high heat with a wooden spoon for a few minutes, scraping up the browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. This residue is called the fond and it will add lots of flavor to your soup (even if you can't scrape all of it up at this point, you will be able to loosen it up later when you add the stock). When all of the fond has been scraped from the bottom, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the tomato paste and the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir to combine. Add the bay leaves and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are thoroughly coated with the tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low. Add the paprika, thyme, turmeric, oregano, cumin, fennel seeds, curry powder, and cinnamon and stir for 3 to 4 minutes to toast the spices.

Add the reserved sausage and stir until evenly coated with the spice mixture. Raise the heat to medium; add the potato, parsnip, leek, mushrooms, turnip, and squash; and cook, stirring for a few minutes. Add the stock and tomatoes and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the pepper. Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the lentils and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (mine only needed about 35 minutes). Add the winter greens and stir well, Let the soup simmer for 1 minute, or until the escarole is cooked. The soup should be thick and stewy. Fish out the bay leaves and discard. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately. The soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.


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