above: soup without half and half
If you’re a soup cookbook writer, you probably love soup. I love soup. I’m seldom happier than when I’m heating up a kettle while chopping a big pile of vegetables. Perhaps I’m happier at the table with a hot bowl and a cold class of wine or driving home knowing there’s a big pot of soup in the fridge making me feel rich. I don’t know.
above: Vegetable soup was a puréed delight at a street cafe in Dubrovnik, Croatia last month
Coming up with a new soup happens in one of many different ways. Maybe there’s something on sale I drag home or someone somewhere has a special dietary need. I might be watching my weight. Perhaps someone leaves garden bounty on my front porch. Could be my sister’s in town and I’m cooking for her. More than once a freezer’s had to be cleaned out and some meat has to be cooked. Whatever happens, however it happens, a big pot of goodness somehow takes shape and comes to the bowl making us happy, healthy, and wondering where it came from. It’s a gift. That’s for sure.
above: my Guacamole Soup with Grilled Shrimp from the soup book–made for my sister’s visit
Come fall, I’m nuts about winter squash. I’m always looking for something to do with it. Something new. Or old again. I also have a heart for wild rice–which is not really rice, but a water-grown grass– having lived in Minnesota. Somehow, last week, needing a big pot of vegetarian soup for a church meeting (someone else was making a soup with meat), I kept thinking of butternut squash and I kept thinking of wild rice. I wasn’t sure how the two would come together, but I knew somehow it would work.
While this soup is naturally vegetarian and gluten-free for Meatless Mondays, it’s easily vegan (see notes to the sides of ingredients in recipe) or made with meat (cook’s notes.) Make it how you’d like. It’s good with or without half and half and, if you’d like a little smoother soup, purée a few cups and add them back into the broth at the end of the cooking time.
WILD RICE INFO:
Wild Rice is actually an acquatic grass and is the official state grain of Minnesota. Please buy Native-American grown, hand-harvested rice to support this important mid-west and Canadian industry. If it’s not available in your grocery, drive to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, or Canada and buy some! It’s worth the trip. Or ask your grocer to carry it. Why not? Otherwise, order on line.
What Native-American rice growers say…
“Manoomin, or wild rice is a gift given to the Anishinaabek from the Creator, and is a centerpiece of the nutrition and sustenance for our community. In the earliest of teachings of Anishinaabeg history, there is a reference to wild rice, known as the food which grows upon the water, the food, the ancestors were told to find, then we would know when to end our migration to the west. It is this profound and historic relationship which is remembered in the wild rice harvest on the White Earth and other reservations-a food which is uniquely ours, and a food, which is used in our daily lives, our ceremonies, and our thanksgiving feasts.” From www.saveourwildrice.com.
Wild rice is a nutritional bonanza:
Wild rice is also a great source of folate, manganese, zinc, and iron, which is great for gluten-free eaters and grain-free eaters who don’t get those nutrients in typical grains like oats, rye, wheat, and other types of grains like brown rice.
above: soup with half and half
BUTTERNUT SQUASH-WILD RICE SOUP
For a vegan soup, there are just two simple changes–see green notes in parentheses next to ingredients. For a soup with bacon or chicken, see Cook’s Notes at end of recipe. Please begin with a sharp knife, though the food processor could certainly be used for the onions, carrots, celery, parsley and fennel, if desired.
- 2 tablespoons salted butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil (Vegan: all olive oil)
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 3 carrots, trimmed and diced (scrub, but don’t peel–no need)
- 3 stalks celery stalks and leaves, diced
- 1 fennel bulb, cored and diced
- 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme, divided
- Handful chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup white wine (can sub water)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste (freeze remainder of a can of paste in a small bag for another use)
- 2 cups water–may need more
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 2/3 cup native, hand-harvested wild rice, washed well (flood and drain several times)
- 3 cups peeled, scooped out, and trimmed butternut squash, diced into 1/2-inch pieces*
- 1 cup half and half (Vegan: almond or rice milk), optional
- Hot sauce–a few drops as needed
- 1 cup toasted chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds for garnish
In a 10-12 quart stockpot, sauté until nearly tender the onions, carrots, celery, and fennel in the butter and olive oil (all olive oil for vegan version.) over medium flame. Stir often. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic, one teaspoon of the thyme, and parsley; cook another minute.
Add wine wine, stir very well, and let cook down two minutes. Stir tomato paste. Pour in water and broth; bring to a medium boil and stir in wild rice. Let cook 35 – 45 minutes or until the rice is nearly, but not totally tender, adding liquid if needed to ensure all ingredients are freely moving in the broth. Lower heat to a simmer and add butternut squash along with the other teaspoon of thyme; cook another 10-12 minutes or until both rice and butternut squash are quite tender. Do not overcook; the squash pieces should remain intact. If soup becomes too thick, you may need to add more broth or water as the squash cooks. Taste and adjust seasonings before adding half and half.
Stir in half and half or other milk, if using. Warm through, but do not boil. Taste and adjust seasonings again, adding a drop or two (or three) of hot sauce if needed. Serve hot garnished with toasted pecans.
*This is about how much you’ll get from a 1 1/2 pound squash, peeled, trimmed, seeded, and cut. You can often buy butternut squash peeled and chopped in larger grocery produce departments. If you’re butchering that sucker all alone, do yourself a favor and, after poking holes into it all over with a paring knife, microwave it for 5 minutes in a casserole dish before doing anything else. Let cool for 10 minutes, cut in half, peel using a knife, cut, scoop out seeds, cut more–much easier! (Click here for more info and video.) If you like , you can save the seeds and toast them for a snack or a topping.
COOK’S NOTES: Options: A couple of cups of shredded kale or similar green, added with the squash, would add vitamins, color, fibre, and texture to this soup. You could also add a can of drained, white beans (Northern or Cannellini–White Kidney) to increase the protein in the soup. Like a meat-flavored soup? Sauté 4 thick strips of bacon in place of the fat at the start of making the soup. Remove them when they’re really crispy, chop, and reserve for a garnish; cook the onions, etc. in the bacon fat. Have some leftover chicken? Stir in a cup or two of chopped, cooked chicken along with the half and half.
WINE: Pinot Noir from Oregon
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