How to Improvise with Soup: Celery Root Bisque & Curried Butternut Squash Soup

When we were searching for a topic for our very first article, soup immediately came to mind. Nothing is more satisfying to invent, prepare, eat, and share than a beautiful soup. It can be complex, with flavors layered in a variety of ways, or it can be simple, with just a few ingredients, and finished with a dash of this or that. It can be rustic in appearance or pureed and strained until it appears to be “satin in a bowl,” then garnished ever so delicately with chopped herbs, citrus zest, finely diced vegetables, or a splash of cream or extraordinary olive oil. Endless possibilities and creative fulfillment await you.

Lately, Kathy has enjoyed starting a soup with big chunks of vegetables and a handful of fresh herbs and bringing it all to a simmer. When everything is completely soft and well cooked, she purees the whole thing, adds some diced fresh vegetables, and then simmers it for a short while. The result is a rich base, with the added vegetables maintaining some texture and freshness.

Suggestions for Ingredients
Some pureed soups to try are curried potato and spinach, creamy leek, spiced parsnip, and tomato basil.

Starting with vegetable stock, you can create your own personal combinations. Here are some suggestions:
• Green beans, squash, a bit of sweet red pepper, coconut milk, fresh coriander garnish, and a squeeze of lime
• Cauliflower with winter greens, nutmeg, and a bit of milk or cream
• Carrots with sweet potato, orange juice, and fresh ground pepper

Everything But the Kitchen Sink
Soup is a great way to use up odds and ends left over from other recipes. Chop and add to the Celery Root Bisque below or, if you are really in hurry, start with a good organic vegetable bouillon, add herbs, and a bit of butter or ghee (clarified butter).

The Final Touch
Please don’t underestimate the power of garnishing—it’s always fun and appreciated. Try some minced herbs, a sprinkle of citrus, a dusting of zest, a dash of olive oil, a swirl of butter, a pinch of artisan salt, a grind of pepper . . . or any combination of these. The result may very well be pure bliss.

Celery Root Bisque
(serves 4-6)
This soup stands beautifully on its own.  However, adding a variety of diced vegetables cooked gently before adding the cream yields a whole different soup. Experiment!

2 lbs. celery root, peeled and cubed
3 celery stalks, chopped
3-4 shallots, chopped
3-4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Saute the vegetables in butter (this will be rich and delicious) or, for simplicity’s sake, you can throw it all in a pot with about 8 cups of water, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and cook until everything is soft, about 30 minutes.

Using a hand (immersion) blender, puree it all carefully.

Stir in cream and reheat over very low heat. Stir in lemon juice.

This is delicious finished with a drizzle of brown butter: cook 2 tablespoons of butter in skillet over moderate heat, swirling skillet, until browned, about 2 minutes.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
(serves 4-6)
This is one of Pam’s favorites, which uses produce of the season.
2 cups finely chopped onion (or 1-1/2
   cups chopped celery and 1/2 tsp. asafoetida)
4 Tbsp. butter
4-5 tsp. curry powder
3 lbs. butternut squash, about 2
   medium, peeled and chopped
1-2 carrots. peeled and chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup organic apple juice
Shredded apple for garnish, optional

Melt butter in a pot. Add the onion and  curry powder, and saute about 20 minutes until soft. Meanwhile, peel and chop squash, carrots, and apples. Add these and vegetable broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all are very tender, about 25 minutes. Pour soup through a strainer, and reserve liquid.

Puree the solids with 1 cup reserved liquid. Return to pot and add 1 cup apple juice and enough reserved liquid to desired consistency. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Adjust curry if necessary. Heat through. Serve garnished with shredded apple. Enjoy!

Soup is a wonderful winter comfort food: warm, healthy, and nourishing for body and spirit. Add a salad and crusty bread, and you have a feast.