Tuesday, October 11, 2005

All Things Orange Soup

When I first lived in France, a friend of mine lived with an extraordinary woman who had agreed to look after the one-year child of a niece, even though that woman worked full-time as a legal clerk. I was only the friend of the subletter, so I couldn't say how the arrangement worked out for the child; all I know is that the woman (the landlady of my friend, if you work it back) come home from work every evening and made a vegetable puree for the next days' meals of her niece.

We Americans who witnessed this sheer babacool dedication were very impressed and aspired to attaining similar oh-well-it's-mushed-vegetables je-ne-sais-quoi while impressing upon our Raman-raised friends our cultural superiority.

You know what? It's easy. Click through.

All things orange soup is a derivative of many fall squash soups. My version tends towards the Californian Fusion school, with a heady touch of let's-go-for-it.

The main ingredients

one butternut squash
1-2 carrots
1 sweet potato or 2 golden potatoes
1-2 onions

Peel and dice into 2 inch cubes or squares or what have you. (If you boil them enough, the shape won't matter.)

Cover them with water. If you're feeling sassy, add a bouillion cube or two, according to the vegetarianism of your household. I assure you, though, that the resulting soup can be interesting enough without bouillion. If you haven't made soup from scratch before, when I say "cover'em," I mean fill the pot up with water until the chopped-up vegetables are submerged. And if you fall within the category of people who need this explanation, can I forgiven for thinking that there is a world of exciting, cheap recipes in store for you?

Here's for the spices. Make a sachet d'epices (i.e., wrap in muslin and close with a rubber band) out of: two thumbs' worth of peeled and cubed ginger, two bay leaves, a teaspoonsworth of seasalt, a tablespoonsworth of fines herbes, a teaspoonthworth of cardamon, maybe a pinchesworth of red pepper flakes and curry powder. As always, after the vegetables have boiled into softness, lift out the sachet. (If you're laughing at my use of muslin, laugh into a void, yo! I bought a standard length of ktichen muslin about four years ago, and I've been making bitchin' soups and stews--with no tooth-pickin' required--ever since!)

Then mash and mash again your soup. If you're serving to company, maybe puree that sucker, and maybe add a dollop or two of creme fraiche to the mix. I've also been known to chug a quarter-cupsworth of orange juice into All-Things-Orange Soup at this final stage, but I would warn amateurs not to attempt any cream-based product other than creme fraiche with this move. Creme fraiche blends and cooks much more predictably than do most cream products. (In general, you want to add your creme fraiche right before serving. The creme's tastier absolutely fresh, and the rest of your soup will stay freshier without all that dairy to weight it down.)

In any event, you want to eat this soup with fresh basil and a sharp white cheese (I'm thinking Pecorino or Parmesian, although a sharp cheddar could also be exciting) added at the last minute. Oh, and freshly ground black pepper.

I serve it with a green salad, and I look for, usually in vain, white wines from Bourgogne, the Loire, or reasonably priced Puilly-Fume to serve it with. Usually I settle for a cheap Pinot Grigio. (I swear to all Gods that a Chardonney will probably taste nasty with this recipe, and if you insist on Zinfandels, do at least wait until the eating is over.)


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