Understanding the basic fundamentals that go into a delicious vegetable soup start here! Rather than provide a specific recipe – what we’d like to do is provide a basic explanation for how to think about creating a warm plant-based soup that can be applied to any type of vegetable soup.
Onion pairs well with virtually any vegetable in a soup. A soup without onion is kind of like baby food. It tastes OK but lacks complexity and balance. For a vegetable soup, use equal parts onion along with the main vegetable. In this case, we are using winter squash.
Ingredients Seasoning to fit:
Seasoning a dish is not an exact science. The amount of cumin one person likes is likely different from another, but this method will get you to a balanced result. The amount of seasoning used depends on how much volume you have in the pot or envision having in the pot. Think of the pot as being divided into layers. One layer is what it would look like if you spooned it out on a plate. Using salt as an example, pinch some in your fingers. One zig zag distribution pass over the pot is equal to one layer. So if you think you have 5 layers that’s 5 passes over the pot. Taste after it simmers for 10 minutes. If the flavors feel unbalanced or not intense enough try another pass of salt and taste again. This method of seasoning does require some trial and error, so start with a conservative amount and add more if you think it is needed.
1 white onion
4 cloves garlic
1″ knob ginger
any dry herb/spice, ex: crushed red pepper, cumin, oregano, etc.
cooking liquid, ex: water or vegetable stock
- Cut the onion and the squash into large chunks.
- Slowly saute the onion and the squash in olive oil to build the flavor as the vegetables caramelize. Do this slowly to avoid them getting too brown and changing the color of the final soup. It’s worth the time to focus on this step, before adding the cooking liquid (e.g. water, vegetable stock, etc) as it has a meaningful impact on the final dish.
- Add fresh, non-leafy spices such as garlic or ginger so they too can caramelize and distribute their flavors throughout the soup. The amount is up to you, but in general, I will add at least 4 cloves of garlic and for ginger, a 1″ knobgrated or chopped super fine.
- Add any dry herb/spice you might be using to fit the size of the dish (e.g. crushed red pepper, cumin, oregano, etc.). See the explanation at the beginning for seasoning “to fit”. Adding dry herbs and spices early in the cooking process with the oil allows them to bond to the vegetables and transports the flavor throughout the soup. If the dry herbs and spices are added after the cooking liquid is added they will float, not bond to the vegetables, and result in a grassy flavor and a gritty texture which is not pleasant.
- Add the cooking liquid. The amount is up to you based on the desired amount and substance of the soup.
- Now that the amount of soup and substance is established, it’s time to add salt. Salt is a critical element as it transforms the dish by bringing out the flavors of vegetables and balances the flavors of the herbs and spices. I add salt to fit the size of the dish as opposed to specific measures. Above is a description of how to season a dish “to fit” the size.
- Once the salt is added, cook/simmer the soup for at least 10 minutes to allow all the flavors to come together, but also long enough for the vegetables to get very soft before pureeing.
- To puree, use an immersion blender in the pot or transfer the soup contents to a blender. If using a blender make sure the lid is vented so steam can escape as it blends. Without it, there is a risk the top will pop off with the increased pressure splattering hot liquid on you.
- After pureeing, fold in fresh herbs or leafy greens and serve. I add the fresh herbs after I’ve pureed the soup, as they will change the color of the soup making it look muddy when blended in.