Seasonal Flavors: Three October Soups

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by Elena Day

Cool evenings and colder nights, and oranges, reds and yellows on our mountains, hills and, finally, valleys are October’s gifts. Comfort food is again “on” order and it is appropriate that it be of an orange hue since October is the month of pumpkins, winter squash and sweet potatoes.

The first recipe is quick, easy and satisfying. Use a pot with a well-fitting lid or use a Dutch oven. (The latter is the best thing I inherited from my mother-in-law and it’s cast iron as well, which makes it even better.)

Beef Stew

Saute one or more large onions in 1 Tbsp of butter melted into 1 Tbsp of oil, until almost translucent. Add a couple of peppercorns and a pinch of celery seed. Salt gently (or liberally, according to taste).

Dredge 1 lb of stew meat chunks in flour.  Add this to the onions and brown gently.

Add  a can or bottle of beer and cover tightly.

Cook on low for ½ to ¾ hour.

Add chunks of potatoes and carrots and cook for another ½ to ¾ hour.

Curried Squash, Sweet Potato & Apple Soup

1 butternut squash
2 medium to large sweet potatoes
3 cups chopped apples
2 medium onions chopped
2 ½ cups water (or thereabouts)
1  to 1 ½ cups orange or apple juice
4 Tbsp of butter
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp dried mustard
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
¼ to ½ tsp of cayenne (or to taste)

Bake squash that has been split lengthwise (seeds have been scooped out) face down in 400 degree oven until soft. Cool and scoop out insides.

Bake sweet potatoes at same time until soft.  Cool and peel off skin.

Melt butter in oil. Add garlic, onions, salt  and all the spices. When the onion is almost translucent, add the chopped apples and cook 10 minutes  or until apples are soft. Add a very small amount of water or some lemon juice to prevent sticking if necessary.

Put sweet potatoes and squash and orange or apple juice and water in blender, a little at a time and  puree. Add ¾ of  the sautéed apple mix to blender as you puree the last amounts of squash and sweet potatoes.

In a large pot, heat the apple-squash-sweet potato combination and the remainder of the sautéed apples gently. Be sure to scrape out the leavings of the sauté pan into your soup.

Serve  hot topped with yogurt and chopped toasted (or untoasted) almonds.

If you want a simpler soup (and  it can be of an orange hue to celebrate October), try the following.

Lentil Soup

1 cup dried lentils (orange lentils are available if you choose)
4 cups water
1 large onion chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
4 carrots sliced
1 ½ cup plain tomato sauce or puree
2 cloves garlic chopped or pressed
¼  cup chopped parsley
½ tsp thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic in 1 to 2 tbsps olive oil. Add carrots and thyme once onions are almost translucent. Add lentils after 3-4 minutes and give them a quick stir.  Add water, tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste,  Cook over low heat, cover with a tight-fitting lid for about 3/4 hour. Check soup to see if lentils are soft. Simmer gently to achieve consistency you prefer. Add chopped parsley and adjust seasonings. You can serve  the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese with some crusty bread alongside.