Let's talk about food: The virtues of root vegetable soup


Until I was responsible for another human life, I wasn’t very thoughtful or even conscious about the food I ate. I almost never cooked, not knowing the first thing about it. When my son was born, I became much more aware of the importance of a balanced, healthy diet. I began to learn how to shop for and prepare delicious, wholesome meals. 

I first made root vegetable soup in the winter of 2013. I know this because it was remarkable enough for me to photograph it and post it on social media. I had more time then. The only soup in my house for a long time has been in a carton or a can, so my family was a little surprised when I said I was going to make soup. I selected root vegetables — turnips, daikon radishes, parsnips, carrots, onions, a couple sweet potatoes and a butternut squash.

It is a little tedious, peeling all the vegetables, and difficult to cut and peel the squash. But other than that, making the soup is a simple process. After cutting up the vegetables, toss them in olive oil, spread them on a sheet pan (parchment paper saves cleaning time) and roast in the oven at 475 degrees for about 25 minutes, until they caramelize and become brown. 

I roast the garlic, too, cutting off the ends of the bulbs so it can be squeezed out. I put a few cloves in the soup and save the rest to spread on crusty French bread. This is one of my favorite ways to eat garlic, a food known to be a powerful antioxidant and with immune supporting properties.

We were vegetarian when I first made this soup, and I simmered the roasted vegetables in vegetable broth. This time I used chicken broth. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough back then or a good enough cook to sustain that habit for long. The soup is vegan if you leave it at this point. While an immersion blender would be a great addition to my kitchen, I used my blender. Salt and pepper alone are enough to season the soup, but I added a bit of rosemary, too.

Because I recently discovered the wonders of fresh cream, whipping it up and serving it with last summer’s strawberries, I added some at the end. The soup is delicious without it, but I like the dimension the cream brings. Half and half would reduce the fat and calories.

Any vegetables could work in this soup. I might omit the sweet potatoes next time, and perhaps add peppers or tomatoes. I saw a recipe that used eggplant. Using less broth, this would be more like a stew and could be served over rice. I was thinking that white beans might be a good addition.

To be honest, my teenager suffered through this meal. He claimed not to remember liking it so many years ago. Of course, this is a kid who would likely live on ramen with Spam if left to his own devices. My husband said it was good, but he’s easy and always appreciates it when I cook. This soup tastes healthy to me, in a good way.

Just in case you find my slant the last couple of weeks too virtuous, know that, balance being essential in all things, I’ll review cheeseburgers next week.

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