Saturday, January 05, 2008

Go For the Bronze: Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup with Butternut Squash

I almost never make just a little soup. I usually make enough to feed us for a week. My husband calls this stockpile of soup "liquid gold." I was thinking about that as I made this week's soup, the color of which is more bronze than gold. No matter what the color, though, this soup is golden when it comes to its rounded, sweet and sour taste combined with the squash and cabbage.

The taste profile for this soup was influenced by a pumpkin and onion side dish I had recently. The ingredient choice was influenced by what I had in my fridge and pantry (a butternut squash leftover from my brief fling with Planet Organics and a beautiful Italian cabbage that seduced me with it's pale lavender-green leaves at the farmer's market. (To be honest, while the cabbage was fantastic in the soup, I should have saved it for a preparation that would have showed off its colors. Plain green cabbage or a savoy cabbage will work fine in the recipe.)

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup with Butternut Squash

Serves 8

2 tbs olive oil
1 cup of chopped onions
2 minced garlic cloves
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash (cut into about 1/2" cubes)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground dried thyme
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for later
4 cups good quality or homemade chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
Bay leaf
6 cups chopped green or savoy cabbage leaves
1 15 oz can tomatoes, chopped with juices (I used Italian San Marzano tomatoes)
2 tbs tomato paste
1-2 cups water
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs sugar

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until beginning to soften, add garlic and saute until just beginning to become golden. Add celery, carrots and squash and saute until squash cubes have begun to caramelize. Add red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme and black pepper and saute a minute or two until the seasonings' aromas are released.

Add stock and bay leaf. Cover pot, bring to a simmer and lower heat to keep soup simmering. Add cabbage. Simmer until cabbage has begun to soften. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well. Add 1 to 2 cups of water until soup is at desired thickness. Cover and simmer until vegetables are softened. Taste soup and add salt and more pepper to taste. Let simmer a bit until seasoning is incorporated, then add balsamic vinegar and sugar. Mix thoroughly, let simmer a minute or two and taste. If the soup should be sweeter, add a bit more sugar. If it needs more sour punch, add more vinegar. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Serve with optional topping (see below) if desired.

Polenta-Cheese Soup Crouton Rounds

Oil a baking tray. Slice a prepared polenta tube or log into 8 (or however many you need) 1/4" slices. Brush tops of slices with olive oil. Bake in a 350 degree oven until just toasted. Remove tray from oven. Set oven to broil. Sprinkle grated cheese over polenta rounds. Put under broiler (watching carefully) until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Float one on top of each bowl of soup, or serve on side.

Note: Use vegan cheese or skip cheese entirely for vegan option.


Scott at Real Epicurean said...

This looks very cool. Nice and rustic soup is always great.

San Francisco Photos said...

That actually sounds really good! I've been into soups lately especially since it's been really cold!