Aaah, autumn's calming blend of cool and warm days sets my heart to craving soup. There's nothing like a hot bowl of soup to steam up a kitchen and create a loving sauna for the hearth, heart and tummy. Soups can be a great lunch meal, a filling snack to take the chill off a hike in the woods, or a full dinner meal with bread and salad accompaniments.
The sweet potato soup recipe below comes from the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. They serve 45 gallons of it at each seating of their annual Bracebridge Dinner, celebrating Renaissance holiday traditions. The more traditional soups tomato, chicken noodle and mushroom barley are three of my favorite homemade recipes. They're easy to make so it doesn't take long to fill your kitchen with a delightful smell that beckons everyone to the kitchen table. Be sure to have lots of baguettes of bread on hand with these recipes.
Ahwahnee Hotel's Sweet Potato Soup (serves 10-12)
5 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 large leek, white part only, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and chopped
1 rib celery, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
10 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground white pepper
¼ cup cranberry oil, optional
1. Put sweet potatoes into a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 large pinches salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until soft when pierced with the tip of a knife, 3040 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel and quarter sweet potatoes, then set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add wine, scraping any browned bits stuck to bottom of pot, and cook until alcohol has evaporated, about 2 minutes.
3. Add stock and reserved sweet potatoes to pot, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes.
4. Working in batches, put vegetables and stock into a food processor or blender and purée until smooth; return soup to pot. Stir in cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Drizzle some of the cranberry oil, if using, over each serving.
Mushroom Barley Soup (serves 4):
6 cups organic beef stock or low-sodium broth
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ pound cremini (or white button) mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ cup barley
½ cup sweet sherry
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Flat leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
1. In a large saucepan, combine the beef stock with carrot, celery, onion, mushrooms and barley; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the barley and vegetables are tender, ~30 min. Stir in the sherry and simmer 5 min. more.
2. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with parsley and serve. Note: The soup may be made ahead and refrigerated up to 4 days.
Tomato Soup (serves 6):
2 cups fresh tomatoes
½ small onion, sliced
2 whole cloves
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp sugar, or to taste
½ tsp salt
2 oz. crème fraiche
1. Over medium heat, combine tomatoes, onion, closes and broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 min., stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Use a strainer to transfer liquid into a pan, discard leftover vegetables. Set tomato liquid aside.
2. In a clean pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, cook for 10-15 min., stirring until mixture turns medium brown.
3. Slowly whisk strained tomato juice into pot; season with sugar and salt. Simmer on low heat for 10 min. stirring occasionally.
4. Serve in small bowls or shot glasses, top with a spoonful of crème fraiche.
Chicken Noodle Soup with Handmade Noodles (serves 8-10):
2 cups flour, sifted, plus more as needed
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
8 cups chicken stock
2 tsp dried sage
1½ tsp. dried thyme
1½ tsp. fennel seeds
5 whole black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, cut into small pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 dried bay leaf
1-3½ lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 Tbsp. minced flat leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Make the noodles: Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well center; add eggs, yolk and 1 Tbsp, water. Using a fork, mix flour into eggs to form dough. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth, 5-6 min. Divide dough into 4 portions and cover with plastic wrap; set aside.
2. In a large pot, combine stock, sage, thyme, fennel, peppercorns, garlic, celery, carrots, onions, bay leaf, chicken and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce to medium low heat. Simmer, skimming off fat, for ~1 hour.
3. Put chicken on a plate. Strain soup though a fine strainer into a large pot. Place celery and carrots in a bowl; discard remaining solids. Remove and discard chicken skin and bones. Chop chicken, celery and carrots into bite size pieces; transfer to soup.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Working with one dough portion at a time, lightly flour and roll our to 1/16" thickness. Cut dough into ¼"-wide noodles, transfer to floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Shake excess flour off noodles; boil until tender, 8-10 min. Drain noodles, transfer to soup. Stir in parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste.