Roasted Root Vegetable and Cauliflower Soup

I love roasted veggies. I also love home made soup. So why not combine the two and get a heaping helping of vegetables in a thick and creamy soup? Usually a self-imposed kitchen challenge like this takes a while to get right, but this one was a win from the first ladle to the last. Why was it so good? Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sugars, and gives it a level of flavor you don’t get when boiling your veggies in a pot. Toasting the herbs and spices in the butter before making a roux also amps up the flavor. Add in some delicious half and half, and you’ve got yourself a winter soup winner.

Actually, I have to give my daughter-in-law to be, Ashley, credit for the idea. She had texted to ask me if I had a recipe for using up a pile of carrots (I think she’d gone hog wild on a Farmer’s Market run…), and I gave her a recipe I had for straight up carrot soup. But then she asked if she could throw in other veggies and cream, and I thought, hmmmmm, I should try something like that! So here it is, Ashley.

Next time I make it, I think I’ll cut the vegetables into ½-inch pieces before roasting, and then puree half of the mixture until really creamy, and stir that back into the chunkier vegetable mixture. I had only slightly pureed the whole batch, and I didn’t like the texture. The flavor more than made up for it, but as I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I’ve got to make this JUST RIGHT next time I serve it to family and friends. 

Serves 8-10

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
2-3 cups cubed red potatoes (skin on)
4-5 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon caraway seed
¼ teaspoon dried mustard
4 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken soup base (or vegetable soup base, if you’d like to make this strictly vegetarian)*
2 cups half and half

Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare 2 baking sheets by rubbing 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on each pan. Toss cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips onto pans, and roast in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, and edges are slightly golden.

While vegetables are roasting, combine onion and butter in Dutch oven (or other large pot), and cook on medium-high until onion is translucent. Sprinkle flour, dill seed, dill weed, caraway seed, and dry mustard over the onion mixture, and stir to combine. Toast flour and herbs for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Gradually stir in water, and stir to combine so no lumps remain in flour mixture. Add soup base, and stir to combine again. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes until broth is slightly thickened.

Add in roasted vegetables and half and half. Return soup just to a boil, then reduce heat immediately to simmer so half and half doesn’t curdle. Simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly. Transfer half of the soup, 2 cups at a time, to blender and puree until smooth. Stir pureed mixture back into the soup. Serve immediately, or store in container in frig.

*NOTE: My favorite soup “hack” is to use chicken soup base instead of bouillon or chicken stock, because it has more flavor and less salt. The brand I like is called “Better Than Bouillon” and they make a chicken, beef, and vegetable base. You can find it in the soup aisle at your grocery store. So just march on past those cans of Campbell’s, and pick up a jar so you TOO can make tasty, nutritious soup for you and the fam.

Chipotle Black Bean Chili

Those who like it extra spicy will love this black bean chili recipe I got from Café Latte in St. Paul, Minnesota a few years back. A reader requested the recipe from the restaurant when I wrote a Q & A food column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Café Latte obliged—but in restaurant-sized quantities. So I had to do some fancy division and subtraction to get down to a recipe I could fit in my largest soup pot. This is still a massive amount of soup, but it always gets gobbled up in a hurry. Served over a bowl of brown rice, it’s a filling, satisfying meal. If you can take the heat! (Which I can’t, so I make this as a gift of love to my husband and sons who DO like their food on the spicy side.)

Serves 10-12

4 (14 ounce) cans black beans
1 (14 ounce) can pinto beans
1 (14 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
2 )14 ounce) cans corn
1½ cups yellow onions, diced
2½ cups carrots, peeled and chopped
2½ tablespoons chili powder
1½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
6 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable soup base or chicken soup base*
Half of 7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree or sauce
2 cups canned, roasted red peppers, chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice

Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream

Drain and rinse beans and corn. In large Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onions until translucent. Add carrots and continue to sauté until carrots are tender to the fork. Add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, salt, chipotle powder over onion mixture, and stir to combine. Roast spices and onion mixture for a few minutes. Add water and soup base, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil; then add chipotle peppers, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or puree, roasted peppers, beans, and corn. Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over cooked rice, and top with cilantro and sour cream.

*NOTE: Soup base is a less salty and more flavorful way to make soup than using bouillon or vegetable/chicken stock. It’s first ingredient is vegetable or meat, and salt is lower down the list. I prefer to use this in soup whenever I can, and usually buy only the chicken base as I use it in other soup recipes as well. But if you’re trying to go strict vegetarian with this recipe, you’ll want to buy the vegetable soup base.