The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Oven Vegetable Soup

First off, let me say that this is not my recipe – I don’t think.  I read about this, or someone told me about it, I don’t know.  But it has stuck in my mind for years.  It’s one of those easy ones that you memorize without really meaning to, and then remember when you are wandering aimlessly through the grocery store or farmer’s market wondering what to buy.  This recipe is all about proportion – eight ounces each of four different root vegetables, an onion, some stock and herbs and you are done.  I have made this with all kinds of vegetables, even ones you can buy already cut and prepared.  Extra vegetables that didn’t make it onto another dish also work.  Weigh out your vegetables in the store, making sure to make allowance for peeling and trimming.  The weight of the vegetables are the key here, I have used more or just fudged the weight, but it just doesn’t work, ending up to thick and puree-like.   This really is best right after it’s made.  If you need to keep it and heat it up later, add a little extra stock to thin it out.  But too much extra stock dilutes the flavor.

I usually make this with thyme, but if I happen to have a few sprigs of marjoram around, I’ll throw that in instead.  I absolutely use bought stock unless I happen to have some homemade in the freezer.  Vegetable stock makes this a purely vegetarian meal, but chicken stock is fine if that’s what you have.  The amount here works out to one box and one can.  The color of this soup varies depending on the vegetables you use and the depth of the stock, varying from a creamy yellow to dark burnt umber.  I use my immersion stick blender to puree this, but if you let it cool a bit, then carefully put it in a blender in batches, that works beautifully.  Just remember not to fill the blender more than half full with each batch and hold the top down with a tea towel.

I love this with a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt or a swirl of sour cream.  A sprinkle of feta cheese can add a salty note, which is particularly nice if the soup has that sweet richness of parsnips or carrots.  Freshly toasted croutons, a sprinkle of chopped herbs – even toasted pine nuts can all add another dimension.  But make no mistake, this soup is great completely plain.

Oven Vegetable Soup

8 ounces each of four trimmed root vegetables, such as carrots, leeks, parsnips, celeriac, butternut squash, fennel or turnips

1 medium onion, peeled

48 ounces (6 cups) vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

3- 4 sprigs of thyme, marjoram or oregano

Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Peel, trim and wash the vegetables as necessary.  Chop the vegetables into chunks of about equal size and place in an oven safe Dutch oven, about 5 quarts.  Add the onion, chopped into eighths.  Add the bay leaf and herbs, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Pour in the stock.

Bring the soup just to a boil on the stove, then cover and transfer to the oven.  Leave in the oven for three hours. The vegetables will become completely soft.

Remove the pot from the oven, uncover and leave to cool off slightly. Remove the bay leaf and the herb stems. Puree the soup with a stick blender or very carefully in a blender. You can add a small amount of additional stock if you like. Reheat the soup gently over low heat if needed.  Salt to taste.

Serves 6 small bowls or 4 big hearty ones

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