Every year about this time, I start looking in my closet for cool weather clothes and wonder what I wore last winter. I pull open drawers and peer into my closet looking for sweaters, warm jackets and wooly socks. I check the firewood situation in case I need to build a fire on a wet gray day. And I pull out the soup pot and think about what to cook in it.
A couple of weeks ago, we had that first chilly rainy autumn day. It was the day that my Monday dinner crowd was coming, and all I could think about was soup. I considered chili, but for that, in my mind at least, the weather needs to be really blustery and freezing cold. I headed to the market with nothing precisely in my mind, but I picked up a few items that I thought would combine well.
Well, look at what I had, a whole basket full of cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage! This group has been touted variously as being good for cancer prevention, anti-aging, lowering cholesterol, and making you rich (well, I made that last one up myself, wishful thinking, I’m sure).
A couple of potatoes and I was set for soup. I love potato soup and that’s where we started, then added and adjusted until it was quite tasty. I made cornbread and had a basic green salad and it made the perfect meal for a chilly fall evening.
Yummy Veggie Chowder
2 lbs russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups chicken stock
8 slices good smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4” strips
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large onion, cut in half from stem to root end and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 small head cabbage, shredded
1 16-ounce bag broccoli-cauliflower combination (from the produce section)
2 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded Jarlsberg or good Gruy?re cheese
In a medium pan, combine the potatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potato is almost done.
Meanwhile, in a soup pot, cook the bacon, stirring often, until just starting to brown. Remove the bacon strips with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the garlic to the bacon fat and stir a couple of times. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the is soft and translucent.
Pour the potato mixture into the soup pot with the onions. Stir a couple of times and then add the cabbage, and the broccoli and cauliflower (cut into bite-sized pieces). Cover and simmer until the vegetables are done and the potato is very soft, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the cheese and blend the rest into the soup. If the soup seems too thick, add a bit more stock.
Ladle into soup bowls and top with the reserved bacon and a few shreds of the reserved cheese. Serves 8 as a main course soup.