Legends of the fall

Autumn is arguably the best time of the year for eating. Late summer – with its loads of zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes – is definitely up there. But for me the slow-cooked roasts, the winter squash and richly-flavored soups of fall are without equal. I grill (a little) less and spend a little more time peeking in the oven…you probably do too. It is a bittersweet time of year as well. There are only two weeks left in the Root Cellar’s farm co-op program we participated in this year. Done for the year are my Thursday evening trips downtown to load up a groaning cardboard box of vegetables, meat, eggs and milk. It’s been a generous weekly haul for $65 and we’ve rarely had to supplement with trips to the grocery store.

Still, there’s a little more time for random-vegetable soup. There’s no one way to make this and no good way to screw it up. Win, win.

Random Vegetable Soup (fall edition)

1/2 lb. sausage (or more, if you like)
One medium butternut squash, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
2 leeks (or one onion), rinsed and sliced thin, green parts reserved
2 handfuls kale, chopped
1 can beans (Great Northerns, pintos, whatever)
Assorted potatoes, turnips or other wintery goodies you have on hand, all chopped

Preheat oven to 375. In large pot heat six cups of water and add your vegetable trimmings (carrot ends, turnip tops, green leek-parts, whatever). Have an old sprig of rosemary? Throw it in. Thyme? What the hell. Bring to simmer, reduce heat and cover.

Seed the butternut squash, place on a cookie sheet and cook until just barely tender (not fully-cooked). 30 minutes or so. Set aside to cool.

In a second pot brown your sausage, adding vegetable oil (if you must or lard if you like food that tastes just that much better) if the sausage is a little lean. When cooked, remove sausage from pot and cook leeks and carrots over medium heat until golden brown. Throw in some chopped garlic and potatoes/turnips/whatever. Cook for another five minutes. Deglazing the pan with some sherry or white wine would not be a bad thing right now. Strain your veggie broth into the pot and return the sausage.

Cube the squash and add to the pot, along with however much kale suits your fancy. Add the beans. You should be salting and peppering throughout, tasting as you go. Simmer for 15 minutes and enjoy. Or let cool and refrigerate for later, when it will taste better. Bask in praise and adoration, for you have made soup for a dozen people and spent about ten bucks doing it.

Note: As always, greens you get locally will be better than store-bought. The farmer’s market is just about tapped out, so I drove out to Chert Hollow Farm north of town to get my kale (thanks, Eric). Still, The Root Cellar will carry greenhoused greens most of the time.

Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

5 thoughts

  1. Could you post a picture of one of your 65$ Co-op boxes? I highly doubt I will subscribe since I have a huge garden.

  2. Yes. I had it all spread out on the counter and pretty last Thursday and realized the digital camera was nowhere to be found. So, I’ll get it done this week.

    If you have a large garden the vegetable portion ($35) of the co-op is probably more than you need. But the meat ($20) and dairy (milk and eggs for $10) are good options. The meat especially…we’ve nowhere near kept up with that. So lots and lots of local beef, pork and chicken for the winter.

  3. I just found your blog and have really been enjoying the perspective of a fellow CoMo local foodie! I love late summer myself, being a tomato freak, but I also love winter squash, sweet and regular potatoes, and greens. Though where has the spinach been this year?! We had a CSA through Danjo Farms (that we picked up each Saturday at the farmer’s market) and last week was the last week of the season. This is my first “true year” of really trying to obtain a lot of my food locally, so I hope that the Root Cellar will still carry some local produce over the winter.

    That soup also sounds fantastic by the way – though I’m a vegetarian, I would add more beans in place of the meat, but I just discovered leeks last week and now I’m on a soup kick.

  4. Perhaps we can “subscribe” to your huge garden Dan S.

    Is the meat portion $20 a week? or month or ? You can get just that?

  5. The meat portion was $20 a week and yes, I believe you can do only that part. We got filets, ribeyes, flank steak, tons of hamburger, sausage, brats, ribs, chicken, trout…they had a great selection and you got your pick every week. They turn you loose in the freezer and you pick out (roughly) $25 of meat (as price tagged). They usually threw in a package of bacon or sausage as well.

    You also get 10% off anything else you buy in there the day of pickup…a very nice operation.

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