I just got back from visiting family in Yreka, California. Yreka is about as far north as you can go and still be in California, a lovely area ringed by mountains. My dad and I drove up from San Francisco, and immediately launched into a three-day cooking spree that resulted in a holiday feast for 20. Not all of the food was local but we kept it as local and organic as we could. Even my 96-year old grandmother got put to work. Here she is peeling chestnuts for the yemisee (Greek rice stuffing that also has pine nuts, raisins, and other good stuff in it):
The soup went on an unintended road trip: After eating it for dinner one night, there was no room in the fridge because of all the party food. My dad suggested we store the leftover soup in the unheated garage. The next day my mom drove to meet me at a local coffee shop. A traffic cop pulled up along side her car, gesturing vehemently towards the roof of the car. I ran out of the coffee shop doing the same. My poor mom thought there was something wrong with her driving and looked totally confused. What we were trying to get her to realize was that she had driven downtown with the pot of chicken soup still on the roof of the car where she had placed it the night before.
A different soup was featured at the party: Double-Roasted Winter Soup. I invented this vegan recipe because I was told there would be many vegetarians and possibly vegans at the party. It was delicious, and the recipe is below if youâ€™d like to give it a try. Donâ€™t be tempted to jack it up with chicken or meat stock: the soup rich enough as is and the flavors of the ingredients really star in this vegan version.
I have to confess, however, that at the party the pork tenderloin disappeared just as fast as the soup. So I guess the guests were omnivores after all, at least for that evening.
The rest of the menu included local cheeses, homemade dips including hummus and a smoked salmon spread, local olives, cranberry sauce to go with that pork (I thought cranberries were strictly a Northeastern crop, but turns out they are grown in the Pacific Northwest as well), the yemisee made with local rice, a version of spanakopita using chard instead of spinach because my grandmother canâ€™t eat spinach, and Beataâ€™s apple crumble.
DOUBLE-ROASTED WINTER SOUP
(No quantities given because you can make this to serve 1 or 20 depending on what you need. Itâ€™s called â€œdouble-roastedâ€ because it takes two batches of roasted vegetables and fruit to make it, one for the stock and one to blend in later. Use about 4 parts vegetables to one part fruit for both the stock and the final soup.)
For the stock:
Carrots, parsnips, or pretty much any root vegetable except red beets (wrong color for this soup) or potatoes (they get added in step two, but donâ€™t add anything to the stock). No need to peel, just scrub clean and cut into large chunks.
Onions, peeled and cut into quarters
Garlic cloves, peeled, about 1 for every 4 portions of soup you want to end up with
Apples or pears, cored and quartered
Bay leaves (about 1 per every 4 portions of soup youâ€™re making)
Sprig of thyme
Celery stalks, cut in half crosswise
1.Â Â Â Preheat oven to 400F. Toss all of the fruit and vegetables except the celery with just enough oil to lightly coat them and spread on a baking pan. Roast until just starting to brown.
2.Â Â Â Transfer the roasted mixture to a soup pot. Add the herbs, celery, and water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, adding water if necessary. The stock should take on a nice amber color from the carmelized fruits and vegetables.
3.Â Â Â Strain the stock (you can compost the solids).
For the soup:
More root vegetables, including potatoes for this step. Peel the vegetables this time and chop them into approximately 1-inch pieces. I used carrots, parsnips, gold beets, and potatoes. Rutabagas and turnips would also work (go easy on the turnips).
Winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks. I used Butternut in this batch.
Apples or pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks.
Onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
Garlic cloves, peeled
1.Â Â Â Toss all of the above with just enough oil to coat. As before, roast in a 400F oven until just starting to brown. It will take less time since youâ€™ve cut the veg and fruit smaller this time.
2.Â Â Â Add the roasted mixture to the strained stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
3.Â Â Â Puree, either using a hand-blender (my preference) or in batches in a blender.
4.Â Â Â Add salt to taste.
I served this soup with a garnish of crispy-fried fresh sage leaves, but itâ€™s good even if you skip that part.
Get the book:
Botany, Ballet, & Dinner from Scratch: A Memoir with Recipes by Leda Meredith