CSA Soup – The Farmer’s Kitchen Trick
Some CSA seasons are lean, and some CSA seasons are just loaded down with so many veggies I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m gonna share with you one of the farmer’s secrets for dealing with the copious amount of veggies we sometimes accumulate in our fridge at the end of a CSA harvest week. Make a big batch of CSA Soup.
CSA Soup is super adaptable and accommodating of basically everybody: the vegetarian, the gluten-free. The version I share with you today is loaded with dairy, and it makes it so perfectly warming and “chowdery,” but even the dairy could be swapped out for the cook experienced with dairy substitutions.
The base is a bit of bacon or pork sausage (not much, just enough for flavor so you can even skip it if you need to), butter, and mix of half chicken stock, half whole milk (my other secret: this is how I use up all the raw milk nearing day 10-12 when it starts to turn a bit sour). Then you use up whatever mixture of soup-applicable veggies that are clogging up your fridge.
EVERYTHING is substitutable, so you’ll see loads of “this, or this, OR this” in the recipe. There are just 2 key things to a great CSA soup- 1) Using complementary ingredients from the same culinary family. I list two different ingredient pathways for this soup to keep you on track. And 2) adding the various ingredients at the right cooking time so everything is done all together with no ingredients left still crunchy, or beginning to mush.
This version is best with the cool season crops, although there are a handful of cool season crops I would NOT put in this dish: radishes, beets, arugula, and anything in the lettuce family: head or leaf lettuce, radicchio, endive- although escarole is a common soup ingredient, so feel free to toss it in.
We have a companion Summer CSA soup we’ll share with you when the weather warms up, and that version is just as delicious. We usually make it with a can of diced tomatoes a cup or two of white beans and it brings the summer flavors all together.
Make this soup into your very own, and please share with us how you’ve adapted it to your tastes (and to your CSA surplus!)
- 4 slices bacon or 1/4 lb sausage (optional)
- 1 medium onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 ribs of celery (optional)
- 1/2 stick butter (or olive oil)
- 3 T flour, or a gluten free flour blend like Bob’s Red Mill
- about 4-5 cups of cubed sturdy veggies.
- Option A: any mixture from this list carrots /turnips /potato /kohlrabi /cauliflower /broccoli.
- Option B: anything from this list pumpkin /winter squash /carrot /sweet potato /fennel bulb /cauliflower. I’d take this soup one route (option a), or the other (option b), but not both.
- about 3 cups of chopped greens, stems removed. Any mixture of collards, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, turnip greens, broccoli greens, Spring mix (Asian greens), cabbage, or pac choi. (FYI: Cabbage and pac choi need a bit longer cooking time, so add them about 3 min. earlier)
- ~3+ cups chicken stock (or substitute vegetable stock)
- ~3 cups whole milk (or substitute light coconut milk, though I haven’t tested that out, so LMK what you think)
- 2-3 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Chop onion, garlic, celery and raw bacon.
- In a large heavy bottom soup pot, cook chopped bacon until soft-cooked, no where near crisp.
- Add butter, onion, garlic, and celery and sauté until onions are translucent.
- Add flour (or GF flour blend) and stir to coat veggies and cook until flour is no longer raw, 2-3 minutes.
- Add your 3 c. of chicken stock and scrape all bits of buttery flour from the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer.
- In the next step, when you get most of your veggies in the pot, you may see that you need to add a 1/2 c. or more of chicken stock. You want your sturdy vegetables to be just barely covered so they’ll all cook, but you’re going to dilute the soup later with 3 more cups of milk, so use as little stock as possible to get the job done.
- Add the 4-5 cups of sturdy vegetables in the following order so they cook to perfection:
- Option A: first, carrots, simmer for 1-2 minutes, then turnips simmer for 1-2 minutes, then potatoes for 1-2 minutes, then kohlrabi/broccoli/cauliflower 1-2 min before adding greens.
- Option B: first, carrot/sweet potatoes, simmer for 2-3 minutes, then winter squash/pumpkin, simmer 2-3 more, then fennel/cauliflower 1-2 min before adding greens.
- Add all the chopped greens and simmer until very tender (about 2-5 minutes)
- Add the milk and heat through, but don’t boil.
Freezes wonderfully. Serve with crusty sourdough bread, or gluten free baguette, or a big salad.
Serves about 6.