Monday, January 19, 2015

Roasted Squash and Swiss Chard Soup: Teaching Kids to Crave Veg, One Bowl at a Time

I cook for my kids all the time.  My son is four, and while he went through a picky phase, he now proclaims me to be "the best cooker" and prefers to eat at home over a least for now.  My daughter is two, and she's my little foodie.   This kid loves everything from hummus to bibimbop to lamb shoulder.  If it looks good, she wants it.

All this being said, I had hesitated to feed them soup for dinner.  There were many reasons for this, not the least of which was the imagined MESS, along with the potential they would balk at "baby food" or otherwise unrecognizable pureed tasty stuff.  That turned me off from pushing soup for a while, but, I do love soup, especially in winter.  So, I decided to remember that I'm grown, I can clean, and I gave it a whirl.  As usual, they surprised me, and I couldn't be more pleased with the results.

It's easy to teach kids to love soup when you pay attention to texture and consistency.  Plus, if you make it thick enough they will only minimally succeed in painting the kitchen.  People are amazed that my kids love squash, chard, mushrooms, and in general, most anything I make tasty for them.  It's all about seasoning and repetition.  Give kids real food that tastes delicious, and they are bound to like it.  They will learn to expect it.

This go round is vegetarian and can easily be made vegan.  Admittedly, my son asked where the bacon was.  What can I say?  I cure and smoke bacon, and he loves it.  Not the worst critique I can imagine.

Roasted Squash and Swiss Chard Soup

1 medium (~ 2.5 lbs) orange winter squash.  I do not know what the name is of the one my daughter picked out at the farmer's market, but it was similar to butternut.  You are looking for about 2 c. of puree after roasting.

kosher salt

olive oil

Heat an oven to 375 degrees.  Meanwhile, but the squash in half and clean out the pulp and seeds.  Sprinkle with salt and brush with oil.  Roast uncovered on a tray until the squash is soft throughout and starts to brown.  Remove and cool.  Scoop out the flesh and set aside.

1 large onion, diced

1 very large bunch of Swiss Chard (I probably had 10 substantial stems with large leaves).  Remove the stems, cut off the bottom bit, and then chop.  Set the leaves aside for later.

4 stalks celery

3 large garlic cloves, minced

olive oil

kosher salt

freshly cracked black pepper

Toss the onion, chard stems, celery, and garlic into a large soup pot heated over medium-high with a good glug of oil, then season with salt and pepper.  Cook partially covered until the veg just starts to caramelize.

1/2  c. dry white wine

6 c. water

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Deglaze the pot with the wine and increase the heat.  When the liquid is essentially gone, stir in the puree and chard leaves.  Cook, stirring, until combined and wilted.  Add the water, stir again, and reduce heat to medium.  Partially cover and let alone for 20-30 minutes.

Remove pot from the heat and puree with whatever tool you prefer.  I used an immersion blender.  Taste the soup, adjusting salt as needed.  Stir in the zest and juice.

Creme Fraiche for serving

Ladle soup into bowls and add a large spoon of creme fraiche.  Tell the kids to swirl it (because it's fun, of course).

Now, eat, enjoy, and repeat.

NOTE:  My kids aren't bothered by the slight bitterness of the chard.  If yours are, substitute baby spinach and add extra celery.

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