Roasted Vegetable Soup

Roasted Vegetable Soup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Barefoot Classics”

The Set-up: Ina is revisiting some favorite recipes from her years running The Barefoot Contessa specialty food shop.

The Menu: Easy Sticky Buns, Mustard Chicken Salad, Roasted Vegetable Soup

0:53 – A quick overview of the Barefoot Contessa days, and then it’s on to Ina’s new version of the sticky buns they used to make.

1:20 – These are called Easy Sticky Buns and already I can tell that they’re going to be dead simple, no yeast dough required. Instead it’s defrosted puff pastry.

2:34 – Ina says when she first thought of using puff pastry, she was worried that they might not be as good as the original, but now she thinks they’re even better, which is convenient…

3:15 – So far the ingredients have been butter, sugar, pecans and puff pastry so we’re off to a great start.

4:37 – Note to self: make more puff pastry-based items.

5:09 – Buns are assembled and baked which means it’s time to cue Jeffrey to arrive and try to abscond with as many sticky buns as he can. His allotment on camera: one.

6:42 – I’m not sure it’s possible to eat a sticky bun without ending up a little sticky and so far it’s getting the best of Jeffrey.

9:03 – Moving on to the promised Mustard Chicken Salad. Interesting, I didn’t realize that this would actually be a salad, with cherry tomatoes and broccoli

10:46 – Hmm, blanching and shocking are not my favorite techniques – kind of a pain

11:21 – Ina says she like the flavor but not the texture of mayonnaise, so she always thins it a bit with chicken stock or white wine to make more of a sauce.

12:55 – I’ve used Ina’s technique of roasting the chicken for chicken salad before and it’s really really good. Pro Tip #1: Roasting chicken with the bone-in and skin on keeps the meat really moist.

13:59 – She says they used to make “huge vats” of Mustard Chicken Salad – I wonder if she’s having a traumatic flashback.

14:04 – A little tarragon to add another layer of flavor and it’s time to serve! Ina suspects that Jeffrey will remember where this is from…’

18:27 – Ina says they used to make “millions and millions of pounds” of roasted vegetables and that she can’t really think of any vegetable that isn’t better cooked that way.

19:48 – She’s over at the farm stand and decides to get a combination of root vegetables – sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and a butternut squash.

20:10 – Pro Tip #2: Cut all the vegetables in similar sizes so that they roast at the same rate.

21:29 – It’s comforting to watch Ina wrangle a butternut squash and realize that it’s tricky even for a seasoned professional!

22:36 – She’s roasting the vegetables at quite a high temperature: 425 degrees.

23:01 – Pro Tip #3: If you’re serving the vegetables as is, put them all in big groupings on one platter and season individually. The parnsips get sea salt, carrots get parsley, sweet potato gets a drizzle of maple syrup, and the butternut squash gets fresh pepper.

27:45 – Ina says the key to turning a profit in the specialty food business is knowing how to use the leftovers and in her case she wants them to taste better than the original dish.

28:14 – In this case, she’s turning the left over vegetables into Roasted Vegetable Soup and some extra brioche bread into croutons.

29:53 – The soup is pureed, croutons are toasted and Jeffrey has arrived to have dinner. So cozy!

Final Thoughts:
I’m dying to make the sticky buns, but the contrarian in me wants to fuss with the whole yeast dough process….

Ina’s point about leftovers certainly holds true at home too, and why waste perfectly delicious food?

It just occurred to me, if Jeffrey eats well now imagine the BC days when there was an entire shop full of freshly prepared items.

Roasted Vegetable Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve roasted vegetables and made soup many times before, but Roasted Vegetable Soup is the ultimate in my book: a pureed soup based on a variety of roasted vegetables sounded amazing. Here’s what I learned.

Vegetable Prep – Time to get familiar with your peeler and chef’s knife! We’ve talked about this before, but this is a great opportunity to practice your knife skills and take care to cut the pieces a consistent size. It will help the outcome of the soup since the recipe calls for roasting different vegetables simultaneously.

Vegetable Roasting Time – Which brings me to my next point. Ina in her infinite wisdom has selected dense vegetables that all roast at the same temperature for the same length of time. Brilliant. As I’ve cooked more and more I’ve internalized the cooking times, but it’s always helpful to have a reference handy – so I put together the chart below.

Flavor Combination – The recipe calls for carrots, butternut squash, parsnips, and sweet potatoes to be roasted and then pureed together. I wondered if in the end it would be too sweet, but actually the flavors blend beautifully and the crisp croutons make a great counter point to the smooth soup. Lovely in its simplicity.

Roasted Vegetable Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes. I used a large cutting board, vegetable peeler, chef’s knife and large spoon to prep the vegetables. I also needed two rimmed baking sheets (aluminum foil or parchment paper optional), a spatula, 5.5 qt French oven, and a blender. A food processor, food mill, or stick blender would work just fine too.

The Verdict:
Roasted Vegetable Soup is perfect for late fall. We had it for a weekend lunch served with a green salad and a few pieces of cheddar cheese and crisp apple slices for a hearty and satisfying meal. I went with multigrain croutons for a rustic touch instead of brioche or challah. Either way, this soup is simple, healthful, and easy to whip up a big batch to have on hand or to make use of leftover odds and ends. It’s also a gorgeous color and would make an excellent starter for a more formal Thanksgiving feast.

Roasted Vegetable Soup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Vegetable Soup | Image: Laura Messersmith

goldfinch and scout guide to roasting vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek and Bacon Frittata

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Well, it’s January again, 2015 is underway, and resolutions are in full effect. Mike and I took advantage of our four-hour drive back to the city from Upstate after Christmas to talk through the coming year and think about what we’d like to accomplish. We both resolved to be healthier this year, so I’ve been thinking about ways to incorporate more vegetables into our meals.

I’ve also been in the mood for warm, cozy recipes and to me there’s pretty much nothing cozier or more perfect for grey winter days than roasted root vegetables. Frittata is one of my all-time favorite things to make for both brunch and dinner (other examples here and here) and this one uses a mixture of carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes lightly caramelized in the oven. The root vegetables are then pared with sautéed leeks, onions and thyme to combine the rich savoriness of the vegetables with fresh green flavors. A sprinkle of salty, crispy bacon balances everything out. Yum!

This recipe is the best of both worlds – it tastes so good and doesn’t leave me with a sense of deprivation – healthy eating I can get behind. And, you know it's good when I offer Mike a taste and he goes back for a second bite.

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek and Bacon Frittata (serves 6-8)

1/2 cup (1 medium) parsnips
3/4 cup (2 medium) carrots
1 1/4 cups (2 small) sweet potatoes
1 cup (2 small) yellow onions
1 1/2 cups (3 medium) leeks
8 large eggs
1/3 cup 2% milk
2 strips thick cut bacon
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Non-stick spray (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and dice the parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes into 1 inch pieces to make about 2 generous cups of root vegetables. Spread evenly on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork, turning halfway through the cooking time. Set aside.

After the root vegetables are cooked, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place the two strips of thick-cut bacon on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning midway, until crisp. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and allow to cool slightly before mincing into 1/4 inch pieces - this will make about 1/3 cup of bacon.

While the bacon cooks, prep the onions and leeks. Remove the tough, dark green ends and the root from the leeks and cut the remaining white and light green stalk in half lengthwise. Rinse thoroughly with water to remove any sand. Dice the leeks into 1/4 inch strips and the onions into 1/4 inch pieces. In a large sauté pan or non-stick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat and cook the leeks, onions, 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Once the onions and leeks are softened, add the roasted root vegetables and minced bacon to the sauté pan and stir to evenly combine. Spread the vegetable mixture in a 9 inch glass pie plate that has been coated in a light layer of non-stick spray.

Beat the eggs, 2% milk, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the eggs over the vegetable mixture in the pie plate. The vegetables should be nearly, but not entirely covered.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the top of the frittata is lightly browned. Jiggle the pie plate slightly to check – if nothing moves the frittata is done. Allow to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Fairly. I used two baking sheets, one large sauté pan, one medium mixing bowl, a medium cutting board and a 9 inch pie plate. I also used a chef’s knife, wooden spatula, whisk, vegetable peeler, liquid measuring cups and measuring spoons. Lining the baking sheets with parchment paper will also be helpful with clean up.

The Verdict:
Honestly, I surprised myself with this recipe - to be honest, I was a little nervous about how it would turn out. Mike and I both really liked the balance of sweetness from the root vegetables with the savory flavors of the bacon and leeks. Mike says he’d eat frittata all the time, and we would both absolutely eat this frittata again. I served it with vinaigrette dressed arugula leaves and the combination makes this frittata a strong contender for brunch or for dinner.

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Roasted Root Vegetable, Leek, & Bacon Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith